GREAT EXPEDITION BOOKS BY OVER-PRIVILEGED ENGLISH GENTLEMEN
My favourite genre
- •A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric NewbyHe has a tremendous way with words and his sense of resigned wretched misery about every aspect of his hilariously disastrous journey to climb a remote mountain in Afghanistan with almost zero mountaineering skills is a constant delight.
- •Bridge of the Brocade Sash by Sacheverell SitwellObservations from an extended trip to Japan in the 1950s by the younger brother of Edith and a stunning insight into the workings of the mind of the privileged. He gains himself entry to all kinds of temples and private galleries and when he really wants to see something but doesn’t know how, he sends off the driver or hotel concierge to find him a local resident with a particular breed of dog or to wake up the priest to open a special temple area.
- •Mountaineering Holiday by JS SmytheMr Smythe climbs various mountains and describes them pleasantly with breaks to pontificate on the horrors of motor cars, war, tourists, foreigners, people who climb too slowly, people who walk too fast and women in breeches. Also contains an anecdote about a man caught smuggling drugs through customs under his top hat.
- •The discovery of Tahiti by George RobertsonDaily observations of a senior officer as the HMS Dolphin arrives at Tahiti. I particularly enjoyed his 18th Century style bitchy girlfights with the First Lieutenant, “Old Growl” who does indeed sound like an ass. At the very least, it has given me the words bumbard, calabash and musquetoon, plus a working knowledge of the worth of nails when it comes to barter.
- •Slow Boats to China by Gavin YoungAn attempt to travel from Europe to China only by boat in a brave new world of air travel for all. It’s basically an impossible task, but lucky for him, the entire old boy network of the ex-British Empire help find him ships, from a board bunk in a tiny local trader to the owner’s cabin in a huge container carrier.
- •Mountains of the Moon by Patrick SyngeAn account of an expedition to Africa in the 1930s by some botanists and entomologists. The author is so enthused by plants and flowers that it brings a tear to the eye. Also added the word floriferous to my vocabulary.
- •Journey to the Jade Sea by John HillabyA trek in Kenya in the 1960s which manages to talk up the most inconsequential incidents into an enormously entertaining adventure.