I love a good book about exploration. Someone who travels to far distant lands in search of the unknown, the unexplored, always makes for a great story. Add the sweeping backdrop of the Himalayas, and you’ve sold me on the story. Last year for Christmas my brother bought me “Walking the Himalayas” by Levison Wood.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get to it until this year. But I had to read it before Christmas rolled around again in case he asked me how I liked last year’s present. And once I got into, I read it quickly, wanting to explore the highest mountain range with the author.
One aspect of Wood’s “Walking the Himalayas” that I really like is he explores the entire region. There seems to be so much on Nepal, Everest, and the highest of the mountains, but the entire mountain range is a wonderfully interesting area.
The are two things I didn’t like about the book. The first is that it is a little slow at first. Wood describes how he decided to do the journey and about his life in London. It is a great intro, however I felt it could have been a little shorter. I wanted to get to the mountains.
The other thing I didn’t care for was that during part of his journey he had a film crew along. The book gives you the impression it is about him and his guide the whole time. And I felt a little deflated when I read in the afterwords that there were others he simply didn’t mention.
But other than those two things, the book is wonderful.
Like I said, Wood explores the entire region and begins his journey as what he believes is the beginning of the majestic mountain range.
He starts his walk in Afghanistan, an area that has a great deal of currently interesting and relevant culture. I loved learning about the differences in the people of the country and how the local people live their daily lives with the evils of the Taliban.
Another area and culture I loved learning about was Kashmir. I knew India and Pakistan did not like each other, but it’s one of those things where you never really know why. Wood not only explains this, but he shows how the two cultures live in the area with disputed borders today.
Wood ends his trek in Bhutan, one of the least traveled countries in the world. I found this part of the book extremely fascinating. The people are so happy, but they don’t have whole lot of choices to make, which Wood’s guide Jamyang Dorji explains is the reason they are so happy.
They also don’t allow mountaineering over a certain elevation because it is too dangerous. Conquering a mountain isn’t worth the bad press if the explorer happens to die.
I also really enjoyed the friendship between the author and Binod, who is Nepali, and joins him on much of his trip.
He shows how they bonded the first time he visited Nepal and how that friendship remained despite the great distance for more than a decade. I also appreciated that Wood showed how travel can put a strain on a relationship. Being tired and uncomfortable and being around someone for 24/7 will strain even the best of relationships.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a book about adventure, a modern-day explorer, or one that shows you what life is like for those living in the Himalayan Mountains, this is your book.
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