The title of this book would suggest that the reader is set to read about a kayaking adventure. Indeed, I purchased this book to read about a kayaking adventure but unfortunately the actual kayaking is only mentioned a couple of times in the book but not in any detail. The apparent subject matter of the text is the story of a couple of middle-class wannabe hippies, Maria Coffey and Dag Goering, travelling (or more truthfully, scrounging) around a few different parts of the world. It is certainly not a self-sufficient adventure as the couple seem to spend almost every night either living aboard a luxury yacht, staying in accomodation provided by the locals and even staying in the lap of luxury with the Governor of Hong Kong. The bulk of the book is taken up with the couples time in India but basically could be summerised into a brief paragraph reading, "we pulled into the village, we met the local Holy man, we smoked copious quantities of dope, the locals cooked us a meal and then we stayed in one of their houses" which is what is basically repeated over and over. There is absolutley no sense of adventure anywhere in this book and unfortunately, Coffey's writing is extremely dull and tedious, not to mention very repetitive. The only time that any human interest crops up is in the brief mention of the couples time in Ireland when they run across a few local "characters" but yet again they do not do any kayaking. Mention must also be made of Coffey's boyfriend, Dag Goering, who is constantly credited with being a "photographer" but unfortunately the few low quality "snaps" that are featured in the book would certainly suggest otherwise. If you are looking for a documented kayak adventure (or indeed any adventure) you should be looking elsewhere. Give this one a miss!
A friend who has traveled widely as a nurse lent me her copy of this book, and after having read Bill Bryson's books, Getting Stoned with Savages by Troost, and tons of other travel books, I was feeling a little burnt on the topic and didn't really think that this humble-looking book would stand up next to the rest. Boy was I wrong.
From the first pages, the author and her partner Dag captured my interest with their humor and excitement about the journey, and as soon as they got started I was hooked. They went through Fiji and tried the famous Kava, they kayaked down the Ganges in India and on each stop startled and pleased the villagers and local holy men with their visit, and dodged hippos and militias on Lake Malawi.
On each stop they seemed to find people who were fascinated by westerners and wanted to show their hospitality with the local foods, sometimes tasty and sometimes disgusting (like the flycakes on Lake Malawi) or by showing them around. So not only did we get an idea of what it would be like to kayak in those areas, but also an idea of what the local people might be like and how they live.
The thing that I liked best was their keen eye for the small details which make up the differences in the world's many cultures and regions. Coffey was good at creating very clear descriptions in just a few lines, so the book is packed with interesting details and is hard to put down. I really felt like I was there.
This may be out of print, but it is well worth purchasing. This book is definitely among the stars in the travel literature genre, and I don't know why it didn't get more attention in the US when it was published in '95 - it certainly deserves it.
I've never before read a 'travel' book and eventually picked this one up and couldn't put it down...even after I had finished reading it! Maria kept an honest and immaculate diary of their journey around the world in a collapsible, double kayak. Their courage is commendable as is their sense of adventure. Excellent recounting of a treasured journey.