Brandon Wilson's DEAD MEN DON'T LEAVE TIPS is that rare event: a travel book that transcends its genre to become a transformative journey of the soul into a disparate and gorgeously challenging culture, as seen through the eyes of a man determined to experience life as it is, rather than as it's presented to us. Eschewing the typical tourist African safari, Wilson and his travel companion, along with a host of madcap dysfunctional fellow travelers, embark on a wildly funny, poignant, and at times terrifying, trip across the African continent. From the rapacious markets of Marrakesh to the stunning breadth of the Sahara and haunting domains of the Masai, Wilson brings to life in lucid prose the smells, sights, and sensations of being a foreigner in a strange land, who yearns for communion with the world he has set out to explore.
This is travel writing at its most sublime, a paean to Africa in all her contradictory beauty, and a tribute to the resiliancy of those who travel beyond boundaries not only in search of meaning, but also of understanding.
on February 19, 2008
I bought this book following Amazon's reader reviews but found it a pain to read.
From the start the author can't bear the way he chose to travel (overlanding with a group) and his fellow travelers... well, when on a low budget, stay graceful! If one can't stand other human beings AND can't afford a way to travel suitable to both his arrogance and means, why do it anyway?
The "traveler" seems to wander through Africa with American centered prejudices and poor references of a narrow minded background.
The reader is continuously faced with his self centered obsession for his own boring motives (if any) that he thinks anyone cares about. He makes the reader witness all his irritations and frustration of a pure misanthrope, "forgot" to check the proper geography and history and spelling of the names of the countries he goes through, remains ignorant of the world, cultures and people and till the end totally misses the whole point of traveling.
Everything, even the slight excitement he seems to feel when encountering wild animals is awkwardly written, in dry insensitive words without style.
Oh, those hundreds of dull phrases in italic! Those infinitely repeated "burro" like donkeys have Spanish names in Africa, "black" like there's a need to remind us of the color of Africa's inhabitants.
What is Lake Kiva? Lake Tanzania? Are there really "caimans" in Africa? What is a "wild west town" to anyone not American? When were there only 700 black rhinos left? "Zaire, these days, after years of war, known as DRC": check exactly when the name changed? Victoria Falls, the world highest cascades? Since when does Michelin rate up to five stars? Any need to be condescending and transcript everyone's accent again and again while oneself has no clue about foreign languages? Any need to be rude, pushy and obnoxious when addressing people?
In this long boring account of what seems to have been an ordeal to him that we are forced to share, the only human encounter that seems to have somewhat pleased the ever complaining author are... another white couple traveling and Whites in South Africa.
This is a shallow disappointing report that would disgust anyone who wishes to travel to Africa.
Thanks God we know better.
This was my first experience reading about the travel adventures written by Brandon Wilson and I have to say it was one enjoyable one.
We are taken with Brandon and Cheryl Wilson as they travel the length of Africa. We start our adventure right from the beginning and all the woes that transpire in preparation and sometimes some of the unfortunate, like Brandon catching the flu. Once aboard for the true beginning of their adventure they are grouped with nearly two dozen people who in themselves are a story ready to be written.
Then our couple goes it on their own and it is here that they truly get into the meat of their journey, meeting natives, experiencing incredible landmarks and truly tasting of Africa.
This work is very well-written, is brimming with giggles and down to earth reality and the photos bring the reality of the read to life. I enjoyed this one; I believe you will too.
on November 11, 2005
Dead Men Don't Leave Tips
by Brandon Wilson
I've read travel stories by Brandon Wilson before, so knew I'd be entertained, amused and instructed. His story of a crossing of Africa did not disappoint me.
Leaving domesticity in Hawaii, Brandon and his brand new wife Cheryl joined what proved to be the do it yourself safari from hell. From the hot dry hell of the Sahara to the humid hell of the jungle, through starving villages and squalid cities, we follow a picturesque group of pilgrims. Brandon's writing makes the reader feel the heat, the discomfort and even despair, while giving one laugh after another. Living it was difficult. Reading about it isn't. If I wrote about the travails of camping beside a swamp infested with malaria-bearing mosquitoes, I might bring tears to your eyes, and have you grit your teeth. Brandon gives you a belly laugh instead.
Not that it was all misery. It is clear that Brandon and Cheryl felt well rewarded for their endurance. His passages about wildlife, scenery and friendly people sometimes approach the poetic.
Like all good writing, this book does a lot more than entertain. One would expect to learn about Africa -- its people, animals, landscape -- from a travel book, but, without lecturing Brandon gets us to see social conditions; the gap between rich and poor, urban and starving. Racially, he is colorblind, with respect for all people, while sometimes justly indignant about cruel or exploitative behavior.
The language is always lively and entertaining, clear and lucid with amusing little word-paintings: `a Swiss cheese swatch of dirt road;' `we were finally waved on our way-and after only four hours;' and `It was a sleepy place-so quiet you could almost hear trouble simmering.'
Brandon is a writer with the eye of an artist, a basic decency and social conscience that in another book made him the champion of the suppressed Tibetan people. He has the humor of a cartoonist and the old fashioned ability to tell a good story. I strongly recommend this one to you.
About the reviewer: Dr Bob Rich is a multiple award-winning writer and professional editor [...]
on March 10, 2006
As a well traveled person myself, I was originally interested in reading "Dead Men Don't Leave Tips" as a guide for planning an upcoming trip to Africa. Once well into the book, it became more than a guide to Africa, but an in-depth, often times laugh-out-loud humorous look at the pitfalls of group travel in such a magical country.
Brandon Wilson's sense of adventure and colorful use of imagery leaves the reader eager to turn the page to see what happens to this motley crew next. Although entertained by the antics of this group I was much relieved when he and his partner were able to break free from their travel companions and I reveled in their independent spirit. I cringed right along with him at the "Ugly Americans" he described as his fellow Overlanders, and I danced with the tribes they met along the way. I felt the nervousness of the unknown as he traded money on the black market, and the frustration of being scammed by the young locals in the busy street markets. I found myself thirsty as they crossed the Sahara, and eager for a shower as they went weeks without access to proper facilities. I gasped for breath as they summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, and relished in relief and accomplishment on the descent. But most of all, I felt the thrill of experiencing a magical cultural found off the beaten path in the depths of Africa.
Wilson clearly depicts the highs and lows of experiencing other cultures, and I thoroughly enjoyed (and learned from) his experiences. Traveling through Africa is not for the weak at heart, and "Dead Men Don't Leave Tips" is a great place to start learning how to navigate through such an unpredictable adventure. Through it all, I look forward to planning my upcoming adventure, and feel certain it won't include an Overland Outfitter.
on February 4, 2006
Can one cross Africa from tip to tip, North to South? Yes. And there are plenty of ways to do it (a friend of mine even walked it alone, not something I would recommend). But no matter how you do it, there will be problems. There are visas to get, possessions to take or leave behind, and languages to learn (or else you rarely get to talk with and maybe stay with the natives you probably came to Africa to meet). Your vehicle will probably break down or get stuck. You may run out of food. There will be all sorts of unexpected delays (as I found out when I was in Africa). And you will almost certainly get sick at some point. Life isn't always easy for Mzungus ("mzungu" is Swahili for "white person").
In this amusing book, we follow the exploits of Brandon and Cheryl Wilson as they travel the length of Africa. Part of their trip is with a group of nearly two dozen rather diverse and "individually bizarre" people. For the rest of the trip, the Wilsons are on their own, and they then find it somewhat easier to meet people and make friends in the places they visit.
Our travellers do get to see some true highlights in Africa. They do visit Marrakech, in Morocco. Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. Lamu in Kenya. Mount Kilimanjaro (they climb it all the way to Gillman's Point, at an altitude of over 18000 feet). Victoria Falls. They try the Zambezi rapids in a raft. And much more.
I found the description of South Africa interesting. After all, I've read books that boast about the end of South African apartheid. But how is life in that country these days? I've heard some bad things, and this book if anything confirms them.
Oh yes, the title. If some maniacs drive you around unsafely, you may want to remind them that you won't give them a tip unless you remain alive.
This is a well-written and funny travel story. It includes a bunch of surprisingly fuzzy black-and-white photos. Anyway, I like this book and I recommend it.
on March 6, 2006
Brandon, author of 'Yak Butter Blues' has now written about a 7-month trek covering almost all of Africa. You're going to laugh and cry. With his wife Cheryl, they start out on a whole-continent-bound bus with the most eclectic collection of travelers I've ever read about. I couldn't stop laughing. But, despite the humor, Brandon also describes the sometimes heart-breaking images of people and places in the Africa you don't hear about from the Travel Guides. He really captures these moments, both good and bad. Highly recommended. [smile]
"Wild, pristine beauty surrounded us as we drove to the base of remote Djomba to establish camp. Towering green peaks sprouted out of ripe clusters of lush vegetation. Massive pyramidal volcanoes rose of the verdant floor suggesting its prehistoric past. Churning, whitecapped rivers cascaded over mountainsides into translucent pools below, and its beauty didn't end with nature." ~ pg. 146
Brandon Wilson is an expert storyteller who masterfully weaves a story of a seven-month odyssey across Africa. His exciting writing style keeps you on the edge of your seat as you journey to the heart of Africa. The detailed descriptions bring the story alive with the sounds, scents and sights of a real-life adventure.
Brandon Wilson is an award-winning writer and photographer who has spent his life exploring the world. He is also a keen observer of human nature and deftly describes the human drama that is ever present in the stories of the overlanders and exotic locales. There are a few photographs to compliment this journey but the writing captures scenes in seconds and transports you to a different time and place.
As Brandon and his partner travel from Mororcco to Cape Town you are invited to vicariously experience every nuance and challenge experienced by independent travelers. He and his partner have a passion for adventure and are inquisitive about the local peoples and unique cultures. They maintain their sense of humor throughout and press on, undaunted towards their final goal. Some of their adventures include:
Hunting with Pygmies
Climbing Africa's Highest Mountain
Meeting Mountain Gorilla
Horseback riding in lion territory
Sitting out underneath the stars by campfires
Watching Antelope and Cape Buffalo graze
Visiting Serengeti National Park
Watching Hippos in Zaire
Experiencing village life and living with locals
Surviving Torrential Rains
Sampling local foods and finding restaurants
Swimming and rafting in African rivers
Through vibrant prose and the eye of an artist, Brandon Wilson paints his recollections with startling clarity. His writing unleashes an immense longing for the experiences he describes. There is a profound beauty of freedom in the way he travels. As they reach Gillman's Point on Mt. Kilimanjaro you can't help but cheer them on to even more exciting adventures like surviving a rafting trip down the Zambezi river.
I can also highly recommend Yak Butter Blues: A Tibetan Trek of Faith. Brandon Wilson's writing is the best travel writing I've ever read and his adventurous spirit is inspiring.
~The Rebecca Review
on March 23, 2006
Dead Men Don't Leave Tips is the thrilling, captivating true tale of a honeymooned couple who quit their job, sell their home and cars, and leave everything behind to achieve a dream: cross Africa on a seven-month, 10,000-mile journey from Morocco to Cape Town.
Join professional travellers Wilson and Cheryl as they bargain with villagers, struggle with incompetent guides and government officials, pass sleepless nights in deplorable accommodations, cross the Sahara amidst sand storms and blistering heat, meet gorillas and Pygmies face to face, and climb Mount Kilimanjaro, reminding us all along that simple things such as a nice meal, a shower and getting cash can become the ultimate luxuries.
The tale is poignant with ironic humor and human drama. Each chapter begins with a witty, profound African proverb, and in the middle section the author includes interesting B&W photographs to complement his account and give a clearer picture of Africa's sights and sounds.
What's striking about Wilson's books (he's also the author of the IPPY Award winner Yak Butter Blues) is that his journeys are not only physical but highly spiritual as well. His are journeys of body and soul in every sense of the word. The author writes with honesty and a sharp eye for detail, making this an invaluable amalgam of information for readers of adventure travel or anybody who is considering "do-it-yourself" safaris or simply visiting Africa. Interlaced with this honesty and detail are Wilson's beautiful prose, obvious passion for adventure and a deep inquisitiveness about other cultures, making this book a pleasure to read. Having already reviewed Wilson's previous work, this reviewer is already looking forward to his next. Highly recommended.
on April 3, 2009
Each time I read a new book by Brandon Wilson ("Along the Templar Trail" and "Yak Butter Blues"), I could not imagine a next book could be as nearly as adventurous, drama-filled, moving, informative and inspiring. And each time I was proven wrong, as I was after reading "Dead Men Don't Leave Tips: Adventures X Africa".
Where do I begin? Crossing Africa from top to tip is a daunting idea in itself, but to do it for 7 months, in an overlander truck with 20-some motley crew travelers and two clueless guides would be crazy! Crazy or not, Brandon and his parther in adventures, Cheryl, forged ahead on one of their most daring, insane, adventurous and wild journey of their lives! At one point Brandon and Cheryl left the overlander group and set off on their own, relying on nothing but banned maps, their wits, help from kind strangers, and most of all...miracles to survive to the end of their journey home. There was never a dull moment, never an easy ride, never a smooth sailing. If you wondered what could happen next, something did!
As with "Yak Butter Blues"- the journey across Tibet, this book also serves as an informative guide and educational tool about what life is in parts of the world we're either not permitted to see, or would never dare to. Where malaria and civil unrest met some of the most majestic places in the world, like Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and Djomba Sanctuary in Zaire, Brandon Wilson was right there in the midst of it all with his camera and journal in hand ready to capture every breathtaking, frightening, inspiring, and heart wrenching moment.
If you ever thought of traveling through Africa, learn more about it, or just experience a wild adventure of a lifetime vicariously, you need to read no further than Brandon Wilson's "Dead Men Don't Leave Tips: Adventures X Africa"!