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Into a Desert Place: A 3000 Mile Walk around the Coast of Baja California Paperback – April 17, 1995

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 17, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393312895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393312898
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #722,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Englishman Graham Mackintosh seems an unlikely candidate to walk the 3,000-mile coast of Baja, California--after all, he calls himself "the most unadventurous person in the world." Yet Mackintosh spent 500 days in that loneliest of deserts, carrying his world on his back, dining on rattlesnake and cactus, drinking distilled seawater, and living with fear as a constant companion. So, just what was this "most unadventurous" man doing in a place like Baja? In Into A Desert Place, Mackintosh blames books for his transformation from armchair traveler to hardened adventurer. A taste for adventure travel literature soon developed into an addiction; when the library shelves had surrendered the last of their treasures, he went into a kind of withdrawal: "It got so bad that I even thought of doing something adventurous and crazy myself.... " Walking around Baja was not Mackintosh's first choice--he considered getting married--but a trip to visit friends in Los Angeles led him to the little Mexican village of Ensenada, which had been prominently featured in one of those adventure travel tales he'd read in England.

Like Tolkein's Bilbo Baggins, running down the road toward adventure without a hat or coat, Mackintosh set off to Baja without a tent or sleeping bag, hitchhiking his way around the peninsula until his money ran out. By that time, he'd fallen deeply in love with the harsh environment and was determined to come back and explore it more thoroughly. Into a Desert Place is his account of what he saw and learned on that second trip, and how he survived.


“What has resulted from [Graham Mackintosh's] unsuspected determination and stamina is a truly uplifting account of what one person alone against the world can accomplish. It is also one of the finest pieces of travel writing of recent times.” (Irish Independent)

“Could well become an enduring classic. . . . Always vastly entertaining, this is one of the finest pieces of travel writing to appear in years and certainly one of the best books on Baja ever published. Don't miss this title; it's that good.” (Coast Book Review Service)

“An engagingly humorous and ultimately inspiring chronicle of high adventure.” (Stockton Record)

“[A] 'can't-wait-to-turn-the-page' story.” (San Diego Log)

More About the Author

Graham Mackintosh was born in London in 1951 of a Scottish father (Inverness)and an Irish mother (Kilrush, Co. Clare), he grew up in Slough, Berkshire, and received a BA Hons degree in Sociology from the University of Leeds.

In 1983 he was a lecturer at a college in England teaching social sciences and special education to unemployed teenagers. Hoping to show his students that a shoestring expedition could be the adventure of a lifetime, Mackintosh, who described himself as the "least adventurous person in the world," set out to walk around the beautiful but dangerous coastline of Mexico's Baja California peninsula.

The near two-year, 3,000-mile trip changed his life. When Mackintosh emerged from the cactus-strewn wilderness, he returned to England to write Into a Desert Place and there received the prestigious "Adventurous Traveller of the Year" award.

After years promoting Into a Desert Place in the UK, the US and Baja California, in 1997 Graham Mackintosh elected to walk down the rugged, mountainous interior of Baja, visiting many of the old mission sites along the way. Journey with a Baja Burro, his second book, was the result. It describes his arduous thousand-mile journey with a pack burro from the US border to Loreto - a trip that began exactly 300 years after the October 1697 founding of the Loreto mission, the first permanent European settlement in the "Californias".

In the summer of 2001, he camped four months in Baja's highest mountain range, the Sierra San Pedro Mártir with two street dogs, Penny and Pedro, and that became the subject of his third book - Nearer My Dog to Thee.

His fourth book, Marooned With Very Little Beer, appeared in April 2008, and tells of his two months kayaking and hiking the second largest island in the Sea of Cortez - Isla Angel de la Guarda.

Graham Mackintosh now lives in San Diego, California. He continues to give lectures and slide shows on his adventures, writes articles on Baja and has guided tourists south of the border on various trips. He is married to Bonni, a nurse, who shares his love for Baja and for nature.

Customer Reviews

Baja is an adventure, even if by air in your own airplane.
James Hoogerwerf
Besides being a great adventure story, this book has another side, which in a sense describes the author's spiritual awakening.
Daniel-san Cartastar
Would recommend this to anyone interested in learning about Mexico.
Marvina Wiemer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Robert H. Nunnally Jr. on September 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
Travel books about daring trips to places filled with hardships erupt like volcanic ash from the "featured on sale" sections of bookstores. Authors fill the shelves, as they have for a dozen decades, with endless sagas of how they climbed-a-mountain-and-everybody-died, why they sailed-the-Pacific-in-a-sea-of-storms, and even all-the-good-reasons-why-people-should-not-do-the-dangerous-pastime-the-author-does.
"Into a Desert Place" features many of the hallmarks of this unfortunate genre of "we nearly died" non-fiction. Baja California's alien landscapes, spiked with impassable mountains, rattlesnakes and boojum trees, certainly qualifies in many regions as a "need a sense of high adventure and a contempt for danger to tour there" area. Yet, "Into a Desert Place" does not repel in the way that "body count on Mount Everest" books can. On the contrary, this book simply charms. "Into a Desert Place" is a complete revelation--an accessible, winning account of how adverse conditions can be met by those most basic values--determination, a good attitude and, indeed, a good heart.
Mr. Mackintosh manages to convey the hardships of the trip, the kindness of most of the people he met along the way, and his own struggles to complete his quest, all without undue sentimentality or boastfulness. The book has a folksy, simple feel about it, but it is anything but a simple book. Instead of the usual travel book conceits based on machismo or "sheer pluck", we see Baja through the eyes of Everyman. We need more books like "Into a Desert Place" and fewer books about how many innocent tourists drowned at sea. We all belong in the desert place to which this book removes us. After reading this book, the reader may not wish to walk around Baja, but the reader might well wish to find that place of quiet, and think a bit.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Michael Trend on June 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
I bought this book years ago, after reading a typewritten review in one of those "Doomsday Is Comming--Soon!" 'zines. Most of the books reviewed in it were those grim tomes about how to survive by eating nuts and berries after The Big One gets dropped and wipes out 50% of our population. Mr. McKintosh's book proved to be a pleasant suprise--a well- written account, an out-and-out adventure, a walk across the remote desert of Lower California on a shoestring budget.
When he got the idea to actually Do It, McKinstosh was slightly pudgy Scottish college professor whose main exercise seemed to have been lifting a bottle of beer to his lips while he watched football (that's soccer to us Yanks) on the telly. By the time he completed his several month journey, he was lean and sun-baked, the antithesis of his former couch potato self.
In the process, I'd say Mr. McKintosh grew, and actually "found the handle". He figured out what he was about, and what he wanted to do with his life.
For me, some of the most enjoyable parts were those describing how he begged equipment from manufacturers and outfitters, and how he raised funding along the way by writing accounts that he posted to newspapers and magazines.
Of course, there's The Adventure itself, including an amusing account of how he got sloshed from booze he obtained from gathering whiskey bottles that had washed ashore after being thrown overboard from cruise ships. (He sagely notes that staggering around in the boonies at night is risky business.)
Along the way, McKintosh gets befriended by all sorts of interesting, impoverished, and invariably generous folk. Those accounts have a Beginner's Mind freshness to them as well.
Since his original trek, McKinstosh has acquired a modicum of fame.
Read more ›
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Wesley L. Janssen VINE VOICE on March 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
A British "every man" who describes himself as being a self absorbed couch potato, walks alone around the rugged and remote coastlines of Baja California. The self-deprecating honesty and insight is unusual and refreshing. He persists through heat and drought, rock slides and dangerous tides, scorpions and thorny plants, daunting geological impediments, rattlesnakes, and sharks -- yet the story is more 'man in nature' than the more common and inane 'man against nature.'
Mackintosh's sensitivity to the lands he interacts with is fascinating, particularly given that he is afoot in a 'wild' land a hemisphere from his home, in an environment foreign to his previous life. "I didn't need anyone to tell me what was right and wrong. The land was sacred to me. I was a part of it. I wasn't one of a million careless tourists with their trucks, bikes and polluting toys. I was one in a million. The desert was special and my needs were special. There was no conflict. ... The sense of being special to a special place was very much part of the exhilaration and the experience. ... Yet, to put it into words was to distort it. The feeling was the reality and the mystery. It saddened me to think that I might never be able to share it with another person. 'In what concerns you much,' wrote Thoreau, 'know that you are alone in the world.'" Relevant recountings of historical events are woven into the narrative, as are the author's spiritual musings.
The whole-heartedness with which Mackintosh merges into a new landscape is complimented by the friendships which he easily forges with the ranchers and fishermen of rural and wild Baja, and their families. As a journal of wilderness travel, this may be one of the best books written in the twentieth century.
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