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Into the Heart of Borneo Paperback – September 12, 1987
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But on they trod--with the much-needed help of three Iban natives and an unseen, though oft-quoted river god--through jungle, across rivers whose height may rise seven feet overnight, and via native villages (where they often have late-night parties), with one goal in mind: seeing the fabled Borneo rhino. Fenton is nearly swept away in a whirlpool, they subsist on jungle-worm gruel, and ripping off sucking leeches is a near-daily occurrence, but cultural and natural insights and adventures abound in this rip-roaringly funny and deftly written travelogue that will have you chortling out loud. --Melissa Rossi
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of fellow traveller, reknowned poet James Fenton) will leave you laughing on every page. Think Bill Bryson meets Charles Darwin and you might approximate O'Hanlon's writing style.
I have read all three of his travel books - this one twice - and though "No Mercy" - his Congo odyssey, is the most breathtakingly ambitious and epic in scope, "Borneo", a lighthearted romp, remains my sentimental favorite.
The reader should have a healthy taste for nature and anthropology to fully appreciate any of O'Hanlons works. Birds, insects and trees share equal billing with the human cast. But
O'Hanlon's infectious enthusiasm for flora and fauna, his deprecating humor, his gift of hyberbole and capacity for capturing the nuances of character are enough to keep anyone
glued to the page.
Also in this book (and even more so in the ribald "No Mercy"), there is a surprising amount of sexuality, as the libidinous habits of the Ibans are often as frankly observed as the mating
habits of the Hornbills,Kingfishers and rhinos, adding voyeur to O'Hanlon's talents as naturalist and humorist.
Duly noted are the risks to life and limb (and appendages)he must be aware of during his adventure. These lessons are given to him by his good natured guides who taunt and tease the overweight white (very white) man. All in good fun, the banter flows both ways. Descriptions of their meals may take a tough stomach on the part of the reader. He spared the reader nothing when it came to describing the delights of dinnertime. The recollection of some repasts, especially the gourmet monster lizard meals were among the more memorable (unfortunately). It was amazing what they scrounged up to eat. I will not spoil all the little surprises they had at mealtime, you will know soon enough when you read the book!
Aside from the culinary experience, I found the travel journey delightfully funny and educational. While I know this is NOT the kind of trip I would care to have, I appreciate that the author had the guts to do it. At times, he doubted his stamina, but that is what made the novel work - he was a regular guy doing something outrageously difficult, not to mention dangerous. I can see that this kind of adventure would appeal to many others, but for me, I took his trip in an armchair where I was safe and knew what I was eating for lunch!
He is a charming writer, hooking the reader with teasing references. I admit I learned alot about their culture and some of their more sensitive political and social issures. A quick read, I went out and bought more of his books and look forward to a similar experience.
O'Hanlon is able to describe characters so well, one feels as if you are on the boat with them; the three guides are lovingly drawn (unlike other travel writers who don't view their local guides as complete people).
For those with an interest in the ecology of Borneo, birds, or river journeys, there is much to learn through this engrossing read. I recently saw a documentary that filmed the "remote" areas where O'Hanlon's journey took place and I am sad to say it has been totally deforested by the Indonesian timber industry; huge corporations that are destroying the Borneo rainforest due to graft and a lack of enforcement by the Indonesian goverment... Subjects that O'Hanlon writes about in this book. Think twice about buying teak furniture, much of it comes from poached wood that is illegally cut from Borneo's rainforest, a sad coda to this funny book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In the Heart of Borneo opens up in a Chinese hotel in a river town, a jump off point to the heart of Borneo. Redmond firsts wrestles with a giant cockroach. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
Friends of mine cycled around the island of Borneo in the 1990s as part of their Numbum World Tent-Camping Tour. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Holly Doering
Ever consider traveling into the jungle? Read this first. Laugh out loud funny, but also a deeply insightful account—guided by relevant passages from their historical... Read morePublished 18 months ago by David L Stern
No heroics but a very factual and humorous account of a physically challenging trip, a very un-hackneyed portrait of local people, changing times and mores, plus enchanting... Read morePublished on November 14, 2013 by Anne O.
Interesting book about trip within Borneo. Written with some humor. Painted a picture of Borneo that made me think it was much too hot, humid, and mysteriously buggy for me to... Read morePublished on September 15, 2013 by Nancy Pitarys
Redmond O'Hanlan gives a great introduction to the history, geography, demography, birds, botany and biology of Borneo in a lighthearted and entertaining way. Read morePublished on July 7, 2013 by I. Sims
This is a classic travel adventure story. It is not for everyone. I just got into reading travel stories. I like stories with humor, and this has it. Read morePublished on June 30, 2013 by Dee Masters
A great way to experience the worst travel destinations, the most unsanitary accommodation, and the least reliable travel companions within the safety of your own kindle. Read morePublished on June 3, 2013 by Maudie