A Wheel Adventure
4:28pm Monday 19th August 2013 in What's on
A Wheel Adventure by Peter D Jenkins
The sub-title on this book by Peter D Jenkins, reads as: Cycling adventures along the Silk Roads to Asia, Byzantium, Baghdad, and Kandahar to Katmandu. Even the place names conjur in the mind the flavour of exotic lands; whilst cycling, on the other hand conjures the notion of hard work, but put the two together, and real adventures can evidently occur. Throughout the book the chapter titles contain the names of the countries to which Peter Jenkins, already a seasoned and inveterate traveller, found his way and cleverly he has embraced their exoticism as he names them ; Iraq becomes Land of the Arabian Nights, Bahrain is The Island of Pearls, The Khyber, Where no man is called Master and Afghanistan, Purdahs and Pistachios. Where there is no instant ancient reference there are quotes from the Sanskrit, or from poets like Christina Rosetti and Coleridge. These titles add a powerful feeling to the book, placing it in a timeless context. We see the modern man on his bicycle experiencing thoroughly contemporary happenings such as the television reception in certain places, and coming across men armed to the teeth with guns. Ultimately however much of the land remains as it was generations ago and it is the glimpses of those things which have not changed in these places, which capture the reader’s attention and make them so interesting and sometimes unexpected. In the chapter on Greece, where the quote is from a Goethe poem ‘Knowst thou the land where the lemon trees bloom’, Jenkins sleeps on a hillside outside Salonika and during the night has an encounter with a curious shepherd, whom he gives some boiled sweets. Like many other instances in the book this feels like a wonderful adventure from a Victorian Grand Tour, rather than something happening in the 21st century. He follows this with a ride down the road from there through a row of stones across the road, which turn out to be tortoises. Moments, details, like this, give us a fascinating insight into how, even in a country which is much loved by tourists and with modernism present in its cities, the past is contained still in the present in the less accessible places. Additionally, the writer is a storyteller. There is no doubt about his capacity to write in a style which conveys all the colour, smells, sounds, and sights of his journey and bring them to life for the reader to enjoy with him. A selection of excellent photographs brings an extra touch to the whole. The book is produced in an unusual glossy A4 format, which allows it to be as much a coffee table read, as one for the bookshelf.