Andrew Stevenson

Travel Books: Nepal

My eBook dependency ran out of room in Nepal – where WiFi is sparse, but also because I didn’t want to bring my Ipad on a 20 day trek (every lb on my back counted).

There’s plenty of bookstores in Kathmandu with used books, plus some along the Annapurna Circuit where you can trade in the latest one you finished. As a rule we each had one book at a time to keep the weight down, which got us through enough until we got to the next bookstore.

The funny thing, I thought, about a lot of the books available in Nepal are that they’re disaster based. Here most people are about to go on a trek, and as inspiration you can read about how people froze to death on Everest, died climbing up Annapurna massif or any other climbing calamity. Take your pick.

I chose more neutrally. Going with two pretty straightforward travelogues, another that had a poetic/spiritual dimension.

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Rose and I both met the author before travelling, but didn’t get our act together to buy his book from an accredited bookseller that, presumably, would pass him royalties from the sale. Instead we bought it in Kathmandu, where 80% of the books are photocopied reprints, meaning the money stays in the booksellers’ pocket. Not the author’s. Sorry, Andrew. In any case, it’s a good book, following the Circuit around, plus a sly, under-cover-of-darkness, trot into Upper Mustang – where, had he been caught, he’d risk a heavy fine at best. I read it as we walked on the Circuit and found it a really good primer on where we were next headed on the route. Definitely worth it if you’re trekking the Circuit.

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This follows the author on his trek through parts of the Annapurna Circuit, but primarily through Nepal on his way into Tibet, following his friend who is tracking snow leopards for research. He’d never done a trek of this magnitude, which I found immediately easy to relate to, as we were in the same boat on the Annapurna Circuit. I found his writing on how the trek unfolded, and the difficulties they faced in snow really interesting – especially his ranges into discussions on Buddhism. Another good one that offers some philosophical questions as you walk.

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Out of the Flying Circus into one for the BBC filming a series on the Himalayas. This is the companion book to the series that follows him through Nepal, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Bhutan tracking the mountains all along the way. I thought it was an easygoing read with plenty of time to empathize with his foibles along the way.

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Travel Books: New Zealand

Good books I read about New Zealand on this trip:

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I didn’t get to a lot of books on our New Zealand leg, and I mainly blame this book. Why? It’s long. Clocking in at over a thousand pages, it’s no breezy bathroom read – however, I thought it was worth the effort. Set in the late 1800s during New Zealand’s gold rush it offers insights into the time, as well as different towns affected, like, Hokitika (I think my favourite NZ town name to say out loud). The books received some criticism for being too long without too much payoff, but I thought it was an interesting read anyway, particularly learning how and why different towns came to be what they are.

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A journal of one trekker’s time through all of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks – which are so designated by a government body – as well as some lesser walks through the country. His experience’s are really funny – from eating uncooked lentils at night then sitting in his sleeping bag at night while they expand in his stomach to some characters he meets on the trail as well as the conditions of the trails themselves. I thought it was a great primer to read about NZ’s trails before we went – helping us shape our own trekking plans. We both met him as well ahead of our New Zealand trip, so admittedly there is a bias. Regardless, for a travel book where the author isn’t afraid to be self-deprecating and avoids earnestness, I think it’s a good one.

Obviously, you can see, my list is painfully anemic. If anyone has any recommendations, fire away – I really liked NZ, Rose too, and would definitely like to read more about it, whether fiction or non.