"Travel far enough and you're bound to have the odd moment on the edge", writes Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler in his preface to On The Edge; except that most contributors to this "adventurous escapades" collection got there by choice rather than unlucky accident. There are more than 30 extracts of gallant expedition books, from Arctic crossings to Everest scaling. Also included are close-shave tales from star travel writers such as Eric Newby and Paul Theroux, who comments, "Travel is pointless without certain risks".
On The Edge speedily whisks you to the heart of the action, beginning with Mark Jenkins hair-raising account of three men in kayaks greeting crocodiles on an African river. "On every journey there is something waiting for you", he writes, "Something specific. When you find it, you will think it just happened to be there, but in fact it was there only for you. It is not a coincidence".
From here on, the white-knuckle moments come thick and fast. Each extract is only a few pages, skipping tedious expedition-planning diatribes for the real excitement: from cyclists in Zambia being mistaken for South African spies to encounters with gorillas, bears, death and storms at sea. The Texan editor Cecil Kunne is a real adrenaline junkie, one of the world's kayaking/rafting experts (when not being a lawyer). Having written nine books on the subject, he inevitably chooses many canoeing capers.
Most extracts come from the highly traditional intrepid explorer genre, dating back to Victorian grand "expeditions". The question is, does it take you to the frontier of human existence; or just the "edge" of the white man's world? Buzz Aldrin's account of his first steps on the moon (and the miniature Presbyterian communion he held before he took them) definitely does. However the "edge" in many of the stories is simply daily life for the "natives", from Aborigines to Zairian gorilla rangers. This aside, On The Edge is an excellent sampler, providing easily digestible chapters. Ideal for reading between tube stops as well as on epic treks. --Sarah Champion
Thirty-three contributors are included in this anthology of travel pieces, which is divided into eight sections: Africa, Oceania, Antarctica, North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and the moon. Yes, the moon--a piece written by astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin about his space travel. Paul Theroux is the other familiar name here. In an excerpt from The Old Patagonian Express: By Train through the Americas, Theroux writes about the rabid soccer fans during a match he attended in San Salvador. The adventurous escapades include a frightening mountaineering accident in South America, a strange trip across the Sahara on a camel, and an epic bicycle journey from Ireland to India in which the cyclist climbed to 10,380 feet over the Shibar Pass. Other writers describe a nightmare--a freezing bus ride through a bleak mountain region of China, a hike in the rain forests of the Borneo jungle, and a winter voyage by boat to Antarctica. Some of these accounts are humorous, some are scary, and all are engrossing. George Cohen
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