This book, as I see from Amazon's grim assessment, has long been out of print.
This is a tragedy for two reasons:
1. It will greatly reduce the number of people who will read my review of it.
2. This book is a treasure! Out of all the books in my library, this is unquestionably my most beloved volume that nobody has ever heard about. I would be grief-stricken to lose it.
Here's the dope with Snow: he was a upper-class Brit who, having broken his leg at Eton and finding himself consequently exempt from military service, decided, a la Anthony Eden, to go adventuring in South America.
The thing was, Snow didn't travel like ordinary people. Resolutely refusing to learn any local language, for example, he would simply yell at the natives louder and louder, confident they would soon understand him. Nor did he pack very well, study the terrain, immunize himself, formulate backup plans, etc. It's a wonder he never got himself killed on one of these outings.
In fact, Snow went on many kooky adventures during his life: motorcycling through Lapland, traveling on foot through much of the Middle East, climbing a series of obscure South American peaks, etc.
This book, "The Rucksack Man," revolves around Snow's attempt (begun in 1973) to walk the entire length of the Americas, from Tierra del Fuego all the way up to the northern coast of Alaska (along the Pan-American Highway), a distance of approximately 15,000 miles.
He never made it. Severe health problems forced him to take a hiatus shortly after crossing the Darien Gap, and he returned to England to recuperate.
Angry and disgusted with himself, Snow attempted to resume his journey a few months later from the precise point at which he had interrupted it in Costa Rica.
But, exhausted and mentally unstable, he was unable to muster the strength to complete this second half of his journey, giving up only a few weeks after having resumed.
This book is therefore an account of the South America leg of the journey: of all the things Snow saw and learned as he traveled, all the misadventures he had, the people he met, and all the wonders he was privileged to see walking through (pre-globalization) South America in the 70s.
Folks, it's a gem.
His writing style is an inimitable combination of wit, clarity, subtlety, compassion, and, above all, an endearing self-effacement: "Walking," writes Snow, "teaches you that nothing is ever as good -- or as bad -- as it first seems."
This is not Snow's only book. "My Amazon Adventure" and "Half a Dozen of the Other," are also entertaining, but lack the raw charm and simplicity of this one. Sadly, all three are all out of print.
Later in life he converted to Roman Catholicism , sired six children, and became an obscure chicken farmer in Devon. He died in 2001 and was quickly forgotten.
But not by me.