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4.8 out of 5 stars40
4.8 out of 5 stars
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2011
I picked up this book with some trepidation fearing a much-extended version of those descriptions of exotic travels abroad that one receives with some Christmas cards. Was I going to be bored, irritated or downright jealous? In fact I was none of these (well, perhaps a little of the last). It was a combination of travelogue, personal experience and reflection that was exciting, humorous, thought-provoking and inspiring. I couldn't put it down.

To undertake such a journey requires courage, resourcefulness and determination. Just when I thought the writer was sounding a little (justifiably) self-satisfied at his achievement he redressed the balance with a self deprecating remark or humble observation. His sense of wonder at the natural world and his optimism about humankind raised my spirits. Yes, he has been incredibly lucky to have the opportunity, the means, the fitness and above all the companionship of a soul-mate but he fully acknowledges this. He has lived a dream and reveled in it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2011
There have been a lot of motorcycle travel books with Ted Simons starting it all with "Jupiters Travels" and until now no one had improved on his work. "Bearback" has set a new standard and is simply the best I have read, and I have read a great deal as I'm planning my own trip. Well done to Pat & Ness for such a wonderfull journey and account of their experience. It's very kind of them both to let us share what it is like to explore by motorcycle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 March 2012
Bearback is an extremely inspirational read, having read numerous similar motorcycle travel books this is defiantly a quality, heavy weight of a book. The book is a very good combination of day to day travel, history, geography but also social comment with wider thoughts on life's bigger picture. Although being over 500 pages long it is naturally broken down into manageable section, the two of most interest for me were through Africa and South / Cental America, which mirror motorcycle journeys undertaken by Lois Pryce whose books are also to be recommended. I read the book while on holiday and it was the perfect escape from my normal daily routine. The problem now is that I am wishing for the kids to grow up so I can set off on my own extender overland adventure, I can not however see my wife joining me on the back of the bike for 4 years with 3 pairs of knickers to her name!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2013
There is no end to how bikes touch people's lives. A man, a woman and a bike go on an adventure (sounds like a nursery rhyme) and Pat's book takes you with them. An adventure of discovery and insight made all the better because it was undertaken by obvious sole mates on a journey of many levels. A truly epic experience for them all and a very enjoyable read start to finish.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2012
Bearback is a well written first hand account of a motorcycle adventure around the world. As i'm writing this i haven't yet finished the book and the 'heroes' are still in Africa on the first major leg of their trip. The hardships and dangers they encounter do occasionally make one ask why? However being a keen, albeit Europe only (so far) rider i do understand that every ride on a motorbike is an adventure in itself.Personally i'm looking forward to reading about the South American part of their journey as this is the area i would love to explore myself. If you're into adventure travel, motorcycling or both i'd definitely recommend this book to you.
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on 8 March 2015
I think this book was too big and too long. It is well written and whilst I am an avid reader and love reading I found this book a bit of a plod. It hasn't really excited me and I can't quite put my finger on why. It was overly focussed on nature and after 4 years on the road everywhere just blended into one. The culture and different people did not stand out for me from one country and continent to another though I found the section on Laos touching. The author's passion about Africa comes through and again his focus was more on nature. The smugness and competition with other travellers gets to be too much of a hallmark of this book and less would have been better. The Dr title is unnecessary. Mentioned once is enough.Also I found it difficult to reconcile why a doctor/health professional would pack a big supply of cigarettes to give out to people such as border officials etc. A bit patronising and not a good health message. Astoundingly he then makes a remark about some other motorcyclists who couldn't walk to Machu Picchu because of the effects from cigarette smoking. Is that called being a touch confusing? I feel sorry for his pillion because it would have been very hard on the back and being confined for that many years. I feel sorry for him because he would not have been on a bike where he could stand up on the pegs and get through some of that tough terrain. Do we really need to know about trivia like when he broke his sunglasses or when Ness got drunk and wiped out her email contact list. It could have been a tighter read if some of this superfluous detail was left out such as the discussion about his O Levels and writing about filling up the salt and pepper shakers from McDonald's etc. It seemed like the author wanted to fit everything in and more by adding extra on the few more trips he did in Africa that don't belong to this journey. I was puzzled about how it could be so difficult to get to Timbuktu but easy to get out on the same road. One small matter is the ten years between the journey and the book. Already somewhat historical.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2011
What an incredible journey, through some of the most amazing places on our planet. A thoroughly enjoyable book which combines in an easy going way a mix of the journey, some history and the authors own thoughts, often those little gems that come to mind but never reach paper. Its also a very honest book in all ways, which is most refreshing. I also liked the pace, never dwelling too long on any part, a whistlestop tour but really just right given the extent of their travels. A most compelling read.
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on 9 June 2014
This book sat on my "to read" stack for a couple of years before I got around to reading it. I thought, "How interesting can it be to read about someone else's holiday?"

Well, this book blew me away.

Places I will never have to balls to go to, situations that I hope to never get into survived, proving almost every problem has a solution and there are people all around the world who will go out of their way to help you solve it. The perspective of two people on a motorbike in the thick of it all I found to be a honest and truly interesting account of other cultures than any documentary I've seen about the places they travelled through.

I would recommend this book highly to anyone like me who has done some travel, would love to travel much more, through places almost never visited by tourists, experience people as they are and not as the TV tells us they are... but who, like me, let's face it, is not ever going to get around to actually doing it.
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on 19 April 2015
This is a book with heart soul. It's a lot more than a travelogue of an extraordinary four year journey, its about life, love, passion, faith in humanity, perseverance and an indomitable spirit. I was lucky enough to briefly meet Pat and his wife at the NEC bike show last November when I bought the book and I found them every bit as gracious and welcoming as they are in the book itself. This couple took on the world unsupported and triumphed long before Ewan and Charlie and their expensive entourage did. It's full of insights, humility and a warts and all appraisal of the "real" folk of the world regardless of culture or creed. My only criticism is reserved not for the book itself or indeed them, but for BMW, whose international motorcycle dealers and their ignorance and arrogance denied them good service on many occasions - shame on you BMW. Well done indeed Mrs and Mrs Garrod, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your book.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 1 April 2011
Bearback, not to be confused with bearbacking which is entirely different, is a 519 page account of a 100,000 mile journey around the world two up on an ageing BMW - a 1991 R100GS with a 43.5 litre fuel tank (10L more that the current 1200GS). Its one of a pleasingly growing number of bike-travel books. They are all different. Some are undeniably well-written, like Ted Simon's first book which probably spawned the genre - as well as the activity. Some are banal, though with a certain humour and there are all points between. Low cost publishing standards seem to characterise some of this sub-genre with sometimes poor proof reading and low quality reproductions.
When this example arrived in the post I was daunted by its size, then annoyed by the cheesy photographs on the dust cover then irritated that the publishers need to tell us this is not just any Pat Garrod but Doctor Pat who is the author, as if this is a pseudo-medical self-help book written by a crank who happens to be a doctor and the publishers are looking for some spurious respectability. So you will see that I found myself negatively disposed towards this and starting to regret ordering it before I opened the cover.
Some of this type of book provide the reader with a back story so we quickly find out who the author is and something about why they tacked the journey. Others don't. With this one we get the author's personal philosophy and his urge to travel but the rest we gradually find out. For example its rather disconcerting, after our pulse is already racing in the early dramas recounted in Africa to read that the author and his partner had already ridden their `bear' across that continent some years before. Its also disorientating to learn, somewhere in the same continent, that this journey started in 1998 yet the book was published in 2010. Dr Pat is also not alone as are the authors of many of these books and in fact it's the solitude and openness to contact with people along the route that is often a strong part of these narratives. Pat (you see how friendly I am getting with him now) has his partner (female - I told you this book is not about bearbacking) riding pillion. Until we get used to this she is a rather ghostly presence, speaking sometimes (but not very often) though referred to constantly. However, once we've made these adjustments we can settle down to the gripping story. And gripping this account is. In the early stages in Africa they have their possessions stolen. Its easy to feel their panic and anger. Then their beloved machine breaks down in a variety of possibly catastrophic ways demanding ingenuity on the part of the author and some heavy handed efforts of some of the mechanics along the way. I lost count of the number of new drive shafts the skilful Pat fitted. There are also accounts of riding in incredibly tough terrains and in terrible weather.
This is a big book for a big journey and its separated into (in my mind at least) Africa, South America (North America is a blur), Australia, the Far East, the Indian subcontinent, then Europe. At the end of each section I expected the book to run out of steam - but it never did - which is an astonishing achievement.
Unlike my current favourite bike-travel book `The Road Gets Better from Here: A Novice Rides Solo From the Ring of Fire to the Cradle of Civilisation' (Perfect Paperback) by Adrian Scott, Pat seems more interested in flora and fauna than in the human cultures he's travelling through. That may not be true but there is a loving attention to describing the beauties of nature that is not turned, in my reading, onto the people that are met along the way. Or rather, we are given some very engaging sketches of people met but they are fleeting. In Scott's book I can't help but be very moved by his immense generosity of spirit as he recounts the way he's taken in and looked after by people in incredibly poor and harsh situations. There is something very uplifting about Scott's book that I don't find in Bearback. In fact there are frequent unattractive outbursts of smugness directed first toward regular tourists who are bussed to various tropical beauty spots in air conditioned vehicles, take some pictures at the behest of a guide, then pile back in and drive off. Then other overland bikers also get the smug treatment. He describes one couple's bike - which incidentally took this couple to Australia from the UK - as `pristine'. `There's travelling overland and there's travelling overland', he says. I think that the British excel at this square-jawed moral highground-taking and I found it a turn off whenever it appeared, as it did with a certain regularity. Also, while I am dishing out the criticism, we also get some heavily stereotypical views of Muslim countries (or some of them): the women all seem to be hidden at home (presumably unhappily) while the men grope and make innuendos toward the now Mrs Pat (they get married in mid-journey). Of course I can't deny that they witnessed this but as Wittgenstein said `there are no facts only interpretations'. (Or was that Groucho Marx? - it wouldn't have been Karl Marx. He would be more likely to say the opposite).
So, some aspects of this book I felt let it down, nevertheless it is a real achievement (I begin to understand why it was so long in the writing). It is impeccably written and highly engaging. The story is one of hugely impressive nerve and courage and there is plenty of talk about bits of the bike if you like that kind of thing. If you are in for the long haul (so to speak) I'd recommend this book, especially if you love Africa and its nature. But if you are more interested in human relationships and haven't read Adrian Scott, then read that first.
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