on 8 July 2013
This book tells you exactly how to travel. Not so much the vehicle, but in your way of being. Helen's let's try it and see attitude, is a refreshing change from humdrum life in nanny state Blighty. If you need inspiration in what you can do, if you just choose to get on and do it - well this as good as any read out there. It explores both the adventure inherent in a trans-continental, overland journey, as well as the personal adventure within. I thought the tone changed as the journey progressed, as the author became increasingly acclimatised to how things work in the wider world. Whereas it's certainly bold to travel alone, on such a mammoth and relentless trek, the bravery is in just getting out there in the first place. Helen demonstrates that humour, tolerance (up to a point), and determination can get you where you want to be. I couldn't put the book down (as others have said), it certainly is a great description of what it is like to travel in Africa. From my own travels, I can only vouch for scratching the surface in the south and east, but the pictures this book painted were certainly evocative of a full on Africa experience. Good people, welcome beer, insight to a better way of treating each other, it's all here, honestly transcribed. Recommended for anyone who thinks "I wonder if I could/should/would". Thank you Helen for sharing a wonderful achievement - you deserve another beer...
on 24 November 2013
I am an `armchair adventurer'. I have read so many books about hiking long distance paths, climbing challenging mountains and cycling across exotic lands that I feel I have an expert knowledge in all of these things (but in reality my knowledge is woefully lacking!). When I saw Helen's book on Kindle I thought it would probably be ideal to provide me with my `adventure book' fix: and I was right.
Desert Snow is an eminently readable book. I almost felt as if Helen were here, sitting on my sofa, recounting all her tales just for me. Her writing style is not that of a literary master, but it is very personal and consequently I found it very engaging. I also really like the link to the photographs on Flickr; it was great to see the places and the faces; the dusty train journey, the pirogue, Lars, the wild camp sites, the rutted, dirt tracks and so on.
There were a couple of places, however, towards the beginning of the book, where I got a little confused about where the author was and where she was headed (especially around West Africa!). I also would have liked more - more information about the places, the people, the camp sites, the hotels and hostels, the food - just more.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and have spoken about it often in class (a teacher), which is a good indication of the impact it has had on me. I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who is interested in Africa, adventure and humanity. Of simply to anyone at all, no matter your interests!
on 2 September 2013
I'm not so good with writing reviews (not good with words) but had to write one for this book, its an inspiration, its amusing, its gripping and it keeps you wondering what will happen next. I got into this book right from the start, as a woman who dreams of traveling one day I always worry about how I will travel alone and whether it is safe, this book put me somewhat at ease and although you have to always be on your guard, maybe the world isn't the scarey place people make out it is, and this book made me realize this. Having always wanted to go to Africa it gives you an insight of what to expect and the people and culture you will be going into.
I couldn't put this book down always wanting to know the next adventure, where the next place would be and what Helen would encounter there, every time i thought i would stop reading and get something done I would have to read a little bit more. Loved the part about the parrot had me laughing for ages.
A brilliant book from start to finish. What an inspirational lady. Looking forward to the next book.
on 10 August 2013
Having read Helen's book (I had the pleasure of meeting her at a mutual friend's wedding, where many beers later, many of us randomly purchased a copy of her freshly printed book!), I thought it was worthy of a few words of praise.
I sometimes find that travelogues can be a little dull and heavy going, but this is certainly not the case. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read made up anecdotal stories, interspersed with wonderful descriptions of the people and places she passes through on her journey.
Whether you are the sort of person that loves to canter through a book in a few days or someone who keeps picking up a book and putting down over a period weeks/months, this book will satisfy all (and hopefully bring a smile or too along the way!).
But most importantly, if you have been lucky enough to visit any parts of the African continent, or have a longing to explore or simply learn about some of the countries she passes through, then this book is a must.
on 28 August 2013
This is an excellent account of a truly remarkable adventure. When Helen first mooted this undertaking, I admit that I was amongst the people in the "you're crazy" camp, but I was looking forward to hearing about Helen's adventures and wildlife encounters along the way. I wasn't disappointed, there's plenty of those stories in this book, but there's plenty more besides. Helen provides great insight into what makes Africa tick and gives the reader an opportunity to get a feel for the wonders of the place. From her accounts of Timbuktu and dodging hippos on the Niger River to experiencing life in the Congo, this book has plenty to keep everyone entertained and, if you want to be, educated.
Inspiring, insightful and enlightening - I highly recommend giving this a read.
on 7 August 2013
I'd just met Elvis Munis (of Chile to Kili) in Botswana 2009, and was soon after on the lookout for other cycle adventurists. Helen filled that criterion.
I started following Helen while she was half-way down through Africa. In this time I also started planning for a new way of life cycle touring. Taking inspiration from Helen's great blog and photos, along with a few others (Toms Bike Trips, Travelling Two).
I thoroughly enjoyed `Desert Snow', and always looked forward to picking it up (Kindle!). Easy, pleasant reading.
Only thing I'd liked to have seen would've been a few photos. That's my only gripe. Otherwise, spot on Helen.
Good job. Look forward to many more.
on 5 August 2013
Imagine fighting your way on a bicycle on the back roads of Africa for 20 months. Takes a special person to actually thrive from the experiance and grow as a person . A book about courage and rugged determination that will stay with you a long time after it is finished - A caveat though don't be be fooled by all the 5 star ratings and expect great litterature and with a ghost writer could have been an even better read. Compare the blog the skippingkangaroo.com about a similar experience.
on 16 July 2013
This is a great read with something for everyone.
Planning a backpacking/ cycling trip through Africa? : Helen gives a great insight into this wonderful continent and how it should be travelled.
For Africa veterans : A trip down memory lane.
For the armchair traveller : A great adventure from cover to cover.
on 5 July 2013
Helen's trip is informative and highly entertaining, felt at times that I was enduring it too...taste and smell the real Africa! hard to put down, just had to keep reading to make sure she was still ok!...an amazing journey, Helen's stamina and determination shine through. Looking forward to the next book!
on 20 May 2014
A truly gripping story of Helen's bike ride down the west coast of Africa. A remarkably brave girl who coped with some dreadful weather, awful roads, poor food, and refused to pay any bribes to officials. She has a remarkable knack of meeting people and making friends of locals and other travellers. Unusually for a writer she tells us practically nothing about herself, her family, her emotional feelings or even her age. Some of the people she met (particularly Charles, in the Congo) seem to have been mesmerised by her but her only comment was 'I liked him'. Throughout her journey she seemed to be searching for something; I do hope she finds it, she's a wonderful woman.
And it's such a relief to find a non-professional travel writer who doesn't pepper her story with exclamation marks.