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An Inspiring Read for an Inspired Journey,
This review is from: Overland to Egypt: On a 1952 BSA Bantam (Hardcover)
Although this book's author is a friend of mine, as a fellow writer, I come to this review with my professional hat on.
I know a little about classic/vintage motorcycles but an overland trip from the UK to Egypt via Libya on a 1952 2-stroke BSA Bantam? That sounds like lunacy. Evidently, the people who heard about Gordon May's planned trip thought so too.
But Gordon is a curiously determined character. No doubt he was buoyed by the success of an earlier overland trip he made on a 1953 500cc Royal Enfield Bullet from Manchester to Chennai (chronicled in his book Overland to India). This second odyssey sounded like a very different prospect. Indeed, he learned just how different this trip would be the hard way because his first attempt on the Bantam ended prematurely due to engine failure. Gordon just took stock then rebuilt the engine (with help from fellow enthusiasts) and got back out there six months later.
The trip is was inspired by the story of a redoubtable woman called Peggy Iris Thomas, who, with her dog, Matelot, rode her Bantam hither and yon in the 1950s. Gordon's connection with this woman, who he spent three years trying to trace, is apparent throughout the book. He called his Bantam `Peggy' in her honour.
If I had encountered the many mechanical problems Gordon did with his Bantam I would have ended up certified insane. I just don`t know how he has the patience. He recounts all these incidents with a beguiling mixture of humour, acceptance and determination. When he is in trouble he sorts it out himself, or rings his supporters back in Blighty or takes up offers from those he meets on the road, who seem to greet him with great warmth and helpfulness.
Another interesting angle to Overland to Egypt is that he crossed through Tunisia and Egypt just before the Arab Spring, the 2011 war in Libya, and the current uprising in Syria. Read it to get a glimpse of what life in these countries seemed like to an outsider travelling in a very un-touristy way. Gordon's friendship with his escort, a man called Essa, through Libya et al, is quite remarkable. They definitely formed a solid bond of friendship and, when the war broke out in Libya, Gordon reveals how worried he was. He gives us updates, thank Heavens.
So did Gordon make it to The Pyramids in Cairo? Well, the book's cover picture gives us a clue! The return trip, via Jordan and Syria, also had its challenges.
Gordon writes in an engaging, easy-to-read way and the story reveals just how kind people can be to total strangers. I think the book will appeal to motorbike enthusiasts and lone travellers alike. It is definitely an inspiring read.