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  • Andes
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Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 28 January 2013
I would not have thought that a travel book about the Andes could be such hard work to read - but if you want to know all about the politics and not much about the people and landscape then this could be for you.
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on 25 June 2010
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Like many Europeans I had a sketchy knowledge of South America which of course was influenced by many stereotypes and cliches. Indeed Michael covers some of that ground with hair raising bus journeys, obstinate officials and meetings with sleek politicians. The book however brought the whole continent alive for me with an intertwining of history, geography and daily life of the peoples of the Andean countries. Indeed there were times that I found it difficult to put the book down such was the the engaging narrative. Michael starts his journey in Venezuela with his compadre Manolo from his adopted village in Spain and heads south, ending pretty much as far into the tip of South America as it's possible to go. After Manolo returns to Spain, Michael travel alone but then is joined in Peru by another of his pals from Andalucia Chris Stewart of Genesis and Driving over Lemons fame. I loved the way Michael put his adventures into historical context bringing into his book a range of characters including Hugo Chavez, Che Guavara, Simon Bolivar, Alexander von Humbolt, Fransisco Pizarro and the last of the indigenous kings Atahualpa and Tupac Amaru II. For one reason or another I found the book a little slow to start but after persisting I was hooked. Thoroughly recommended if you want learn more about South America or simply if you'd like to enjoy some travellers tales from this erudite and witty author.
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on 8 March 2014
This is not a bad book. I found the historical subject particularly concerning Bolivar interesting because I knew little about them prior to this and it therefore helped explain the past political and historical landscape of the Andean nations. I also thought the author did a pretty good job in a general sense describing the current political and social landscape. Which is fair enough given the scope of the book.

However I didn't feel he was quite as good on the natural landscape of the Andes. There were lots of interesting facts and figures but I felt a certain disappointment at times with descriptions and at times found them almost a bit humdrum.

On the whole though I think the book is worth a read particularly for people who haven't been to that part of the world. i think people who have or have a very strong knowledge of it may not get quite as much out of it.
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on 26 September 2010
For those who have read Michael Jacobs Ghost Train this title sounded irresistible. In fact I found it difficult to put down. His enthusiasm for, and knowledge of the countries he passes through is is infectious. There are so many anecdotes of fellow travelers and the many friends re-encountered, as well as Jacobs overwhelming fascination with the Andes. The whole history of the Andes over many eventful centuries is never far from the surface. For those like me who have a little acquaintance with these regions it was a delight, for others I am sure that they will find themselves itching to go.
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on 8 May 2010
Michael Jacobs has always attracted a select but passionate readership. With Andes he is bound to gain more admirers, and perhaps to win at last the widespread recognition he so greatly deserves. After having so movingly followed in his grandfather's footsteps in his previous work, Ghost Train through the Andes, he now undertakes an epic and metaphorically resonant journey the whole length of this longest of world ranges, from the Tropics down almost to the fringes of Antarctica. With Jacobs as a guide, we discover the peoples, landscapes, culture, history and science of a vast continent; and we also share with him countless revealing and often nail-biting adventures that display his humanity, good nature and relentless sense of humour and pathos. The book's final pages, set in mid winter in the southern tip of Patagonia, are as sad, soulful and beautiful as anything you are likely to find in travel literature. Every time I review a book of Jacobs's I say that it is his best; but he has now written a work whose greatness would be difficult in future to surpass. This is the long awaited masterpiece of one of the major travel writers of our day.
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on 29 June 2011
As someone who has travelled and climbed extensively in the Andes I bought this book expecting it to be a really good read, but having just finished it I was generally disappointed. The book does have some good features, with plenty of historical information about Bolivar and Humboldt, but I found so many mistakes in the areas about which I am knowledgeable that I don't know if I can trust the other stuff that I read.
Many of these mistakes seem to be due to poor editing and proof-reading (use a spell checker!) but some are also fundamental errors of knowledge on the part of the author. For example the recurrent mispellings of "Telhuelche" and "Macchu Picchu" as well as many others, dropped words from sentences mucking up the grammar and the volcano Lanin, mysteriously renamed "Lican". The author completely confuses the peaks of Cerro Fitzroy and Cerro Torre - referring to Fitzroy as "the tower" and attributing Maestri's infamous ascent of Cerro Torre to Fitzroy. These are just a few examples, there appeared to be an error of some sort or another on every other page. The authors "English legions" who helped Bolivar at the Battle of Boyaca were actually British legions, with the majority of their commanders being Irishmen.!
Overall I felt the book was not one of the more interesting "travel" books I have read either. For me there was too much ruminating about long ago hisorical events. Also there seemed to be a lot of meetings with influential people and free stays in up-market hotels and too few meetings with really interesting people in real places. The fact that 80% of the book covers just the northern 40% of the Andes seemed a bit strange as well. There are lots of interesting people and places in Chile and Argentina as well.
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on 9 February 2014
The enticingly chunky Andes follows Michael Jacobs as he treks along the spine of South America, from Venezuela in the North to the Southern tip of the continent, where the vast Andean range slides into the ocean. Thrilled as a child by the stories of his grandfather, a railway engineer in Chile and Bolivia, his interest in the Andes is inspired both by voices from the preceding centuries, Humboldt, Darwin and Hiram Bingham, and those of his own family history. Forty years later he sets out on his journey, a little daunted by the vastness of his task. There is no romanticisation here of the hardships of travel. He misses his home and the comfortable quiet life of his rural Spanish village and most of all he misses his dog, Chumberry. One of the strongest chapters in the book is the one telling the story of the faithful dog of the great Simon Bolivar, a dog that seems to haunt Jacobs as he travels among the cloud-shrouded peaks of the mountains. Despite this, this is not one of those “personal inner journey” narratives. There are no photographs of the author, standing with one foot proudly atop the conquered continent like a Victorian sahib displaying a bagged tiger; the travels of Humboldt are as real and interesting to him (and to us) as his own.

The pleasures of the book are divided between a gentle melancholy for the lost grandeurs of the past and a fascinating synthesis of historical knowlege and present day travails. One is not surprised within a very few pages of Andes to find a discussion of archaelogical research, a description of the fauna and flora of the jungly slopes of the ranges, a tale of the difficulties associated with hostel accomodation and an analysis of the career of Che Guevara, and all of these strands are done well. Jacobs is a delightful companion: the equivalent of a well stocked travelling library, brimming with relevant stories and the ability to clarify the invisible links between each separate nugget of information.

Not then a Baedeker style travel guide, rather a sufficiently interesting narrative storyline to pull all this material together into a politically astute and geographically embedded history of South America. The plump and inviting bibliography is scholarly without being precious.
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on 16 April 2013
The book gives a very good account of Jacobs travels following the path of Humboldt and Bolivar. It gives great detail of the history of the countries surrounding the Andes and the natural elements of the land, also providing local views during his travels. In response to a review from J. W. Biggar , The spelling of Machu Picchu is explained as Neruda's yearning to leave his imprint on the famous site while writing his most famous poem "The heights of Macchu Picchu". It sometime spelt with an extra "c" in the book because of this. It would be unfair to downgrade a great read on very little and considering the land covered it would be impossible to get every single detail spot on. Proof reading can be blamed but I'd rather read from the persons perspective rather than an historian who has never been there

The detail between Chile and Argentina is sketchy as it skips from on end of the country to the other, but overall the the book is well written, provides valuable information of the Andes, the Incas, Bolivar, Humboldt, Darwin and other artists and explorers and their account of their expeditions.

Jacobs also gives tips towards other books which would be helpful for anyone interested in researching South American Culture and History, which I found helpful.
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on 12 March 2013
A wonderful book, beautifully written, which impresses on the reader the full majesty of the Andes and the vastness of South America. The historical references to Bolivar, Humbolt, Darwin et al leaves one with a burning desire to both travel further and read more.
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on 28 October 2014
Michael Jacobs is a fantastic guide through beautiful landscapes and the complex history of the region. Couldn't recommend this book more. At turns funny, inspiring and moving. Written with the craft if an expert but the enthusiasm of a young backpacker.
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