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4.8 out of 5 stars
43
4.8 out of 5 stars
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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 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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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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on 24 August 2011
I always enjoy a good travel book, and this exceeded all the expectations from the blurb. The passion of motorcycling is on every page, even the parts of the journey where the bike could not take or give any more.

There is plenty of detail in the areas that they travel to, so you have a good feel for the landscape and the people. There are one or two hairy moments, just as you would expect from travelling that far in that many countries, but they are normally welcomed with curiosity and friendship.

Interesting book, well worth a read.
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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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on 14 December 2010
The physical and practical hardships of the travelling described in this book are not something that most of us would ever want to take on. But, beautifully written, it puts you in touch with the human side. You're taken places but, most of all, you meet the people (including the author and his wife).
Now, the emotional journey, that's something we can all relate to. Right from the start, you're invited along and made to feel welcome. He shares his views and feelings but it is all simply offered up as food for thought. Whether to travel or just think, you will be inspired!
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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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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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on 7 December 2010
Bearback: The World Overland

A dangerous book, it takes you on a journey, geographically and mentally. Challenges perception of the world and our place in it and inspires in equal measure.

Dangerous because it challenges and enthuses you to follow suit and head out to explore, not just by motorbike but by whatever means suits the individual.

Time to start planning.
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on 3 March 2011
What a fabulous adventure that just made me want to give up work and start travelling today. A beautifully written book that was full of excitement, drama and even romance. I loved all the incidental historical, political and geographical information that really gave me a fuller picture of each country they travelled through. Laos and Costa Rica are now top of my visiting list. I would love to read a sequel with more about their further travels in Africa.
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