South America travel books - a Christmas wishlist
It's that time of year where many of us are searching high and low for Christmas present ideas for brothers/ aunts/ friends/ whoever it may be. Books, we've found, are always welcome gifts. And for those who like travel - and South America - here are some of our Christmas gift recommendations.
If heading off to Peru, although written a few years back, Mathew Parris’s book Inka Cola is full of hilarious anecdotes from his back packing days.
A useful guide to the Cusco area is Peter Frost’s Exploring Cusco. Although out of date for the practical information, the background information on the Inca sites, suggested places to visit and day walks is well written and informative.
For an entertaining tale of explorations into the Cusco mountains in search of lost Inca sites, a great read is Hugh Thomson’s The White Rock and also Cochineal Red that delves more deeply into the pre-Inca cultures.
Indispensable to anyone going to high altitude is the excellent pocket sized book Altitude Illness Prevention and Treatment by Stephen Bezruchka. It is well worth carrying this with you.
Off to Patagonia, or your friends are?
An excellent read and the perfect Christmas gift for travellers heading to Patagonia is Lost Cowboys. Written by Hank Wangford, well known as a country singer and less well known as a doctor and journalist. In the mid 1990s the author travels 10,000 miles from Patagonia to Texas, in search of the original cowboys.
Kathy says, "I was hooked from the first chapter that describes the wind-swept Rio Gallegos – main access point for Argentinean Patagonia back before Calafate had an airport. I read this book on the many long bus journeys across the broad pampas under the endless Patagonia sky and I enjoyed its entertaining insight into the gaucho and huaso culture. This side of Patagonia is easily missed on the tourist trail, but if you happen upon a rodeo or visit an estancia its apparent that life for many is little changed from generations ago."
Other recommendations for good reads are The Beagle by Charles Darwin, Uttermost Parts of the Earth by Lucas Bridges, the classic In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin, and Luis Sepulveda’s Full Circle and Patagonia Express.
There's a multitude of excellent books on Colombia, many written of course by one of Colombia's finest, Gabriel García Marquéz. 100 years of Solitude is just one of many outstanding works by him, describing the fictional village of Macondo, which by many is believed to represent rural towns throughout Latin America.
Short Walks from Bogota by Tom Feiling is an easy to read and highly informative journey through present-day Colombia (although written shortly before the peace process began to take momentum). It manages to cover a lot of Colombia's history, written as Feiling travels through Colombia, and merges historic accounts and travel writing in a very entertaining read. It's a great choice for anybody visiting Colombia for the first time.
On Kat's trip to Colombia, she was sucked into the world of Ricardo Laverde, the protagonist of Juan Gabriel Vásquez's The Sound of Things Falling. Kat says, "The book is a thrilling account of the life of Laverde in a Colombia of the early 1960s. I didn't know what to expect but found myself completely gripped by the storyline, and at the same time enjoyed the background info on life in Colombia a few decades back."
If you've liked these suggestions, please share - and if you have other tips in store, do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org!