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Lois Pryce who is an adventure travel writer, has now completed two non fiction books. Her first book was about her 20,000 mile journey from Alaska to the tip of South America on her 225cc trail bike. Her second book, Red Tape and White Knuckles, the one which I am reviewing is about her true journey, once again on her trail bike, but this time from the Uk to Cape Town.
Lois is a 33 year old, 5' 4'' British lady. She has 'itchy' feet and needs adventure. A full time job is out of the question, and she chooses to live in a houseboat, which she can move when she feels restless. Lois is married to a very understanding man, who lets her go on her dangerous adventures. To understand Lois, and her determination to have such an adventure, it is explained how she went on a bike rally across Morocco with her husband. She became delirious with heat exhaustion and sunstroke. She is red haired and extremely pale, so any amount of sun is not a good idea. But facing her fears she decided to tackle Africa, via the Sahara, the Congo Basin and war torn Angola. Much of this journey she did alone on her very small motorbike.
As you can imagine she had major struggles throughout her adventure. From obtaining visas, inhospitable immigration workers, weather, corruption and obviously much of her riding terrain, to name a few. The descriptions detailing her adventure are easy to read and this makes the book hard to put down. She has a special knack of writing, which makes the reader want more. Her travels are not only interesting but also thrilling. The determination and brave attitude that Lois displays are inspirational. It must be mentioned that she does not carry any form of satellite or cell phone. Much of her journey she is completely out of the communication radar.
Throughout the book Lois is not afraid to share her emotions. Most importantly, much of the book is written light heartily using humour as a medium. As an example, even before she began her intrepid journey she decided to get a base tan from a sun-bed. Being so pale and sensitive she came out of the salon with a bad case of heat stroke from the sun-bed! She is not afraid to laugh at herself. Her sense of humour makes the book easier to read, and the reader wanting more. She experiences every other emotion possible during her journey. Some parts of her adventure are dreadful and you fear for her. In one part, in the Congo, she is stuck, with her bike (the only part she did not ride as the road was too dangerous with guerillas), on a night train full of male Congolese soldiers, drunk and stoned, with their AK47's. Lois was completely vulnerable, but once again humour came through "It was like being trapped on the world's worst stag night".
Lois did travel with some people during the first part of her journey. She is very good at describing her fellow travellers and not afraid to give her honest opinion of them. She is to the point and blunt. Throughout her journey Lois meets many local people. The kindness which many display is heartwarming, as these people have nothing, but help her in any way they can. Several even helped her out of dire situations, and appeared out of nowhere like 'guardian angels'. One incident was when in a downpour she accidently rode onto a minefield in Angola, unable to trace her track back, due to the rain and night, she felt that was it, a case of Russian roulette. Out of the blackness a man appeared and guided her. But there are also others who were completely hostile, and showed no compassion towards a lonesome lady traveller. I did find that Lois was very trustworthy, and on several occasions blindly followed local people to makeshift accommodation. She was lucky and they were genuine, but I was often left expecting a mugging or some struggle was going to happen.
I thoroughly enjoyed Red Tape and White Knuckles. I found the book interesting, educational and fun. Lois is a crazy lady with nerves of steel who shows such determination to complete her journey. She did come across numerous barriers, but found alternative ways to complete her adventure. One slight criticism is that the last two countries, Namibia and South Africa were not really covered in the book. They were just one quick chapter of relief. I felt the end of the book was rushed, or that part of her journey was not so important. After reading most of her adventure in great detail, the end came too quickly.
Do not be put off that this is a motorcycle adventure book. Although parts of Lois' trip are explained in detail, and the capability of the trail bike is put to the ultimate test, the book is certainly not focused on the bike. I was slightly worried before I started the book, thinking it would be a bit technical and not interesting. This was not the case.
Red Tape and White Knuckles is a very enjoyable travel/adventure book. It is not the sort of book you would buy for your own travel advice, it is most certainly an adventure tale, and should have the caption "do not try this yourselves!". I mean, who in their right mind, travels alone in deepest, darkest Africa on a 225cc trail bike, and expects to succeed? Lois Pryce did!