While the summer holiday season is still going strong, there's nothing better than whiling away the hours with a good travel book. Linda Herrick reviews a selection of the latest.
Lonely Planet's Beautiful World
(Lonely Planet $70)
A dazzling collection of 189 colour photos that fully justify the title, this was released to celebrate Lonely Planet's 40th anniversary.
The thankfully brief introduction asks: "Have you been to Yosemite Valley? That's a place that can make you catch your breath ... the world is full of places like that. But we don't see them every day and sometimes we need to be reminded that they are there." It surely does that.
LP has arranged the book into chapters that "reflect an aspect of life", like Origins, Untamed, Space, Harmony. If that sounds a bit hippie-dippy, fear not. The images are jaw-dropping, from the Milky Way above the Dolomites in northern Italy to the Plitvice National Park in Croatia; from condors swooping above Colca Canyon in Peru to an aerial view of Manhattan at night; from a Holi festival in India to Milford Sound, this is a bounty of visual treats to savour - and maybe visit a few of one day. It's also couch-potato escapism from the everyday grind.
The New York Times 36 Hours: 125 Weekends In Europe ed. by Barbara Ireland
Well, you can dream, can't you? Editor Barbara Ireland says that the joy of discovering Europe can be had by hopping across to the continent "one weekend at a time". Fine, if you're based somewhere within hopping distance but this also provides some
inspiration for long-haulers.
At 600-plus pages it's not exactly something to pop into your luggage; more a device, possibly, for armchair travel and wishlisting. It's divided into regions: North Atlantic (England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands); Southwest (France, Spain, Portugal); Central (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, Poland); Southeast (Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Georgia); and Northern (Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia).
The writers include suggestions about what to do Friday-Saturday-Sunday, accompanied by maps, photos and tips on places to eat, play and shop. Top tip for Valencia: "Club life doesn't kick off until after 1am." It kept me awake when I was there, that's for sure.
Wild About New Zealand: A Guide To Our National Parks by Gus Roxburgh, with Matt Philp and Peter Hayden
(Random House $55)
Written to accompany the very good series which screened on television last year, this is packed with information about our parks and the people who care about them. The photography celebrates the landscapes, flora and fauna, and the writers' aim is to encourage more of us to explore these treasures.
As anyone who watched Ken Burns' beautiful series on America's national parks a couple of years ago will recall, they were "the best idea we ever had ... they reflect us at our best". The world's first national park was Yellowstone, signed into law in 1872; Tongariro, our first park and the fourth in the world, came into being in 1894.
As Roxburgh points out, "In a world dominated by private property rights and an increasingly unequal distribution of wealth, our parks are the one place that belong to us all."
The parks are also places meant to protect the ecosystem, but that is under threat from a barrage of sources - mining proposals, introduced predators, wetland drainage, water pollution, underfunding for vital conservation agencies like DoC ... so this book also serves as a powerful advocate for the parks' future care.
Moron To Moron by Tom Doig
(Allen & Unwin $29.99)
Former Wellingtonian Tom Doig, now based in Melbourne, was studying a map in 2000 when he noticed there were two small towns in Mongolia called Moron (pronounced muh-run, meaning "river"). So he and his mate Tama Pugsley decided to cycle the 1487km between the two.
Ten years later, they set off over the steppes and mountains of Mongolia and this very entertaining account reveals what happened between the two morons. (You can read that either way.)
Note the learned quote at the front of the book: "Human beings must have dreams or they will go nowhere." Source: David Hasselhoff. But he's right. Their dream took them 23 days to achieve, and they had to traverse some pretty rough terrain, including 12 hours of riding through wild marijuana fields.