By Rima Walker
At some point in my young life, I came across The Mutiny on the Bounty as many of you did. I couldn’t finish it fast enough so I could go on to the rest of the books in the trilogy: Men Against the Sea and Pitcairn Island. I was fascinated by these books and often wondered what really became of Fletcher Christian and his fellow mutineers who founded homes for themselves on Pitcairn Island “a tiny Rock one mile wide”. Well now I am about to find out because as I wended my way through the travel books upstairs on the second floor of the Andes library, I came across one called Serpent in Paradise by Dea Birkett that will tell me about the 38 descendants of the mutineers who live there still.
To whet your appetite about the people who have been there since the 18th century, their numbers no doubt dwindling year by year, Birkett learned more about their strange language, customs, and the “darker face of paradise”. So what started out as a journey for all, an adventure for some, and a subsequent mutiny on board the Bounty, has evolved into a mystery, a true life one; and everyone loves a mystery, especially as it unravels through the years right up to today. Why did all the original people stay and why did their descendants continue to stay, how did their language change, do they have any contact with the outside world, how do they get along with each other, how do they survive, have they truly founded a utopia? Birkett answers these questions and many more.
I was and am a voracious reader, and up until recent years I was a traveler and read everything I could about the places I was going to see. So travel books have been by my bedside and in my suitcase since 1962, some of them about places I will never visit but which will give me a taste of exotic worlds. Our travel section is full of these, and slowly but surely I will get to most of them, some old ones like Aku Aku by Thor Heyerdahl which I read so many years ago and don’t really recall. And new ones such as the books by Paul Theroux who writes the most unorthodox travel books I’ve ever read: The Great Railway Bazaars about his train journey through Asia, and Riding the Iron Rooster, one in which he describes going through the Soviet Union as it was then to the Gobi, Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Peking (Beijing) and Shanghai. Dark Star Safari describes his adventures when he went overland from Cairo to Cape Town. Outspoken and frequently opinionated, his writings have often caused him problems, not least of all the banning of some of his books that were critical of the governments in a few places he visited and wrote about. But his views of the places he has been are the most daring and refreshing I have ever read.
Another interesting account written by Bruce Feiler called Walking the Bible takes us on a journey by land through the five books of Moses. He writes about eastern Turkey and talks about the searches for the lost ark. That was it for me: I was hooked and put this one near the top of my books-to-be-read list.
There are many more travel books to be savored: books about the Silk Road, Lawrence of Arabia, the Nile and the Pyramids, Kenya, many books about traveling in America, and so much more. Even if you are an armchair traveler with a good reading lamp, as I am, think of a place you would like to go and see if we have a book about it on the library’s second floor. Also don’t pass up the guide books; they are filled with fascinating information. ~