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Surviving deadly skirmishes and capture in Afghanistan, they were the first Westerners in a generation to cross its ancient forgotten passageway to China, the Wakhan Corridor. Their camel caravan on the southern Silk Road encountered the deadly singing sands of the Taklamakan and Gobi deserts. In Sumatra, where Polo was stranded waiting for trade winds, they lived with the Mentawai tribes, whose culture has remained unchanged since the Bronze Age. They became among the first Americans granted visas to enter Iran, where Polo fulfilled an important mission for Kublai Khan.
Accompanied by 200 stunning full-color photographs, the text provides a fascinating account of the lands and peoples the two hardy adventurers encountered during their perilous journey. The authors' experiences are remarkably similar to descriptions from Polo's account of his own travels and life. Laden with adventure, humor, diplomacy, history, and art, this book is compelling proof that travel is the enemy of bigotry—a truth that resonates from Marco Polo's time to our own.
(Praise for the public television film)
The harrowing route of Marco Polo's 13th-century trek from Venice to ancient Cathay over the traditional Silk Road to Kublai Khan's territories consumed 24 years of the famous explorer's life. Award-winning photographer Belliveau and sculptor/lecturer O'Donnell, a former marine, spent two years retracing the journey,, to "[t]raverse the world's largest land mass and back, climb its highest mountains, cross its most desolate deserts and seas." The curious, intrepid risk-takers forgo air travel to recreate the 25,000-mile experience, facing rolls of red tape, internecine politics, horrendous climates, language barriers, civil war and border authorities while traveling through what is now Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Tibet, China and Mongolia, among others. The authors have a remarkable ability to form relationships in varied cultures, as with a group of rough Afghan soldiers: "All had in common... losses so terrible that we had stopped asking questions about families." Fascinatingly, many of the customs, locales and physical landscapes are identical, 700 years later, to Polo's descriptions. Alongside Belliveau and O'Donnell's enthusiastic narrative are marvelous full-color photos that bring the travelogue to vivid life. (Dec.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Seven hundred years after the great Venetian traveler Marco Polo and his uncles returned to Venice from their journey to Kublai Khan's court in China in 1295, photographer Belliveau and artist O'Donnell decided to follow in Marco Polo's footsteps-all 33,000 miles of them. (They claim no one else has ever traveled Polo's route in its entirety.) Their journey took two years. This companion to a PBS film documents their adventures. At times, their lives were at risk, e.g., in a shooting war in Afghanistan and crossing the Himalayas, where they almost crashed and froze. They discovered incredible beauty in the most hidden spots; everywhere they went, people they'd never met before helped them on their way. Marco Polo, in his own writings, may have exaggerated occasionally-Westerners reading of Polo's travels thought he lied because what he described seemed too extraordinary to be true-but these two men conclude that he was most often an exceptionally acute observer. The stunning photographs in this elegant book should please even the most casual reader, while the authors' unpretentious observations will satisfy those who want to know more about a still alien world. A travel/adventure book rather than a study of Marco Polo the man or a history of his travels, this volume deserves many readers. Warmly recommended.
Following in the footsteps of arguably the greatest traveler in history is no easy task. In accessible, lively text, and with more than 200 striking photographs, Belliveau and O'Donnell make the enormity of the task abundantly clear. The determined explorers follow the long and arduous route Marco Polo took more than 700 years ago, becoming the first to retrace the entire distance on land and sea. The dangers were many: sand storms in the Taklamakan desert, subzero temperatures in the mountain passes of Tajikistan, horribly rough seas off the coast of Sumatra, and suspicious, gun-wielding soldiers at nearly every border and everywhere in Afghanistan. Marco Polo faced many of these same obstacles, but one he did not have to confront was the ridiculous complexity of postmodern bureaucracy. The greatest roadblock to the success of the authors' expedition proved to be the red tape and outright hostility involved in securing visas for travel in Afghanistan, China, India, and especially Iran. The two Americans resorted to some clever, and dangerous, maneuvers to sidestep overly zealous (and gun-toting) officials. In the end, their persistence was well worth the effort. Like Marco Polo in the 13th century, Belliveau and O'Donnell in 1994-'95 witnessed amazing sights, met wonderfully gracious and helpful people, and learned countless valuable lessons. This lavish travelogue in the grand tradition of exotic exploration should find a place in all collections.-Robert Saunderson, formerly at Berkeley Public Library, CA