Into a Desert Placeby Graham Mackintosh
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“I had never been particularly good at anything except catering to my own comfort and safety,” begins Graham Mackintosh with cheerful frankness in this engaging, suspenseful, and finally stirring travel adventure. An Englishman, Mackintosh fell in love with Baja California on a visit and, despite a glaring shortage of both experience and money, determined to walk its entire coast. Into a Desert Place is his account of how he equipped himself, what he saw and learned, who he met, and how he survived on this harsh and beautiful journey. At its completion Mackintosh received the UK “Adventurous Traveller of the Year Award” in London The book was first published in England by Unwin Hyman, then by Mackintosh himself in the United States. W.W. Norton published a paperback edition from 1995-2011, now out of print; this is its first appearance as an eBook.
Nearly 100 photographs have been added. A few corrections have been made. And some of the British spellings and expressions have been translated into American English. Otherwise the book remains essentially unchanged. The author striving to convey who he was and what Baja was in the mid 1980s.
Dr. Michael Trend reviews Into a Desert Place: A 3000 Mile Walk around the Coast of Baja California.
I bought this book years ago, after reading a typewritten review in one of those "Doomsday Is Coming — Soon!" 'zines. Most of the books reviewed in it were those grim tomes about how to survive by eating nuts and berries after The Big One gets dropped and wipes out 50% of our population. Mr. Mackintosh's book proved to be a pleasant suprise — a well-written account, an out-and-out adventure, a walk across the remote desert of Lower California on a shoestring budget.
When he got the idea to actually do it, Mackintosh was a slightly pudgy [teacher] whose main exercise seemed to have been lifting a bottle of beer to his lips while he watched football (that's soccer to us Yanks) on the telly. By the time he completed his several month journey, he was lean and sun-baked, the antithesis of his former couch potato self.
In the process, I'd say Mr. Mackintosh grew, and actually "found the handle." He figured out what he was about, and what he wanted to do with his life.
For me, some of the most enjoyable parts were those describing how he begged equipment from manufacturers and outfitters, and how he raised funding along the way by writing accounts that he posted to newspapers and magazines.
Of course, there's the adventure itself, including an amusing account of how he got sloshed from booze he obtained from gathering whiskey bottles that had washed ashore after being thrown overboard from cruise ships. (He sagely notes that staggering around in the boonies at night is risky business.)
Along the way, Mackintosh gets befriended by all sorts of interesting, impoverished, and invariably generous folk... I'm an old Baja hand myself, and over the years, I've collected a lot of books about Lower California. This one ranks at the very top.
So buy it, read it, and enjoy the photographs. I'm sure you'll find the money well spent.
Review by Robert H. Nunnally Jr.
Travel books about daring trips to places filled with hardships erupt like volcanic ash from the "featured on sale" sections of bookstores. Authors fill the shelves, as they have for a dozen decades, with endless sagas of how they climbed-a-mountain-and-everybody-died, why they sailed-the-Pacific-in-a-sea-of-storms, and even all-the-good-reasons-why-people-should-not-do-the-dangerous-pastime-the-author-does.
"Into a Desert Place" features many of the hallmarks of this unfortunate genre of "we nearly died" non-fiction. Baja California's alien landscapes, spiked with impassable mountains, rattlesnakes and boojum trees, certainly qualifies in many regions as a "need a sense of high adventure and a contempt for danger to tour there" area. Yet, "Into a Desert Place" does not repel in the way that "body count on Mount Everest" books can. On the contrary, this book simply charms. "Into a Desert Place" is a complete revelation — an accessible, winning account of how adverse conditions can be met by those most basic values — determination, a good attitude and, indeed, a good heart.
Mr. Mackintosh manages to convey the hardships of the trip, the kindness of most of the people he met along the way, and his own struggles to complete his quest, all without undue sentimentality or boastfulness. The book has a folksy, simple feel about it, but it is anything but a simple book. Instead of the usual travel book conceits based on machismo or "sheer pluck", we see Baja through the eyes of Everyman. We need more books like "Into a Desert Place"... We all belong in the desert place to which this book removes us.
- Baja Detour Press
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Meet the Author
Graham Mackintosh was born in London and graduated from Leeds University with a degree in Sociology.
In 1983 he was a lecturer at a college in England, teaching social sciences and special education to unemployed teenagers. In the hope of showing his students that a shoestring expedition could be the adventure of a lifetime, Mackintosh, who described himself as the "least adventurous person in the world," set out to walk around the beautiful but dangerous coastline of Baja California.
The almost two-year, 3,000-mile trip changed his life. When he emerged from the cactus-strewn wilderness, he returned to England to write his first book, Into a Desert Place and there received the prestigious "Adventurous Traveller of the Year" award.
In 1997 he decided to walk down the rugged, mountainous interior of Baja, visiting many of the old missions along the way. Journey with a Baja Burro, his second book, was the result. It describes his thousand-mile journey with a pack burro from the US border to Loreto — a trip that began exactly 300 years after the October 1697 founding of the Loreto mission, the first permanent European settlement in the "Californias."
In 2001, Graham spent four months in Baja’s Sierra San Pedro Martir with two street dogs, which became the subject of his third book — Nearer My Dog to Thee: A summer in Baja’s Sky Island.
His fourth book, Marooned With Very Little Beer, published in 2008, tells of his two months kayaking and hiking the second largest island in the Sea of Cortez — Isla Angel de la Guarda.
Graham Mackintosh now lives in San Diego, California. He continues to give lectures and slide shows on his trips, and writes articles on Baja. He is married to Bonni, a nurse, who shares his love for Baja and nature.
Read more at: www.grahammackintosh.com
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Anyone who has been to baja, wants to go to baja, or maybe even hopes to someday live in baja will enjoy this book immensely. I found it very hard to put down and finished it in just a couple of days. Even though it was written some twenty something years ago, great storytelling, combined with wonderful pictures, make this book timeless. Well worth every minute.