Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of Six Continents

Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of Six Continents

by Jim Malusa
     
 

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With plenty of sunscreen and a cold beer swaddled in his sleeping bag, writer and botanist Jim Malusa bicycled alone to the lowest point on each of six continents, a six-year series of “anti-expeditions” to the “anti-summits.” His journeys took him to Lake Eyre in the arid heart of Australia, along Moses’ route to the Dead Sea, and

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Overview

With plenty of sunscreen and a cold beer swaddled in his sleeping bag, writer and botanist Jim Malusa bicycled alone to the lowest point on each of six continents, a six-year series of “anti-expeditions” to the “anti-summits.” His journeys took him to Lake Eyre in the arid heart of Australia, along Moses’ route to the Dead Sea, and from Moscow to the Caspian Sea. He pedaled across the Andes to Patagonia, around tiny Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, and from Tucson to Death Valley. With a scientist’s eye, he vividly observes local landscapes and creatures. As a lone man, he is overfed by grandmothers, courted by ladies of the night in Volgograd, invited into a mosque by Africa’s most feared tribe, chased by sandstorms and hurricanes — yet Malusa keeps riding. His reward: the deep silence of the world’s great depressions. A large-hearted narrative of what happens when a friendly, perceptive American puts himself at the mercy of strange landscapes and their denizens, Into Thick Air presents one of the most talented new voices in contemporary travel writing.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“[H]is descriptions of desert landscapes can be extraordinary. You can almost feel the dry gusts turning Malusa’s lips into cracked leather.” —NY Times Book Review

“Malusa’s intrepid curiosity enlivens his over-the-road tales.” —Booklist

“It's unlikely that biking to the lowest places on Earth will earn him a mention in history books. But he is a great storyteller.” —Globe and Mail

Kirkus Reviews
Delightful debut travelogue by botanist Malusa, who cycled to the lowest point on each of six continents. This peculiar quest sent him along routes connecting areas as diverse as Cairo and the Dead Sea, the Australian outback and Lake Eyre. Though Malusa personally devised each of his six expeditions (he traversed every continent except Antarctica), the Discovery Channel Online paid him to carry a satellite telephone and transmit blogs of his travels. Rather than simply a collection of these blogs, his book tells the full story behind them. Riding a bicycle made Malusa much more vulnerable to his surroundings than the average traveler; it lowered his expectations for food and lodging, thereby connecting him with each region's least privileged residents. Locals from Darwin to Djibouti constantly approached him, offering tea or pastries or just respite from the elements. They were probably responding to the same likable quality that comes across in Malusa's text. Whether describing a visit with a Bedouin family in the Egyptian desert, a hitchhiking journey with road-kill gourmands in the remotest parts of Australia or a chat with gauchos while trying to escape the brutal Patagonian wind, he always seems well-informed and outgoing. Russia's icy autumn sent him scurrying into lofty but empty old hotels along the route from Moscow to the Caspian Sea, a remarkably untouristed region in which he marveled at the vestiges of communism and joined two lively wedding parties. Malusa wears his expertise as a botanist lightly here, mentioning flora and fauna but detailing the full panoply of his impressions. This dense yet desultory account moves quickly, never lingering on any encounter for more thana few sentences, no matter how juicy. It's not as informative as the works of Bill Bryson, but easily as funny. Steeped in sarcasm and alive to the irony of any situation, observant and wry, omnivorous in the scope of its details and utterly subjective.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781578051410
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
04/28/2008
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
641,737
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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