Book Review :: Walking the Himalayas
The last time I gave a book full five stars was in 2013 when I first read 'The Silmarillion' by JRR Tolkien. Finally, this year a book came to my desk that deserves more than just five stars. Normally, I review a book and leave it on you to choose it for your bookshelf, but with this book, I urge you all to read it.
I am in a terrible book hangover (and author hangover, let me add) from the past week after finishing the book. This seems like a good time to take a break from reading new publications and rereading the Harry Potter series for the year.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the tale of Levison Wood—six months, 2,736 km, four million steps, a handful of guides and one man walking. Wood recounts the beauty and danger along the Silk Road route of Afghanistan, the Line of Control between Pakistan and India, the disputed territories of Kashmir, the earthquake-ravaged lands of Nepal and the phallus-worshipping happiness of Bhutan
This review was first published for The Hans India
Raw, rugged and real
Packed with action and emotion, ‘Walking the Himalayas’ is the story of explorer Levison Wood’s trek from the western anchor of the Himalayas in Afghanistan to the eastern anchor of the magnificent mountains in Bhutan, traversing through Pakistan, India and Nepal.
Not to be humbled by the magnitude and dangers of the travel – it is after all, walking the length of the Himalayan ranges – but, the book does stand out with its breath-taking narration, dramatic writing style that leaves a reader gasping for more and the spiritual abundance Wood encounters across many faiths in his journey.
Over the course of six months, Levison Wood and his trusted guides, Malang, Binod and others trek 2,736 gruelling kilometres across the roof of the world—the book gives a realistic impression of a journey often endured rather than enjoyed what with the stories of simple families and their everyday lives.
The beauty in narration lies as to how Wood manages to strike a balance in sharing the magnitude of his own travel story while continuously giving equal (if not more) representation to the stories of people he met en route. It begins in the dusty perennial battlefields in Afghanistan with the Hindu Kush where if nature was kind, abundance of national and foreign military presence is not.
As he steps into Pakistan with the Karakorum in the backdrop, the terror-filled valleys, liberal Muslims of rural areas and the Line of Control (LoC) between Pakistan and India speak abundance of the country’s ground reality. Wood and his guide, Binod, battle the avalanche of landslides in the snow-capped Kashmir ranges; face the fury of nature in the monsoons of Nepal, which drowned their spirits and involved a near fatal accident in the region—the mighty Everest giving a sight to behold; camping in the dangerous jungle with tigers and wild elephants that gave them cheerful visits during the night and finally reaching the virgin ranges in Bhutan—every page is magnificently narrated; it is as if the reader travels with the author.
As Wood explains before his travel, the journey was not about climbing mountain peaks but, to walk the length of the Himalayas and live the many lives of the people the majestic mountains contain amidst the political unrest in all countries.
Another major standout point is the spiritual abundance across the world’s roof. From the non-fasting Ismaili Muslims in Afghanistan to the khol-eyed Muslims practicing the Ramadan fest in Pakistan; the serenity of Tibetan Monks in Dharmasala and meeting His Holiness, the Dalai Lama; the orange swarm of swamis in Rishikesh and the lone Aghori baba; the honey capturers in Nepal and the penis worshipping, happiness measuring people of Bhutan—Wood learned not to challenge faiths and accept spirituality at all levels.
Each spiritual story across varied religions, including the superstitions, is a reminder of the power of faith. And, for the scale of traveller he is, Wood’s ultimate learning and realisation from the entire journey is a pleasant surprise for the readers because it is simple and well-known yet, its understanding is profound and philosophically magnificent.
The brave traveller and his phenomenally inspiring tale is an emotional roller coaster, which at the end will leave you smiling for his success and achievement especially at the peaceful calm atop the Snow Leopard Mountain, which he so named. The trek has been documented as a TV series for. Sure, watch it but read the book because it is so much more!
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