Book Title: Sahara – A Journey of Love, Loss and Survival
Author: Paula Constant
Promotional Blurb: A journey of love, loss and survival.
Having walked more than 5000 kilometres from Trafalgar Square to Morocco, Paula Constant finds herself at the westernmost edge of the Sahara Desert – and the brink of sanity. The wheels have fallen off her marriage and her funds are quickly drying up, but she is determined to complete the second stage: walking through the romantic Big Empty of Northern Africa to Cairo.
Sahara is the story of Paula’s struggle to overcome her innermost demons and take control of her journey, her camels and the men she hires to guide her through one of planet’s most extreme regions. Illness, landmines and political red tape stand between Paula and the realisation of a life’s dream.
Sahara is a thrilling adventure and a story of joy, heartache, inspiration and despair. But, above all, it’s a celebration of the human spirit in all its guises. Source.
My Thoughts: This is a good read, but a baffling one. You have to admire Constant for her bravery and sheer ‘grit’, but she seems to lurch from one disaster to another and does not seem to learn from her mistakes. Mistakes? Personally, I’ve made plenty, but I do my best not to replicate them and certainly not in an unforgiving and uncompromising environment like a desert.
My bafflement stems from why anyone would want to walk across a desert in the first place? I have no doubt that it can be incredibly beautiful and a mesmerising landscape, but is it really worth all the hardship and agony? And is it really 7,000km worth of beauty?
“My mind goes far away when I walk through the Big Empty (her title for the desert) that I barely know what is real and what is imagination, and when I know it is time to stop, I draw myself reluctantly out of dreaming”.
And she would need to be dreaming to avoid the train wreck that is her life. Her husband has left her, her marriage on the rocks, and then she tumbles into an affair of sorts with a local man – all the while walking across a desert with little money and three moody camels.
The problem is probably mine, as I had really enjoyed her first book – Slow Journey South – and I came to this next book with her previous book firmly entrenched in my mind. In Slow Journey South there was a true sense of adventure, a sense of ‘hang it, why not?’ and possibly, more humour. Sahara is pure grimness and grind.
She is exhausted, filthy dirty and is taken for a ride by almost every local she meets, and I am not talking about a camel ride. She gets ill, almost dying from renal failure, and yet is single-minded about walking across the continent. To me, there is a fine line between passion and dedication vs sheer obstinacy and recklessness. I found myself losing some respect for her as she continued to place herself, and others, in danger and I often wondered, “what’s the point”?
“Gradually, I have come to appreciate that the doing of it was, and still is, immensely satisfying and rewarding”.
Agreed, but at what cost? Personal cost? Financial cost? What good did she do? Or am I missing the point? Maybe I am simply not brave enough to undertake such a gigantic and daring adventure, for the very sake of adventure.
I do admire the scale of what she achieved, but not to the detriment of everything and everyone around her, and I am not sure it was even fun. Maybe we are all born with different definitions of ‘fun’. I know many people roll their eyes at me as I set out on another long walk.
If you love stories of gargantuan effort or have a passion for deserts, especially the Sahara, then you will really enjoy this book. Constant can write, and it is an engaging story, but a painful one at times. I gave it 7/10.
Author bio: Paula Constant began walking from Trafalgar Square in 2004. Since then, she has walked over 12000km through eight countries: England, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and Niger. From 2005-2007, Paula walked over 7000km through the Sahara, until she was halted by civil war in Niger. Her first book, Slow Journey South, was released by Random House in 2008. Source.
Author blog or website: paulaconstant.com
Publisher: Random House/Penguin
Available from: Book Depository for AUD$32.68.
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