I’m going to try to keep this book review short, mainly because it’s Easter Friday, I have a plane to catch and I am sure you have family things to be doing! But Cloud Road was a really brilliant, interesting and well-written book.
In Cloud Road: a journey through the Inca Highlands, John Harrison sets off from Quito to travel the length of the Inca trail to Cusco. He intends to walk as much as possible following the route of the old road but this proves difficult due to changes in landscapes and paths since the trail was used regularly, and because his map is just rubbish. For example, what looks like a short walk between two points turns out to be a steep climb over a mountain and a sheer descent.
It’s a travel book, a history book, an explorers book and, actually, a love story. It’s a must-read if you are going to Peru but also just for anyone vaguely interested in the world because you will learn so much about life today in Peru and about the incredible Inca people.
Most of his journey is spent walking alone, with stunning descriptions of the scenery, combined with tidbits about the history and the geography, and with wonderfully personal reflections, such as missing his girlfriend, or contemplating aging as he looks in the mirror, “pushing the wrinkles about”.
Harrison is brutally honest throughout, from his descriptions of people, to stomach problems while camping, to the joy of finding a hostel to stay in and the fact that he did not walk all the way, taking a few buses to ensure he was able to complete the route in the time available. To make it an enjoyable read, there is just the right amount of factual detail so it never feels like a lesson. It’s brilliantly written and I couldn’t recommend it more. One of the best books I’ve read this year.
It belongs in another, vaster, landscape but has been lent to us to remind men they have souls.