East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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The Desert Road to Turkestan

DOL2Last night, I dug out the only Owen Lattimore book I own – 1928 The Desert Road to Turkestan.
Of all the adventurers on the Silk Road I discovered during my researches, Lattimore is probably the one I have more dear.
Maybe it’s because he was subject to much injustice, or because he was a keen observer and a charming storyteller.

Owen Lattimore was born in the USA in 1900. He was raised in China and educated in Switzerland and England. Unable to afford a university education, he got back in China, studied Chinese and was employed by a British commercial firm as jack of all trades and troubleshooter.
A load of wool blocked somewhere in the wild at the whim of a warlord? Send in Lattimore.
He actually liked it. Continue reading

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War & Peace in Afghanistan

cover74505-mediumI got an advance reader copy of Melissa Burch’s My Journey through War and Peace.
I got it not by some strange chance, but because I requested it.
What caught me was the tag-line: Explorations of a young film-maker, feminist and spiritual seeker.
For the uninitiated, Melissa Burch was a young camera operator and reporter during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
So I expected the book to be about the sort of exploration that I like – a first-hand account of a war-torn sector of the map that has been war-torn for most of our history.
What I got was much more.

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The explorer that loved music – Henning Haslund

henning-hasslundHenning Haslund was a Danish explorer.
In the early 1920s he was part of an expedition to Central Asia led by his old military academy chum Carl Krebs.
The idea was to get there and set up a dairy farm.

What happened next is the subject of Mongolian Adventure, that Haslund published somewhere back in the first half of the 20th century; a thick, massive, highly satisfactory book that the fine guys of the Long Riders’ Guild* have reprinted a few years back.
I was given the book as a gift by a friend – and what a wonder it is! Continue reading

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Afghanistan in the 1960s

A short extra post.
The Denverpost.com blog just published a selection of photos from Afghanistan, shot in the 1960s by Dr William Podlich.
These are great images, and provide much food for thought.

Check them out.

More photos by Dr Podlich can be found here.


Rosita Forbes

We breathed the same air for one month.

NPG x16614; (Joan) Rosita Forbes (Mrs Arthur T. McGrath) by Howard CosterIf it has to start somewhere, my personal gallery of travellers, explorers, adventurers and assorted daredevils, it has to start with Rosita Forbes.

Joan Rosita “Sita” Forbes neĆ© Torr, was born in England in 1890.
She owed that distinctively un-British name to a Spanish grandmother.
She left home at seventeen and married at twentyone – but the marriage did not last long.
She only kept the Forbes surname.
Now calling herself Rosita Forbes, she drove an ambulance during WWI.

Then, with a friend called Undine, she left London and travelled the world – thirty countries in thirteen months.
She wrote a book about it.
In Paris, she planned to cover the Peace Talks, as a jounalist, but the newspaper for which she worked sent her as a reporter in Casablanca.

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