A Short Ride in the Jungle - Book Review

Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent lives the sort of life the rest of us would live if we weren't fucking wusses (I count myself here). While not doing far-flung research for TV programmes or going on adventures she's writing books. She happens to be pretty bloody good at it.

Ant's trusty(ish) C90 Panther, stuck on the Mondulkiri Death Highway

The book is a well balanced mix of history lesson, social commentary and adventure tale. Ants' does her Adventurist heritage proud by welcoming every adversity with open arms  and by going out of her way to make the trip more difficult.

The story follows Ants as she rides solo down the infamous Ho Chi Minh trail; a network of transport routes the North Vietnamese used to transport arms & supplies to South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Because Ants is a proper adventurer she chose to do this not in a 4x4 or on a trail bike, but on a Honda C90.

How I had managed to pack emergency gin, but not proper maps I’m still not quite sure
— Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent

The not so obvious choice of vehicle adds colour to a tale which between the war and deforestation, might otherwise be a bit bloody depressing. The C90 is the single most produced machine ever built for a reason. They are cheap, reliable, and a whole lot of fun. And it's almost impossible to be angry for long towards someone riding one.

Panther next to  tank remains - Attapeu Province, Laos

These days where every dullard with a Mac book and a Wordpress site is a travel blogger; it's refreshing to find something from the travel community which is well researched and interesting.

While wrestling with the nuances of her bike and the challenges of riding solo, Ants experiences advantages of both. Most significantly the kindness and acceptance of strangers which would seldom be offered to a group; or someone on a R1150GS.

It's these anecdotes from the road where Ants' storytelling comes into its own, whether recounting the tale of the waiter who offered her his balls for breakfast; or the story of a mother whose family has been decimated by UXO (unexploed ordinance); Ants tells the story with honesty and passion.

Ants' trip was in support of MAG International (Mine Awareness Group) and in fact today is Interrnational Mine Awareness Day. Through the adventure of her trip and the freedom of travel by tiny motorcycle the shitness of war is never far away. Though the numbers never tell the full story here are some of the shocking statistics I've pulled from the book:

  • 15 Million tonnes of bombs were dropped on Vietnam in a ten year period
  • 800,000 tonnes of explosives still remain
  • 2,093,100 bombs dropped on neutral Laos 
  • America sprayed 72 million litres of  toxic chemicals over Vietnam Laos and Cambodia
  • America spent $165 billion dollars on the war in Vietnam

The book goes on sale Monday 7th April published by Summersdale. To find out about Ants' launch tour and where you can get your mitts on a copy, have a gander at her site. You can also catch up with Ants' adventures  in 140 chracters or less on twitter.