The book, like the travel writing industry it derides, is dishonest at its core
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You cannot question Anne Mustoe’s credentials as a cyclist. She has travelled 12,000 miles around the world, cycled from Kathmandu to Kandy and travelled with pilgrims and merchants. But one wonders why she chose to cycle in Guevara’s tracks.
It’s not as though this book is not engaging. It is, in its own “ooh look, we’re two batty British women” way. But the necessary self-implication is missing. We would like to know how Mustoe connects with Che. Does she approve of his politics? As Mustoe and her companion Katherine pedal past the pampas, she refers routinely to the road trip that is now available in three variations to the Anglophone world — Che Guevara’s book The Motorcycle Diaries, Walter Sallis’s eponymous film, and Alberto Granado’s Travelling with Che Guevara — but we never get much out of all these.
Perhaps that is because this is a well-mannered book. It is an entertainment in the best British style. It eschews contemporary politics although Mustoe does mention the memorial to the Falklands War. Otherwise this is a ‘Stop-Look-Go’ travelogue. We learn much incidental stuff: walnuts are cheap in Argentina but vegetarians have such a bad time in Bolivia...
Mustoe is too old a hand at the travel writing game to leave all recent history out but it is all told with no Mustoe at all. She never makes the link with Che or socialism of any kind. She rarely speaks to locals. She pays very little, expects the worst and is almost always surprised. All her ‘people stories’ are about other backpackers or tourists. The locals do not speak. One of the few voices that surfaces comes too late. Pablo, the taxi driver in Argentina, is surprised at what she is doing, as she is herself. “What does your family think about you wandering about on your own in Argentina?” he asked. “I should be worried stiff if you were my mami.” Of course, he probably did say it. But he’s in here because that’s what Mustoe thinks about her endeavour.
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