In a past version of my life I spent quite a large amount of my time on the road – on my touring bicycle. I loved the speed I could generate under my own power. I loved the sun on my skin. I loved the fresh air. I rode in a couple of fundraiser rides. One was 40 miles (64.3 km). The most recent was 50 miles (80.5 km). Both were exhilarating and incredibly freeing to know that I could accomplish that!
When I came across Unhinged in Ethiopia: Two Thousand Kilometers of Hell and Heaven on a Bicycle by George Balarezo, I knew I had to read it! This book was a true adventure. The author already cycled through many unforgiving countries. He wanted to continue the trend by cycling the most mountainous country on the continent of Africa. Aside from the challenges presented by the terrain, he was presented by many internal challenges brought on by the people he met along his journey.
Here’s my take on the book. The telling of the physical journey across country was amazing. I was inspired by the author’s will to continue pedaling through the pain of muscles that wanted to quit. I also learned about a country I had very little knowledge of. There are so many treasures in Ethiopia. Google became my best friend as I looked up photos of the wonders that were described in the book. I was amazed by the people he met along his journey. Not all were welcoming. Children chased him and threw stones while begging for money. What bizarre behavior! But he also met strangers who became friends along the journey. The culture and the food were all described so well! He made me wish I could travel to Ethiopia for a taste of coffee from the country where drinking coffee originated.
What I didn’t care for so much were the long asides about modern Western culture and how it’s destroying everything from our health to the environment. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind it being mentioned. I don’t even mind that he describes his own personal views and how he lives as cruelty-free as possible. It’s valuable to the book because it’s in direct opposition to how the people of Ethiopia live. It even has an impact on how those in the harshest part of the country live. My heart broke for the people of Afar as he described his visit there. What I did mind was that it was mentioned repeatedly and when he began, I knew it was going to be quite a few paragraphs before it was over. I feel it was overdone. And that could certainly turn some people off from the book.
The lectures on how I’m destroying my life and environment didn’t turn me off enough to quit reading, however. The heart of the story was good enough to overlook it for the most part. I give Unhinged in Ethiopia four out of five adventurous stars!
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.