Subtitled "from England to South Africa by bike, the beginning of a journey round the world", this is of
course a true story. Truth is generally stranger than fiction, I find, and several outlandish incidents are recounted in the
course of the narrative.
With a foreword by no less than Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Alastair Humphreys’ travelogue would appear to
have a head start on any potential competitors. It is the story of a journey that took Mr Humphreys four years to complete,
and involved several changes of plan. Sir Ranulph makes the point at the outset that it takes courage and adaptability to
cope with the kind of logistical problems that prevented Alastair Humphreys from achieving his original goal – to cycle
around the world via central Asia and Australia – and to find ways around these problems.
The redoubtable Mr Humphreys himself describes the marathon bike ride as "monotony in motion", which surprised
me a little. Having never learned to ride a bike myself (no, honestly!) I feel admiration for those who can (as long as they
stay off the pavement) but I would have expected that they pursue the hobby of cycling because they enjoy it. If it is really
so monotonous, how do they ever get started, and how can anyone face the idea of cycling for a thousand miles, even in aid
This book in fact deals only with the first leg of the journey, from the UK to South Africa, a country with
which Mr Humphreys identifies particularly. In truth, though, it is really more of an autobiography than a travel book. Our
intrepid protagonist has his own philosophy of life, and his own reasons for doing the things he does. He is, if you’ll
forgive the pun, a driven man. This makes the reader inclined to overlook the imperfections of this book – the occasional
grammatical errors, the sometimes amateurish layout, the rather random arrangement of the narrative and the unnecessary epilogue
on the subject of POD publishing. These minor flaws seem to recede in the face of the author’s infectious enthusiasm
and colourful style.
"Tej looks like orange juice and is served in glass flasks, called berele, resembling those used in chemistry
experiments. It tastes like sharp, fizzy honey. The bar was dark, with wood shavings on the floor. Apricot light shafted through
gaps in the walls and dust motes twirled in the beams. Old men wrapped in white robes leaned on their sticks and smoked hard.
The air droned with idle conversation. Nobody minded that I was in their bar. It felt wonderful to be ignored."
Alastair Humphreys is a born writer. And you get recipes thrown in.
In many ways begging for comparison with Ian Middleton’s Hot Footing Around the Emerald Isle,
Moods of Future Joys is actually quite different, a unique work that entertains and informs and that will be enjoyed
be a wide audience. The fact that it is sold in aid of charity is somewhat irrelevant. It is, quite simply, worth reading.