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Great British Bus Journeys

‘Buy a ticket and get on board.’ Sunday Herald

Starting on a green bus in Leeds and culminating atop the number 94 as it speeds towards Trafalgar Square, in Great British Bus Journeys David McKie travels to some of Britain’s most unfashionable and unfamous places – using our least reliable method of transport.

From the Forest of Bowland to Bradwell-on-Sea via a white-knuckle ride on the Glasgow night bus, Great British Bus Journeys offers a unique tour of our land, rich with history, legend and personality.

The Magic Spring

City-dweller Richard Lewis has been having a problem with roots. His, he means. It would have been so much more romantic if he had been born in Dublin or Marseille. But what if you’re simply from Croydon? What hope for romance then? Starting with the conviction that England must have a folklore as compelling, as exotic and as beautiful as that of other places, Lewis embarks on a search for traditional roots that takes him well off the beaten track, from the humble folk clubs of the fenlands, across the Yorkshire moors via the Morris-dancing Cotswolds to a magic circle of druids deep beneath the Forest of Dean.

The Magic Spring seeks to not only dispel some myths about English traditions, but to tell the story of their creation, to examine why they persist and how they connect to the modern land. Lewis follows the changing seasons, digs into his own past and discovers not only a deep affinity with his country, but also, in a climax on the Isle of Avalon, that roots are less about where you’re from than he thought.

The Traveller's Daybook

The Traveller’s Daybook invites you to cross ocean, desert, mountain and ice-cap in the company of the world’s greatest explorers, wanderers and writers…

Fergus Fleming’s day-by-day anthology of travel writing ranges widely across time as well as place: from Christopher Columbus’s ‘discovery’ of the West Indies in 1492 to Anton Chekhov’s journey through Siberia in the nineteenth century and on to Wilfred Thesiger’s wanderings in Arabia’s ’empty quarter’ in the 1940s. Each quoted extract is accompanied by a brief commentary that intro­duces the writer and establishes the context of the excerpt.

Fleming’s itinerary offers both a wealth of exotic destinations, and a many-hued patchwork of moods: the astonishment of the seventeenth-century diarist John Evelyn on beholding the size of women’s shoes in Venice; the stoic courage of Captain Scott facing death at forty degrees below zero; the exasperation of Dylan Thomas at find­ing himself in a ‘stifflipped, liverish, British Guest House in puking Abadan’; and the philosophical introspection of Fridtjof Nansen as he drifts in an ‘interminable and rigid world’ of Arctic ice. Here you will find Napoleon’s travel tips to his niece, a flight over Germany with Hitler, and an ex-pat dinner in Morocco where human blood is served from the fridge by the pint.

Covering the whole calendar, including leap years, these 366 journeys are by turn lyrical, witty, tragic and bizarre – but always entertaining.

High Adventure

Mike Allsop is a dynamo, an airline pilot and mountaineer who ran seven peaks in seven days on seven continents. He’s also a motivational speaker, author of bestseller High Altitude, a husband and the father of three children.

He’s found a way of incorporating his adventures into family life by taking each of his three children on major one-on-one expeditions. This has led to some incredible challenges:

* Trekking over 100 km in the Himalaya with each child at the age of seven – most recently Dylan

* Twelve-year-old Maya attempting the world’s highest stand-up paddle board on a freezing lake at 5,300 metres

* Ethan, at 15 years old, struggling through altitude sickness to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro and set his own world record

* Fundraising to buy a new house for a Sherpa widow after the devastating earthquake of 2015

The challenges and excitement continue, with the family continually dreaming up new adventures.

Moron to Moron

In July 2010, Tom Doig and his best mate Tama Pugsley cycled 1487 kilometres across northern Mongolia from a small town called Moron to a smaller town also called Moron. Why? Because it was there. Armed with spandex unitards, Chinese steel-frame mountain bikes, unidentifiable meat product and a woefully inadequate phrasebook, these two morons blunder into some of the world’s most remote and beautiful wilderness–and triumph. Sort of.

For 23 brutalising days–two days longer than the Tour de France–Tom and Tama slog their way over muddy mountains and across desolate steppes, all the time struggling to avoid Mongolia’s legendary hospitality. This hilarious, thoroughly shonky odyssey overflows with sweat, miscommunication and torrents of Chinggis Khaan vodka–named after Genghis Khan, the greatest warrior who ever lived.

Moron to Moron is a travel book like none other. It has it all: pleasure, pain, heartache, heartburn and the dried fermented milk of a horse.

Destination Cambodia

From the rich tropical city of Phnom Penh, the wonders of Angkor Wat, and the oddly loveable country town of Kampot, to Sihanoukville, named after the movie-directing and womanising former king, Walter Mason takes the reader on another colourful adventure in one of the world’s hottest new destinations. With his friends Simon, a taxi-driver and unlikely middle-aged gigolo, and Lan, a leggy Vietnamese transsexual, he explores Phnom Penh’s underworld. Resting in the bars and cafes that line the banks of the river, he notes the strong French influence from a colonial past.

Walter attempts to gain an introduction to the bachelor king, once a ballet dancer and Cambodia’s cultural ambassador to Europe, whose mother, Queen Monique, is a former film star and Eurasian beauty. He also befriends Mak Suong, a gifted young writer who has scandalised Cambodian society with a racy and wildly popular new novel about the lives of gay men in Phnom Penh.

After exploring the extraordinarily vibrant Khmer hip-hop scene, founded by expatriate Cambodian gangsters deported from American prisons, Walter retreats to the cool courtyard of Wat Koh, an enormous Buddhist monastery in the centre of Phnom Penh, with his friends, both monks. Sim is a big and buffoonish country bumpkin who flirts with girls who come to visit and dreams of leaving the monastery to marry. While morose and constantly brooding, Sakol unloads his troubles to Walter, revealing how he is haunted by the demons of war, cruelty and murder from Cambodia’s dark past.

Making Soapies in Kabul

On an impulse, Trudi-Ann Tierney, Sydney producer and former actress, goes to Kabul to manage a bar. She quickly falls into the local TV industry, where she becomes responsible for producing a highly popular soap opera.

Trudi’s staff are hugely inexperienced. They include Habib, the Pashto poet who wants to insert allegorical scenes involving fighting ants into the scripts; Rashid, the Dari manager, who spends all day surreptitiously watching uncensored Hindi music videos; and the Pakistani actresses who cross the border to Jalalabad (‘Jallywood’) to perform roles that no Afghan actresses can take on without bringing shame to their families.

Trudi lives among the expat community – the media, the burnt-out army types now working as security contractors, the ‘Do-Gooders’, the diplomats – in dubious guest houses like The Dirty Diana. This is ‘Ka-bubble’, where the reckless encounters with each other, with alcohol and of course with recreational drugs are as dangerous as the city’s streets.

Here are crazy people living crazy lives, and locals trying to survive as best they can against the backdrop of war.

Destination Saigon

From the crazy heat and colour of Saigon to the quieter splendour of Hanoi, Walter Mason gives us a rare, joyous and at times hilarious insight into twenty-first century Vietnam. Seduced by the beauty and charm of its people and the sensuousness of its culture, we can almost taste the little coconut cakes cooked over a fire in a smoky Can Tho kitchen, or smell the endless supplies of fresh baguettes and croissants just out of city ovens.

As colourful city cafes and bars make way for visits to out-of-the-way shrines and temples, we take an impromptu visit to forbidden fortune tellers, and glimpse a little of the Cao Dai religion, made famous in Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. Escaping on impulse to a far-flung province, a brief imprisonment culminates in an invitation to local wedding celebrations.

Travelling off the beaten track to far-flung villages and lesser-known towns, we cruise along the Mekong, board hopelessly overcrowded local buses or perch perilously on the back of motorbikes. Behind-the-scenes visits to Buddhist monasteries reveal a quieter and more transcendent world beyond the busy day trips of tourists. And in the process we begin to see the country through the eyes of its people.

The Traveller’s Daybook

The Traveller’s Daybook invites you to cross ocean, desert, mountain and ice-cap in the company of the world’s greatest explorers, wanderers and writers…

Fergus Fleming’s day-by-day anthology of travel writing ranges widely across time as well as place: from Christopher Columbus’s ‘discovery’ of the West Indies in 1492 to Anton Chekhov’s journey through Siberia in the nineteenth century and on to Wilfred Thesiger’s wanderings in Arabia’s ’empty quarter’ in the 1940s. Each quoted extract is accompanied by a brief commentary that intro­duces the writer and establishes the context of the excerpt.

Fleming’s itinerary offers both a wealth of exotic destinations, and a many-hued patchwork of moods: the astonishment of the seventeenth-century diarist John Evelyn on beholding the size of women’s shoes in Venice; the stoic courage of Captain Scott facing death at forty degrees below zero; the exasperation of Dylan Thomas at find­ing himself in a ‘stifflipped, liverish, British Guest House in puking Abadan’; and the philosophical introspection of Fridtjof Nansen as he drifts in an ‘interminable and rigid world’ of Arctic ice. Here you will find Napoleon’s travel tips to his niece, a flight over Germany with Hitler, and an ex-pat dinner in Morocco where human blood is served from the fridge by the pint.

Covering the whole calendar, including leap years, these 366 journeys are by turn lyrical, witty, tragic and bizarre – but always entertaining.