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Tales From The Road: Kenya, Burma, Colombia, Argentina

by Tim Patterson Sep 30, 2008
What makes these stories rare and valuable is that the authors didn’t have to write them, but did anyway.

On the surface, the stories featured in this week’s edition of Tales From The Road don’t have much in common.

The slopes of Mt. Kenya are a long way from the clubs of Buenos Aires, and a hike to exhume corpses in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Colombia is a far cry from a day hike in the hills outside Seattle, Washington.

The common thread in these stories, aside from literary excellence, is a deep commitment to the story on the part of the authors. So much writing these days is either commercial fluff hammered out on a deadline or unreadable and self-indulgent crap.

What makes these stories rare and valuable is that the authors didn’t have to write them, but did anyway. There’s no ego, no hyperbole and no hidden agendas. The stories stand on their own merits, gifts from the authors, windows to the world.


1. A Climb To Conquer Two Obstacles by Jeffrey Gettleman

In the aftermath of brutal violence in Kenya, a group of traumatized students bands together to conquer the heights of Mt. Kenya. This account of their triumphant journey by the terrific New York Times correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman is one of the most inspiring stories I’ve read in a long time.

2. Synths Of Resistance by Eve Hyman

For music hipsters, it doesn’t get much cooler than digital cumbia in Buenos Aires. This piece by Matador member Eve Hyman is a rapturous and intimate portrait of the BsAs music scene, the kind of story only an insider could produce.

3. Close To The Bone by Matthew Fishbane

This rather gruesome but beautifully crafted story of death in the Colombian jungle is captivating from the very first sentence:

I’m trudging down the lower slopes above the city of Santa Marta with a black plastic bag of human bones dangling like a scarf bundle from the handle of my shovel.

4. A Conflict Of Interest by U Shwe Yoe

The Irawaddy is the finest source of news and perspectives on Burma, but sadly the website has recently come under attack by the Burmese regime. It might be difficult to get this story to load, but it’s worth the effort for a candid, unguarded and literary peek into political discourse in the most repressive country in the world.

5. Mt. Si dayhike by David Miller

My friend and colleague David Miller has a little girl named Layla who just turned one year old. His simple blog post about hiking up a mountain with Layla overflows with the uniquely affecting love of a father for his baby girl.

BONUS! Check out my interview with David Miller, one of many interviews with travel writing personalities that you’ll find in the BNT archives.

Have you come across any great travel stories lately? Share in the comments!

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