Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Lands of Lost Borders

“Travelling by bicycle is a life of simple things taken seriously: hunger, thirst, friendship, the weather, the stutter of the world beneath you.”
                                                              --Kate Harris

Kate Harris’s Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road (2018) opens in medias res: the author and her friend Mel Yule, both recent university grads, are stealth-cycling in the dead of night as they attempt to sneak across the border between China and Tibet. Harris conjures up a magical scene with her poetic account of the stars “freshly soldered above the dark metal of the mountains.” The brilliant episode captures the mixture of fear, astonishment, confusion, and, most of all, the thrill of venturing under cover of darkness into forbidden territory.

It’s a terrific opener to what is a very fine travel book by this promising young writer who grew up in Ontario, studied at North Carolina, MIT, and Oxford, travelled extensively, published an impressive string of magazine pieces about her adventures, and now lives off-grid in remote Atlin, BC.

The book tells the story of two bicycle trips made by Harris and Yule, one in the summer of 2006 in China and Tibet, and then a longer one in 2011 from Istanbul across the old Silk Road route through Armenia, Azerbaijan, several ‘Stans, China, Nepal, and ending at the Siachen Glacier near the India-Pakistan border.