The Armchair Traveler Club


Posted by mukikamu on September 24, 2009

We have met him before and now I tumbled upon his book about Papua New Guinea, Bali and the Solomon islands.  My admiration for his clear, matter-of- fact style and readable anthropological analysis has not diminished. He seemed to truly enjoy his trip to these remote places and offers a genuinely enjoyable literary experience. And then there are his amazing pictures that illustrate it all. All from 1932-33.

Additions to the list of groovy names:

Kafagamurirongo – wife of expat German sailor and tribe chief on Owa Raha island

Mamako – village on Owa Riki island

Maneparapara – village

Kafafarisubarisu -ghostgod of Owa Raha island

Kaukaunafugo – good spirits of the forest

Nafumanga -village chief on Owa Riki

Funakuma – village on southeast St. Cristobal island

Kokonga – village on Choiseul island

Bulolo – village on New Guinea

Mamarana -village on Choiseul island

Kufagogo – village on New Guinea where widows carry the skull of their husbands around their necks. All the time.

Agaga – English speaking warrior the author met

Hanubada – village on New Guinea

bernatzik south pacific bernatzik

Posted in AUSTRALIA & THE PACIFIC, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands | Leave a Comment »


Posted by mukikamu on March 18, 2009

I wish I would have bumped into this book sooner! I am reading this anthology about 1700-1830 travel writing and have discovered wonderful authors I haven’t heard about before. It is truly enjoyable to read accounts of 18th-19th century travellers. I find it a really interesting collection and can’t but recommend it as essential for all who like the genre. It doesn’t get boring as it is more like a collection of short stories. Fantastic appetizer for less known travel authors and offers many discoveries to benefit from. I will try to acquaint you with my favourites in more detail. Thank you Elizabeth A. Bohls and Ian Duncan.


Posted in Books, travelbook | Leave a Comment »


Posted by mukikamu on March 16, 2009

I knew nothing about  Ludwig Kohl-Larsen before finding his book about the migration of Lapps in Northern Norway among my travel books. My interest was aroused because I have seen a breathtaking documentary of Bruce Parry about the migration of the Nenets in Siberia last year  and  the way of life of these Northern tribes, along with the magical landscape stuck to my head for a long time. I seriously encourage everyone to watch the show and read the book for some not depicted details. Kohl-Larsen’s tale tells the story of the journey of Lapps and their herd of reindeers to their summer breeding fields by the North Sea. My copy was publishes in 1958, so the anthropoligist’s visit must have taken place before that time when modernism has still left these areas of the world quite untouched. LKL is said to be a pioneer of cultural anthropology and is pragmatic about the description of daily life, but deliberatly avoids dry scientific terms to enhance the readability of his travel journal. Some of his cross-cultural encounters made me smile. Imagine an ascetic German revolting over the cruelty and harshness of Lapps. A real treat.

Apart from the uplifting tale of the legendary migration, you can find some deliciously truthful facts about the circumstances (the best part I think):

– Every woman is called Berit. Well most in the story anyway.
– Among the cold, the wind, the snow, these people eat discusting meals with appetite. Some of my favourites are the “blood balls”, the intesine snacks and reindeer tounges. All served with fur. Oh, and traditionally they keep the ingredients in “reindeer stomach bags”. Don’t ask.
– Not truly surprisingly regarding their poor circumstances, the Lapps are terribly mingy and hide everything even from their own families. Stealing is not really a sin, more a warmly welcomed skill. They are increadibly shameful of this though afterwards.
– Lapps take no water with them for the journey, they just eat the snow if they are thirtsy. Or they drink coffee. A lot. With salt. Out of a plate.
– Cooties everywere, no bath, but wonderful teeth.
-”Buris, buris” means good day!
– The ear of dogs is cut back, so that they could hear their masters better.

Ludwing Kohl-Larsen most famous works however are not about the cold parts of the world but about the hot territories, like Africa. He was a great anthropologist even if his political views were somewhat reprehensible.

(Der Grosse Zug Nach Mittelnacht – Eine Wanderung mit den Lappen zum Nördlichen Eismeer)



Some partly related shocking images.

Posted in EUROPE, Norway, travel, travelbook, Travelers | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by mukikamu on January 30, 2009

I never expected P. J. O’Rouke’s book to be a travel book, but it turned out to be a worth-to-mention experience. I say this for several reasons. Firstly, the book is about his travel experiences to war-torn regions of the world and he manages to stay personal rather than menacingly political. The places he visits come to life much better than in anything I read about these countries lately (not that I have read anything much apart from the daily news) and it’s always rewarding to have an insiders’ view. I particularly enjoyed his chapters about Egypt and Kuwait because I could connect to the local daily life. Although O’Rouke is stubbornly seeing silliness in almost all kind of human action and sneers with maximum vehemence, his book is quite enjoyable. Then again he is famous of his comic style, that makes you laugh despite all your judgement of his message. He is the guy who you can never argue with because he makes you admit how ridiculous you are after your first statement. I find his sarcastic approach an easy way of getting away with things, nevertheless I admit that sometimes lightness of approach is a good way to get to an audience and deal with heavy issues. As they would say in popular magazines: “ A thumbs-up!”

Locations: Israel, Kuwait, Egypt, Washington, Iraq, Iwo Jima, Kosovo


Posted in AFRICA, Egypt, Japan, U.S. | 2 Comments »


Posted by mukikamu on December 2, 2008

jensglob1 jens1

I am back on the track of forgotten travel books with Jens Bjerre‘s Last Cannibals. It was an easy and highly enjoyable read.
To give you a taste of it, here is a few things you can learn from the book:

– how native Australians deal with birth control
– why you must never hurry
– how could soldiers drown in the Sahara
– whether there are camels in Australia
– why you should never force people living in houses on water ashore
– how girls in New Guinea solved the etiquette problem of covering their breast before white ladies
– how do cannibals eat a road
– what are the roots of tribal pyromania
– why you should never ever wake a sleeping kukukuku
– what are the rules of dating in the jungle
– which is the most idyllic tropical island of the South Seas
– who was the ‘Flying bishop’

Moreover, here are the new entries in our list of groovy names:
– Hanuabada (village built on water in New Guinea)
– Kukukuku (tribe)
– Kau-kau (potato)
– Momakova (chief of a kukukuku village)
– Jagagaga (chatty old warrior)
– Morombo (tribe)
– Tumbulun (magic flute to scare women)
– Gorogoba (river)
– Morofonu (God)

Posted in ASIA, Australia, AUSTRALIA & THE PACIFIC, Books, Papua New Guinea, travel, travelbook, Travelers | 1 Comment »


Posted by mukikamu on October 2, 2008

Eric Newby is much praised by critics for his distinctive style, tireless enthusiasm and ‘insider-like’ travel stories and it’s true that he has a special point of view. Not many people are as knowledgeable and well-travelled as he is. However, I have been struggling with his book for two years now.

First I sat down to read it from start to finish, but his writing was tiring and I gave up several times. I figured that the best way to get through his book was probably to pick up the relevant chapters before going on a vacation to get an insight on the places on the menu. This seemed to work for a while, because you’re less likely to overload and if you see that you only have a 20-40 pages to read, you are more likely to push through. Nevertheless, by the time we got back from our holiday in Greece and Turkey, I was sincerely glad to tuck the book away.
I can see why Newby was one of the great travel writers of our times, but I miss the sense of discovery from his accounts. He knows everything about the places he goes, but he is at times annoyingly informative, sober and well-educated for my taste. I personally miss the romanticism and mysticism from his travels. His English is very uniquely classy which is distinctive, but harder to a non-native like me to read.

I don’t give up easily though. He is only on the bookshelf until the next trip to the Mediterranean.

Posted in AFRICA, Albania, Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, EUROPE, Greece, Italy, Libanon, Macedonia, Morocco, Spain, Syria, travel, travelbook, Travelers, Turkey | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »


Posted by mukikamu on October 2, 2008

BBC’s travel related radio programme, Excess Baggage has a special with Paul Theroux. Listen to it online. 

Posted in Books, Travelers | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »


Posted by mukikamu on August 14, 2008

Mark Haddon: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a must. Witty, sensitive, entertaining and educative. Genius.

Mark Haddon: A Spot of Bother is not as good, but still a good shot at family life.

Hugh Laurie: The Gun Seller has funny inner dialogues and definitely reminded me of Jenő Rejtő‘s books

Doris Lessing: The Golden Notebook is really bizarre sometimes, but gets you terribly hooked.

Marina Lewycka: A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian for me was more a sad book than a funny one.

Mordecai Richler: Barney’s Version is a memoir of a playboy in love.

Oscar Wilde: Lady Windermere’s Fan is perfect if you need a break. An hour with Wilde.


Posted in Books | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by mukikamu on August 11, 2008

What bliss it is to re-read one of Gerald Durrell’s books! I found the beautiful Penguin edition of the Corfu Trilogy (My family and other animals/Birds, beasts and relatives/Garden of the Gods) in the corner bookshop and there was no way to resist purchase. I took it away with me on vacation and it was just the perfect companion. My family and other animals is hillarious still and the magic of Durell’s storytelling fills you with warmth that you have much known in your childhood. Adventurous, sunny, witty, it’s a must.  If you are living in a city everyday, it’s all you need to unwind and live on a paradise island in your heart.


After finishing, I started Zoo in my luggage right away.

Posted in AFRICA, Books, Cameroon, EUROPE, Greece | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »


Posted by mukikamu on August 11, 2008

I found some interesting articles on my much admired gentleman adventurer Wilfred Thesiger here and here.

Posted in AFRICA, ASIA, Books, Etiophia, India, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Travelers, Yemen | Tagged: | 1 Comment »