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A Short Ride in the Jungle: Book Review

REVIEW BY KRIS FANT

“If I’d wanted a nice, easy holiday I should have gone to Tenerife and lain on the beach.  The point of this adventure was to take away the cocoon of everyday life, to see how I would react when the journey threw me the odd curveball.”  

 “A Short Ride in the Jungle” is a wondrous tour through Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian culture via the Ho Chi Minh Trail by Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent, affectionately nicknamed Ants. This trail, known as one of the greatest feats of military engineering in history, was subjected to unthinkable warfare. The harsh jungle that provided cover for supplies and communication became the target for numerous bombs, many of which are still being collected and detonated today. Since the war, the trail has fallen from western interest.  

Short Ride Jungle

Ants desired a challenge, and set her sights on riding this trail alone. Her travel companion for this journey was “Pink Panther,” a 25 year old Honda C90. Not an experienced mechanic, Antonia shared with a friend her idea to get “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles” in case anything went wrong.  Her friend replied, “I think that might be a bit advanced for you.” She’d had her share of adventures, but had always relied on others for the mechanical bits.  This journey was to be different.  She wanted to go it alone, be self reliant, and truly experience the culture and history.  In this tale, you’ll hear of lunchtime propositions, invasive questions, and genuine curiosity. And her pretty Pink Panther took many wet and dirty baths, one where she was stuck upright until help could be recruited to extricate her from the mud’s grasp.

Short Ride Jungle

She found landscapes littered with bombs and scarred with shells of buildings. She attended vigils illuminating incredible healing. “How many people get to count their former enemies as close friends, to walk on soil where they once made war?  I’m very lucky.  I just hope people can live in peace and friendship for ever more.”  She had water crossings, some with her riding on her bike and some with her bike riding across a river in a very tipsy canoe! She noted cultural differences as she traveled and made one notable observation about Lao culture: “It’s as if achievement is measured by who can do as little as possible, for as long as possible, in as much shade as possible.”  

Short Ride Jungle

Traveling solo but rarely alone, Ants brings you on a beautifully written journey over a history-laden tale in  “A Short Ride in the Jungle”. “Life is so rarely what you expect it to be.”  Isn’t that the truth?
Short Ride Jungle

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