Over the years I have built up a fairly good-sized library on Latin America (fiction, history, travel writing etc), and would thoroughly recommend one of my most recent acquisitions. OK, I got it for Christmas, but I always have such a stack waiting to be read…
Anyway, 6 months later I finally got around to ‘Andes,’ by Michael Jacobs. Very much a case of, “does what it says on the tin,” this is the result of Michael travelling from one end of the Andes (Venezuela) to the other (Chile / Argentina).
What I loved about the book, other than the fact that it covers many of our favourite and most popular destinations, is the unassuming and straightforward style. This is a guy who has nothing to prove, takes people and places as they come, and avoids hyperbole. I particularly enjoyed the section on northern Peru, such as Kuelap etc, as his observations chimed so neatly with my own when I visited the region recently.
The other wonderful aspect of the book is the interweaving of the history, and especially historical characters, into his meanderings. For anyone who is well-travelled in South America, names which are instantly recognisable (Humboldt, Bolivar, Pizarro etc) appear throughout the book and are clearly well-researched, with comment on the personalities that you often don’t hear. The insights into Humboldt and Bolivar are particularly intriguing.
Interestingly, Michael Jacobs usually resides in another of our favourite spots, the Alpujarra Mountains in Andalucia. And before you say, “Oh, is he the feller who drummed with Genesis and wrote that ‘Lemons’ book?” – no, he isn’t. However, they are good mates – and Chris Stewart somewhat randomly turns up halfway through the book to keep him company for a few weeks. This could turn a into a bit of a palimpsest, but in fact is largely characterised by Jacobs chuckling at Stewart getting asked for autographs due to his new found fame.
So if you’d like to read a great travel / history book focusing on the mighty and mysterious Andes, you could do a lot worse than grab a copy. If you’d like some inspiration on holidays exploring northern Peru, heading down into Patagonia, or travelling through volcanoes in Ecuador, do get in touch.