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Mister Hobgoblin

Chasing Lions - Amanda Marks

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Loved this book.

This is a memoir of a Dragoman tour leader who led overland tours through Africa for three years from 1988-1991. I am a travel junkie myself and have participated in overland travel, including with Dragoman. I have wondered how these adventures must feel from the tour leader perspective - very much working 24/7, but trying to have an adventure themselves. Amanda Marks pulls the curtain back, shows us that the tour leader is often only one step ahead of the tour participants, winging it and hoping the stars align. 

This was very much the early days of Dragoman - itineraries were flexible and arriving at destinations many days behind schedule was just part of the fun. It was also interesting to see the travel through parts of Africa that have since become off limits (the Algerian-Moroccan border) or fraught with difficulty (Zaire - now DRC, and the CAR, for example). It was also interesting to see the impact of leading these tours on family life and friendships - as Dragoman took over as a surrogate family. Amanda's experiences chimed in very much with the conversations I had with Dragoman tour leaders on my tours. 

The story telling is superb. Just the right blend of anecdote and scene setting. For seven hours, I was immersed in Amanda's world. I could feel the excitement at seeing lions and mountain gorillas, I could feel the slog of digging Huey (the truck) out of giant muddy ditches in Zaire, I could sense the celebration of the occasional meal at a restaurant that did not involve setting up the cooking station or flapping the plates dry at the end. I wondered whether this would feel hime-spun but it wasn't. Amanda's writing and story telling is fully professional - you'd think she had been writing all her life. 

I should also add that I 'experienced' this book through the Audible audio version. Amanda narrates the book herself and does it so very well. Her reading is every bit as engaging as her writing and the time slipped by without my noticing. This was a day spent in very agreeable company. 

At the time of writing this review, Dragoman on pause. I hope it comes back to life because it brought so much fun and adventure to so many people, taking them out of their comfort zone while providing some semblance of a safety net. This novel has made my already itchy feet that bit itchier. 

I cannot recommend Chasing Lions highly enough.



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