Travel: Books of the week
Sunday 25 January 1998
The fact that this book is now into its fourth edition suggests that the authors are on to a winning formula. As far as outdoor pursuit destinations go, what tiny Ecuador lacks in area is more than made up for by height and energetic things to do. From the high-altitude snow-capped volcanoes - via the ancient Inca trails - to the Amazonian lowland jungles, the book is jam-packed with intrepid treks and climbs for all levels.
Apart from giving you essential information, it offers health tips, such as how to avoid heat exhaustion, a potted history of local mountaineering and a comprehensive reading list. What is most impressive though is the thorough first- hand research of all the recommended treks and climbs by Mark Thurber, an experienced South American tour leader.
My only complaints are that the section on Ecuador's history is light- weight (one page), there's no direction on social etiquette, and no maps of Quito - the country's unavoidable capital. However, these shortcomings will probably be addressed in the inevitable sixth edition of this unique action guide to the Ecuadorian Andes.
Feeding Frenzy (Abacus, pounds 9.99) by Stuart Stevens.
Stuart Stevens's latest offering is an account of a leisurely trip to Europe. The twist is that he and his friend, "Rat" Kelly, have accepted a bet to storm around in an unreliable 1965 cherry-red Mustang and dine in all of Europe's 29 three-star restaurants in just 29 days. If they manage this feat then Rat's boyfriend will pick up the tab.
What unfolds is a mad-cap dash filled with adventures and misadventures, encounters with star chefs and snooty maitres d'. The book's strength is the undoubted attraction of Stevens's sharp American wit. He likens eating spectacularly in England to "purloined pleasure, like having fun at a funeral". Other nationalities don't get off lightly though. He obviously hates the Germans, while in Belgium he finds men who go to the gym "dressed in black leotards".
If you stop to ask yourself why Stevens and Rat are driving around in a 1965 cherry-red Mustang, and question the vulgar excesses that form the book's weak foundation, then you'll probably give up after the first chapter. Those who can ignore these flaws will probably find Feeding Frenzy a funny read.
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