This book was a serious disappointment to me. First, the book is not about cycling. Nor does she venture within a thousand km of Torres del Paine National Park, which is featured on the front and back covers. While the bike makes occasional appearances in the first 60 pages of the book, it is usually on a bus or in a truck as the weather was less-than-perfect, there was wind, or the roads had potholes. The author initially places the blame for this on her desire to cover more ground with her traveling companion, who leaves South America early a few pages later for a lack of cycling! From that point the author scraps the bike journey entirely and instead travels by bus, train and taxi with her unwieldy luggage including a wheeled suitcase. She somehow spends a year between Santiago and Potosi, Bolivia, then wastes the final half of the book talking about all of the things she didn't have time to do in her final weeks because she is needed on a lecture tour and has a book deadline.
"Now I had a contract to finish a book and a string of lectures to give in the New Year, so I had to travel with an eye on the calendar and get home in good time. It seemed to be one of life's ironies that my original escape to travel had turned into a travel career, which was now interfering with my freedom to travel!"
I might add that it is apparently interfering with her ability to write a decent travel book as well. This book is mostly a collection of her prejudices and dislikes, her awkwardly expressed feminist stance and poorly rendered, often patently false, rambling prose on the history and geography of the region. The book jumps from topic to topic without any predictability apart from the fact that it surely won't be about anything expressed on the cover. The summary on the back of the book tells of how she "witnesses the funeral of Augusto Pinochet" but she watched it on TV!
Throughout the book she whines about the young travelers and locals she encounters alike. How one guy in a hostel uses the computer too much and cooks in the hostel instead of going out (whereas she makes a habit of eating rich, often imported foods and staying in 5 star hotels) or that a guy that sits next to her on a long bus ride and has the audacity to eat greasy, smelly empanadas. One gets the feeling that she is new to South American bus travel... It is apparent from the book that the only people she connects with are those that have read and admired her previous books and treat her as the sort of demi-celebrity she believes herself to be.
Her disdain for Bolivia and blanket statements about that country are unbelievable, especially from a woman who spent only a couple of weeks visiting a very small section of that country. She doesn't bother to visit the train graveyard in Uyuni, to cycle (or even properly see) the salt flats, to visit the mines in Potosi. Not to mention the rest of Bolivia. Instead she stays in luxurious hotels that do not give a hint of the local flavor and whines that no one is available to cook her Christmas dinner. She doesn't bother to get the full picture before she ineptly delves into a discussion of Bolivian politics that looks at things from one side only, and inconsistently at that.
The Che aspects of the book are troubling as well. She interleaves her story with his for the first part of the book, repeating the same quotes of his with disdain time and time again. That he willingly ate food or accepted lodging from the poor. That he didn't want to stay in hotels though he could afford to. But one gets the sense that he got a much better picture of the land and the people than she did paying top dollar in her luxury lodging and avoiding interaction with the local population.
She cares for North Americans even less and evenly applies her stereotypes to all North Americans she knowingly encounters. She is very pro-British, tough, to the point of arguing with and insulting a drunk Chilean who insinuated that the Queen drank gin. She also uses the term 'Indian' which, aside from being offensive to a lot of indigenous people in the Americas is confusing when she also discusses her previous cycling trips through India.
The author would do well to get back on her bike and take the time to write a decent book and to give it a good edit. This book is filled with embarrassing misspellings, inaccuracies and a laughably naive and sheltered view of the places she visits.
This book is a waste of your time and money.