Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Book Review: Walking The Gobi by Helen Thayer

Would you walk 1600 miles across the Gobi Desert in Mongolia? Before you answer there's more you need to know. 

It's going to be summer with temperatures up to 120 degrees during the day. You have no way of communicating with the outside world except at three designated intervals when a pilot flies in supplies. 

Oh, and right before the trip you were in an auto accident and have a hip and leg injury. It's going to take over 81 days to do the trek. Not too bad considering you're sixty-three and your travel partner is seventy-four years of age.

I think I'd stay home. What would you do?

Adventurer Helen Thayer took on the above challenge and lived to write Walking the Gobi. I found her book to be a page turner. This surprised me. At first when I saw it was written as a journal I kept thinking, "how interesting could it be reading daily entries about a walk across a desert?" I imagined each day to be a repeat of the previous sweltering day.

Oh, how wrong I was. The journal and day-by-day diary worked for me. I felt I was living the trek with them each day. Sometimes I could feel the sand in my face and my throat felt dry. Her writing was that good.

There were some hair raising moments along the way which kept me up at night. I wondered how they were going to get out of each situation and couldn't wait to start reading the book again. This included running into smugglers, coming too close to Border patrols where the motto is shoot first and ask questions later, and having a very limited water supply for seven days.

Accompanying them are two camels hauling supplies. Their names are Tom and Jerry. By the end of the book I had fallen in love with their personalities.

Along the way they met nomads and were invited into their ger (home) for traditional food. These meetings provided a beautiful glimpse into the people and culture of Mongolia.

This is Helen's book and her husband's voice is usually not written. It would have been interesting to read his journal entries too.

Walking the Gobi is a reminder to step out of your comfort zone and live life to its fullest no matter what your age. Baby Boomers have two new role models in Helen and Bill. 

May they long adventure. 

Rob's Grade: A B C D

(Note: This book was chosen for our January reading group at Lihue Library. I purchased my copy on-line through Barnes and Noble).

Walking the Gobi by Helen Thayer. Copyright 2007. The Mountaineers Books. 249 pages, ISBN 9781594851124.


  1. This baby boomer is exhausted reading about them...LOL Seriously, it sounds like an amazing book. I'll have to check it out.

  2. Diane,

    What I didn't mention is how they prepared for the trek. Are you ready? They walked 4,000 miles (that's right) across the Sahara. I hope you'll check the book out and let me know if it's a thumb's up for you.

    Aloha from a fellow baby boomer!


  3. I love good survivor memoirs. I've read a few stories of survival in snow and ice, so this sounds like the perfect counterpoint. I'll be adding this one to my paperbackswap wishlist very soon. :)

  4. I'd like to think that I'd be up for an adventure like that but I'll be honest, I'm much more of a city girl! :)

    This book sounds great though. What an experience.

    By the way, so glad to see you have a book blog!

  5. Aloha Iliana and Alyce,

    Thanks for stopping by today. Sometimes after reading a travel essay I'll want to go too. This is one trip I'm okay missing. Although Mongolia is a country I'd like to visit sometime.

    Best Wishes,


  6. I'd rather go to London. :-D

    Still, it does sound like an interesting adventure, and I'm always up for a well-written travel memoir.

  7. "softdrink" let's do London. I need a good cup of tea. :-) It's been years since I've been to Europe. My international destinations living in Hawaii tend to be Australia, French Polynesia and Asia. Take care and thanks for commenting.

  8. I am glad that you liked it - it doesn't sound like the sort of thing that I would normally read, but sometimes its good to be reminded of all the amzing things that people are capable of.

  9. Good point, Becky. I think their drive and determination allowed them to overcome physical and age limits. It also shows a 50 plus guy like me that there are many good adventures ahead.

    Aloha from Rob

  10. it sounds like an amazing book. I'll have to check it out.

    Work from home India


Aloha! Thanks for taking time to talk story. Your comment will be posted soon.

Ho'ola'i na manu i ke aheahe

"The birds poise quietly in the gentle breeze."
Said of those who are at peace with the world, undisturbed and contented.