Countries ending in stan
December 16th, 2017
Not very many first-time authors get blurbage from the likes of Pico Iyer (“It’s a modern classic.”) and Barry Lopez, but then not very many can claim they live off the grid, outside of Atlin, on the Yukon border. Kate Harris has degrees in science from MIT and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and in the history of science from Oxford, where she studied as a Rhodes scholar, but the fuss for Harris’ book, Lands of Lost Borders (Knopf 2018 / $29.95), arises from a 2011 bicycle trip she made along the Silk Road in Asia accompanied by her childhood friend Mel(issa) Yule. Initially the pair had cycled through Western China for four months in 2006.
A film Cycling Silk documents their ten months, ten countries and ten thousand kilometres via pedal power through remote parts of Asia in 2011. Avoiding land mines, rock slides and prostrate pilgrims, they have pedalled in Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan (the poorest ‘stan’ of them all), Kyryzstan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Tibet and China. To enter Tibet, they disguised themselves as androgynous Chinese cyclists. The catchline is: she has knack for getting lost. Along the way Harris has been found by an international publishing consortium and named one of Canada’s top modern-day explorers. Harris reports on UN environmental negotiations for the International Institute for Sustainable Development and has had her nature/travel pieces published in The Walrus, Canadian Geographic Travel, Sidetracked and The Georgia Review, and cited in Best American Essays and Best American Travel Writing. 9780345816771
[author photo by Piia Kortsalo]