While the genre nowadays bleeds into everything from nature to food writing, plenty of straight-up travel literature – that is writing as a journey of discovery – thankfully, still gets published. While the internet and mass-tourism have both been said to threaten the genre, they have not – as yet – worn it down entirely.
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent’s new book, the evocatively titled Land of the Dawn-Lit Mountains, is a plucky and stimulating read. Exploring India’s most forgotten corner, Arunachal Pradesh in the far northeast, we are promised access to a world where shamans ‘fly through the night’, where tribes still live in tight-knit communities (just) and where even yetis may tread. And, because the writing is honest, and the emotional and physical challenges are laid bare, we get to really travel by proxy.
We are reminded how tough it can be to travel solo, how bowels, bites and bugs – and nips of ‘dam dum’ flies – can wear you down and the general emotional drain of diving under the surface of places less-known and exploring their challenges, in this case missionaries destroying tribal cultures, the loss of traditions, poverty, the challenges of globalisation. And, as with all good travel writing, here you really do feel the sweat and the pain, but also the hope of travel.
As Bolingbroke-Kent puts it, there are those glorious moments where you really do feel, if even for a moment, that you are ‘walking away from the past and into a brighter future.’