On a 6,000-mile bicycle journey along the Silk Road, the author explored the notion of wildness – the Earth’s and her own
When Kate Harris was a child, her Pony Club instructor told her: “Throw your heart over the fence, and the rest of you will follow. Hopefully the horse and saddle, too.” A decade later, Harris would recall this advice on a moonless night in western China, as she and her friend Mel Yule were riding – on bicycles, not ponies – towards Tibet. Dressed in black with tape over their reflectors, the pair were attempting to slip through the checkpoint undetected to avoid paying for permits that would subsidise China’s occupation of Tibet. As a guard scanned his torch near their hiding spots, Harris contemplated the prospect of life in a Chinese prison – but he eventually drove off, and Harris and Yule rode like the wind towards the Tibetan Plateau, as “fear exhausted itself into euphoria”.
So begins Harris’s debut, Land of Lost Borders, a book Colin Thubron has called “a hymn to the pure love of travel”. That trip in 2006 inspired the pair to launch themselves five years later on a far more epic adventure: a 10-month, 6,000-mile bike ride along the Silk Road, from Turkey to Tibet, then on to India, during which they were sustained at times by little more than instant noodles, instant coffee and the generosity of strangers.