Ignorance is bliss, as the old adage goes, and no-one can identify more with this saying than people in the conservation world. After reading In the Pursuit of Solitude, I am tempted to say that no-one knows this better than Adam Cruise.
A couple of years back, Adam was getting antsy with the state of city life and frustrated with Capetonians’ disregard for the nature that surrounds them on the southern tip of South Africa. The idea of them debating the culling of the Cape Peninsula’s baboons instead of embracing the wildlife on their doorstep, for example, was abhorrent and he found himself less and less satisfied with urban life. At the end of his tether, he packed up shop, grabbed his wife and together they headed off into Africa for six months in pursuit of solitude. The idea was to escape the city, reconnect with nature and experience a natural environment untouched by humans.
Within weeks however, the dream was crushed. Everywhere they visited, from remote valleys in Namibia to the seemingly idyllic shores of Lake Malawi, bore the scars of human presence in the form of waste and exploited wildlife. So he changed tack, abandoning his dreams of untouched nature and adopting instead a plan to seek out examples of humans working with the environment instead of against it. He has found this in a few places but his book’s overall tone is one of despair. The earth is in big trouble and humans are the cause.
I found this In the Pursuit of Solitude to be fascinating and incredibly tedious in equal parts. A lot of work has gone into researching the places Cruise visited and the unique issues faced by each one and I often found myself riveted. Who knew that the Lemba tribe in Zimbabwe have ties to Judaism or that there is a concept in Africa called Ukama, in which is person is only regarded as a person in, with and through nature? However, I often felt that the reams of facts and contextual information were included at the expense of the storyline, and it can feel like you’re dipping into a textbook rather than an informative, entertaining travelogue.
If you’re going to read this book, do not expect escapism and don’t try when your brain is winding down. It is not a happy-go-lucky adventure story about Africa, but then I don’t think it was ever intended to be.
In the Pursuit of Solitude by Adam Cruise is available online for R195 from Kalahari, Amazon and Loot or by ordering directly from www.travel-hack.com