If someone left an anonymous note suggesting you went off to Iran on your motorcycle, would you go? Adventurer Lois Pryce did. And the result is her widely admired travel book Revolutionary Ride – on the road in search of the real Iran, which she will be talking about at the Marlborough LitFest (September 27-30.)
In fact that note was almost an invitation: “I have seen your motorcycle and I think you have travelled to many countries. But I wonder, have you been to my country? That is Iran.”
She’s never found out who wrote the note – would she like to know? “Of course! I would love to know. I am still hoping…”
Revolutionary Ride is her third ‘travel memoir’ – following Lois on the Loose (her ride from Alaska to Argentina) and Red Tape and White Knuckles (London to Cape Town via some Angolan minefields.) She’s been named by the Daily Telegraph one of the ten great female travellers and now makes her living as an author and travel writer – not, she says, what you might describe as a ‘normal’ job.
Her love of the open road began when she – aged thirteen – and three school friends went on a cycle ride round Cornwall. Her first motorcycle was a 1959 BSA Bantam: “It barely worked so it didn’t take me very far at all. I rode it to work – and then it wouldn’t start, so it didn’t even get me home again.”
It’s obvious she was not at all put off by that experience! Marlborough.news asked if she and her motorbike travel alone:
“Not all the time. My husband has ridden around the world twice, so we did our honeymoon together on bikes (around Western & Eastern Europe) and various other shorter trips together, but my long-distance trips that have been the subjects of my books, have been solo.”
How hard is it, we asked, to turn your adventures into books? “I write longhand in my diary every night while travelling, no matter how tired/cold/wet/hungry etc. I find myself at the end of the day.”
“It’s important to get it down at the time. You think you will remember things, but you quickly forget the details, and it’s crucial to recall your feelings while they are still raw.”
She says her ride in Iran was endlessly surprising. What in particular changed your mind about the country and Islam?
“Not so much a specific incident, just the realisation as I travelled around and met people and spent time among the Iranians, that we have been fed (by the British mainstream media) a very skewed version of the Middle East, the Muslim world, and in particular, Iran.”
Our interview with Lois was slightly delayed as she took off on a road trip to Portugal – she really does love travelling! After your recent road trip, what is your next adventure likely to be? When do you think you might stop going on these two-wheeled adventures?
“I don’t always travel by bike, but I’m sure I will always want to explore the world in some form or another. I recently did a long distance walk in the Sinai desert.”
“My recent road trip to Portugal was just an impulsive car journey, and I love boats too, so am always seeking out watery journeys and I am planning to learn to sail. I am off to Jamaica this winter so that’s the next adventure.”
Revolutionary Road begins with a quotation from inveterate traveller Freya Stark: “I have no reason to go, except that I have never been, and knowledge is better than ignorance. What better reason could there be for travelling?” Precisely.
Lois has recently contributed to an anthology of travel stories Kindness of Strangers – all royalties from the sale of this book go directly to fund Oxfam’s work with refugees. Lois Pryce will be at Marlborough Town Hall on Sunday, September 30 at 1.30pm.
Photos are from Lois Pryce’s website – with our thanks.
Marlborough LitFest tickets are available: in person at The White Horse Bookshop, Marlborough High Street (cash or cheque only – from 9am). By phone to Pound Arts – 01249 701628 or 01249 712618 (from 10am). And online at Pound Arts