A pretty compelling blog post title, if I do say so myself. It is deliberately so, as the Kindle book I just finished is just that – compelling.
Normally, when one reads a book about bike touring, it is an adventure of discovery about new places, people, and cultures. To a certain extent, Back to Angola, A Journey From War to Peace, was a voyage of discovery too, but with a much darker tone. In this case, author Paul Morris, was searching for truth and reconciliation in Angola 25 years after fighting there as a South African Defence Force (SADF) soldier in the South African Border War. He decided to do this by riding his bicycle to and through areas where his unit had fought a quarter-century prior.
This poignant book travels to and fro in time from his childhood in Cape Town, to the present day bicycle trip across the southern third of Angola, to the terrors of the battlefield, and then back again. It is an eye-opening account that will send shivers down your spine, especially if you have never been subject to an armed attack on the ground or from the air. It also is a cathartic rite of passage for Mr. Morris, as he rediscovers his humanity through meeting the people he once fought against. He also finds that he really likes the people of Angola.
Here are a few brief quotes from Back to Angola:
“I’m back now, in the country that represents my shadow side. A place that signifies the blackest depths to which humankind can plunge: war. It has taken me twenty-five years and five continents of travelling to find my way back here.”
“After what I had experienced in Angola, every day was a bonus.”
“Oh, I like people as individuals, it’s people-plural that I hate.”
“…behind every war story lurks a string of nightmares.”
“Bittersweet. What a name for an army base.”
“I understand how anxiety becomes fear and then escalates into terror.”
“The mines keep fighting like a lost regiment, not knowing that the war is long over.”
“People are resilient. The buzz of life in this village is testament to that.”
“War is confusion. You often don’t know what happened until you’ve read the book.”
“Men with unchallenged and uncontrolled power, I think; bullies of the most dangerous kind.”
I highly recommend this engaging book because it will provide great insights to reader of what the average grunt soldier suffers through at the beck and call (and disposal) of others higher up in the chain of command. It was not like the author had much choice, given the option of two years in the army or many more years caged away in a South African prison.
As the nation of South Africa so clearly demonstrated, you can find truth and reconciliation following many years under the ugly heel of apartheid. Fortunately for Mr. Morris, individual citizens who had nothing to do with oppressive policies could do the same. His excellent book is testament to the strength and rebirth of the human spirit. Cheers!
p.s. This important book by Paul Morris highlights the dangerous, tedious, and impressive efforts of the Halo Trust to rid the world of the scourge of land mines. It certainly lead me to make a contribution to this very worthy cause. Please consider doing the same. Thanks!