studies in travel writing

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Clare, Horatio, A Single Swallow:Following An Epic Journey From South Africa To South Wales (London: Chatto & Windus, 2009).

A journey of 6,000 miles across two continents and fourteen countries is nothing to swallows: they do it twice a year. But for a writer and birdwatcher, this is the expedition of a lifetime. By trains, cars, buses, motorbikes, trucks, canoes, planes, one camel and three ships, Horatio Clare followed migrating swallows (Hirundo rustica) from reed beds outside Bloemfontein, where millions roost in February, to a barn in Wales, where a pair nest in May.

From the slums of Cape Town to the palaces of Algiers, through Pygmy villages where pineapples grow wild, to the Gulf of Guinea where the sea blazes with oil flares, A Single Swallow is a journey through the modern world to the tune of an ancient rhythm. It is a story of old empires and modern tribes, of the horrors of power and the wonders of kindness. It includes a witch-doctor's recipe for stewed swallow, explains how to travel without money or a passport, describes a terrifying incident involving three Spanish soldiers and a tiny orange dog, betrays several swallow secrets and proves that Wales exists only because of Ryan Giggs. It also tests the wisdom of an ancient piece of hearsay: the Zulus say that those who follow the swallows never come back . . .

Magical, inspiring, beautifully written with passion and purpose, A Single Swallow is a thrilling book about the intersection of the natural and the human worlds, sending shivers down the spine and lifting the heart.


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Studies in Travel Writing (journal)
Centre for Travel Writing Studies (Nottingham Trent University)

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