According to the Urban Dictionary “Going Postal” was originally coined from a series of real life shootings in the US postal service. It now usually means that someone is about to go nuts or off the deep end so it’s an apt name for this autobiographical account of travelling from Sydney to London on a whim with an old postie bike and little gear or money.
The journey was undertaken on an underpowered decommissioned Australia Post honda bike and I think it’s fair to say that the author Nathan Millward made an impetuous and extremely reckless decision to go on this trip with less than even the bare minimum of equipment.
When Nathan Millward learns that he has just twenty days to leave Australia before his visa expires, he has a choice to make: fly home to England on the return ticket he already has, or set off on the adventure of a lifetime riding a decommissioned Australia Post bike across the world.
Reading this book is a like a bare knuckle ride and feels fittingly raw and emotional. Don’t expect the gentleness and deep cultural insights of Australian adventurer Tim Cope’s recent TV series On the Trail of Genghis Khan.
Luckily for Nathan the laptop and SLR camera he took with him earnt their keep because ABC Books offered him an advance cash payment for a book deal to tell his story at exactly the same time he had run out of money again and was contemplating quitting.
Cats are supposed to have 9 lives but Nathan must have used up the life equivalence of several cats. On many occasions his safety and wellbeing depended totally on the kindness of strangers who take pity on him and gave him food, shelter and much needed equipment.
His postie bike Dot never says die despite being pushed far beyond it’s capabilities eg travelling along the Karakoram Highway (highest international paved road in world) which connects Pakistan with China, without it he would’ve been toast.
The only reason he survived is because it was built simply and to be rugged enough to last in Australia’s wildly varying landscape and climatic conditions. It’s a testament to the engineers at Honda.
Dot is mentioned so often it becomes anthropomorphized (almost like a travelling companion person) and at times I felt more empathy towards it than the author.
Nathan uses a pseudonym for his Australian girlfriend’s name which is understandable but also doesn’t really tell us much about his background and the experiences which shaped his character, these would have helped to understand him and his motives better.
It seems amazing but its true that despite all the risks he took Nathan ended up OK in the end and wasn’t physically attacked by anyone or hurt when travelling through areas of extreme poverty or near where civil wars and unrest were occurring.
In comparison Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who signed Nathan’s helmet at the beginning of the trip was metaphorically “knifed” and deposed by his own party several months before this book was published.
Perhaps being a political leader is more dangerous than traveling through the world almost permanently on the edge of disaster.