W.E. Welbourne, a retired, peripatetic Australian, spent the first four months of 2013 circumnavigating South America on the MV Voyager with his companion Avril, visiting 46 ports in 24 countries, including some inside Brazil via the Amazon River. He organized this dense record of the trip chronologically, and heads each entry with the date and travelers’ location.
Our diarist is energetic and curious, and supplements each day’s detailed record of activities with facts about the places he visits, gleaned from tour guides, written materials and websites (cited in the back, next to an index). He offers personal information, as well, such as his propensity to doze off and snore, requiring Avril to nudge him, and how the couple’s dancing chops impress their fellow travelers.
On one hand, the book offers a glimpse of a rarified world of high-end travel and exotic locales most of us will never experience, illustrated with the author’s sharp color snapshots. The ship’s 400 passengers are treated to entertainment, classes, games— not to mention relentless meals and drinks, rigorously recorded here.
On the other hand, the text is overly detailed. (Do we really need to know what time Bill and Avril wake up, and which songs the onboard musicians perform?) And the author often shows a Western bias that emphasizes colonial conquest, such as “Fortaleza, Brazil’s history began in 1500,” often ignoring the rich history of the continent’s indigenous people. This tone-deafness is occasionally shocking, such as when an onboard lecturer predicts climate change will bring “more hurricanes, increasing drought, wildfires and melting ice” but Welbourne remarks that, on a bright note, “the weather pattern suggests opportunities for new wine growing areas.”
“Another day passes in paradise,” Welbourne remarks, a day after leaving Rio de Janeiro, summing up the book’s tone. While few are likely to read this book cover to cover, armchair travelers may enjoy dipping in and out of the book to read about specific locales they’re interested in.
Also available in hardcover.