In 1973, Terry Dwyer left his dead-end job to take the journey of a lifetime, earning passage from Australia to Asia and then overland along the “hippie trail” to Europe. The Trail is his engaging travelogue, introducing readers to fellow travelers and taking them along as he encounters holy monkeys, winged cobras, treacherous Thai “ladyboys” and angry border guards.
Dwyer serves as the reader’s eyes and ears, providing vivid descriptions of each location and adding just enough economic, historical or cultural context to bring the setting to life. In good literary form, his tale builds to a dramatic climax in which he is stranded for a week in Syria after Israeli air raids on Damascus. (Though Dwyer never mentions the Yom Kippur War, the timing coincides with that conflict.)
Yet in the storytelling, Dwyer makes two unfortunate mistakes. With the exception of the opening scenario, The Trail reads as though it were written chronologically, beginning with his dream of this adventure in Sydney and ending with his return. Unfortunately, the opening discusses his front row seat to the bombing raids, and he spends the next hundred pages building back up to that climax — at which time the story switches abruptly to Turkey. By neglecting to revisit the Syrian experience here, Dwyer fails to mine some rich material, and the sudden time jump feels jarring.
Dwyer’s second mistake is at the conclusion. After surviving wars, Khyber Pass smugglers and New Delhi belly, Dwyer arrives safely in Greece and makes a beeline through Europe to London. He ends with a one-page farewell rather than lingering to share lessons learned during this pilgrimage.
A few smaller issues detract from Dwyer’s storytelling: He randomly drifts between present and past tense and fails to include a map — almost a necessity when writing about places as obscure as Portuguese Timor, Aleppo and Amritsar.
Despite its flaws, The Trail is a well-told tale, a page-turner in the best sense. Readers will find much to appreciate here.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.