I need to be upfront here and say that this book was one of the most enjoyable non fiction reads I have come across for a while. Surprisingly enough the author, Liz Byron, comes from a background that is more academic based.
The Only Way Home is Liz’s story of her 2,500 km journey on the 5,300 km Bicentennial National Trail (BNT) undertaken in 2004. As Australia’s longest designated shared trail, her story would not be too unusual until you realise she did her trip with the assistance of two donkeys who acted as her pack animals.
There were a number of key things that really endeared this book to me. Liz’s use of words in detailing her story were well done. The retelling of her trip provides enough detail to let you know what is happening without being excessive. Liz also provides good context into why she undertook this trip. In fact when I interviewed her for the Australian Hiker Podcast episode 150 (to be released on 3 June 2020) she said that this book really tells three stories. The preparation, the trip itself and her backstory, that all intertwine in a way that make sense and fit well together.
One of the things that really interested me were the donkeys, Grace and Charley, who seemed to be just as much a part of this story as Liz herself. I found myself wanting to find out as much as I could about this partnership, and it was very apparent that it was a relationship not a domination. Liz provides some very quirky stories that leave no doubt the donkeys, and in particular, Grace and Charley, are highly intelligent, have their own personalities and are capable of so much more than most people would ever have thought.
The Bicentennial National Trail provides the backdrop for this story but in all honesty it’s the people, Liz’s relationship with Grace and Charley, and a well told story that make this book a great read – one that will interest people even if they aren’t into hiking.
Chapter 1 DONKEYS Bungendore
Chapter 2 SETTING OUT Bungendore to Cooktown
Chapter 3 SETTLING IN Cooktown to Wujal Wujal
Chapter 4 POWERING ON Wujal Wujal to Julatten
Chapter 5 NO MORE FAIRY TALES Julatten to Mount Molloy
Chapter 6 NEW HORIZONS Mount Molloy to Mutchilba
Chapter 7 THE WAY THROUGH Mutchilba to Innot Hot Springs
Chapter 8 ARE WE THERE YET? Innot Hot Springs to Uramo Station
Chapter 9 DETOUR Road to Uramo Station
Chapter 10 EXPOSED Uramo Station to Yammanie Station
Chapter 11 UNRAVELLING Yammanie Station to Mingela
Chapter 12 GRACE Mingela to New Hidden Valley Station
Chapter 13 MOVING ON ew Hidden Valley Station to Tierawoomba Station
Chapter 14 RECONNECTING Tierawoomba Station
Chapter 15 THE WANDERER Tierawoomba Station to Gracemere
Chapter 16 STRAYS AND ANGELS At Gracemere
Chapter 17 HERE I AM Gracemere to Wallably Station
Chapter 18 TIME TO GO HOME Wallaby Station to Mount Perry and Beyond
Devote six years to your work, but in the seventh, go into solitude or among strangers. So that your friends, by remembering what you were, do not prevent you from being what you have become.
Leo Szilard (1898-1964
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The Only Way Home cover
Liz Byron and her two donkeys, Grace and Charley
This review was done with product provided to Australian Hiker