Step this way

Ideal des­ti­na­tions for lit­er­ary-minded trav­ellers

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - BRIAN TURNER


In 1841, aged 22, Her­man Melville signed on as a sea­man aboard the Yankee whaler Acush­net and 18 months later he and ship­mate Toby Greene jumped ship on the tran­scen­den­tally beau­ti­ful is­land of Nuku Hiva, in the Mar­que­sas Is­lands in to­day’s French Poly­ne­sia and as re­mote from a con­ti­nen­tal land­mass as it’s pos­si­ble to be.

Mes­merised by Nuku Hiva’s beauty, and the beck­on­ing, smil­ing women at­tired in their “garb of Eden”, the in­sou­ciant Melville trekked in­land to the Taip­i­vai Val­ley (immortalised as Typee in his future novel) where he spent sev­eral months be­fore be­ing res­cued by the Aus­tralian whaler Lucy Anne.

Typee, based on his ad­ven­ture, ap­peared in 1846 and sold well, un­like his 1851 mas­ter­piece Moby Dick, which lan­guished un­recog­nised until re­dis­cov­ered and reap­praised in the 1920s. Young Melville legged the rugged 20km to Taip­i­vai Val­ley and to­day’s pil­grims can do the same while rel­ish­ing stu­pen­dous scenery, mas­sive pet­ro­glyphs and lunch at a Taip­i­vai guest­house. The freighter and pas­sen­ger ship Aranui 5 sails out of Papeete on reg­u­lar 14-day voy­ages to Nuku Hiva and other is­lands of the Mar­que­sas. More: SHIPBOARD READ­ING: Typee and Ju­dith Scha­lan­sky’s At­las of Re­mote Is­lands.


This is not for soft­ies, es­pe­cially while wear­ing im­pro­vised ar­mour with a bar­ber’s basin for a hel­met and sub­sist­ing on stale bread and cheese.

To cel­e­brate the 401st an­niver­sary of Miguel Cer­vantes’s Don Quixote, sally forth from Madrid in your hire car (dubbed Roci­nante of course) well stocked with “hon­est Manchegan wine” and ac­com­pa­nied by a tol­er­ant and worldly com­pan­ion to drive and hike across the windswept wind­mill-topped landscape of La Man­cha. Cer­vantes in­vented the mod­ern novel but was rather vague on pla­ce­names, ex­cept for El To­boso, the village of the Don’s la­dylove Dul­cinea.

De­spite San­cho’s coun­sel against read­ing too many books, visit Madrid’s Span­ish Na­tional Li­brary’s sub­lime col­lec­tion of Cer­vantes’s mas­ter­piece. Last year, quixot­i­cally, on the 400th an­niver­sary of the pub­li­ca­tion of the sec­ond vol­ume of his tragi­comic novel, the Span­ish be­lieve they lo­cated his fi­nal rest­ing place, in Madrid’s walled Con­vent of the Bare­foot Trini­tar­ian nuns. More: BED­SIDE READ­ING: Mon­signor Quixote, Gra­ham Greene’s ac­co­lade to Cer­vantes. Village priest Father Quixote, a de­scen­dant of the Don, is pro­moted to mon­signor by a wine-ad­dled bishop; he and the village’s de­posed com­mu­nist mayor San­cho em­bark on a road trip through post-Franco Spain. Or, do as Wil­liam Faulkner did and re-read Don Quixote an­nu­ally.


In Jan­uary, 1836, “be­fore a light morn­ing air”, HMS Bea­gle sailed into Syd­ney Har­bour with the young “sci­en­tific-per­son” Charles Dar­win on deck ad­mir­ing its glit­ter­ing beauty. Four days later he and a guide set off on horse­back to cross the Blue Moun­tains west of Syd­ney to Bathurst and on the sec­ond day teth­ered their horses at the Weath­er­board Inn at Went­worth Falls. A pas­sion­ate ge­ol­o­gist, Dar­win de­cided to take an af­ter­noon walk to view the rim of the Jami­son Val­ley and wrote: “Fol­low­ing down a lit­tle val­ley and its tiny rill of water, an im­mense gulf un­ex­pect­edly opens … walking on a few yards, one stands on the brink of a vast precipice … show­ing head­land behind head­land, as on a bold sea­coast.”

Evo­lu­tion­ist pil­grims and lapsed cre­ation­ists can fol­low in his foot­steps down Charles Dar­win Walk from Wil­son Park (south of the high­way) and along Jami­son Creek, which with a sud­den flour­ish re­veals the same sub­lime view that as­ton­ished the young cler­gy­man.

A few days later after study­ing a platy­pus he di­arised a hereti­cal thought, which would even­tu­ally lead to his the­ory of evo­lu­tion: “An un­be­liever in ev­ery­thing beyond his own rea­son might ex­claim ‘Surely two dis­tinct Creators must have been [at] work’. ”

The Weath­er­board Inn’s site is in nearby Pitt Park. Hard­core cre­ation­ists have erased the satanic evo­lu­tion­ist’s name from its com­mem­o­ra­tive plaque but a fence pro­tects the English oak planted on the 1936 cen­te­nary of Dar­win’s visit. As the Bea­gle de­parted Aus­tralia, he recorded his feel­ings, “Farewell, Aus­tralia! … I leave your shores with­out sor­row or re­gret.” Re­cently, how­ever, Dar­win’s great, great grand­son Chris has set­tled with his fam­ily on a tran­quil Blue Moun­tains bush block and con­ducts bush­walks. More: chris­dar­win@big­; dar­win­sun­fin­ished­busi­ ON-THE-ROAD READ­ING: Charles Dar­win in Aus­tralia by FW & JM Ni­cholas draws on Dar­win’s di­aries, field notes and pub­li­ca­tions.


Paris’s most poignant lit­er­ary walk is to fol­low the way of the tum­brels of the con­demned, from the glow­er­ing Concierg­erie pri­son to the guil­lo­tine, as heart-stop­pingly por­trayed in the fi­nal chap­ter of Charles Dick­ens’s tran­scen­dent novel A Tale of Two Cities. Dissolute Lon­don lawyer Syd­ney Car­ton has switched places with the con­demned Charles Dar­nay and as the tum­brels roll Car­ton holds the hand of the ter­ri­fied young seam­stress who recog­nises he is vol­un­tar­ily dy­ing in place of Dar­nay.

At Cour de Mai, by the Concierg­erie en Ile de la Cite, you are stand­ing where the six tum­brels de­parted with “the day’s wine” to quench the guil­lo­tine’s in­sa­tiable thirst. Cross the River Seine’s Pont au Change, turn left along Quai de la Megis­serie, right on to Rue de la Mon­naie, cross Rue de Rivoli into Rue du Roule and left into Rue Saint-Honore. Above the mod­ish bou­tiques are win-

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