The Happy Isles of Oceania

The Happy Isles of Oceania

Paddling the Pacific

Book - 1992
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Baker & Taylor
The author of The Mosquito Coast recounts his journey to the islands of the Pacific, describing the people, landscape, and wildlife he encounters in New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Fiji. 100,000 first printing. $90,000 ad/promo.

Blackwell North Amer
Paul Theroux's journeys have taken readers to the ends of the earth and back again--across China in Riding the Iron Rooster, deep into the Americas in The Old Patagonian Express, through Europe and Asia in The Great Railway Bazaar. Now Theroux launches his most exotic and tantalizing adventure yet, as he kayaks the shimmering Pacific from island to island, exploring its surfy coasts and blue lagoons, and taking up residence to discover the secrets of these happy isles.
Theroux compares the vast Pacific to the universe: each island like a distant star, each archipelago like a galaxy. His travels begin in what he calls "Meganesia": the great islands of New Zealand, where he walks the mountain trails of the Fiordland wilderness; and Australia, where he hikes the red ranges around Alice Springs ("Oceania after someone has pulled the plug") and camps among crocodiles and wild pigs on an Aboriginal reserve. Then, traveling with his collapsible kayak, Theroux lives among the Trobriand Islanders of New Guinea, and discovers the truth about their fabled sexual lives. From there, via the megapode egg-diggers of the Solomon Islands and the cargo cults of Vanuatu, he proceeds to Melanesian Fiji and Polynesian Tonga, where he is granted an audience with King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV. After living a Robinson Crusoe fantasy on a desert island, Theroux continues under tropical skies to Samoa, the Cook Islands, Tahiti, the Marquesas, and the last points on the Polynesian triangle: Easter Island and the paradise of Hawaii.
A mesmerizing narrator--brilliant, witty, and keenly perceptive--Paul Theroux enters a Gauguin painting, sails in the wake of Captain Cook, recalls the bewitching tales of Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson, and we follow. Alone in his kayak, paddling to seldom visited shores, he glides through time and space, discovering a world of islands, their remarkable people, and in turn, happiness.

& Taylor

The author recounts his journey to the islands of the Pacific, describing the people, landscape, and wildlife he encountered in New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Fiji

Publisher: New York : Putnam, c1992.
ISBN: 9780399137266
Branch Call Number: 919.504 THE
Characteristics: 528 p. ; 25 cm.


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Jun 16, 2018

This book is really long. It took me over a month to read it as it was my bedtime story reading and I conked out fast after a long day. He doesn't paddle across the Pacific like the ancient Polynesians which he has no end of praise and admiration for or Kon-Tiki which he disparagages. He takes an airplane for the most part though he does a lot of paddling from island to island that are closer together I think eight miles was about the furthest he paddles in one streatch. He really slams Thor Heyerdahl and thinks he's a complete crackpot. He spends a lot of time critisising France and the US for nuclear testing on the islands as well as oppressing the islanders. He never gets tired of critising the Japanese though he finally meets a Japanese archaeologist he likes.
He just writes what ever opinion he happens to have no matter how politically incorrect and much of it borders on racism.
On one island he encourages natives that still carve wooden paddles to make double bladed paddles like his kayak paddle; but he records on two seperate occasions and I suspect it happened to him more than twice that his paddles scooped jellyfish tenticles out of the water which then slide down his paddle on the next stroke stinging his arm. This naturally makes me think that the double bladed kayak paddle is not a good idea in tropical waters.
He quotes a lot from histroical writers and adventurers that had traveled through the places he was visting I found this enjoyable and interesting.
Professional Pirgrim's comments below are very good.

One of the best (of over 100) travel books I have read. Theroux explores much of Melanesia (including parts of Australia, which was 100% Melanesian until the 1770s), and most of the Polynesian Triangle (from New Zealand, to Easter Island, to Hawai'i). Often an intensely personal memoir, it was fascinating to get into the author's head, and become privy to his perspective on some 50 different islands, scattered all over the ocean. (I wish he had also gone to Micronesia: the Marianas, Carolines, and Marshalls, as well as Nauru and Tuvalu.) Readers should be aware that he was travelling in 1990, and much has changed since that time, some things for the worse; some for the better. For example, Port Moresby (capital of Papua New Guinea) and Honiara (capital of the Solomon Islands) are not as bad as he depicts them. Yes, there is danger and dirt in both places, but I was there in January, 2018, and, as long as you exercise a reasonable degree of caution, and pay close attention to local advice regarding safety, you will be safe.

Jul 20, 2015

What a wonderful read! Written in l991, this book is an adventure and a history of all the cultures of the Pacific islands. I felt like I was on vacation and was sad when it was over. It was so much better than going the tourist route.

Aug 13, 2013

I really enjoyed reading this before travelling to New Zealand. Though most of the book is not about that country, I learned so much more - about the people who occupy the many South Pacific Islands of Polynesia. Fascinating and enjoyable reading. The author's habit of pulling out his odd collapsible kayak in many of the out of the way places he visited was sure to attract the attention of locals including the kids.


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