The above sentence encapsulates so much about the culture clash which is explored in Hidden Tiger, Raging Mountain. This short book acts as a kind of codicil for readers of ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ in which a woman of mature years takes a form of ‘gap year’. This time she has only a month in Nepal as opposed to the months she spent travelling five years earlier.
I loved this book as much as I loved ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ and Jo Carroll always leaves me wanting more… and more… and more… In Jo, I have found someone to do my travelling for me and I look forward to her next ‘adventure.’ What was interesting to me in both the earlier book (and again in this one) is Jo’s personal perspective. Many people travel in order to ‘find themselves’ but Jo knows who she is. She advocates that ‘travelling is meeting people, rubbing beneath the tourist surface and connecting with life as it is really lived’
Certainly the strength and to my mind, uniqueness of Jo’s narratives are the personal exploration and connections with real people. There is a sense of frustration (for writer and at times for reader) that in this trip it was difficult for Jo to transcend the role of tourist and fully inhabit the role of traveller. The time constraints of her trip work against her as does the emotional pull of home and grandchildren.
Previously Jo Caroll was able to take her time to acclimatise. It’s possible this time (she as good as admits it herself) she thought she was a ‘seasoned traveller’ with less to learn. But five years changes both places and people. Certainty is reserved for tourists who only scrape the surface of the culture they visit and Jo realises all too soon that in reality places, people and cultures are constantly changing and that it’s impossible to ‘be prepared.’
Hidden Tiger, Raging Mountain is a real journey of extremes both physically and emotionally. She undertakes trekking and has ‘adventures’ aplenty, albeit somewhat small adventures – a few days in the foothills of the Himalayas, and exposure to cyclones, storms and dangerous driving. The stories are delivered with trademark deprecating humour and honesty. They are real, human sized adventures.
The observations in the narrative also offer an interesting perspective on how technological, political and cultural changes impact upon the ordinary person. One thing is certain, the Nepal Jo visited five years previously was markedly different from the one she writes about in this book and doubtless it will be so again in another five years. While Nepal is in some senses more ‘stable’ and Westernised, there is a desperate mismatch between expectation and reality and there is more underlying insecurity and danger than she imagined, revealed at every turn. The metaphorical hidden tiger, raging mountain of the title are every bit as important as the ‘real’ hidden tiger and raging mountain. Engaging with this duality is what marks the traveller from the tourist.
In this story, as well as time constraints, Jo now has the constant emotional pull towards home of grandchildren. To that extent she is perhaps hoist with her own petard. She writes such funny and compelling memoirs that the reader wants more and more – and yet she has a life which goes far beyond that of being a traveller, or a travel writer. In this trip I feel she felt the dilemma. I don’t know how she will resolve it but I hope she does. I hope Jo does keep travelling. Real travel where she has the time to embed and acclimatise to the places and the people she visits. And record and reflect upon them for the rest of us. Because I want to read more of her travels. For what it’s worth Jo, I’m sure your grandchildren will forgive your wanderlust – especially if you bring them back exotic presents.
Hidden Tiger, Raging Mountain is available in Kindle format
Find out more about Jo Carroll