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Barbed Wire & Babushkas

UK Publisher: Virgin Books

Sir Ranulph Fiennes
‘A great adventure and a very entertaining read’

For years they’d dreamed of packing in their day jobs and travelling one of the world’s great rivers, so long as it was somewhere warm. Siberia seemed like the obvious choice….

Starting from high in the mountains of northern Mongolia, author Paul Grogan and travelling companion Richard Boddington set out to make the first source-to-sea descent of Siberia’s 4,400km Amur River, known in China as The Black Dragon. After wading upstream for five days to reach the source, they begin their epic, four-month journey knowing virtually nothing about the region they’ll be travelling through, or even where they’ll be able to find food along the way.

One of the few things they do know about the river is that for almost 2000km it forms the long-disputed border between Russia and China; the scene of armed conflict right up until the late 1980s, it’s still considered off-limits, even to Russians. Never sure if they’ll be able to continue around the next corner, the pair face guns, gunboats and arrest at every turn, and are forbidden to even set foot in Chinese territory.

But beyond this façade of military might, they find a generous, warm-hearted people with a wicked sense of humour and an unhealthy predilection for poetry, pig fat and home-made vodka. With sun, saunas and dancing girls also high on the agenda, they soon find themselves swept along by the life of the river, and the occasional 4 a.m. flood.