Published On: Fri, Apr 4th, 2014

Book: Into The Heart Of The Himalayas

Into The Heart Of The Himalayas, by Jono Lineen.Giving away the end of a book is considered not so much poor form but an indictable offence. Nevertheless, the last few lines of Jono Lineen’s memoir are a potent way to give the reader the essence of his book: ”Every good thought is a prayer.”

This is the conclusion Lineen reaches after an extraordinary odyssey he undertook, walking the length of the Western Himalayas alone, from Pakistan to Nepal. A trip of some 2700 kilometres, he absorbs not only the landscape but the beliefs of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. Across the spine of the world he trekked through jungles, deserts and high alpine areas. At times he climbed to above 5000 metres and on average he would walk eight hours a day. He must have had legs like tree trunks – and lungs like rubber balloons.

Lineen was motivated to make this extraordinary walk not to break any records, but because of grief. His younger brother had died several years earlier and Lineen was still unable to reconcile himself to his loss. As well as reflecting on the people he meets and the wonders of the landscape, both minuscule and grandiose, he casts his mind back to a relationship in which he had played big brother and not always kindly. In his prologue Lineen says that Gareth had taught him many lessons, one of which was that remorse can be the catalyst for great change.

Originally from Belfast and brought up in Canada, Lineen spent eight years unconsciously preparing for his journey. As well as working as a trekking guide in the Himalayas, he studied its languages, religions, culture and politics and eventually came to the conclusion that walking was the way he could fathom his loss. ”Walking became my filter – the goodness I experienced in the Himalayas came to me from the ground up.”

Lessons were learned too from the many people he met along the way – from Pakistani military officers to naked saddhus.

Lineen is now a curator at the National Museum of Australia and this is his third book of travel writing; it feels like a coalescing of the multifarious experiences that preceded it. His voice is as measured as the footsteps he takes; it is informed and intelligent and yet his ideas are as simple as the tea and lentils he ate while hiking. He makes it easy to accept the profoundness of ”every good thought is a prayer”.

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