Author: Alexander Frater
By ‘Torrid Zone’, Frater refers to the tropics. Alexander Frater, born in the French Polynesian island of Vanuatu, revisits the island to see many changes in the place where he grew up as a kid. The land where his father’s home stood was replaced by a plush resort occupied by rich Australians, but the mission hospital built by his father remained. People of Vanuatu lived better, had started living in a more modern way of life, converted to Christianity and yet, there were many things in their society that intrigued Frater. The story that starts as a mere visit to the place where he spent his childhood grows into gigantic travelogue of entire tropics, covering Polynesia, Asia, Africa and South America. He visits many islands, lagoons and atolls, and even volcanoes in the tiny islands of Polynesia. He extends this story to more amazing journeys, like cruising down the Irrawadi River in Burma for several days by a mass transit boat, or taking a luxury liner and sailing up the Amazon – some privileges entitled to a person who is travel writer by profession! There are much more, like taking a small plane to some unknown war torn region in Africa or visiting many islands north of Australia. He occasionally blends his story with history, inserting names Captain Cook who discovered Polynesia on his search fo Australia, or adds some learnings about how a perennial rivers get formed. The variety of information and stories in the book are vast and sometimes feels like a jumble. For aspiring travel writers, the book is even a realization that all is not as easy and thrilling as it looks. But Frater’s stories are as exciting as it could get, and is a must read.
The cover of the book probably features the backwaters of Kerala, but don’t assume any related stories in the book. India hardly figures anywhere in the book but Frater has written a separate book entirely on India – Chasing the monsoons.