The Road to Zagora
When Richard Collins was diagnosed with a progressive incurable disease in 2006 he decided to see as much of the world as he could while his condition allowed. The result is The Road to Zagora, a singular travel book which takes in India, Nepal, Turkey, Morocco, Peru, Ecuador and Wales. ‘Mr Parkinson’, as Collins refers to his condition, informs the narrative.
As inveterate walkers Collins and his partner Flic decided to continue to travel ‘close to the land’ post diagnosis, leaving the tourist trails and visiting places of extremes: the Himalayas, rainforests, deserts. The difficulties of rough terrain, altitude, extremes of climate for a person with Collins’ condition are an ongoing strand of his narrative; occasionally they cannot be overcome and Collins is forced to consider the frailties of the human body in passages of moving contemplation.
The Road to Zagora also includes an element of memoir, as Parkinson’s Disease also causes Collins to reflect on his life, and in particular on his relationship with Flic. There are moments of great charm as their relationship evolves, and also the drama of previous serious illnesses. These recollections of pre-diagnosis life have the wistfulness of hindsight as Collins considers what constitutes a life well lived.
Yet any sentiment or self-pity is denied through Collins’s resolute and independent- mindedness and the quality of writing. In the travel passages the readers experiences the sheer physicality of Collins’ expeditions, along with his novelist’s eye for telling local detail. In the sequences of memoir the writing is humane, compassionate and quite often comic. The Road to Zagora is a memorable journey around the world, and the self.