Peter Allison’s sparkling new book, Don’t Look Behind You, But. . . is a companion to his first foray in travel writing, Whatever You Do, Don’t Run. Both books recount his adventures as an African safari guide.
These are campfire tales of the best kind: rollicking, often ridiculous, terrifyingly funny yarns. There’s the one about the amorous rhino smitten with the safari jeep full of startled travelers. And the one where Allison loses sight of two tourists in the Namibian desert. And the time he feels a tickle only to discover a rhombic night adder (the slowest moving of snakes) crossing his foot. Allison is a terrible driver who regularly gets lost. The batteries of his torch fail in the worst moments. He’s afraid of heights and forgets important warnings, which, in one situation, puts him in a field of landmines.
The voice of the hapless hero is fun, but beyond the hilarity, Allison touches on issues of great seriousness. He shows the heartbreaking—but correct—practice of non-interference in the lives of the animals the guides have grown to love. He gives us glimpses of gorgeous habitats that are diminishing at a stunning rate. The guides are constantly dismantling poachers’ snares. On every page, Allison’s deep love of the continent and the rare wildlife that populates it shines through.
Don’t Look Behind You, But. . . is an engaging, fast-paced romp. For anyone who’s ever been on safari, this book will stir your memories. For anyone who’s ever wanted to go, it may be just the encouragement you need to finally get there.
Review first published in The Courier-Mail in September 2009.