The International Writers Magazine
: Travel Book Review

The Desert of Death on Three Wheelers by Antonio Graceffo
ISBN: 1932966374
Gom Publishing
Vanessa Hyde

It may be difficult for us to understand why a successful investment banker from New York, chooses to risk death and danger by crossing the world’s second largest desert. However, when reading Antonio Graceffo’s story, everything starts to become very simple and clear why he'd to do such a thing.

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This is a story of one man’s own challenge, to cross the Taklamakan Desert from North to South alone, although unachieved by men before. It allows us Westerners to gain insight to not only an experience we may never visit or encounter but also types of cultures and people we never imagined could still exist.

What’s appealing about this story by Graceffo is his writing style as being ordinary and informal with snippets of dialogue to assist you in getting the ‘bigger picture’. For a less intellectual but entertaining read this is ideal. Antonio’s genuine character, blatant or funny statements and honest thoughts all provide a fuller engagement with his journey.

Most people love a good story of knowing how a human overcomes something serious or survives danger. This is a story of survival from the extremely high temperatures, constant dehydration and consistent physical pain. This one man isolated, travelling nature’s danger zone, riding miles on a strange impossible to ride three wheeler bike is remarkable.

I became so engrossed in this story, my curious self questioning can this guy really make it? Is it really possible for a human to survive such ordeal? Throughout the journey there are times when he feels as if he can’t go on. By great will power and determination he becomes a hero and completes his mission.

The descriptions given are detailed enough to provide great visual imagery for the reader and therefore makes the reader feel as if they were encountering the journey with Antonio also. The various types of village people which he stumbles upon his journey provide an intriguing aspect to his story. You just never know what type of person he will meet next, some of these people pretty much save his life, and some of the conversation exchanged between them helps the reader gain insight to a completely unfamiliar culture we likely don’t know enough about. It’s very thought provoking meeting these characters in the book because it highlights the extreme different lives we lead. e.g. the Ughyur construction foreman Antonio meets randomly while travelling across the Taklamakan. The foreman earned in a month the equivalent to what a pair of sixty US dollar boots would cost. There are many people which appear in Antonio’s travels which lead very simple lives living on what we would class as nothing, some are not even aware of what a camera is? It really makes you wonder how we are all a part of the same world.

Antonio Graceffo in the desert
I recently emailed Antonio and asked a series of questions referring to his book "The Desert of Death on Three Wheels".

He is currently living in Cambodia, writing articles about families and people living in poverty. He wrote the following to me in response to one of my questions:

"In the west we have no idea of true hopelessness and desperation. Most recently I did a story about sick people gathered in a temple where they believed the monk could cure them. They were desperate and poor and ignorant and uneducated and infecting each other. More than one thousand people living on top of each other in an area about three times the size of a football pitch.
What can I say to sites like these? They sadden me. There is so much humour in a lot of my stories. But that is often my way of dealing with the sadness I saw the previous day."

The Desert of Death on Three Wheels also has an added bonus story, it’s about his trip to Thailand, where he plays for a team in a rather interesting sport called elephant polo. I won’t go into great detail of what happens, or what kind of story to expect but I can guarantee you it is an extremely funny read. Filled to the brim, of course, with Antonio’s witty and comic comments in reflection of his experience. Antonio does actually raise awareness for these elephants by fighting in a boxing match. He is a boxer as well as a writer! It is clear from my response from my online interview with him, that he really does care about the places and people he visits from around the world. He has a very unstable financial income writing about poverty, wars and the corrupt governments he encounters when travelling.

The Desert of Death on Three Wheels is an entertaining great story about a man who is compassionate about people and the places he visits. He converts his travel experience into a story overcoming what may seem the unobtainable. Everybody loves a good story don’t we?
© Vanessa Hyde Nov 2005

Vanessa is a Creative Arts Student at the University of Portsmouth

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