Mark Eveleigh, Author . Lonely Planet $12.99 (221p) ISBN 978-1-86450-329-6

Travel writer Eveleigh's account of his journeys through the "great red island"—as it was termed by Marco Polo, its first European visitor—is a remarkable and essential look at "a country where daily life is governed by supernatural powers." In an attempt to understand the place, Eveleigh buys a pack bull and sets out on a 2,200-kilometer, three-month trek down the western edge of the world's fourth largest island. His journey is inspired by legends of the Vazimba people, a perhaps apocryphal tribe of supernatural white pygmies—invisible in some stories, telepathic in others. Not surprisingly, he doesn't find them; instead, along with varying versions of the Vazimba myth told by a range of village leaders, he finds a rugged and treacherous landscape. As perhaps the first European to cross the "Zone Rouge"—populated by feuding, armed tribesmen and equally threatening plant and animal life—in more than a century, Eveleigh feels "nightmarishly vulnerable," but his terror is balanced by obvious love for Madagascar's "never, ever boring" history, people and daily life. His final days in the wild, street-fighting festival of the city of Antsalova bring his adventures to a riveting close: "If the Zone Rouge, with its prairie hamlets, cowboys and bandits, was like the old-time Wild West, then the dusty, brawling streets of Antsalova were Dodge City." (June)

Forecast:A worthy addition to Lonely Planet Journeys, a series of travel reports published as an addition to the already popular Lonely Planet travel guide series, this book will interest anyone planning a trip to the island.

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!