Christina's travels and books

Christina Dodwell on horseback leading a camel during her first African adventure

Christina was born in Nigeria, West Africa, and educated in England. Her life of remarkable adventure began by chance in 1975, when she made a 20,000-mile journey round Africa by horse, camel and dug-out canoe. She followed that up with journeys in Papua New Guinea, China, Siberia, Madagascar, Turkey and Iran.

Christina has made 3 television films and more than 40 radio documentary programmes for BBC Radio 4 – several have received distinguished merit awards. She has worked for the Consulate of Madagascar in London for fourteen years and in 1995 she founded The Dodwell Trust, a charity dedicated to the Third World.

Christina was awarded the Mungo Park Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 1989.

Like Isabella Bird and Rosita Forbes, Christina demonstrates enormous courage, a keen eye for detail, an insatiable curiosity about the local people and great respect for their culture. 

"Christina Dodwell continues the tradition of many renowned travellers, of Gertrude Bell, Annie Taylor, Isabella Bird, Freya Stark and Ella Maillart." Chris Bonington

Beyond Siberia – Christina DodwellBeyond Siberia

Christina Dodwell – ISBN 1590481437

Beyond the Tsar and the Soviet Union’s notorious penal colony of Siberia lies Russia’s own Far East, a vast territory stretching east to the Bering Strait and Alaska and south to the islands Russia disputes with Japan.

It is a land of exiles and their outcast descendants, of scientists and would-be exploiters of its oil, gold and caviar. It is also home to various indigenous reindeer-herding peoples whose way of life was rapidly being extinguished under the steamroller of communist state education until perestroika acknowledged these ethnic peoples. Foreign travel became possible and Christina Dodwell was one of the first to explore Kamchatka, that exposed peninsular reaching a thousand kilometres south into the Pacific.

She chose to travel during the last months of winter, learning to herd reindeer and drive both reindeer and dogs, skiing frozen rivers, meeting vulcanologists and geologists working in the geyser region of the south. She also tracked bears on a preserve usually forbidden to outsiders.

In addition, Christina travelled with a dance troupe entertaining the scattered communities of reindeer herdsmen, while a man from the ministry on the same helicopter explained why there was no cash to pay them.

Staying with these native peoples in their reindeer-skin tents gave Christina an opportunity to do what she does best: finding out about the minutiae of their daily life, listening to their stories and legends and discovering a world still ruled by an animist religion the state has never managed to suppress. 

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An Explorer's Handbook – Christina Dodwell

An Explorer's Handbook

Christina Dodwell – ISBN 1590481410

Few people, let alone women, have made as many unconventional journeys in the twentieth century as Christina Dodwell has. Starting with a three-year adventure in Africa, travelling on horseback, by camel and dugout canoe, Christina went on to spend two years exploring Papua New Guinea alone. Next she travelled around China by horse-cart, camel, bicycle and canoe, then got back in the saddle to journey through Eastern Turkey and Iran. After undertaking a hazardous 7,000 mile flight by microlight across West Africa, Christina went north: to Siberia’s far east, Kamchatka, where she visited remote tribes and learned how to drive reindeer and dogs. Then she decided to explore Madagascar by horse-drawn stagecoach and canoe.

She shared meals with witchdoctors, pygmies and hermits, was attacked by would-be rapists and bandits, arrested as a spy and flung in gaol.

So if you are planning an adventure of your own, you can be sure the advice you find in this extraordinary book is the best available; Christina shares her hard-won experiences and gives many useful tips on how to survive. Need to know how to cook crocodile? Look no further. How to buy a camel? How to deal with the head-man of the native village? Christina tells you all this, and much more.

She livens up the instruction with tales of some of her adventures, all told with modesty and a charming dry humour.

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Madagascar Travels – Christina DodwellMadagascar Travels

Christina Dodwell – ISBN 1590481429

Madagascar is an island of secrets, where new species of wildlife continue to be discovered and rumours of mysterious aboriginals and natural phenomena persist in the forest. Christina Dodwell explores its least accessible corners and makes friends with its people.

Her four-month journey began in the highlands where, travelling by horse-drawn stagecoach, she encounters a healer, a village poet and families who perform bone-turning rites for their ancestors.

Taboos, fetishes and astrology weave through her travels among wood-carvers and lead to a royal meeting. Christina paddles her canoe on the south-east coastal rivers and makes plans to enter the capital’s Grand Prix horse race.

In the remote west of the island she threads her way between amazing limestone pinnacles in an area normally reserved for scientists, navigating canyons and river tunnels where crocodiles live on blind white fish.

Travelling by ox cart and on foot, she enjoys Madagascar’s rich plant life and learns how this invaluable genetic bank is at risk, while delving into prehistory leads her in search of one of the world’s largest fossilised forests.

Christina’s great courage, open mind and unbounded curiosity enable her to go to places few would dare visit, and she almost invariably finds kindness and hospitality wherever she travels.

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A Traveller in China – Christina DodwellA Traveller in China

Christina Dodwell – ISBN 159048147x

Christina Dodwell’s wanderlust, combined with her inventive and unorthodox methods of travel and her unquenchable curiosity about people, make her the ideal guide to the remoter parts of China’s vast territory. She visits regions largely inhabited by the many ethnic minority groups, still living their distinctive lifestyles.

A four-day bus journey to Kashgar begins Christina’s journey, followed by a canoe journey from Lake Karakol. She followed Marco Polo’s route to Beijing, past the ruined cities of the Silk Road. In Xinjiang she spent time with migrating Kazakhs setting up their summer camp. Her canoe journey on the Yellow River resulted in her finding a hitherto-unknown portion of the Great Wall, and in Beijing she tracked down the house in which her grandmother had lived in the time of the warlords. In a side trip to Tibet, Christina spent time in a nomad tent, sharing the elaborate plaiting and ornamentation ritual of a women’s hairdressing session.

Christina joins Chinese tourists when she visits the oldest surviving frescoes in China, the Xian terracotta army, and spends a few days at the famous lamasery of Taer’si. She witnessed the dragon boat race on Lake Er Hai, But her most precious moments were camping alone on the edge of an ice-bound lake, finding a way to unvisited beehive tombs in the Gobi, climbing a remote sacred mountain in Yunnan Province and paddling her small canoe cautiously into the mighty Yangtse.

Christina’s great courage, open mind and unbounded curiosity enable her to go to places few would dare visit, and she almost invariably finds kindness and hospitality wherever she travels.

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A Traveller on Horseback – Christina DodwellA Traveller on Horseback

Christina Dodwell – ISBN 1590481585

In the late 1980s, Christina Dodwell moves from a Greek Easter into a chilly Eastern Turkish spring, not improved for the cold and hungry traveller by the fairly strict observance of Ramadan. Retreating east, she visits the buried cities and rock-hewn churches of Cappadocia on the first of a number of hired, borrowed or bought horses, the ideal liberating companions for her unconventional style of travel.

While the snow still clothes the eastern mountains, the Long Rider moves further east over the border into Iran, to a ranch breeding miniature Caspian horses near the Russian frontier, to the salt desert villages of the south-east, and on into Pakistan for a visa renewal, the unity of her journey maintained by the fact that she is still within the confines of the Persian empire, as she celebrates the end of Ramadan in a festive village near the Afghan border.

Back in Iran, she visits the crumbling grandiloquence of lost empires at Pasargad, Naksh-i-Rustam and Persepolis, as well as the trouble spots of yesterday and today in the valleys of the Assassins and Kurdistan. But her journey reaches its happiest fulfilment back in Eastern Turkey when she buys a fine grey Arab stallion called Keyif — the name aptly means high-spirited. Together they travel among snow caps, salt lakes, nomadic summer camps and lowland rice paddies, across mountain country from Erzurum to Lake Van, up the Russian border to Mount Ararat, and discover the unexpected pleasures and hazards of remote mountain life.

The Sunday Telegraph has described Christina as “a natural nomad” and wrote of “her courage and insatiable wanderlust.”

Christina has the gift to communicate the zest for adventure, and even the occasional night in an Iranian police cell cannot dim her sheer delight in travelling to remote and challenging places.

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Travels in Papua New Guinea – Christina DodwellTravels in Papua New Guinea

Christina Dodwell – ISBN 1590481550

This is the story of a young Englishwoman who set out to travel alone through the highlands, jungles and rivers of Papua New Guinea. It is the remarkable tale of a two-year expedition which included an eventful two-week walk and a thousand-mile journey on a stallion (in a country where almost nobody knew what a horse was) during which Christina witnessed a tribal fight with bows and arrows and a pig-killing celebration. She was accosted by bandits, sank into swamps, fell through rotten bridges and got stuck in a ravine.

For the fourth stage of Christina’s journey she bought a dugout canoe and spent four months paddling alone on the Sepik River and its tributaries. She met Stone-Age tribes and ventured through swamp forests; she spent four days with a team of crocodile-hunters and learned how to skin the animals; she was arrested as a spy and experienced an earthquake. In a remote village on the Blackwater tributary she arrived during preparations for the initiation of some boys into manhood. She stayed during a week of celebrations leading up to the boys’ initiation, which took place in the spirit-house and included a bloody skin-cutting ritual dedicated to crocodiles.

Christina’s journeys around this remarkable country have become legends which endure to this day.

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Travels with Fortune– Christina DodwellTravels with Fortune

Christina Dodwell – ISBN 1590482131

This is the amazing tale of Christina Dodwell’s first adventure: a three-year journey through Africa. She was twenty-four when she and three companions crossed the Sahara by Landrover. But the two men of the party took the car and left her and her friend Lesley stranded in the middle of Nigeria.

Recounted with modesty and good humour, it is a story of great tenacity and incredible courage. Christina travelled by horse, camel, on foot, hitching lifts from time to time – even hailing passing airplanes out of the sky!

The author shared meals with cannibals, was treated by witch-doctors, learned to pan gold, and was imprisoned on a boat by a sexually perverse sea captain. She and her friend journeyed almost a thousand miles down the Congo River in a dugout canoe: the first women in the world to accomplish such a hazardous journey.

This is a truly extraordinary travel book. It is a brilliant account of Africa, its sights and smells, its many races, seen through the eyes of an English girl. It is also the story of the education of innocence, a deeply honest self-portrait of Christina Dodwell’s reactions to herself in Africa—and how Africa changed her.

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Travels with Pegasus – Christina DodwellTravels with Pegasus

Christina Dodwell – ISBN 1590480678

An enterprising and fearless traveller, Christina Dodwell has rafted white water rapids in Papua New Guinea, canoed down the Congo river, ridden horses across Turkey and through Africa, driven reindeer and dogs in Kamchatka, travelled around Madagascar in a horse-drawn stagecoach and journeyed alone through China. But for this journey from the Cameroun rain forest to the Atlantic, via the Sahara and Tombouctou, Christina had to learn to fly!

The author and her pilot-instructor progress in a series of hops, so she not only gets fantastic bird’s eye views of forests and the limitless desert, but also has ample opportunity for exploring on the ground. Christina explores memorials of lost African empires, meets river pygmies and a mountain sorcerer, goes in search of hippos and rock paintings, canoes on Lake Chad, discovers a dinosaur graveyard, dodges the Paris to Dakar Rally, rides a camel into the Aïr Mountains, talks to emirs and maribous, duck-billed women and Dogon masked dancers, and camps with Tuareg nomads.

Travels with Pegasus combines the infinite variety of Africa with the exhilarating exposure of microlighting. Christina is a courageous and resourceful traveller whose curiosity about her fellow men and what may be over the next hilltop will, we hope, never be satisfied.

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