Since I’m finishing writing a book to be titled Dark Lands – Colombia is the last chapter and my Colombia travels concluded last week – I thought I’d better read Dom Joly’s The Dark Tourist. Mr Joly is a British comedian and he’s very popular with the British, or at least he’s constantly tripping over his adoring British fans.
His dark travels take him skiing in Iran, visiting Chernobyl in the Ukraine, dropping by assassination sites in the USA, enjoying himself in North Korea, checking out Pol Pot’s trail in Cambodia and returning to his childhood in Lebanon, where his father was working at the time. Much of it is conducted at high speed – he seems to be able to knock off any museum, gallery or archaeological site you care to name in 10 to 15 minutes. I realised how he manages this when he sets out to walk from the Soho Grand Hotel in New York to the Dakota Building – where nutter Mark Chapman gunned down John Lennon – he’s got the building in sight in ‘half an hour’s brisk walk.’ Check Google Maps, factor in traffic lights and pedestrians and you can see he walks at Olympic speeds.
Dom seems to have a remarkable amount of trouble with US immigration, I’m no great fan of US immigration and I reckon I’ve got a pretty interesting selection of weird country stamps in my passport as well, but I never seem to face the sort of obstacles he does. My favourite moment is when he announces he’s ‘never been so completely out of contact with my family,’ when he tries to send an email from North Korea. And how long has he been out of email range at this point? Er, 24 hours. Tourism to Chernobyl also features in another book I’m currently reading, Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places.