`Slowly Down the Ganges' is seen as a vintage Newby masterpiece, alongside `A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush' and `Love and War in the Apennines'. Told with Newby's self-deprecating humour and wry attention to detail, this is a classic of the genre and a window into an enchanting piece of history.
On his forty-forth birthday, Eric Newby sets out on an incredible journey: to travel the 1,200-mile length of India's holy river. In a misguided attempt to keep him out of trouble, Wanda, his life-long travel companion and wife, is to be his fellow boatwoman. Their plan is to begin in the great plain of Hardwar and finish in the Bay of Bengal, but the journey almost immediately becomes markedly slower and more treacherous than either had imagined - running aground sixty-three times in the first six days.
Travelling in a variety of unstable boats, as well as by rail, bus and bullock cart, and resting at sandbanks and remote villages, the Newbys encounter engaging characters and glorious mishaps, including the non-existence of large-scale maps of the country, a realisation that questions of pure 'logic' cause grave offense and, on one occasion, the only person in sight for miles is an old man who is himself unsure where he is. Newby's only consolation: on a river, if you go downstream, you're sure to end up somewhere...
Eric Newby was born in London in 1919. In 1938, he joined the four-masted Finnish barque Moshulu as an apprentice and sailed in the last Grain Race from Australia to Europe, by way of Cape Horn. During World War II, he served in the Black Watch and the Special Boat Section. In 1942, he was captured and remained a prisoner-of-war until 1945. He subsequently married the girl who helped him to escape, and for the next fifty years, his wife Wanda was at his side on many adventures. After the war, he worked in the fashion business and book publishing but always travelled on a grand scale, sometimes as the Travel Editor for the Observer. He was made CBE in 1994 and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award of the British Guild of Travel Writers in 2001. Eric Newby died in 2006.