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13 January 2007

John McCarthy finds out about two countries that in many ways couldn’t be more different – one is frequently frozen, dry enough to stop people breaking into a sweat and consists mostly of plains or desert as well as being the world’s largest landlocked country; the other is hot and humid, about the size of Britain and covered with forest right up to its long shoreline.  But both Mongolia and Gabon are sparsely populated and have been ruled by a single political party for many years.  Although they are not top tourist destinations for westerners, they have their enthusiasts and John is joined by three of them who share their experiences.

Conn Iggulden’s interest in the life of Genghis Khan as source material for his latest book drew him to Mongolia. Conn spent about a month at the end of the 2005 winter, experiencing how people live, which away from the cities has remained unchanged for centuries.

Josh Ponte lived in Gabon from 2001 until November 2005.  He first went to help re-introduce Western lowland gorillas into the wild and then worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society in the development of the national parks network created in 2002.  Josh recently returned to Gabon.

Sarah Monaghan is a travel writer and freelance editor of Gabon magazine funded by the Gabonese government and distributed to businesses and embassies with the aim of attracting foreign investment to the country, particularly where tourism is concerned.

Presented by John McCarthy

Mongolian steppes

Photo: Mongolian steppes

This week's guests:

Conn Iggulden is a writer and the author of the Emperor series of novels: four books of historical fiction based around the life of Julius Caesar.  The first one, The Gates of Rome, reached number two in the Sunday Times list and spent fifteen weeks in the chart as hardback and paperback.  He is also co-author with his brother Hal of the Dangerous Book for Boys a compendium of interesting facts and games which was a publishing sensation last year.

Conn has just published Wolf of the Plains, the first of a quartet of historical novels on the life of the Khan dynasty dealing with the young Genghis or Temujin, who was left to die on the steppe at the age of 13 but who later founded the Mongol nation and conquered an empire which covered most of Asia, and his grandson, Kublai Khan who ruled all of Mongolia and China.

Wolf of the Plains: The epic story of the great conqueror
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
ISBN-10: 0007201745 - ISBN-13: 978-0007201747

Josh Ponte
One morning in September 2001 Josh read of an advert “Administrator wanted, Gorilla project, Gabon”.  He called the number and arranged an interview.  A sentimental fascination of primates and a strong opinion about conservation, neither based in any fact, got Josh travelling three thousand five hundred miles to start work on the project returning gorillas to the wild.  He now works for the Wildlife Conservation Society which was instrumental in starting Gabon’s National Parks.

The Wildlife Conservation Society is an American organisation started in 1895 in conjunction with the Bronx Zoo which now runs conservation projects all over the world. 

Sarah Monaghan is a travel writer and currently editor of Gabon magazine, published quarterly and funded by the Gabon government, about the economy, tourism, politics and culture of Gabon. Sarah is a regular visitor to the country.

Feedback on last week’s Cycle Tourism programme; book recommended by a listener:
A Bike Ride: 12, 000 Miles Around the World
by Anne Mustoe
Publisher: Virgin Books; New Ed edition
ISBN-10: 0863696503 - ISBN-13: 978-0863696503


Side B Track (7): Minvoul; Track (2): Ikobe II; Track (18): Mongongo
Publisher/record label:

Track (22): Mouth music
Label: Topic TSCD909

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Sandi ToksvigSandi Toksvig:
The daughter of a foreign correspondent, Sandi has been travelling all her life more info

John McCarthy John McCarthy is a widely travelled journalist and presenter with a particular interest in the Middle East.
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