Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

Hop on The Road Less Travelled With “Wax & Gold”

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Wax & Gold: Journeys in Ethiopia & Other Roads Less Travelled (‘M’ Publishing House, Ltd., 2021)

By Sam McManus

Genre: Non-Fiction

Via: Author Request

Note: We received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


A collection of first-person stories detailing “off-the-beaten-path” adventures in Ethiopa, Japan, Bolivia, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Mongolia, Lebanon, Oman, and Costa Rica.

Wax and Gold isn’t your average travel guide. If you’re looking for lists of “must see” sights at specific destinations, where to stay or shop or eat, this isn’t it. It’s seventeen chapters covers 2005 to 2019.

The title comes from a form of Ethiopian poetry. “Wax and gold” is “meticulously comprised with a focus on the duality of its meanings. The surface meaning, the wax must be stripped away to reveal the hidden core of gold underneath.” The author explains description of how wax must be stripped away to reveal the gold underneath.

In similar fashion, the author describes how “the allure of Ethiopia” encouraged him to look deeper within himself. Indeed, Wax and Gold combines colorful, detailed chronicles of the people, places, destinations, and cultures the author discovered in his many travels with a more subtle discoveries gained during his inner journey.

The result is an interesting collection of first-person stories from a variety of cultures, countries, and continents. While non-fiction, the text reads more like a novel. It includes vibrant descriptions of interactions with flora, fauna, and humans. Also food, music, animals, infrastructure, terrain, weather, camping, and mosquitoes.

As noted previously, this isn’t a travel guide flush with tips on where to stay and what to do of the Usual Tourist Variety. It’s more like a memoir. For example, the author carefully and colorfully explains the importance of coca, alcohol, tobacco, salt and sugar in the Bolivian jungle based on his own experiences with same. Also rain hissing on lava, camel trains, a sprinting ostrich and salt flats in Ethiopia.

Who knew?

In addition to the many insights and impressions of different cultures and countries offered by the author, the writing itself is excellent. Example from page 83:

“A peach sunset warmed the sky in the west with rays of gold slicing through fluffy cumulonimbus onto the valley floor. To the east, Mariam Bagulisha, a gently domed pinnacle of rock, soared from the flat ground to puncture the dreamy marshmallow sky.”

An enjoyable, fascinating read overall, it started to feel a bit overlong and tired after the sixth visit to Ethiopia. So you might want to pack a lunch.

Note: Temperatures are in Celsius. British spelling and idioms are common. Non-Britishers may find this a little confusing. But you can get the gist of the conversation by context. A physical map of Ethiopia as well as a map of the cultural regions of Ethiopia are included. So is a “case study of ecotourism.” 

For more on the author’s travel company, visit YellowWood Adventures.

Our Rating: 3.0

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