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December 27, 2018

Peter Pinney - the original vagabond travel writer

Peter Pinney
Peter Pinney has always had a love of adventure. In fact, travel in new places, preferably strange places, is his chief interest and his principal method of enjoying life. As a boy in Sydney, he gave early signs of his unconventional ways by hanging by his heels from the Harbour Bridge to win a small bet. His subsequent adventures have fulfilled that early promise. During World War II he was a member of an independent company of the A.I.F. in New Guinea, and since the war he has been principally a traveller, frequently describing himself for visa purposes as a student of folklore. He likes to travel almost penniless, feeling that it is the only way of meeting the ordinary people of the countries through which he is passing.

He has had a wide variety of occupations, including that of opal-digger, wharf-labourer, cameraman, bicycle-assembler, and stage-hand.

PETER PINNEY's latest record of his travels is as lively, unconventional; and amusing as ever. Still the traveller without visas and without baggage, and usually without money, he wanders across Africa from Mozambique to the Sahara-sometimes alone, sometimes with raffish companions picked up on the way, but mostly with Anna, the gay and resourceful Dutch girl who was his companion in earlier adventures.

By river and road, by swamp and jungle, in hot and thronging towns and gaudy bazaars, through Southern Rhodesia, Barotseland, Angola, Nigeria, and the Gold and Ivory Coasts he makes his way, meeting missionaries and magicians, lepers and kings, lions and crocodiles. At one time he is assembling bicycles in Mozambique to carn money to bail his current companion, "Chickenthief", out of jail; at another he is attending a tribal council meeting in Barotseland; at another he is hurtling with forty Africans in a mammy-wagon-variously defined as a native bus or a galloping coffin-named "Special Quiet Boy" on a hair-raising ride to Kumasi, capital of the famed Ashanti kingdom.

As the popularity of Dust On My Shoes and Who Wanders Alone has shown, there is a fascination in Peter Pinney's books-the eternal fascination exercised by the true adventurer, the wanderer for whom there is always something new over the next hill.

Peter Pinney, adventurer and wanderer extraordinary, has a flair for finding the dramatic, dangerous, and unusual in experiences and people.

Dust On My Shoes finds him travelling from Greece through the countries of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, over the snow-covered mountains of Afghanistan, across the plains of India to the jungles of Assam and Burma. At times alone, at times with his companion Marchand, he takes part briefly in the Greek civil war, works in a baked-bean bar at Beirut, colours photographs in Teheran, and peddles orchids in Delhi. He scrounges lifts by every available means of transport, and when there is no transport he walks. In a succession of adventures and misadventures, he is always saved by his quick-wittedness and ingenuity.

Who Wanders Alone begins in Trieste and ends in Zanzibar. Why not? It was just as likely to have begun at Alice Springs and ended at Toledo or Saskatchewan, for this most eclectic of travellers pleases himself. Despite its title, this is anything but a lonely story, for in his wanderings Pinney meets and mixes with people of many races and different ways of life.

Sometimes the meeting is more of a collision, as in his clashes with authorities. The essential appeal of the book is that which brought Dust On My Shoes its tremendous popularity-the eternal fascination of the vagabond, the wanderer in strange lands, for whom there are always new roads and farther horizons.

Pinney died from prostate cancer on 22 October 1992 in Brisbane and was cremated.

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