The Downhill Hiking Club is an absorbing, affectionate love letter to Lebanon and its rich history, in which Dom Joly and his two best friends hike across Lebanon. It's three men on a camel . . . without the camel.
Three men. 470 kilometres. Twenty-one days.
Welcome to the Downhill Hiking Club . . .
At a boozy, cricket-filled afternoon at Lord's, Dom Joly convinces his two closest friends to agree to the unthinkable: a challenging hike across Lebanon, from the Israeli border in the south, along the spine of the country's mountain range, all the way to the Syrian border in the north. For Joly it is something of a homecoming, having grown up in Beirut. It was a happy childhood, though he did go to school with Osama bin Laden.
Arriving in Lebanon armed with copious amounts of Vaseline - and no walking experience, bar taking the dog for the occasional stroll - Dom, Chris and Harry don't quite know what they've got themselves into. Joined by their bemused chaperone Caroll, they meet a variety of characters along the way including Ali, a stony-faced Hezbollah Museum guide who seems unperturbed by circling Israeli jets, and part-time Londoner Raf, who challenges Dom and the boys to a brain-freeze drinking contest. From a hair-raising creep along the 'Valley of the Skulls' to accidentally flashing an unsuspecting Ethiopian cook, the three friends just about manage to keep going.
With more than a smattering of persiflage and some cringe-worthy moments, The Downhill Hiking Club is a big-hearted, witty and affectionate love letter to Lebanon and its rich history with a meditation on family and homeland at its heart. Written with Dom's trademark humour, it is a paean to both the simple joys of friendship and to growing old disgracefully.
Dom Joly writes travel books for people who don't usually read travel books. This is the best adventure I've had on my sofa for years. It's funny, weirdly informative and most importantly, blister-free.
Compelling, enlightening, funny and yet serious too. This trip through Lebanon is both journey and reportage, both intimate and informative on this complex country
A total delight, from beginning to end. Immensely funny, and shot through with illuminating and telling insights into a country Joly clearly adores. I read it at a sitting and was charmed and enlightened by every page