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Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile
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Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  648 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
Squeezed in between a vast ocean and the longest mountain range on earth, Chile is 2,600 miles long and never more than 110 miles wide - not a country which it lends itself to maps, as Sara Wheeler found out when she travelled alone with two carpetbags from the top to the bottom, from the driest desert in the world to the sepulchral wastes of Antarctica. This is Sara Wheel ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 1st 1996 by Little Brown and Company (first published 1994)
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This is probably a 4 star but have only rated it 3 because I don't really know how to review it. I enjoyed it totally = Wheeler writes well and has combined a heck of a lot of history with documenting her travels through Chile. For someone about to go to Chile it would be invaluable (if a little dated) - I mean don't rely too much on her transport timetables since that would be changed in the years since she wrote it) although I get the feeling progress is slow due to the nature of the terrain. ...more
Michael Economy
Jan 20, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Colleen McCarthy
I really wanted to like this book. Some of it was a little interesting, but honestly i would have had a more enjoyable time reading the wikipedia article on Chile.

Example of this book:
I went to have dinner with my friends, we ate shellfish, it was ok.
The next moring i got a shower, it was cold.
The roads were muddy, I rode a bus.
Chile is beautiful.

This book has not begining middle or end, its a list, a poorly written list of things she did in Chile. I don't feel like she had an adventure, because
Jenny (Reading Envy)
The author combines history, political intrigue, stories of people she travels with or meets along the way, verbal snapshots of unbelievable landscape, and box after box of wine (mixed with Coke) into a travel book that has made Chile even more of a mystery to me NOW than when I started reading it.

The country stretches along South America and includes icebergs, rainforests, desert, mountains, island regions, wine country, with a diversity of old European colonials and (mostly extinct) native pe
Dec 12, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished, travel
A woman traveling (mostly) solo in South America for 6 months. How could I possibly not love this book? I'm still trying to figure that out, as I've been looking forward to eating it up.

The author's account of traveling from the northern tip of Chile to the southern tip manages to be boring. How can that be? Everything about South America is fascinating to me. I haven't been to Chile, but the other parts of Latin America I have traveled in have been lively, passionate, gorgeous, heart-breaking,
I read about a hundred pages of this and decided I wasn't very interested in finishing it. The set-up is enviable: an extensive, top-to-bottom, six-month-long tour of one of the countries I find most interesting. However, Wheeler's prose style isn't particularly alluring, her characterizations aren't very precise or captivating, and none of her adventures (at least in the first several chapters) are very interesting. I lost interest rather quickly.
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Another book I read in advance of our upcoming trip to Chile. I loved this travelogue describing the six months the author spent wandering Chile from top to bottom. Her dry British wit had me laughing out loud, and she managed to work in lots of information about Chile's history and culture at the same time. My one disappointment was that she spent so little time in Torres del Paine National Park (only a day!) because that's going to be the focus of our trip, but that's a personal quibble. Overa ...more
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: latin-america, travel
I enjoyed Travels in a Thin Country even though I had my misgivings about the author. She certainly knew how to write well, but I felt she went about her travels the wrong way. She landed in Santiago with a little black book full of names and addresses, but with very little deep understanding of Chile, its culture and literature. She picked up some as the trip moved from the Atacama Desert in the north to the colder south around Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, and even Antarctica (where Chile lays ...more
Jun 19, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am giving up on this. Other reviews have commented that the author doesn't seem to absorb her surroundings and isn't likable. That's my impression as well. It seems as though she wouldn't be able to get from one place to another without the assistance of locals, expats, and other travelers; she repays them all with mildly patronizing character sketches.

It might be bearable if she stuck to poking fun at the "tack" she sees everywhere (manjar blanco, nescafé, peasant children clumsily named for
Jul 31, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Dry. I would not have finished this book if it weren't for a strong interest in Chile since my son will be living there for two years. This book truely was mainly about her travels - how she traveled and who she traveled with and not enough about the country she traveled thru. I had to look up the areas she visited on the internet in order to get a visual due to a lack of description. Once I saw the beautiful country she was in I wondered why she wrote this book if she wasn't going to give it ju ...more
Sara Foster
I bought this book a few months before I moved to Chile. Sara tours Chile from north to south and shares her experiences that she has with residents of various towns along the way. I found the book useful for learning a little about the geography, history, and spots of interest in Chile, but the author's style turned me off a lot. I almost felt like she felt her way of traveling was superior to other backpackers because she had a more authentic experience and did things off the beaten path. I al ...more
Dec 30, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is a 1st-person account of a British woman traveling through Chile. I got through about two chapters before having to return it to the library. The author is not a very likable person and I don't think it was interesting enough for me to finish. I liked the title, though.
This book just didn't captivate me enough to finish. I did learn some interesting things about Chile's history and my memory was refreshed about Pinochet and Chile's diverse geography but her travel stories were not enough to hold my interest.
Apr 23, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-adventure
Very uneven writing style. I persited because i am interested in Chile.
I'd give it 1 1/2 if I could, but will round up to 2 since she did bother to toss in some history, simplistic and anglo-centric as it was.

The marketing pitch: Solo female travel writer tackles traveling the length of Chile, a country she's never been to before. Working her Rolodex and waving her press pass, she contrives to visit parts of the country off-limit (or off good sense) to either the average traveler or most Chileans: a private tour of the Presidential Palace, the Chilean Air Force's A
Dennis Brooke
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good intro to the place

Interesting tale of an English woman who traveled the country from end to end, including Antarctica, in the mid-90s. Not a travel guide, but personal experience.
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have been reading about Chile in my advanced Spanish class and I thought that this book would fill in some gaps. The writing did not pull me in and her trip was not very interesting. The book is also seriously out of date.

Amanda Caldwell
I've been reading this book for a REALLY long time. I do love travel memoirs, however I haven't read many and if I recall correctly I've only read ones by Bill Bryson, who is quite hilarious and entertaining. It took me a while to get acquainted with Sara Wheeler's writing style. I really don't know if I ever got used to it.

I think what took me so long to get through is that I found the first quarter of this book where she is traveling through the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile painfully bori
Monica Edinger
Read this toward the end and after my trip to Chile. Especially (understandably) enjoyed the parts where she went where I went too. Written in a different time (the 1990s) so there was also a bit of a nostalgic aspect to my read (hippy travelers, etc).
Apr 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had picked up this book while in La Serena, Chile at the hostel my boyfriend and I were staying at. I had mixed emotions about my Chilean adventure and started reading this book to see a different perspective of the country. Initially, I didn't like the book for small reasons, I had felt that from the beginning her journey started off on a far too easy start and because she had used the word anyway and not in dialogue either. However I pushed through and I’m glad I did. I had let go of the fac ...more
David Roberts
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book I read to research this post was Chile: Travels In A Thin Country by Sara Wheeler which is an excellent book which I bought at a market stall. Sara traveled to Chile & traveled the length of the country including the Antarctic territories Chile claims and wrote this book about her experiences. Chile is famous for the Andes mountains but also the most northern part of the country is one of the hottest places in the world. It has the driest desert the Atacama. A bit further south they ...more
Jun 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was given this book just before my current my trip to Chile. I lived in the Vina Del Mar area for a year and a half during 2009-2010. Travels in a Thin Country captured Chile magnificently.

Written almost twenty years ago, this book manages to paint the nuances of the country so well that the armchair traveler gets a real sense of what it means to be in Chile. Wheeler's descriptions of the regional flavor, the society, the political landscape is spot on to this day.

Some reviewers seemed to re
It's nothing short of a miracle that I managed to finish this book.
The title, Travels in a Thin Country, would suggest a travelogue. As a genre, I'm a fan of travelogues, as I find it interesting to read about other people's travels. No two travellers' experiences are the same, but you can always identify with at least something. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case here. The author is unable to finish an anecdote without tacking on something about what happened at that place in 1862 or some oth
Jan 12, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this account of the author's multi-month journey through Chile is like watching a expertly thrown pebble skim across the surface of a pond. On one hand, I really do admire her pluck and resourcefulness. Among the activities she arranged for herself were 1) A private tour of the Chilean Presidential palace, 2) A seat on a Chilean Air Force plane that ferried her for free to Antarctica and then private tours of Chilean station, 3) Multiple posh parties with the scions of the old moneyed el ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this, and must say, it has given me the travel bug. Chile is a country I know only a little about, beyond Pinochet and its location, so it was enlightening to read about its landscape, history, culture, etc. Wheeler wrote in an engaging manner, and came across as very likable, so it was easy to get swept up by her accounts of the scenery and individuals she came across. I admit, I am quite jealous that she was able to undertake such an expedition as one that spanned all of C ...more
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fortunately, I was not expecting much from this book. Other readers said they could not relate to either the author's trip-style or personality; that Wheeler seemed shallow and demonstrated little immersion into the Chilean culture.

Well, I'm guessing I'm glad I'm not a Latter-day Birkenstock-er, because I thoroughly enjoyed the book! True, the author seemed to have 'letters of introduction' everywhere, and DID stay at several nice places - but, we should scorn her observations because of that? I
Kater Cheek
What I want from a travel book is to feel as if I have taken the journey along with the author. This book succeeds in this, and it also makes me dearly wish that I could take a similar journey. Well, maybe not similar. I'd happily go without the desert heat, getting scabies on damp mattresses, being stuck in Patagonia wondering if/when I'd be able to catch a ride on a boat, being lonely, and eating food of questionable quality. But the rest of it sounded awesome.

Wheeler travels from the north of
Jul 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt deceived by the cover of this book which was of the famous spires in Torres De Pines. Sara spent one day in the park and devoted one page in her book to the part of Chile I was most interested in. She spent a lot of time in impoverished villages, and even two weeks living in slums of Santiago. It seems she was intent on being a traveler rather than a tourist. In her romp sponsored by the Chilean tourist board and the U.S. Navy and the help of a few well-placed friends in London she did se ...more
Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I love to travel and I wanted to love this book. It just didn't happen. I would read a few pages and then put it down and when I love a book that is really hard for me to do...even non-fiction.

Sara Wheeler met a man from Chile and decided to travel there (she does go off on long adventures as part of her job) and see the whole country over a several month time span. The book was published in 1994 so her travels were likely 20+ years ago. There were definite moments in the reading I laughed at he
Oct 20, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book has been with me forever...not sure how it fell into my lap, but I took it to France a couple years ago...and forgot it at a friends house in Guidel. On a second time through---he handed the book to me and told me I forgot it. I had DEFINITELY forgotten it---I couldn't remember starting it at all...fastforward over four years later....and I decided it was time to either read or donate.

I enjoyed the beginning of the book...and hearing about the beginning of her travels. And I remember
I was really excited to read this book since I studied in Chile but maybe my expectations were too high. The author includes a lot of good historical information but leaves some to be desired on the adventure/cultural part of traveling. I should have felt excited reading some of the things she did but I just didn't. There were also a lot of opportunities to explain certain situations in the cultural context but she didn't--she either didn't soak in a lot of culture/customs or didn't research eno ...more
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Sara Wheeler was brought up in Bristol and studied Classics and Modern Languages at Brasenose College, University of Oxford. After writing about her travels on the Greek island of Euboea and in Chile, she was accepted by the US National Science Foundation as their first female writer-in-residence at the South Pole, and spent seven months in Antarctica.

In her resultant book Terra Incognita: Travels
More about Sara Wheeler...