After hearing the name of Sao Tome and Principe on TV at the 2004 Summer Olympics, Thacker vows he'll travel to and then around the tiny African island nation without obtaining any prior knowledge of the country. Ridding himself of all guidebooks and eschewing the internet as much as possible, Thacker casually throws Togo, Benin (as a late replacement), Wallis and Kyrgyzstan into the mix of countries that he will set out to discover as a modern day "true explorer".
Published in 2006, Where's Wallis (Travels without a guidebook) is an unpretentious and funny retelling of Thacker's experiences through this disparate group of countries. Each country runs to between 40 to 90 pages each, providing ample opportunity for Thacker to get himself lost and marooned, meet fascinating locals, ex-pats and royalty, get up close and personal with the wildlife and dodge the odd bit of civil unrest.
Fans of Thacker, who has written a further six travel books, will be familiar with the lighted-hearted approach he takes to writing and should not be surprised that Where's Wallis delivers some genuinely hilarious moments. As Thacker states "There's no danger of me asking deep and meaningful questions. I just want to know important things like where to buy beer and where the best beach is". Of course, there is (slightly) more depth to Where's Wallis, than that, with a modicum of historical information provided on the countries he travels through, as well as some dispensing of general worldly facts and knowledge.
Thacker himself comes across as a very likeable guy and certainly someone who you would want to have a beer with. In fact, many of the people he met did exactly that - although in Kyrgyzstan it was usually substituted for vodka! Sometimes what you're looking for in a book is a comforting and funny read that isn't too taxing. Where's Wallis delivers exactly that and is great reading fodder for whichever beach you might find.
3.5 stars out of 5