Where the Road Ends by Binka Le Breton book review

By Emma Brooks

I learnt about this book by talking with the son of the author, with whom I worked in my previous job. When telling me a bit about his past and the fact that his parents now lived in Brazil, he also told me that his mother had just written a book about their experience on moving to Brazil. I therefore decided to order the book online and did not regret it as it made for an excellent read.

About the author:

Originally British, Binka Le Breton still lives in Brazil in the Amazon rainforest, and currently runs the Iracambi rainforest research centre. She also lectures internationally on rainforest and human rights topic, as well as being an author of several books aside from Where the Road Ends. Amongst some of her other books you can find The Greatest Gift, Voices from the Amazon, and A Land to Die For.

About the book:

Once again in my opinion, the key to a good autobiography is when the book reads as a novel and this is exactly what this book does. Carried away in Binka’s tale of how she and her husband Robin reached Brazil and set up what is now the Iracambi rainforest research centre reads as a great and gripping story, in which we truly identify with the characters -except that they’re real.

The book starts in 1989, and one cannot even begin to imagine the Brazil that Binka and Robin arrive in. Even though it’s practically the 90s, the Brazil Binka describes seems so old-fashioned and so stuck in the past that it’s hard to believe it is what it is today. Binka and Robin arrive in their “promised land” in the middle of the Minas Gerais state, in a place so isolated it’s hard to believe that this is where they are going to settle down.

They speak no Portuguese, find it hard to be welcomed by the locals, and realise that the beautiful farmhouse they are meant to live in is in fact in ruins and needs quite a bit of repairs done before it’s fit to live in. Nevertheless, ever with the spirit of the adventurer they decide to sleep in the house from day one, even if it means sleeping huddled together in the middle of the room as the rain seeps through the roof in other parts of the house.

Little by little things start to fall in to place, and we watch Binka and Robin as they start to learn Portuguese, get familiar with the locals, get to know the Brazilian jeito (way of life) and gradually fit in with their surroundings. The house gets repaired, and they start expanding as Robin decides he wants to have a farm with livestock, and at the same time try to conserve their surrounding environment. Robin successfully sets up his farm, and both of them succeed in striking up friendships with some of the locals, employing some of them to help them with work on the farm and by so doing building relationships.

We follow them as they discover some of the backwards ways of Brazil in the 90s, as they have to drive miles to collect their post and even further to make use of the local phone line. We watch as Robin gets involved in local politics, trying to promote the conservation of their beautiful environment and nearly getting killed because of it. We also follow their success at getting the area and rainforest they live in to become part of a national conservation project. And we watch as Binka, at first perhaps a little hesitant about her husband’s project, learns how to become the adept farm wife, and manages to run the farm without Robin around. She learns how to take care of the animals, follows courses, and gains from a fully hands-on approach.

We leave Robin and Binka before the farm becomes the research centre it is today, and even before they manage to get the internet installed, and yet we can tell that they have made a lot of progress since they first arrived in Brazil many years ago. The farm is more established, as are Binka and Robin in local life, and seems clear that as ambitious as Robin is, the projects will not stop multiplying.

It is a truly inspiring book in which we get to follow not only two people’s adventure into the unknown in the Brazilian rainforest, but we also learn a lot about the way Brazil was in the 90s, Brazilian culture and mentality, as well as what life is like in the rainforest, conservation issues, and what to do about it. The book succeeds in combining these different aspects and being instructive whilst enjoyable. It is an excellent read and I would recommended to anyone with a travel bug or the spirit of adventure.

If you want to visit Binka and Robin yourself, you can do so by visiting the Iracambi Rainforest research centre.


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