In his first travelogue, Into Thick Air: Biking to the Belly of Six Continents, Jim Malusa, a writer and botanist, brings the reader with him on a journey to the lowest point in each of six of the seven continents.
Instead of hiking to the tallest points, Malusa chooses to bicycle down each continents' deepest depression. His quest to reach the "anti-summits" of each continent (less Antarctica as no point below sea level is exposed) takes place over six years; each expedition lasts about 30 days and is funded by Discovery Channel Online.
In return, Malusa carries with him a satellite phone and submits dispatches and photos of his expeditions. This book is not only the culmination of his experiences on these six excursions, but also is a discussion of his family life throughout the duration.
The book is divided into six sections for each of the continents he visits: Australia, Asia, Europe, South America, Africa and North America. Planning each trip in advance for approval from Discovery Channel Online, Malusa includes maps of all his bike routes at the beginning of each section.
Malusa demonstrates a profound knowledge of the history and geography of the areas he visits. He vividly describes the landscapes and the people he meets while on each trek. His complete vulnerability to the elements and wildlife does not prevent him from completing his mission. Along the way, he encounters many different characters that help him on his mostly isolated course.
His destinations include Lake Eyre in Australia, the Dead Sea in Asia, the Caspian Sea in Europe, Salina Grande in Argentine Patagonia in South America, Lac Assal in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and finally Death Valley in California for North America. His education as a botanist lends itself easily to his infinitely discerning eye.