John Dyer paints for Carol Drinkwater “The Olive Route"

Published on 10/19/2006

The Olive Route by Carol Drinkwaterpublished by Orion Books in October 2006 will feature an original painting by John Dyer.

The publishers approached John after seeing his series of paintings commissioned by The Eden Project on the subject of Olives. John and Carol compared notes on the subject and Carol described her amazing journey to John so that he could build in the essence of her story into this special painting.

The original painting will be available for sale from The John Dyer Gallery

John Dyer also created a map for the book showing the route that Carol took during her research.

Like the Silk Road and the Spice Route, the Olive Route – stretching 2,200 miles from Gibraltar to northern Syria – encompasses not just a journey, but an epic adventure involving the age-old transportation of a precious commodity. Carol Drinkwater travelled along this beautiful and sometimes dangerous route, uncovering ancient stories, meeting striking and courageous people and tracing its venerable olive culture. Tracking the Cretans, Phoenicians, Greeks and the Romans, amongst others, she eventually finds her way back to her olive farm in the sun-baked hills of southern France.

The Olive Route recounts a thrilling, heroic, sensual and entertaining journey by the bestselling author of the much loved Olive series.

"Since spending eight months from mid-summer last year through to spring of this travelling round the eastern Mediterranean for The Olive Route, my perceptions about olive farming have widened, been enriched. Now I have images of where these traditions originated. I can picture in my mind’s eye newly-made friends from different cultures, religions and countries similarly arranging for their gatherings. We are a Mediterranean community. I have a broader picture now of what the olive tree and its fruits bring to our lives, and what the history of this mythical tree has been.

Why did I set off round this sea’s basin on a solo, sometimes dangerous journey in search of the provenance of a plant, a tree? Because I longed to know the birth of these agricultural traditions. Who first cured an olive to make it edible? What relevance did it have for those earliest of farmers? Who first pressed this bitter fruit and discovered a liquid gold that is rich in so many health properties and today is hailed by many as a cancer preventitive? No one has the answers to these questions. I visited Unesco in Paris. They had been considering an Olive Heritage Trail. But, they told me, nobody knows where it all began. The olive’s past is a mystery.

The Olive Route was uncharted territory, waiting to be explored. What could be more exciting than to penetrate those ancient trails, to uncover stories of some of the oldest trees surviving on our planet?

The journey I was embarking upon was going to be a form of detective work, botanical sleuthing, and I saw it as a great adventure, a challenge, but not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined all that lay in store for me. I visited some of the most beautiful locations I have ever encountered, I met unusual people, courageous, angry, proud, resilient. I found myself alone and afraid in the face of war. In Lebanon, in the chalky hills of Mount Lebanon in Christian territory, I stood in a grove amongst 6,000-year-old olive trees. Imagine that. Those ancients, still fruiting, still being farmed and, as I write, being made ready for their annual harvest, were dug into that earth 4,000 years before the birth of Christ. In Crete, I learned the amazing secrets of an exquisite 3,000-year old Minoan gold ring, in Palestine I planted an olive sapling for peace…

Before I set off, I was hoping I might return with the key to a better life, a single, tangible treasure, some long-forgotten elixir pressed from olives. Every day along my route I found treasures and was constantly bowled over, but not by the one single nugget of truth I had hoped for, and I returned with more questions than I had set out with. The Olive Route was constantly surprising, a once-in-a-lifetime experience as I travelled up and down avenues of time and history and I will never forget it. I hope you will choose to take this extraordinary journey with me." Carol Drinkwater 2006