Saturday, 12 November 2011

Books: Long Distance Walking

I’ve just started reading a book called “A Journey of Days: Relearning Life's Lessons on the Camino de Santiago ” by Guy Thatcher, and I have to say, a tenth of the way in, I am already disappointed.

The story so far; having arrived in Spain, Guy suffered a set back where all his luggage had gone missing. Rather than re-kit himself immediately (something that he eventually had to do!), he waited to see if it would turn up, and so lost 5 days. Downtime you would think you would allow some leeway for, when embarking on an 800 kilometre walk, but when he eventually hit the trail, it was from Pamplona, Spain, and not St. Jean Pied-de-Port, France.

There’s the rub; I’m reading a book on the Camino de Santiago, written by a man who didn’t actually do all of the walk, and worse still, didn’t do the bit over the Pyrenees, missing out around 100 kilometres!

The remainder may well be a captivating read, but this bombshell is making it difficult to continue further. I feel cheated. If the product description had proclaimed that it was the story of a man who walked “most” of the Camino de Santiago, I probably wouldn’t have bought it!

I remember a similar sinking of the heart when reading Bill Bryson’s account of his journey along the Appalachian Trail; “A Walk In The Woods”. A third of the way into the book, Bill and his hapless mate took a look at the distance they had covered on the whole map of the 2,172 mile route and realised they would never complete it.

From there on, the story lost most of it’s appeal for me but I persevered. Despite it being just a series of tales along different sections, it was still a decent read and it didn’t manage to quash my interest in other titles about long distance walking.

One, that stands out, is a thru-hikers account, by David Miller; “AWOL on the Appalachian Trail”. I loved this one! For me, it accurately portrays the atmosphere of a truly long hike. It describes the lows, the injuries, the mistakes, as well as the highs that make people want to do it.

One quote within, that I particularly liked; “Anything that we consider to be an accomplishment takes effort to achieve. If it were easy, it would not be nearly as gratifying. What is hardship at the moment will add to our sense of achievement in the end.

Granted, my own experience currently consists of trips that are week at the most, and in relative comfort, but this book does inspire me to set off on a much longer multi-day adventure. You can’t ask for more than that, really.

As for “A Journey of Days”; I’ll pick it up at some point, and I’ll see if it tempts me into finishing. The signs aren’t good, though.