High in the Pyrenees, a full day's hike from any trappings of civilisation, is no place for a human to be - unless you are searching for the time of your life. This is the roof of a mountain range that stretches from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean coasts, and provides some of the most breathtakingly beautiful landscape to be found in Europe.
It is also the place for hikers to get soaked, roasted or scared out of their wits - not by the endangered brown bear, but by rights-of-way such as the precipitous Chemin de la Mature, hacked out of a cliff by 18th century convicts and is still used in the 21st century to punish anyone fearful of heights, such as TV presenter Simon Calder. Luckily, his friend and walking companion Mick Webb has a complementary range of phobias, such as being confined with 54 fellow hikers, and their socks, in a refuge two miles above sea level.
Together, they step out to conquer the roof of the Pyenees, following the time honoured tradition of walking the GR10. the preferred route of the, at times eccentric, French Ramblers' Federation. Testing a hiker's emotional resilience as keenly as his walking boots, the GR10 is not for the faint-hearted. Weaving an occasionally treacherous, always exhilarating trajectory through a landscape of strong traditions and strange animals, Calder and Webb narrate an eventful and humerous travelogue. With their backpacks, boots and baguettes, they explore the region: meeting the people, savouring the views and the wines - and aguing about how best to cope with the constant surprises and challenges of magnificent mountains. They also very quickly learn that la loi de l'emmerdement maximum means 'sod's law' in French.
About the Authors
Simon Calder and Mick Webb have been getting lost together in difficult terrain such as Columbia, Peru, and Stanstead Airport since 1998. Simon is travel editor of the Independent and a TV presenter for programmes including BBC1's Holiday. Mick Webb is an award-winning radio producer for BBC Radio 4.
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Comments about Backpacks, Boots and Baguettes:
I really enjoyed this book. It would be good to read if you were going to travel to the Pyrenees but it is a good read even if you don't go there.
It's fairly obvious from the start of this collaboration that Calder and Webb, who have been 'getting lost together in difficult terrain' for several years, have an enormous affection for each other's company and the majesty of the Pyrenees. Taking to a long distance footpath across southern France, they divide the chapters evenly, taking in history, culture and geography on their trek from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. As they tell of encounters with strong yet odd traditions, the obligatory range of wrong turns, dodgy maps and faux-pas punctuate their adventures. Undoubtedly they had a wonderful time, but this generally fails to come across, especially as the book goes on. It's not that it's badly written, it's just difficult to avoid the feeling that the whole thing - from the title's lazy alliteration to the endlessly similar and not terribly exciting mini dilemmas - has been hurriedly cobbled together. (Kirkus UK)
Number Of Pages: 262
Published: 9th December 2004
Dimensions (cm): 19.4 x 12.8 x 1.7
Weight (kg): 0.2