The Senda Pirenaica crosses the Camino at the western end of the Pyrenees. I am returning there this year, staying in the Roncevaux/Orreaga Pilgrims’ Hostel so I have been reading about the ‘other’ trek.
In The Journey in Between Keith Foskett delves into the mind of a long-distance walker and a walker’s obsessions: feet, food and the finishing line prominent among them. Sometimes he is truculent, sometimes sensitive but never wishy-washy; it is his strong personality that holds the narrative together. With a trail name of Fozzie he likes making fun of himself, laughing at his foreign language skills. It is an enjoyable read.
The story follows his thru-hike from Le Puy, in central France to Santiago in the north-west corner of Spain, a total of 1600km. One of several Ways of St James, it has become a classic. It passes over the Pyrenees after St-Jean-Pied-de-Port – where it meets up with the Pyrenean Way (GR10).
The book is also about encounters. Brief. Some romantic, some not. Chance plays a large part. He meets some walkers repeatedly but one man who set off just two days ahead of him is only seen in the last hostel.
When he turns his hand to description there are some beautiful phrases: “chestnuts turned the path into a shimmer of mahogany,” for example. And he makes the most of meetings with the locals, including a classic description of an old man roasting his red pepper harvest. So it would have been great to read more about the places passed through.
Near the end of the trek he sees a note scribbled by another walker “I have just begun to realise that Santiago is only the destination”. Having spent three months looking forward to the finishing line and then starting to fear it as he approaches, the sentence clicks into place. It is not the destination which matters but the path taken to get there.
The Journey in Between: Walking el Camino de Sanitago was Fozzie’s first long-distance walk (in 2002) and his first book. Since then he has hiked and written about the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. In 2013 and again in 2014 he returned to the Camino!
If you are trying to choose between the Camino and the Senda Pirenaica you may also be interested in my book on the Senda (Spanish GR11).