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Pilgrims who make asses of themselves
on 5 August 2012
I enjoy Tim Moore's books, but the struggle for the author with this type of journey-concept is finding a unique angle on a well-trodden route, and then ensuring there is plenty of incident and interest along the way. Well, Moore ticks off the first requirement by deciding to do the 750km pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in the company of a donkey called Shinto. This mechanism has a vague historical and religious precedent along this route and gives some scope for answering the second requirement too, as man and beast cast Quixotic shadows across the north Spanish landscape. These unlikely traveling companions start out like the two ends of a Push-Me-Pull-You, each with predictably different priorities. Inevitably, they eventually fall into step (and maybe slightly in love) with each other along the baking Galician highways. As their bond grows, so too does Moore's contempt and irritation with his fellow not-so-happy-campers. Enforced proximity to snoring, early risers, dirty laundry and toilet habits soon break down the Compostelan-camaraderie and you sense the writer using his travel diaries as a mechanism for channeling his frustrations. This is occasionally amusing but it's hard to get away from the day-to-day mundanity of a 42 day slog when pretty much the same things happen every day, and even the orbiting cast of pilgrims doesn't change very much. You even start to wonder if this is rather a cruel exercise, forcing poor old Shints through two million leaden steps against his better judgement. Sorry to say it, but arrival in S de C causes a fair amount of relief for the reader as well as the walkers, two-legged and four-legged.