The Hairy Hikers by David Le Vay: a review

The Hairy Hikers by David Le Vay (Summersdale 2012)

The Hairy Hikers by David Le Vay (Summersdale 2012)

I wish I had read David Le Vay’s book before walking the GR10. He and his friend Rob hiked from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean in one go, 52 days on the hoof. I wish I had done it that way. Reading The Hairy Hikers has brought home to me the difference between a long-distance walk and a long-distance walk divided into four. It makes my annual 250km seem almost trivial: I hardly had time to get into my stride before it was all over. No time to get bored. They kept on going, despite doubts that they would get to the Mediterranean and the inevitable pain. They weren’t even deterred by the monotony of trudging up hills only to descend them again.

It is billed by the publishers Summersdale as a bundle of laughs, full of schoolboy jokes and it starts out in that vein, but as the increasingly hairy hikers progress across the mountains, the writing becomes more introspective and, for me at least, more interesting. The real subject of the book is not the GR10, nor the Pyrenees, but the process of walking and the way it affects those who undertake it for long periods. It is also about walking with someone else for 7 weeks, which means living with them in difficult conditions: a delicate exercise.

In a section entitled “What I learned in the mountains”, David says (amongst other things):

  • The mountains change and move. Time slows down; time stretches.
  • I have learned that possessions are meaningless. I can carry everything I need on my back.
  • I have learned about my feet. I have learned how to walk.

Yes, that’s it.

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