Whether you’re a hardcore adventurer, mountain trekker, long-distance walker, or sedate, armchair explorer, Jules Torti’s Trail Mix is an engaging and entertaining travelogue. Reading Torti’s memoir felt like picking up a prescription, what the doctor ordered for a feel-good, easy-to-swallow antidote to pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions.
The Santiago de Compostela, also known as The Way of Saint James, Camino, or simply The Way has been a pilgrimage of religious indulgence for ten centuries. Now, for most, it’s simply a bucket-list trek, one of the world’s great hikes for the devoutly pious, atheistic, or those in-between on the continuum of spiritual belief. Over the recent past, a great many books have explored, mapped and followed the trail. Which is in fact a number of paths and landbound tributaries snaking their way, more or less, from the south of France across northern Spain. I’ve even trekked an offshoot along the ancient salt paths of southwest England, meandering my way to the continent through Basque country and around the Bay of Biscay. It’s a special excursion, for countless reasons, the range of which are as diverse as every individual making the journey. This is why, irrespective of the volume of Camino publications, everyone, I feel, has something special to offer. And Torti’s book does indeed offer something special.
Here the publisher summarizes the author’s adventure. “There is snoring. Sleep apnea. Threadbare patience. Frayed nerves. Sour socks. A lot of salami. Shifting from a walk-in closet to a walking closet of just 10 pounds, Jules and Kim decided to walk the historic Camino before their lower backs (or any other body parts) decided otherwise. Trail Mix is the open, frank, and funny story of one Canadian couple voted most unlikely to agree to such a daunting social experience.”
Depending on where you choose to start and conclude, the Camino trek can range from a hundred to a thousand miles. People usually spend a few weeks or months on the trail, traversing a range of topography, from high altitude Pyrenees to arid Spanish fields, pastures and vineyards. Those keen to “do it by the book” get official Camino passport stamps and stay in hostels, some of which have catered to pilgrims for centuries.
This passage in particular brings us directly onto the trail with our storyteller, a sensory dive into the experience. “We had dust up to our knees already. I snapped the ankle of my sock and a plume of dust arose, like Pigpen from Peanuts. Laundry would be imperative, as we had really pushed the limits of the Smartwool ‘stink-free’ guarantee. I had been wearing my two pairs of quarter socks on rotation for seven days. The last two hostels had zero clothesline real estate left,
so we kept pushing our wash cycle.”
For anyone who loves a well-told tale from the trail, this engaging travelogue has something for everyone: the challenge of a trek, healing, quirky humour, and the simple satisfaction of pursuing, and attaining, an important personal goal.
About the Author: Jules Torti is editor-in-chief of Harrowsmith magazine. She has been published in Cottage Life, The Vancouver Sun, The Globe and Mail, and Matador. She also writes for Coast Mountain Culture, Kootenay Mountain Culture, Travelife, and Live Small Town magazine. Her memoir Free to a Good Home: With Room for Improvement was published by Caitlin Press in 2019. She lives in Lion’s Head (near Owen Sound), Ontario.
Title: Trail Mix: 920 km on the Camino de Santiago
Author: Jules Torti
Publisher: RMB | Rocky Mountain Books, 2021
About the Reviewer: Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries, and recipient of The Miramichi Reader’s 2021 Very Best Book Award for nonfiction. When not trekking the globe with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, making music and friends. @billarnott_aps