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Travels with My Donkey: One Man and His Ass on a Pilgrimage to Santiago

Travels with My Donkey: One Man and His Ass on a Pilgrimage to Santiago
Author/Publisher: Tim Moore
Emphasis: Travel
List Price: $1.19

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
A man, a donkey, and a very long walk: Moore's latest European adventure (after French Revolutions and others) finds him embarking on an ages-old physical and spiritual pilgrimage across Spain to the famed cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Moore entertains with his snappy one-liners and skewed views of the locals, his fellow pilgrims and his own reasons for undertaking the camino. Against advice to the contrary, he pursues his search for a donkey to accompany him, which "upgraded his camino from big walk to revelatory voyage of self-examination." Moore shines in detailing "Tim and Shinto's Excellent Adventure": during the day, he accumulates "clicks" (kilometers) and cajoles Shinto across bridges, grates and roads; afternoons and evenings are spent searching for donkey-friendly lodgings (and encountering a share of slammed doors). Fellow pilgrims (the "Baroness von Munchausen"; "New Mexico Joe") get full portraits between details of communal living and eating, and the sordid intimacies of the shared bathroom. His sections on the pilgrimage's history and the towns he passes, however, are dry in comparison to his anecdotal asides and may only appeal to history buffs or those who've traveled this route themselves. While Moore may not have found his "inner Tim," he does take readers on an entertaining, unusual adventure.
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"If you enjoyed Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, this feels like the natural sequel---a well-told comic misadventure with a history lesson woven in for good measure. This is about the most entertaining travel writing you're going to pick up this year. A rollicking ride through the Spanish countryside with quirky observations, more interesting company than Chaucer seemed to find, and an ass named Shinto who now has enough comic material to jump on the lecture circuit. Arriving in Santiago with Moore was even more enjoyable than the journey I made along the Camino myself. All the fun, none of the blisters." --- Doug Lansky, author of Last Trout in Venice and First Time Around the World


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (January 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312320825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312320829
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review:

    4.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - A man, a plan, a donkey - Camino!
I read a number of books about the Camino de Santiago before I did it in July-August of 2007. They were either practical guidebooks or deeply personal memoirs. I'd begun reading "Travels With My Donkey" about two weeks prior to departing for Spain, but I didn't get past the introduction - too busy with preparations. I figured I'd read enough anyway, and I wanted to save what looked like a good book for post-Camino reflection. I'm glad I waited until after my pilgrimage to read "TWMD," because it was an excellent and uniquely humorous account that brought me right back to the Camino.

Mr. Moore first became aware of the Camino when he met a pilgrim on "a small boat in Norway." As is common with those who've walked the Way, the idea settled in his mind and bloomed after a period of germination. Also like the typical pilgrim, he began doing research and making preparations for the trek. However, unlike most of us he decided to bring along a donkey. After some searching, he finally found one named Shinto and committed to his adventure. He and Shinto were trailered to Valcarlos, Spain, and commenced their trek to Santiago one step at a time.

During the next forty-one days, Mr. Moore and Shinto experienced numerous adventures on the Camino. Shinto became somewhat of a focal point - most of the time for good, but sometimes for ill. The author soon discovered the difficulties involved in herding a somewhat truculent donkey, including health issues, finding enough food for both of them, and securing donkey-friendly accommodation. Even so, he persevered and eventually formed a bond with Shinto based on shared hardship.

"TWMD" reminded me a lot of Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods," another humorous account of a trek along an old trail. Indeed, both books made me laugh out loud in some spots and cringe in others. However, since I was fresh off the Camino, I was actually able to identify with Mr. Moore's experiences. I loved revisiting familiar towns and fondly remembered (or no-so-fondly remembered) refugios. And I empathized with the author's trials and tribulations, such as blisters, prickly pilgrims, harsh climate conditions, and fast automobile traffic.

"Travels With My Donkey" made me miss the Camino, and it also made me glad to be a peregrino. Recommended for those contemplating the Camino, pilgrims who have already walked the Way, and wanderers in general.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - I couldn't stop laughing!!!!
This book is hilarious!! I laughed out loud through out the entire book. Tim writes about his Camino de Santiago journey with a donkey starting with donkey basics - like being scarred to death of the donkey - to learning about it's basic care and feeding. From there he sets out on the journey and records the reactions of other pilgrims and of local Spanish towns people to his donkey.

I have since tried to get "into" some of Tim Moore's other books. Yeah, they're funny, but it was this book that sent me over the edge laughing. If you enjoy Tim Moore's books, buy this one!!!

For those of you seeking serious books about the purity of a spiritual journey while making the pilgrimage to Saint Jame's Field of Stars - there's lots of good books out there - but this one, though completely irreverent, tells it like it is/can be. I met a couple in Santiago de Compostella that had just finished the walk and their main impression of the walk was that it was a real Peyton's Place. If you are the serious type, reading this book before you go may just save you some disappointment during your own walk, or at least prepare you for the less spiritual side of the walk.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars - Time spent with donkey = greater humanity
What possesses a completely urban Londoner to want to walk 500 miles across northern Spain... with a donkey named Shinto? Herein lies a tail, er... tale of self discovery and adventure through torrential rains (no rein puns here!) sweltering heat and encounters with religious and secular pilgrims (peregrinos, en espanol) on the Camino de Santiago. This ancient Christian pilgrimage crosses northern Spain from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, resting place of St. James, patron saint of Spain. On opening this wonderful book you find yourself in the company of a person and donkey you enjoy spending time with. Smart, funny and a keen observer of people, Tim Moore's humanity suffuses this book and makes you feel the value of compassion. This is also one of those books that earns you inquisitive stares in public when you laugh loudly at one or another of his unexpected observations. When you are done you can even say you learned somthing about the history of Spain. This is great light reading. - Marcos Dinnerstein, www.parlo.com


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - Brilliant, Biting Hilarious Modern Pilgrimage
Moore's sense of humor and his complaints get him to the Pas de Roman to visit the Spanish Santiago Cathedral over the Pyrenees from the Atlantic Coast of France. Along the way, we are all drawn into his contacts with other, serious and not so serious pilgrims; the landscapes; the hardships of caring for this donkey animal he starts the trip with not knowing or caring much about; the incredible overnight sleeping accommocations he encounters; the meals; the brandy; the elevations; rain and shale; bridges and cobble stones. Having driven alot of the trail myself without knowing much about what it was or what I was doing, I was tied into this wonderful and hilarious story every bit of the way, enjoying his cynicism and suspicion until he reached the pinnacle of Santiago for all his cold dismissal of the energy required to make this pilgrimage. I sensed he made quite a turn by the time he reached the end of the journey but then perhaps he'd started out more committed to personal spiritual reasons for the journey than I'd understood at the beginning. I LOVED the book, his hilarious ability to laugh at himself and his circumstances, his brilliant evaluations of others' situations, his cautious thoughtful spiritual tussles along the path and most of all the subtle way he slipped in so much of the history of that great period when the Crusaders were displacing the Saracens or the Muslims. The weight of the themes sneaks in on the reader as the book develops - there are so many twists and turns that this book would be a fantastic book club or academic assignment as it calls out for interaction among readers. Would it ever become a book tape? Would it ever become a play? I feel it should have wider dissemination. Great book!


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - One ass you'll want to kiss
Tim Moore has taken me on some extraordinary journeys in the past, from the Tour de France to the Monopoly board via the arctic deserts of Iceland, but I found this one easily the most enjoyable. If you don't fall in love with the infuriating but utterly endearing donkey he takes with him on this Spanish pilgrimage, I'll eat my cat...

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - Buy this book
If you've ever thought of making the pilgrimage to Santiago, or simply enjoy hilarious travel writing, (Bryson, O'Hanlon) get this book. The title just about sums it up, both in attitude and description. While giving you a great idea of what the walk to Santiago is really like, Moore manages to deliver a laugh outloud on virtually every page. I did the pilgrimage the same year that Mr. Moore did (though six months later). I wish I had had the opportunity to meet him on the road. A delight.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - I'll add to the accolades
I've decided Tim knows just when to keep from going over-the-top. That doesn't mean he doesn't actually do it every so often, but he's talented enough to get away with it when he does.
Unlike his previous escapades, he is forced to socialize a great deal (more) on this trip. And -- with a companion! He and Shinto are perfect together; the dread of separation is palpable in the final pages.
Readers of previous books (yours truly included) have commented that his references have been highly Brit-specific; Our Author seems to have taken heed as this time they are far more balanced.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - An irreverent look at the Camino
Note: this book has been originally published in Great Britain as "Spanish Steps", with the same subtitle.

From the early 1990s the Camino Francés - an ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in the Spanish province of Galicia - has been undergoing a rapid revival, to the point of becoming a hike of choice for the middle-age crisis sufferers and the spiritually fashionable from all over the world.

Several good books (and many more indifferent and downright bad ones) have been written about the Camino, and now Tim Moore joined the level-headed group of authors with his "Travels with my Donkey". His account is not going to go down well with the professional "pilgrims" and the holy phonies who people both the road to Santiago and the Camino internet groups. He does not speak in vague and tearful terms about the "spiritual renewal". He makes fun of the highfalutin fantasies of Shirley MacLaine
and Paulo Coelho. He is not a believer in Templar mysteries, ley lines, Celtic lore and magic swords. What's probably the worst, he does not look at his fellow pilgrims through the love-clogged lenses of New Age sentimentality. His book is full of annoying power-walkers, elderly lesbians, old naked German men, assorted nut cases, overcrowded refugios, eternally closed churches, sticky mud, bloody blisters and donkey crap.

Just the same, he also describes ordinary people doing various acts of heart-warming kindness, and some of his weirdos are much more likeable than the average "pilgrim" types.

Like Tim Moore's previous travel accounts, "Travels with my Donkey" is full of his trademark humor (somewhat heavy on sexual innuendo and mild scatology). It should be required reading for all the would-be walkers to Compostela, along with Jack Hitt's "Off the Road".

PS. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Moore (without knowing his
identity) in front of the Villatuerta albergue, after following him and Shinto the donkey at a very brisk pace for about two kilometres. He kindly took my picture with Shinto, and I would like to thank him for that again.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars - Moore is back on his horse...er, ass.
It's possible this is Tim Moore's funniest book to date--I know, I know, that's hard to believe after "The Grand Tour," but it's true. He exhibits an almost Redmond-O'Hanlon-like bumbling ineptitude, but tempers it with a devastating wit, warm humanity and terrific insight and historical context. It's hard to imagine someone not enjoying this book.


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