- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Pilgrim's Tales, Inc. (Oct. 1 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0977053628
- ISBN-13: 978-0977053629
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.4 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,217,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Over the Top & Back Again: Hiking X the Alps Paperback – Jun 22 2010
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"This is my favorite kind of adventure tale: Against all odds, in the face of health, weather, interpersonal, navigational and culinary issues, Brandon Wilson and his somewhat reluctant wife hike it because it's there - or, it's supposed to be. I laughed, I winced, and then I started checking to see when I was next scheduled to be anywhere near the Via Alpina." - Kyle Wagner, travel editor, Denver Post "This lighthearted hiking narrative reflects the positives of such an experience: overcoming hardship, laughing at their inability to find trail blazes, Europe's apparent fear of switchbacks on trails ascending 1000-plus meters per col, and the bond and struggle with your trail partner..... Recommended for armchair travelers and anyone interested in hiking the Alps." - Library Journal "Informative, entertaining, and original... a pioneer in a groundbreaking genre of travel writing." - Midwest Book Review "Wilson brings his considerable intellect and wry sense of humor to this epic adventure, and the result is brilliantly accessible and wonderfully subversive." - Richard Bangs, author of Quest for the Sublime and PEAKS "Marvelous account of a long hike...told with a fine eye for detail and a keen sense of humor." - Royal Robbins, legendary rock climber "For outdoor enthusiasts, this book will awaken the travel bug within and inspire adventure. For others, it's a worthwhile armchair journey through beautiful country with friendly guides." - ForeWord Magazine ""Over the Top & Back Again" suggests that maybe a little madness isn't too crazy after all." - WEND Magazine "It's great fun trekking through the Alps with the Wilsons...They do all the hard work - and we get all the pleasures - rendered with warmth, insight and humor in Brandon's inimitable style." - Maui News "Wilson walks the way Forrest Gump runs. He's driven to it...As for the connection between the outer journey and the inner journey, Wilson never pushes it. You get it in small bits, as he does, because that's the way it comes. It has a lot to do with savoring the simple pleasures of life that surround us every day. Wilson's books point the way toward this happy state of mind: just be bold and endure a few vicissitudes." - GoNOMAD.com "Makes you want to grab your walking stick, step into your hiking boots and climb a mountain." - Christopher Elliott, syndicated travel writer
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I don't know offhand how many travel guides Brandon has written, but of them all, this describes the most challenging journey: following the Via Alpina from near Trieste in a great loop over the mighty mountains, back to Monaco.
A travelogue needs to instruct the reader, to convey practically useful information. Brandon does this, but without weighing the reader down with it. The writing is always chatty and easy to read, although in many places I found the words in the local language to be a bit intrusive. Still, that adds color.
Brandon's usual style is to laugh at himself while describing trials that would overwhelm most people, and that's what he does in Over the Top. This time, the humor is enhanced by delightful pen sketches. When I post this review in my newsletter "Bobbing Around," I will reproduce one I have stolen from the book.
As in his other books, Brandon is very good at visual descriptions that can only be called word pictures. They bring the scenery, buildings and people to life.
What is the greatest gain from suffering danger, discomfort and financial cost on a marathon trek? This is best expressed on page 121: "Lizabeth, a very special lady, reminded me why I like to do these treks. It’s not so much the places you see; it’s the folks you meet along the path. Traveling simply, you throw yourself out into the universe with abandon, depending far on fate and the kindness of strangers. Simply put, it means trusting, letting go, and letting life unfold in a natural and beautiful way. It’s a remarkable exercise."
There is a collection of magnificent photos in the middle of the book. Some are just inspiring. Others, like the words and drawings, made me laugh.
A problem with a single book describing such a long journey is that even though each individual section is unique, and well described, after awhile it feels like more of the same. Like Brandon and his wife Cheryl were fatigued by the long trek, the reader can get fatigued too. I don't have a solution for this: the route is long and goes through 8 countries, so to be true, the book needs to do the same.
If you are interested in following part (or even all!) of the Via Alpina, or if you are an armchair traveler wanting to find out about a beautiful part of our planet without leaving home, you can't do better than to read this book.
So when I finished reading Brandon Wilson's "Over the Top & Back Again: Hiking X the Alps" I had to lie down. It felt like I had personally journeyed with the Wilsons, hiking the same "1800 km over eight countries in 110 days" route, climbing the equivalent of 12 Mt Everest ascents and descents, through 40 days of relentless rain, the occasion snowfield and numerous days of wind and hail. And yes - let us not forgets those nasty blood-sucking ticks, the crappy dinners of dried crackers and day's old freeze-dried coffee, trying to stay warm and dry in run down 100-year-old mountain huts some like to call refugees.
Brandon is man on a mission and unlike his previous book, Along the Templar Trail, this not walk of peace. Along the way, his wife Cheryl sustained not one but two serious injuries. Nevertheless, Brandon marches on, and Cheryl soldiers on right behind him - my wife would have filed the divorce papers or simply pushed me off a mountaintop to end the suffering. They encounter poorly marked trails, non-existent trails and trails that simply end at the edge of a 3000-meter cliff. In addition, Brandon at the end of his book, kindly calculates for the reader that they must have ascended the equivalent of 104,661 meters and descended 106,860 meters during their nearly four month ordeal. A punishing physical and mental endurance test that would have disheartened most hardened and qualified adventurous Alpine hikers.
Brandon is a great storyteller and covers every little detail of their journey. I was surprised he had the time and energy to make complete notes at the end of day. He captures in fine detail, the ever-changing landscape, the hourly events of the day and the dialogue between Cheryl and himself and others.
Words like "crazy, madness, insanity" come to mind - at times, I simply wanted it to stop. I wanted them to stop. "Go head down to the valley, have a nice dinner, and spend the evening in one of nice hot saunas, the Germans and Austrians so fondly love," I would mutter under my breath as I continued to read his book. However, quitting is not an option for the Wilsons. Their teamwork, love of the great outdoors and their courage makes this a hi-octane travel adventure story unlike any other I have read.
Go buy Brandon's book but I am warning you. Come prepared for a "heart stopping blood boiling" real life expedition. Makes sure you have plenty of warm rainproof gear on and four months of food and water nearby. You will need it.
Neville J Tencer
Co author of An Italian Odyssey: One Couple's Culinary & Cultural Pilgrimage
In his very literate style, Brandon Wilson always transcends the mundane and the ordinary. At the same time, he makes his grassroots travel experiences fully accessible to the mind and imagination of the reader. This is once again the case in his multidimensional tale "Over the Top & Back Again"; a dramatic but also very humorous story which proves once again how physical landscapes shape culture and the human psyche.
In the book, he once again takes the reader on a multidimensional and very eclectic journey, this time through the Alps. He tells a tale that reveals so much more about the alpine environment(both physical and cultural) than one would ever imagine or expect. This is also a multicultural journey during which Brandon demonstrates clearly why this particular geographic region is one of the most vital and precious human environments on the planet.
The Philosophical Traveller
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Just as he wakes up each morning to begin another day, he also takes you! You are not just reading. In [his] world, one you thought you might be able to imagine, he unfolds this enormous, several-countries, trek. He is always immediate, in the now. You are too! At once he so personal and then again through the magic of his writing you step completely INTO his journey. You too have been invited to challenge each and every step! [Its really something, after reading for several hours, to literally look up and find yourself in your own home!]
What I experienced (once again) was how his non-fiction becomes my realty with each page. I could 'feel' the blisters of the up and down, up and down and down and up. I become starved [with him] and oh-so-very-wet from the constant and unforgiving rain. I'm shivering in [his] cold weather, wondering if there is hot food, a warm fire anda I-don't-care-how-hard-it-is-bed .... just let there be one at day's end! Perhaps at the next dawning, you will screech at sun's delight! You hold your breath, wishing it oh oh so to be true! In some ways Brandon's book reads like a thriller!
I could 'see' the Alpine vistas with him. I heard myself laughing aloud when meeting all the different native people. I could smell not only the beauty of alpine air and the majesty of it all, but I could even smell myself from [his] effort! HA! What a delight! 'We' become additional companions, as his readers. What a gift!
Truth is, with each of his books, Brandon makes one remember to be sensitive to even the smallest of Life's treasures. We learn to trust our relationships even more through reading his. And he teaches us to salute the smallest of victories, forgive our mistakes and what it takes to forgive others and move on, no matter what.
After all, as he demonstrates once again through his fine writing style, we are only 'one step' away to our own humanity, as well as oh so close to others.
The book is extremely satisfying for armchair travelers - taking you over 1,000 miles of the high Alps, through eight European countries (and their culture, people and foods). The story includes enough suspense and bad luck to keep your interest or stir your empathy (e.g., "the agony of de feet"), but not so much that you can't visualize yourself right there with Brandon and his wife Cheryl.
The book is a must-read for anyone considering hiking the Via Alpina themselves. My husband and I have been talking about this trail ever since it was created. Reading "Over the Top & Back Again" was the tipping point - we ARE doing it, starting next summer (hiking a few weeks each summer until we've done it all). And we hope to benefit from some of the author's lessons learned.
Finally, I've used the book as an engaging geography lesson for our 9-year-old grandson. Combining the line drawings of the trail segments with an atlas for orientation, and the photos in the middle of the book to prompt questions, we had a wide-ranging discussion about Europe and the Alps and mountain ecology and rural cultures.
This book will be a repeat item on my gift-giving list for this December holiday season.