From A Walk In The Woods To Everest

Petra Shepherd reports on the Latest Travel Themed Movies

Set-jetting is the trend of visiting the places where movies are filmed, a “location vacation” so to speak. The exotic countries used in many a James Bond film or touring the Harry Potter sights are always going to popular. However, there are three films just out that feature a travel experience you can actually do as opposed to just using a destination as the setting for a fictitious story.

First up, legendary actor Robert Redford sets off for A WALK IN THE WOODS as Bill Bryson, based on the travel writer’s bestselling memoir. Upon his arrival back in the United States following two decades in the UK, Bryson wants to find a way to reconnect with his homeland. Impulsively he decides to hike a section of the longest continuous footpath in the world, The Appalachian Trail, 2180 arduous miles stretching from Maine to Georgia. Fearing for his life, Bryson’s wife Cathy played by Emma Thompson refuses to allow him to travel alone but the only friend Bryson can persuade to join him is an old, overweight, recovering alcoholic Katz (Nick Nolte). Together, they face the highs and lows that the route has to offer and like the also recently released film WILD starring Reese Witherspoon hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the film is a fantastic way of showcasing The Appalachian Trail.

Those who attempt to cover the trail in one continuing trek are known as “thru-hikers,” whereas “section-hikers” walk separate portions of the trail over years and “flip-floppers” thru-hike the trail disjointedly, hitting different portions at different times in attempts to start off on one of the lesser challenging treks, or to avoid harsh weather and/or crowded trails. In A Walk in the Woods, the writer thinks to shake up his life and challenge himself with a thru-hike, timed like most, beginning in Georgia in the spring. You don’t usually reach for travel writing if you’re in the mood for a laugh, but the book and now the film is hilariously funny and you come out not only marvelling at the scenery but learning a lot more about The Appalachian Trail and especially the “dos” and the “don’ts”. Although tips on how you deal with a bear, waste of all kinds and dealing with that annoying fellow trekker should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt.

The total elevation gain of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail is equivalent of climbing Mount Everest 16 times and talking of Everest, the other big name, big budget film currently on release is none other than EVEREST.

If you think hiking The Appalachian Trail might be difficult then climbing Everest is an altogether different challenge as witnessed in the current film, a real life disaster movie and perhaps not the best advert for the world’s highest mountain. Incalculable risks, enormous hardships, years of training for impossible-to-foresee challenges, unthinkable, inhospitable conditions and yet for almost a century, adventurers across the globe have sought to bring deeper meaning to their everyday lives by attempting to summit the highest point and most dangerous place on Earth, Mount Everest.

The film starring Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaaland Keira Knightley is inspired by the incredible events surrounding an attempt in 1996 to reach the summit, documenting the awe-inspiring journey of two expeditions challenged beyond their limits by one of the fiercest blizzards every encountered. The action-adventure was shot at high elevation on the trek to Everest in Nepal and in The Italian Alps. Now that Nepal is firmly open for business after the devastating earthquake earlier in the year, I’d opt for the obviously far easier but for me personally challenging (I did it in 2010) trek to Everest base camp instead or any of the other stunning treks on offer in Nepal. The Annapurna Circuit Trek, Langtang Valley Trek, Ghorepani Trek (Poon Hill) and Jomson to Muktinath are some of the more popular ones.

Another recommended experience now available to see on the big screen and one that I too have been fortunate to see is The Palio in Italy. The Palio is the oldest horse race in the world, and turns the Italian city of Siena into a high-stakes battleground of strategy, intrigue, and searing machismo. The film PALIO follows the legendary maestro Gigi Bruschelli, winner of 13 races and master of the intrigues that surround the Palio and his former protégé Giovanni Atzeni, a handsome young contender driven by a fearless passion to become number one. It’s a cinematic tale of Italian life in microcosm and gives a thrilling behind the scenes look at the most exhilarating and dramatic race in the world.

The race which runs twice a year on July 2 and August 16 circles the Piazza del Campo three times and lasts no longer than 90 seconds. However, the film manages to capture the pageantry and build up beforehand as well as giving us a whole of host of facts. Who knew that a rider less horse could actually win the race and has done so on 23 occasions, that the police give the jockeys stretched, dried ox penises with which to whip each other and that members of the winning district celebrate by sucking babies’ pacifiers to symbolise that their district has been reborn.

If one picture tells a thousand words, then a movie full of pictures gives even greater exposure to a destination and experience as these three current releases aptly illustrate. They’re a great way of learning more about a historic annual event or inspiring you to take up that challenge although in Everest’s case, perhaps best left to armchair travelling!