Have you ever thought of barefoot walking?

It’s fascinating when you are researching a holiday on-line where you may end up journeying to and what information finds you during your quest. I have just returned from a walking holiday in Las Alpujarras, near the Sierra Nevada National Park in southern Spain. Judging from the lack of tourists in the area, I would say that the big attractions of Granada, Seville and Ronda have helped to keep this part of Andalucía a well-kept secret. If you have sated your appetite for historic buildings and wish to have an insight into village culture, then I would suggest you head east from Granada and wind slowly up into the mountains of Las Alpujarras to discover the beautiful valleys, mountainsides and white villages that nestle below the Sierra Nevada. In amongst them you will find the pretty village of Bérchules home of Hotel Los Bérchules and the most hospitable hotel owners you are ever likely to meet.

This is exactly what I did and discovered, from the hotel’s menu of walks, a very picturesque and tranquil countryside laced with a network of paths waiting to be walked. The more prominent trails include the E4 long distance European walk that starts in Tarifa, Spain, and winds through France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and ends in Greece (including Crete and Cyprus). Its length is over 10,000 km. So this is where I became a bit distracted. I was searching for walking holidays in Las Alpujarras; that led to looking at various hotels in the area and then I happened upon someone’s blog. A chap, at the age of 55 and having worked constantly for 30 years, decided it was time for a change. He called it his mid-life crisis and he planned for twelve months his 180 day walk from Tarifa to Budapest. He is currently walking the Spanish part of the walk (May 2011).

Now, I have done some long distance cycling and have for a number of years travelled light. With the ever-increasing weight restrictions on the budget airlines the use of hand luggage is now a cost saving that I rarely avoid but is becoming harder to achieve as the luggage is required to be lighter and lighter. As a walker, probably the heaviest thing you will need to get through with your hand luggage is your boots and I don’t like wearing heavy boots when arriving in a hot country. So I was intrigued to know what this long-distance-walking chap was going to be wearing during his trekking trip through Las Alpujarras. During his research he came across a quote from Ray Jardine who, in his book The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook, states that "each additional 1.5 ounces removed from a boot would add about a mile to the day's hiking progress". On that basis going barefoot could mean getting to Budapest about two weeks earlier than anticipated.

Perfect! I’m going to ditch those hot heavy boots. Apparently Chris Townsend, in his Backpacker’s Handbook, rejects the argument that boots provide additional ankle support or that stiff soles provide some sort of protection against uneven surfaces. So for cost conscious readers, my suggestion is to book a walking holiday in Las Alpujarras, at Hotel Los Bérchules, take only hand luggage and research the up and coming barefoot walking technique which is better for your gait, posture, and luggage allowance.