I’m Back!

I’m just back after a wonderful five-week trip. It did not go exactly as planned but was very enjoyable.

I’ve got a Koga randoneur, a really great bike for this sort of trip. I had no problems whatever, if you don’t count two punctures.

I cycled from Clonmacnoise to Cork, staying with warmshowers hosts along the way. Cork to Roscoff by Brittany Ferries. Cycle across Brittany and La Vendee almost as far as La Rochelle staying in hostels and with WS hosts along the way. I followed the Velodyssee most of the way. The Nantes-Brest canal is very good, though don’t attempt to do it all in one day! (Do what I say not what I do!)

At this stage I decided that I was supposed to be on the Camino instead of doddling down west France! Not to mention that France is much more expensive than Camino-oriented Spain.

Took the train to Dax, outside Bayonne and started the camino proper from there. A day cycling to SJPdP and then set out on the Camino Frances on 29th April.

The first day I pushed and carried my bike across the Via Napoleon to the great amusement of the walkers! After that I followed the tarmac when the walkers path was of too poor a quality. The N – routes in Spain have almost all been by-passed by motorways so there is little or no traffic on them.

I followed Brierley’s Camino Frances guide to Santiago de Compostello. I found that I could do the distance of two or three walking days in each cycling day. Never had any problems getting accommodation in albergues but then this was early May. It might be different from Sarria in July or August.

I was a bit anxious about the Meseta but, apart from one mildly windy day, it was fine. La Cruz de Ferro was spectacular, with mountains and ragged mist. When I got over O’Cebrerio into Gallecia it was like coming home into the west of Ireland.

Things got a little busy on the Camino after Sarria with people doing their 100km trip. SdeC was very interesting but very touristy. After a two-day break I continued to Finnistere. This was a much more satisfactory end to the Camino.

For family reasons I had to cut the trip short by a week so I did not do the Camino del Norte. I did take the bus back to Santander which took me over some spectacular mountains. I think Camino del Norte is on my list for next year. Ferry back to Plymouth and then back to Ireland.

All in all a wonderful trip, great places, great people and great scenery. If I was doing it again I think I would skip most of France, possibly start cycling from Bayonne. I would go slower too, stop and investigate villages and churches rather then pushing on to meet a target distance each day.

Buen Camino!


Well, I made it

Santiago de Compostello was reached yesterday after one of the most extraordinary and wonderful trips of my life!
Sorry about the lack of posting but when my tablet ran out of charge I was reduced to using the phone.
However I´have full details of the trip on paper and will publish it when I get reliable internet access again.
I ws wandering about S de C today when I got a text. Three former workmates had just arrived after walking the Camino Inglese so we had a great reunion in front of the cathederal! Meeting for dinner this evening.
Slight change in my plans. I am taking the ferry back to Plymouth on 20th May arriving on 21st. That is a week earlier than originaly planned, the Camino del Norte will have to wait for another time.
I will now have a nice peaceful trip out to Finnistere to the end of the world.
Many thanks to everyone for the wonderful support. See you in early June.

Catastrophes !!!

When I set off people warned me of the dangers of the road, Now, almost two weeks and 700 km later I can report the following list:

  • One puncture, outside Cork
  • One lens lost from my cycling glasses, replaced in St, Nazaire
  • Broken power lead to my tablet, This is the most annoying, it is not a standard USB plug so it as soon as the last of the charge expires I will be hauling useless electronics around, I am posting from a hosts laptop at the moment but the French keyboard layout is difficult to adjust to
  • Yesterday I dropped the camera and it no longer switches on, Not a huge loss, I still have one on the smartphone but it is not that easy to use, Might buy a cheapo one when I come across them,

As you can see problems are minor, bike is perfect and the body is doing well , Today as a rest day in La Rochelle was most welcome though,

I want to get to Spain and start the Camino proper by mid week, It has taken me a week to cycle across half France  so I will take a few trains to the Spanish border Consider France as an extended training spin!

La Vendee is flat

Lovely night with Manu and Elo and then hit the road south for the Vendee, Oh, they are planning a trip to Korea this summer and might need to borrow a bed,

Down, through tourist territory, strange fishing machines here, A hut mounted on a tripod in the water supporting a large net on a crane arm,

La Vendee is strange, almost totally flat and only a few cm above sea level,

My plans on spending occasional nights in camp sites do not seem to work, no fixed tents available at this time of the season,

Spent the night in a farm albergue in the village of Bouin, I was the only guest if you dont count the pot bellied pigs

Next day in St Jean de Monts Fredric approaches me to chat about the bike, He takes me home to his beautifully pregnant partner and we had a lovely two hours talking of our cycle trips,

Made the target of Olonne sur Mer that night and found a lovely grotty pub with rooms

Realized Agatha I had 80 m to Sr Rochelle so I cheated and hopped on the train, If I want to make Spain by midweek I will have to do it more,

St Rochelle is a great medieval town with towers, gates and clocks, Loic took me home after we watched the cliff diving in the harbour,,

Pizza, lovely long night sleep on a futon, I am taking the day off to rest and explore,  Watch this space!

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La Velodyssee is great ……

That’s when you can find it of course! Monday left Glomel an went to the nearest town to pick it up. Round and about every back alley and bye-road and it’s nowhere to be found. Eventually spotted the sign for the tourist road to Pontivy and said that will do me fine. A few minor hills and then, before I knew it I was there. Stayed in the youth hostel, and, guess what, velodyssee was right at the door!

The usual conversations happen, and old man, well he looked a bit older than me which is not saying much, invited me to visit his commune just outside St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. At breakfast, Claudette, aged in her fifties, told me that her partner had died and that I should give a message to St Jaques when I got there that she was coming. A man was pleased to know that I was Callaghan, as he was Callig. So we spent some time discussing tne only member of the family to have achieved fame, Sunny Jim Callaghan, UK prime minister. Of course he did so ‘good’ a job that it led to 18 years of Conservative rule!

In the morning set off along the banks of the Nantes-Brest canal. This was built during the Napolonic was as a method of circumventing the British blocade. I’d not realised just how massively engineered it was, almost 20m wide, 3m deep and hundreds of km long. It was built by conscript and prisoner labour so there must be a body buried every meter along the way.

Lovely route under the oak trees where I heard my first cuckoo for 2015, I was heading for Redon but, as the day wore on it got hotter and hotter. Eventually with 20 km to go I called it a day and found a B&B in a village. A bit more fancy than I wanted or needed and a bit more pricy too. Still needs must on the road!

Wednesday morning, after a nice breakfast (Yuck, this is getting boring!) bop the last 20 km to Redon wher I discover that it’s 70km to Saint Nazaire. It’s hot and I’m tired so I cheat a bit and take the train. So now I’m in Manu and Elo’s house with shower and broadband, what more can a cycling pilgrim need!

Bicycles are great conversation pieces. While I was waiting for Manu two differnt people fell into conversation with me, I explain what I’m doing and get the same response as I got in Ireland.

Buen Camino everyone!

Sunday in Brittany!

After a bumpy trip I arrived in Rostoff and discovered something strange. Everything is shut down ona Sunday, and me without food and a map! A filling station sold me a sandwich but could not sell a map because they were unpriced! In Morlaix I got very lost but a kind young man showed me the way out and even gave me an old map of Brittany he had in his van.

Took a lovely road over the hills to Carhaix. I’d had nothing to eat and was out of water so I ‘bonked’ pretty badly on the way into town. Desperate for some fool and drink, found nothing open at all!

Rhett, my warmshowers host, colected me and brought me hom to his wife Martine. They are a British expat couple who live on the grand tranche of the Nantes-Brest canal. What a welcome! Shower, delicious food and an evening of conversation about everything under the sun. This trip is worthwhile purely for the conversations that happen on the way!

Lovely night’s sleep in Rhett’s man cave, with bikes and excersise machines for company. Followed by lovely porrige for brekfast. This is how to travel!

Now it’s sunny and warm and time to hit the road. Having a great time, great people to meet and just hard enough travel to appreciate them.

Buen Camino everyone





The Camino will provide

There is a saying that the camino will provide and so far it’s been providing in a magnificent way.

Tuesday was the start from Clonmacnoise. If there was any way that i could have hid and remained at home without appearing a fool I would have done it! I managed to wave goodbye to Sue and do a phone interview for Athlone community radio. Nicola from the cycling club came out to take a few photos and I was off.

So far it’s provided, a night with Cistercian monks in Roscrea, greorian chant and conversation with Franceska, a poor Clare nun about Ahmadhi people and the difficulty they have making the Haj.

It’s provided lots of conversations that follow this pattern. “You are doing what? That’s crazy” and immediately after, with real yearning “I wish I was doing it too”.

It’s provided a night in a yurt in the Galtee mountains talking with two of touring cycling’s greats. These were people who cycled with frozen brakes and a damaged tent into Everest basecamp in Nepal!

The camino has provided Jim, who  I’d never met, who cycled into Cork to wish me well, and Anias who lent me her house and broadband even though she was out roller discoing. It’s provided legs that complained a bit the first day but have now settled into a work routine.

Yes, the camino provides, but you can never be sure what it provides. So far it’s been a wonder.

But Why?

Why do it? I don’t really know.

Paddy Kavenagh wrote:


That in the end I may find

Something not sold for a penny In the slums of Mind.

That I may break With these hands

The bread of wisdom that grows In the other lands.

For this, for this Do I wear

The rags of hunger and climb The unending stair.

Do I really think that there are some things ‘not sold for a penny in the slums of mind’? I’m nearly certain that there is no ‘bread of wisdom’ either here or in any other lands.

It will be long and cold and tiring and hot and and wet. I’ll be lost and confused and unable to communicate with people. Hopefully I won’t be the only one in that situation!

It is extraordinarily unlikely that the bones of St. James are in Santiago de Compostello. After all they were lost for 800 years until it became politically necessary to rediscover them. And even if they are there, they are just some old bones.

The Camino is full of ‘miracles’ like roast chickens coming to life that are, to put it mildly, unlikely. But do they have a deeper meaning?

A lot of the imagery refers to the reconquesta, the 800 year war that ended in the destruction of the Muslim kingdoms of Al-Andalusia and the expulsion of all Muslims and Jews.  There are two common representations of St. James. He is both Pelegrino, a gentle pilgrim to his own shrine and Matamoros, the Moor killer.

I’ll remember my Muslim friends with affection whenever I see Matamoros.Santiago-Matamoros-Catedral-de-Burgos

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Pilgrim Paths Day

ScallopOnPilgrimPost UnitedIrishmenMemorial StMancanAndFelicity AedhAndScallop

Saturday 4th was Pilgrim Paths Day so I did the cycle from Ballycumber to Clonmacnoise organised by Offaly Heritage (https://www.facebook.com/offalyheritagenews?fref=ts). My guest Felicity and I cycled over to the start and we picked up Donna and Paula at Boher.

The distance was 25 km which is a bit of a doddle across the bog. The trip on the last section of the Pilgrim road, on top of the esker, is really magnificent. It was so good we did it twice!

Felicity had never been to Clonmacnoise before and neither Donna or Paula had cycled the pilgrim road so it was great to see it with new eyes. By the time we got home there were 80 km in the legs, without any obvious effort.

Thanks to Amanda and the Athlone Walking Club for organising it.

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Finally, the route!

MedievalMapEuropeWhere am I going on the great Camino trip? That’s a good question and one that has bothered me all my life!

Ireland, the start and finish.

Home to Cork and Rosslare to home. I decided the trip was plenty long without adding a trip up and down to Derry on it!

France and Spain

Roscoff to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, then Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostello.

Back along the Camino del Norte to Santander where I get the ferry to Plymouth.

If I run into bad weather or exhaustion issues I will consider taking public transport in France or on the Camino del Norte. All the Camino Frances will be cycled unless really exceptional factors come into play!


Arrive Plymouth, then to Bristol, Cardiff, and Fishguard for the ferry to  Rosslare.  I might take a few days off to visit the family when I get to Bristol.

Looks simple, now all that I have to do is cycle it!