Home Discover LuxembourgExpat Columns Inspiring Tales of Remarkable Journeys

Inspiring Tales of Remarkable Journeys

by David Thomas
bike book review

Ever been upstaged by a dog?

For Luxembourger, Yannis Bastian, it came at the end of a remarkable achievement, for Yannis had just ridden round the whole world on his bike. As he rounded the final corner to finally return home, the family dog came running out. Yannis had been away for nearly a thousand days; would the dog remember him? Happily we can see what happened as here is a delightful video of the reunion that will melt any dog lover.

Yannis cycled through 42 countries, across five continents and clocked up a total of 35,000 km.

You can hear the man himself speak (in English) of his remarkable adventure during the upcoming free B:Loft event on 17th March at Rotondes.   It promises to be a great evening and there will be a little ride after the event although you need to think more “round-the-city” than “round-the-world!” Yannis is planning to write a full length account of his adventures, but you can’t rush art so we have to wait! Why not whet your appetite with tales of other Long-Distance cyclists? Over the next couple of weeks I am going to review a few books from this fascinating genre. This week: a specialist in HUGE and ‘micro’ adventures; a legend of travel writing; an accidental tourist; and a big-up for the Grand Duchy.

bike journeybike journey

Moods of Future Joys and Thunder and Sunshine by Alastair Humphreys

These books should be read as a pair, and a rattling good read they are. As a young man Humphreys embarked on a trip of a lifetime. His didn’t have much money, but his resourcefulness definitely compensated. Having cycled across Europe in 2001, his plan to carry on through the Middle East was scuppered by the 9/11 induced volatility in the region. Rather than give up he simply turned right and rode the length of Africa instead.

This example is typical of the “can-do” attitude in these books. Through Humphreys’ eyes we see a wonderful, challenging, and beautiful world. His fresh style draws you to him instantly; his passion is palpable. You can’t read these books and not want to embark on adventures yourself. Upon returning he has dedicated himself to helping people find adventure around them. He gave us the notion of Microadventures, using the 5 to 9 to offset the drudgery of the 9 to 5. It’s a wonderful idea and his books and website are an inspiration: but the greatest inspiration of all is these sparkling accounts of his four-year round-the-world ride.

Everywhere … in the world I was given at least a safe place to camp, and often a bed, shower and feast. Everybody has hopes and dreams and loves. Everyone laughs at something funny. Don’t believe what you see on the TV: the world really is a good place.

 Full Tilt bicycle journey

Full Tilt by Dervla Murphy

Dervla Murphy is a force of nature. Aged 10 she received an atlas and a bicycle and an intriguing thought struck her; “If I just kept pedalling I would end up in India.” At age 30 her mother’s death released her from her full-time caring duties and immediately she rode to Delhi from her rural Irish village. This remarkable book is the account of that remarkable 1963 journey; just the first in a lifetime of astonishing, astounding journeys. She approaches writing as she approaches life; one day at a time, straightforward and with not a scrap of conceit. The style is deceptively simple – she is a very fine writer indeed – and absolutely gripping. Her total disregard for personal hardship is coupled with a bold fearlessness and recounted with an every-day ordinariness that produces fabulous books of jaw-dropping adventure.

Now, aged 86 and with the “machinery wearing out” she admitted in a recent, rare, interview that she has reluctantly retired.

She has completed 26 travel books and this account of an exciting and intriguing early trip is pure pleasure for the Dervla-fanatic – and it’s impossible to read without instantly becoming a Dervla-fanatic.

“For it is not death or hardship that is a fearful thing, but the fear of death and hardship”

 One Man and His Bike

One Man and His Bike by Mike Carter

Cycling to work one morning Mike Carter crossed Blackfriars Bridge and turned left as he did every day. It occurred to him that if he turned right instead he could follow the Thames out to sea, continue around the coast of Britain and eventually arrive back on the other side of the river without having to cross that bridge. And this he did; he rode to work “the long way”.

His engaging account of this mammoth trip (had he gone in a straight line he’d have reached Kolkata) is full of encounters and adventures: mishaps and misadventures. Interwoven is an essential snapshot of modern Britain. His simple idea led to a life-changing journey for him and a highly amusing tale of endeavour for us; beautifully entwined with an intriguing insight to post-crash pre-Brexit Britain.

The wind was violently strong, threatening to knock me over, the sea below me a maelstrom of whitecaps and churning water. A herd of red deer appeared in silhouette on the ridgeline. Eventually, reluctantly I staggered back to my tent and climbed inside. It was getting battered, in the morning there would be torn canvass and guy lines ripped to shreds. But I just lay there, smiling, not wanting the night to end.

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Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie by Andrew P Sykes

The “Reggie” books of European cycle trips now number three and are told in a cheerful and breezy manner. The Yorkshire schoolteacher decided to visit friends in Italy one summer, and noticed that there is a “EuroVelo route 5” which runs from London to Brindisi. So without any real cyclotouring experience he started on this trip; only to discover that this route was not much more than an idea; a line on a map. This first book in the series has a special place for us as, unusually, the author lingered a few days in Luxembourg; and clearly loved it!

Things improved dramatically as I entered Luxembourg, however. It was almost as if the Grand Duchy wanted to take me to one side, massage my shoulders, unfurrow my brow and give me a long, lingering hug.”

If you want to hear more such stirring tales direct from the source, save the date for Yannis’ talk, 17th March 2018. There will be more details next week, when we also review three more books.

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Nowl 28th February 2018 - 11:18 pm

These all sound great! I have heard of Alistair and Dervla but never read either. I should put that right now!

David Thomas 2nd March 2018 - 3:06 pm

Great thanks, I am sure you’ll enjoy them both! There will be another selection of next week. Any other books you can recommend?


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