Sponsored Cycle for Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Liverpool - Lourdes to Fulda (Germany), 943 miles in 9 days

It’s a few weeks now since I arrived at the shrine of St. Boniface in Fulda, Germany at the end of my 9 day sponsored cycle from Lourdes for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. It’s about time I shared some of my experiences. 

I arrived in Fulda, Germany (home of the shrine to St. Boniface) on Sunday July 27th as planned, overall very happy with the ride. So far over £1,800 has been raised, including over £1,300 (inc. GiftAid) on the Justgiving website. I’m still hoping to break the £2,000 barrier by the time all the money has come in. 

If you would like to make a donation you may do so at https://www.justgiving.com/James-Hayes12/

Early morning leaving Besançon on day 6

During days 7 + 8 of the 9 I rode up into and through the hills and mountains of the beautiful Schwarzwald (Black Forest, 800-1,000m altitude for more than 80km), getting caught in a freezing cold thunderstorm (with dramatic lightning to boot) before coming back down to the hotter valley plains of the Neckar and Main rivers. I think in the end I preferred the storm and rain in the hills. Must be the Celt in me! I did, however, need the assistance of a very friendly local when the weather was at its worst. He took pity on me at a point during the thunderstorm while I was doing a 3-4 mile descent in the Schwarzwald with a gradient of about 7% combined with hairpin bends. I was having to negotiate these bends in treacherously wet and windy conditions as spectacular thunder and lightning was kicking off around me. The local drove past me in his small van, stopped in a hairpin corner on the descent and motioned me to get into his van with my bike. I obeyed without protest. The conditions were really dangerous. With the extra weight of the baggage on my bike I was having to be careful in tight corners even in dry weather. 

We tried to make conversation with my almost non-existent German, and his similarly absent English assisted by universal sign language. We did however manage to have a good laugh for the few miles we were together until he dropped me in the next village at the bottom of the descent next to a Netto where I was able to buy some grub for lunch and change into a dry cycling top (which also got soaked soon after but it was nice to be dry - at least the top half - while I ate). It was one of those unexpected but rich random encounters that have always punctuated my solitary cycling journeys. I asked for his postal address so that I could write to him once I got home. No email address as, if I understood correctly, technology is a bit too much for him. I regretted not taking his picture, but I did not want to delay him any further.

Riding through the beautiful Black Forest region.

Each day had its share of such simple pleasures. I think that during such a journey alone you become more sensitive to those little encounters than in everyday life. There is a lesson in there for sure. Other encounters included one with a French retired musician who had played lute professionally with the ensemble of the great English counter-tenor and specialist in Early Music, Alfred Deller. He and his wife live in Guérande and know our congregation’s schools in Guérande and the neighboring towns. They invited me to visit them with my own instruments next time I'm in the area. 

I was particularly pleased to be able on day 7 to stay the night in the small town of Triberg, perched at 800m in the Black Forest, a town known as "the Home of the Cuckoo Clock” and which was the birthplace of my great-grandfather, Stefan Faller (his wife was born in a nearby village). He was a Jewish clockmaker and jeweller who came to live in Ireland as a young man with many of his family, including cousins, etc... in the 1860s, converting to Catholicism once in Ireland. He eventually opened a jeweller’s shop in the centre of Galway city which is a thriving business today. Here’s info about how he started his business: 

In Triberg, the town of my great-grandfather.

The store is now run by his great-grandson, so a distant cousin to myself. It was a very emotional experience to arrive in his hometown situated in the picturesque Black Forest hills, an area that my mother had always imagined with great fondness although she had never been there. Indeed, her favourite dessert was always Black Forest gateau. I had one in her honour with a pint of the local Ganter beer during my evening in Triberg (there were Ganters who came over from Triberg to Ireland with my great-grandfather and who were cousins of his). I would love to go back there one day, maybe for some hiking. There were lots of walkers with backpacks around the place.

I arrived in Fulda in good shape a couple of days later, to the point where I felt I could go on for a good few more days. As long as you don't over do it the first few days, your body adapts to the daily physical efforts pretty well. Here are some photos from the ride:

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