Reader's Comments

‘Reading Quondam is like being pulled through a portal and getting dropped into the middle of somewhere, Africa. As I read about Devoy’s ride through Congo. I felt like I could smell the charcoal fires and taste the dust of the savanna. Devoy’s storytelling and sense of humor make for a great read. If you love getting off the beaten path, but can’t get away at the moment, Quondam is the next best thing.’

– Robert Williams, Chief US writer for the Virunga National Park

‘My first encounter with ‘Quondam: Travels in a once World’, and its author John Devoy, came in the form of a video, in which he read an extract from it. 

His delivery drew me in – the easy manner and intonations of his words felt as if we were buddies from the off. With ‘a brazen confidence’, his voice stuck in my head and our conversation began what a ‘conversation’ it has been. 

The textures, colours, mood and sheer honesty of his writing flooded my mind’s eye, so much so, that it felt we were a couple of pals having a chat. I felt it was ‘our’ journey and I, as the silent partner, was as invested in the story as he in the telling.

That ‘voice’ delivered the moments of travel with an easy going canter, coaxing me to follow. At times in this story you may well feel you are right there, by a campfire in Sudan or in the jungle of Zaire, standing willingly to guard over our journeyman, as he sleeps and recovers, before pushing on to the next stage of this remarkable cycling story.

My advice is; as the final chapters approach, take a little time to retrace on the map the beginning of this ride from Cairo to the point at which you are, and then reflect on the words of Dervla Murphy when she said, ” Some books need photos, this one doesn’t!” From there, as you reach the end, in the final pages, it doesn’t so much tidy up any lose ends – but creates more emotional anticipation of what will follow. I will tell you this, it will be your privilege to ride pillion with John Devoy in Quondam: Travels in a once World.’

 – Bobby McDonald. 11/11/18

‘I really enjoyed this book. It reads like a classic travel story. An impressive saga, one which could hardly be done today.’

– Dervla Murphy

‘There is a sense of surrender here (in Quondam), one which other travelers can learn from.‘

– Ted Simon  

Getting inside a travellers head on an arduous and beautiful journey.

‘I would rate this book and the author, John Devoy up there with Eric Newby, Paul Theroux and of course Dervla Murphy.

This is just part one of the author’s journey through Europe and Africa on his bike. Quondam covers Egypt, Sudan, Zaire (DRC), Rwanda, Uganda (and ends rather dramatically in Kenya.)

As usual when reading about travel through the poorest parts of the world, it’s the people with the least that give the most hospitality. Throughout the book the author gives hints as to forthcoming tragedy. I, as probably many readers would have been vaguely aware of the Dian Fossey story and the mountain gorillas, this educated me some more.

This is the author’s first book, but I do hope he continues to write about his journey. A natural writer.’

 – Kevin J. O’Sullivan

‘On April Fool’s Day 1985 John Devoy set out from Cork on a two-year bicycle adventure, taking him first to North Cape, Norway, then south to Cape Point, South Africa. Thirty years later, he has finally come to publish Quondam, the first volume of his account of this remarkable journey. More than another travel adventure book, Quondam takes the reader on a meditation about personal growth, finding purpose, and the meaning and reasons of travel in a rapidly changing world.

Part of the point of publishing such an account now is precisely that it was through a ‘quondam’, a now vanished world, almost as if the world John cycled through faded away along with his tyre-tracks; the bridges are burned, the tracks long buried under sands of time… that makes this account so insightful and compelling.

As he writes:

“Today, 2018, there is a smooth tarred road from Wadi through Abri to Dongala, and all the way to Khartoum. Nine hundred kms without a bump, wow! How different the experience must be for the cyclist or driver. Those who travelled here before the Chinese did such a great job should be grateful and those who may travel here today should spare a thought for those who crossed before the road was even dreamed of. No doubt about it, such infrastructure brings immense advantages. Yet a road that takes you to fast, too easy, robs you of a certain emotion which inevitably wells up when there is no other way to go. It whips the traveller too fast past people… and people like Ishmail give travel its depth, it’s memory and cultural colour.”

In her introduction, world-famous adventurer and travel writer Dervla Murphy expresses the same lamentations for the passing of the “true” traveller who has now given way to pelotons of Lycra- and GPS-equipped techno-explorers.

Nevertheless, John’s extraordinary story is one that can only help to inspire new generations to seek out new frontiers and dig even deeper to find the hidden nuggets of real adventure. It certainly leaves you wanting more and I am already looking forward to the sequel.

– Graham Strouts

‘Quondam is the definition of a page turner. His ability to recount that unimaginable journey from Cork to Cairo and on to Nairobi in the mid 80s, makes it imaginable! I felt I was sharing a tandem bike with him, celebrating his every high and willing him through his every low. Quondam offers something special for the reader wanting to escape into a different world of the old style adventurer, the dreamer. I can tell you something, you won’t regret the hours spent by his side travelling through the heart of Africa.’

– Marie

‘I was blown away by this book, a stunning read. It’s as good a travel book as I have read, and I have read many. The final chapter brought a tear to my eye.
It is a wonderfully written account of an extraordinary adventure in Africa. This is a journey of epic proportion through some of that great Continent’s most inhospitable terrain, softened somewhat by the hospitality of those he meets. It is not only a great travel book, it is a great book. From being scorched by sun in Sudan, dragging a bike over un-cycleable desert, racked with hepatitis and cerebral malaria, lashed with winds and driving rain in the middle of a Rift valley lake, the author displays courage and determination. He not only has literary talent in abundance but also a deep understanding and knowledge of the political history of the countries through which he travelled. Couple this with a knowledge of, not only, the flora and fauna but also the wonders of the African sky and you have a magnificent account of a saga that will long-live or perhaps even forever-live in the memory.

 

– Mícheál Kenefick, Whitegate, Co. Cork

I was given Quondam last week and have just put it down and closed over the cover. My brother Michael bought your book in Kinsale recently and as you
were kind enough to sign it and to include your e mail address, I am taking advantage of your your note. I enjoyed every page, apart from the final page because the book’s end was nigh. It certainly was a ‘travel in a once world’. Beautifully crafted, well observed and deeply philosophical. There was just so much to love about each page….your love of solo travel, your love of the local people, their struggle and openness, their own unique observations, the friendships you forged – the overall adventure was simply
addictive. I loved everything really, from the sandy earth to starry sky – even your own medical and personal challenges and your admiration of
the MMM sisters, whose incredible dedication and selfless work is often overlooked. Quondam has everything and then some more.
I’m delighted you took the time & energy to pen this work and I sincerely hope you’re working on the next; you must.’

– Tiernan Dolan, Longford

‘What a great book this is. It really brings you into the sense of adventure, but (as others have said) it’s more than just a travel book. It really examines the human condition, both that of the author, as he toils through desert and jungles and of the people he meets along the way. The hospitality of the locals shines through and the sheer exotic nature of this fascinating landscape emanates from every page. This is travel and adventure writing at its best.’

– Brian Granaghan

‘A wonderful gritty journey of Exploration through many cultures. Really really enjoyed this. Having read a few chapters I decided to slow down to better digest the book. Wow, some of his experiences are really hard to take. Not sure that many people now would put up with this level of hardship – takes a lot of mental toughness. I loved his ability to deeply respect and explore the cultures he travels through. Am just dying for the next book !’

– Gerry Burke

‘This is a fantastic read, a rare gem I would say, and very lyrical… the sheer adventure and madness of it resonates strongly with me and you write so well, a treat to read, thank you! Certainly I will be recommending it to my friends. Best of luck with the next one. ‘

– Frank Clohosey

‘Dear John,

I have just finished reading Quondam. It’s 01.55! A strong, robust beautiful work. Like a symphonic paean to the lands and peoples you encountered, crafted through the rugged toil and grit of you, your resilient ‘war-horse’ and the help of generous ‘strangers’.

The writing was simultaneously lyrical. philosophical, rough and witty and I laughed, cried and wept at different passages throughout. Bear Bua for the next endevour.’

– Paul Brennan

‘An amazing book! It is not really about cycling, it is about people, culture, adventure. As we all get stuck into our cooperative live styles, John let’s us share a bit of this in a brilliant, sometimes poetic way. This book will be on my sisters Christmas table next week for sure… 😜’

– Stephan Gross

This is a superb and unique travel book. It is what the title indicates – a road travelled in quandam, or a ‘once time’. This ‘once time’ is no longer present in our hi tech, internet era. The authors personal journey parallels a mammoth physical one of 33,000 kilometres. His writing is singular, absolutely honest and mature in reflection. There is a huge sense of integrity here, that runs parallel to being ‘off the beaten track’. This is it’s abiding strength. It reads just as interesting and as exciting as Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, in a perfect matter-of- fact style! Well worth a buy!

– Daniel T. O Donovan

This book slowed me into the African journey. It wasn’t a binge book. Instead I read it one chapter at a time over several weeks and it was my treat moment when I picked it up. It was authentic, beautifully written and you sense the courage, character and compassion of the author.

– Lucy Pattinson

Hello John Devoy
I picked up your book a few weeks ago. Tonight I just finished it. I so enjoyed going with you on your journey, it brought back so many memories. I spent 7 months in Luapula, Zambia just last year. Your travels through Congo -that dark heart of Africa– reminded me of that place. I’ve never met you but you represented the Irish Nation with such humour and decency! Your journey will stay with me. Seriously, I haven’t read a book like it in ages, and i think the beauty is that you went in your late 20s and are only deciding to write about it now, after years of reflecting on what it all meant – there is wisdom but great humour too. I enjoyed your take on the NGO’s driving past you with their big jeeps and your response to the hospitality in the Muslim World (Afghanistan was the same… couldn’t do enough for you) and of the Irish Nuns who helped you and so on. I looked at the photos last night and they were great. I was glad you didn’t put them in the book, there was no need. It would have actually taken from it as i enjoyed imagining it all. Now I’m a bit disappointed that its over.  Actually this book should be on the Leaving Cert curriculum, every young person should read it. Incredible journey.’

 – Patricia Keane

I tremendously enjoyed reading this book. Devoy really knows how to engage the reader. His story is about more than ‘just’ a journey by bike, it’s also the story of a journey to one’s inner-self and how we process such mind-blowing experiences.

Having cycled myself for an extensive period, I felt strongly connected to the profoundness of experiences he describes, those one can only really understand when totally disconnected from life back home with no modern devices brought along that cause distraction from the raw beauty that is to be found along the way…’

Maarten Stam

When I picked up Quondam for the first time I was expecting to read a travel book. What I discovered as the pages were turned is that this book is not just about a physical journey, it is about what it means to struggle, to have ambitions, to be human and most importantly it addresses what it means to be a westerner in a complicated world. It’s a delightful read that is brimming with hope, humour and positivity, while reminding through sometimes difficult to digest accounts that nothing in this world is black and white.’

Michael Holly

‘This book is so much more than a travel book. It clearly shows the strength and depth of humanity. Leaving home and being truly alone, there is no modern devices of today, no constant link and distraction. Having to accept what turns up and living in the moment. A lesson of trusting our global family with both the hardship and generosity of folk along the way. I look forward to reading more of this journey.’

Runkle

‘It’s very simple, excellent writing equals excellent reading‘

Ed. O’Riordan

‘Have a great day John. The seeds are not getting saved because of your book!’

Madeline of ‘Brown Envelope Seeds’

‘Quondam is a beast! (of a book)’

Oisín

‘Quondam is the best book I’ve read all year. I’m 84, please hurry with the sequel!’

Nora Newsom, Youghal.

‘This is not your usual ‘travel book’. It can be read on many levels. Thoroughly enjoyed it and I would highly recommend it.’  

Ann Shaw

‘John, finished your book on Christmas Day on Gran Canaria, the last few chapters difficult to put down! You wrote openly and unfiltered, so different to the selfie world of today. Photo from hotel balcony while reading final chapter. Congratulations’  

Asli Ergil Jaeger

A wonderful story told with humor, humility and a desire to instill meaning into a decidedly physical challenge; cycle from the north cape to the south cape. Quondam is not a book about breaking records, nor is it about selling exotic destinations. The style is direct and intimate and is interspersed with interesting historical and geo-political facts. The story is not only a fascinating account of the physical and mental challenges that accompany such a voyage but is also an interesting historical document and a refreshing antidote to the numerous negative and misleading representations of the peoples and cultures of this part of the world. Indeed, the lesson in Quondam is that with reflection and realization an event can be transformed into a rich and profound experience. As Nicolas Bouvier famously wrote in his book ‘The way of the world’: “You think you are making a trip, but soon it is making you – or unmaking you.’  

Alan Ball, Nantes, France

‘In Quondam, the author pulls no punches. This is a very real account of both the his journey and the countries he travels through as they were at that time. Well worth a read.’

Billy Bob

‘It is hard to imagine that this is John’s first book, the writing describing the places and people makes you feel that you are almost there. He has a style that draws the reader in while also teasing them about what is going to happen next. In the age of travel where it seems to be not so much about the journey but rather the end it gives a unique insight into why we should travel and explore. This book describes an epic journey but it is so much more than that and every reader will have their own unique enjoyable ride.’

Andrew Whitiker

‘Quondam is by far the best book I’ve read in a long time! Its a wild and otherworldly adventure (best experienced from the comfort of your couch)’

Alex D.

‘The journey is more important than the destination. This is John’s first book and what a debut. We join him on his travels by bicycle, through Africa in the mid 80s. Travelling by bicycle, allows him and the reader, to experience the adventure at a leisurely pace. And yet, despite the lack of speed, this book held my attention from start to finish. We encounter an endless amount of characters whose hospitality, despite their poverty, would put us to shame. 

John has a natural style. There are certain books that as you get into them, you start checking to see how much more is left such is the quality of the narrative. This is one such book. I am hungry for more.’

Eamon O’Riordan

Quondam takes us on a hell of a cycle through the world John Devoy witnessed in the mid-1980s. It feels like a nostalgic trip for a reader knowing how certain parts of that journey, like Sudan and the Congo (then Zair), are affected by human destructive activity. It makes some of this journey improbable today even if the same set of circumstances were granted and Murphy’s Law was on our side.

The book though, written in a mature and self-reflective voice, doesn’t lament after that world, it rather raises awareness without imposing any viewpoint on us. John strikes a balance between describing his own experiences of the journey and a socio-historical account of the places visited and people met. The story is intimate and John doesn’t shy away from revealing a few personal details from his adventures, all done in a humorous manner that makes you drawn closer to him and become a welcome fellow traveller in his otherwise solo journey.

It also inspires to undertake own travels as “everything changes and nothing remains still”.

Mag Mag