Reader's Comments

  ‘John Devoy possesses a talent to turn printed words on a page into a living visual experience in my mind. His writing style drew me in and held me captive to the last sentence of Quondam. My expectations of a good bicycle touring book is one filled with adventure, struggles, victories, and transformative experiences. It was indeed that but much much more.
“There, a pearl is formed for the future, out of a billion bit of the seen and unseen stuff of one’s passing.” from Quondam 

The above sentence is my favorite take-away from this book. As an avid reader, I highlight passages in a book that are my takeaway lessons. They usually number 2 or 3. Quondam left me with 12 takeaways that I continue to digest. That number speaks to the value of this book in my eyes. 

John Devoy fully immersed himself in the culture on his travels through 1985 Africa. It was a time without GPS, iPhones, and Google Maps. His travels through barren deserts at the speed of a bike led to many extraordinary cultural interactions with the people along the way. 

An interesting twist in this book is that he chronicled his 1985 adventure in journal entries and photographs which he turned into this recently published book. He used a then-and-now perspective to give insight into the instability, exploitation, progress, and non-progress of African nations and people over the years.
Here is another favorite takeaway to think about. “…that often we travel for reasons that we do not fully know, but often the reason is of no consequence. The process of traveling moves us beyond reasons.” 
I highly recommend this book for those looking for a story filled with adventure, intimate cultural immersion, personal reflection, and transformation. Add to that a strong drive to move forward in creative ways no matter what obstacles are present.’


Tom Bilcze, Ohio, USA


‘This book is “WOW” – I finished reading it a week ago and it continues to take up space in my mind. It is a perfect book to read to forget about things currently happening in the world. It transports us to another (simpler?) time and place. I am not a cyclist but John was able to let me pretend to understand what he experienced along his journey (although pushing the bike through miles upon miles of sand would certainly have been the end of my journey!). He brings to life the people he meets along the way, so you’re left wanting to know how they are doing in today’s more frenetic world. I haven’t read a book for a very long time that was as thoroughly engaging as Quondam. It is a must-read if you like travel literature, stories about humanity, Africa, or adventure. Quondam is all of these and more!!! I eagerly await the sequel.’ 


Shellie Suter, Toronto, Canada

‘This book reads like a thriller. Written thirty years after the event, John Devoy’s account of his solitary bicycle ride through Africa is as vivid as if it had all happened yesterday. It has pace and suspense, pain, joy and, essentially, honesty. After moments of long hard struggle – Sudan brings him real physical hardship and desperate tribulation – he tells of movingly human encounters and joyful contemplations of nature: Africa in all her glory. People, plants and birds leap out of the pages on the wings of his detailed knowledge and respect. It makes you want to go and see for yourself.

There’s humour, too; you can almost hear his soft Irish accent and you sense this young man growing in wisdom with the experiences of the road.’


Ann Cooke-Yarborough

Clermont-l’Hérault, France

Some writers take you for a ho-hum adventure. You read the story, but you’re not a part of it. With John Devoy, you’re sitting in the saddle with your eyes wide-open to the wonder around you. He captures the enormity of Africa, yet touches on the human interaction of people. Devoy carries you through the good, the bad and the ugly. Of course, humans offer up multiple lessons while you travel through the world on a bicycle. He captures the nuances with articulate ease and grace.


Devoy provides unique insights, as well as clear understandings of humans, animals and terrain. The journey etched memories into his thighs. He etches them into your mind. What he saw with his eyes, he shared with you, and while reading the book, his insights enter your heart. It’s a heck of a combination for one writer. I’d give this book seven stars if they offered it for a rating. I highly recommend it to cyclists and all other adventure readers. Frosty Wooldridge, six continent world bicycle traveler, author of: Old Men Bicycling Across America: A Journey Beyond Old Age.’


Frosty Woolridge, Colorado, USA 

“Sometimes long solo travelling is crazy it breaks you up, overflows you cuts into you, mirrors you to you and slowly shatters the conceived and preconceived notions of your age and time. It can make it damn difficult to ever go back to the ‘life’ you knew. It can be a one-way ticket and often is, but I knew nothing of that then.” – taken from “Quondam”


John Devoy, to me, has to be the most underrated but hopefully soon to be widely appreciated Irish travel writers alive. I’ve laughed, I was touched but most of all I loved his wonderful way with words and completely original take on what it means to travel. The style is exquisite.

All I can say, if someone asked me if I only could give one book to today’s travellers, those who prefer to travel with an open mind, instead of ticking boxes on a ‘must see list’ and their phones at the ready wherever they go, it would unquestionably be Quondam. Where do I begin to describe Devoy’s eloquent, honest and witty style of writing? The breathtaking ‘stories within a larger story’ contained in every page.


Simply put, the writing is just sheer elegance and this book is something you don’t want to miss. We are all inundated with books but you must read this damn thing now!


–Miles Mackie, Amsterdam, Holland

‘Quondam – Travels in a Once World was a white-knuckle read for me. It has everything to keep the reader engaged – history, politics, the hospitable people (and others!) encountered along the way, dark moments, exhilaration, the sheer magnitude of the trip and the endeavour and courage it took to make such a journey. Already looking forward to the sequel’.


Breda Humphries, Co. Louth, Ireland

‘Reading Quondam is to be thrown straight into the middle (literally) of a life-transforming trip. John Devoy manages to do without the usual romanticising of travel tales through his ability to give the reader insight into the personal significance of key moments in this leg of his trip from Egypt to Kenya. His knack for self-awareness and the years of reflection which contributed to this book make it an invaluable insight into the world of a man travelling through cultures, climates and even combat with no safety net other than the profound hospitality of the people he meets along the way.’



Liam, Ireland

‘Loved it!!! If I hadn’t finished it so quickly I would have taken a day of work to do so!  So will you, especially if you:


Love good writing

Love evocative prose

Love ambience 

Love travel (but you don’t have to). 

Love adventure (who doesn’t).

You can read a longer review here:


Congratulations on an excellent book along with the ability to create new memories for your readers from diaries that were already 30 years old.’


Brendan Hennessy, Cork, Ireland

‘What an amazing trip! Devoy describes his cycling trip through Africa with engaging anecdotes and fascinating details. He captured the essence of everyone he encountered, with thoughtfulness, sensitivity, and great humor. Wonderful blend of details, history, and changes viewed from decades after his trip. I highly recommend the audio version; his narration really brings his trip to life. You feel as if you are there. Thank you for a most enjoyable, educational and entertaining listen.’


Marilyn, Maryland. USA

‘This writer has a real mastery of language, the way he writes makes me feel like I’m seeing his story through my own eyes. Travel is always an adventure, but the key to this story is the writers ability to stir your emotions by providing insightful first hand accounts of his experience. This book has the ability to give you a shiver down your spine when you read through the huge odds the writer overcame to complete his journey. As a touring cyclist and a traveler in general I wholeheartedly recommend this book.’

– Jed Maddock, Canada

‘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, Sussex, UK. 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  

‘This is an amazing book. It takes you on a pre digital solitary journey through Africa. Even if you are not into cycling, this is all about meeting people and living their culture and lives for a few days ( or a night ) pushing limits and learning about yourself of course. Thanks to guys like John and his fab writing we can take part. You have to read it, eye opening and very emotional.‘

– Stephan Gross, Germany

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, England

‘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, Bratislava

‘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, Skibbereen

A travel book that reflects on so many aspects of travel and adventure. Written decades after the trip John Devoy strikes a delicate balance between reflection and in the moment, focussing on the latter. Wanted more immediately.

– Reviewer from Australia

‘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, Ennis

‘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, England

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, Canada

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.’


‘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)’


‘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

‘This writer has a real mastery of language, the way he writes makes me feel like I’m seeing his story through my own eyes. Travel is always an adventure, but the key to this story is the writers ability to stir your emotions by providing insightful first hand accounts of his experience. This book has the ability to give you a shiver down your spine when you read through the huge odds the writer overcame to complete his journey. As a touring cyclist and a traveler in general I wholeheartedly recommend this book.’

– Jed Maddock, Canada

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