Judith and Simon Hill's journey to Santiago de Compostela by bike

Day 1-Thursday 7th September

We are off again. Having had to postpone our planned northern section (Calais to North Norway) in May we are setting off on the southern part of the pilgrimage route ( Calais to Santiago de Compostela). Approximately 2000 miles across France and Northern

Spain.

We will be fund raising for UNHCR (very low key as many people will have already donated to help the plight of refugees) but you can also follow us along the route on Instagram, Facebook or Strava.

We are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather, but we usually hit prevailing winds and rain so think of us in our little tent and pedalling against the elements! 😂😂

Enjoy the good weather and autumn. See you soonish! 🚴‍♂️🚴‍♀️

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Day 5 Monday- 11th September

 

From 35 degrees to torrential rain but we’ve reached the suburbs of Paris. 254 miles, 4 nights ⛺️ but drying out tonight in an hotel. Ready for the Seine tomorrow.

 

A short break!

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Day 9-Saturday 16th September

 We’ve had an interesting few days! We pedalled over the Seine following excellent signage. We then lost the route through some tough areas, lots of rough sleepers and difficulties reminding us of the reason we are raising money for UNHCR!

Later Simon had an accident, a mudguard attachment piercing his shin. Lots of blood. The first aid kit came in handy. Strapped up we set off again for central Paris. 




Simon had a nasty accident to his leg. Luckily we carry a good first aid kit.

Notre Dame being rebuilt after disastrous fire in 2019

Pompiers arrive at the hotel.

Vibrant and interesting life on the Seine. Police divers in the foreground!


Feeling better!

Amazing cycling ramps and graffiti!

A few kilometres on and it got worse. More strapping, elevation and rest then we head for an hotel. Outside Simon bashed the wound. Blood everywhere! The hotel kindly called the pompiers who with blue lights flashing took us to hospital. Later stitched up and bandaged the arterial bleeding stopped. 🥵

2 days later, twitching from lack of cycling, we rode south out of Paris. We have seen so much life on and near the Seine: police divers and police on rollerblades, iconic buildings being restored and others resplendent, beauty in Le jardin des plantes and every kind of cyclist and life on the river. 

Now for more tranquil times ahead!

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Day 14-Thursday 21st September


The signage is generally brilliant,
if a little daunting

600 miles on the wheels. All going well! Until today we seem to have dodged the thunderstorms and rain. We have left La Seine, followed the Orleans canal (very varied track quality and some diversions) and then joined la Loire until Tours. We have now headed south. Much more pleasant travelling through less touristy areas where we can chat to locals!

We are following Eurovelo routes where we can. First the 4 to Dieppe, Avenue Vert to Paris and since then the 3 which will take us all the way, apart from a diversion soon!

We are now going south along the Vienne River. More undulating ( but not in comparison to SW England!) and mainly on small roads with very little traffic. We have been camping most of the way but with occasional B&Bs, like today, when we are soaked and the forecast not likely to dry us out.

En route mes braves!


A typical lunch

Nuclear Power Station-EDF.
On the Vienne and another on La Loire

Orleans Cathedral, where we picked up our St. Jacques "passport"

A farmer's holiday

Running repairs after 25miles in a downpour.
Thank you Simon!

Orleans Canal meets La Loire

Day 19-Tuesday 26 September


High in the sky above St.Leon-sur-Vezere

We have now reached St Leon-sur-Vezere, Perigord, where we are having a bit of R and R with Julia Wilkinson, a great family friend. 753 miles in the saddle, many campsites, 1 B&B (since Paris), lots of patisseries, beautiful but deserted and shuttered up villages, interesting farming and a lot more hills! The weather has been kind with just one morning of torrential rain (hence B and B!), we seem to have followed and dodged black clouds! Simon’s leg is very slowly improving, a long way from right yet, hopefully a rest will help.

Last night we had an added treat, a balloon flight, ably piloted by Julia. Lovely.


Campsite not in evidence but we found an ideal wild
campsite! It even had a toilet!

A dry spot to drip off at lunchtime

A fabulous, if slow, old railway line track
 
A welcome lunchtime break after an
up-hill morning. Luckily we had a
beautiful downhill descent to our friends house

St. Leon-sur-Vezere, our rest destination

Delighted by our balloon ride. Ably
piloted by our friend Julia

Day 22 -Friday 29th September

The travel was hard going

We left St Leon sur Vezere on Wednesday morning heading SW to join the Eurovelo 3 on the Bordeaux- Toulouse canal. Just a few familiar miles on the tow path that we cycled in 2018, our first tour. 

We are now heading towards the Pyrenees on a partly developed route. Well signposted but bone rattling surfaces! Wild camping tonight, a quick dash to get the tent up before the mosquitoes gorge themselves on our tasty blood! It has been so hot, about 30C. No let up for a few days 


Troglodyte abodes in Perigord

Market day in Eymet (too many English!)

A few miles on the Bordeaux-
Toulouse canal


Beautiful old town of Vianne

We weren't the only travellers in Vianne!

Henry IV moulin


Day 31-Sunday 8th October -a day of rest.

A big day climbing over the Pyrenees; luckily a cooler day

It’s been a while since posting ! We are still going strong. We are over the Pyrenees and heading towards Leon 1300 miles. We are now on the well known Camino pilgrimage trail and apart from one day when I felt like quitting we are getting into the grove of ups and downs of big arid landscapes. So dry and hot but the vineyards are busy and large areas of farm land are being cultivated (no regenerative culture here!). We feel in awe of the hundreds of walking pilgrims, trudging on in the open landscapes with no shade. Uphill is tough on a bike but at least the 'downhills' cool you down, dry the sweat in preparation for the next ascent!

“Buen Camino” everyone calls!


Washing hung out!

A pepper market

...and then they are speedily roasted

Water tap along the route

Power-old and new

Plenty of mystery on church walls

Arid landscapes

A rest day in this old Albergue-rustic hostel for pilgrims

More splendour-this is Burgos Cathedral

Day 38-Sunday 15th October

 

We have arrived in Santiago de Compostela on a wet, grey day. But we were surrounded by many perigrinos (pilgrims), mostly walkers. The minimum (to “qualify”) is 100 km so there have been hordes of walkers as we neared the end. Many have completed 500 miles or more. 

A few statistics relating to our journey:

1575.76 miles

38 days

4 days off (injury, ill or with friend)

Nights:

16 campsites

3 wild camps

12 hotels (mainly Spain or Paris)

2 hostels (Albergues)

2 b'n'b

3 with friends

We have asked ourselves very often “why are we doing this?”. There are many answers, certainly not a religious pilgrimage but a challenge, to explore areas that we don’t know, to get fit, to celebrate our 70ths and to support UNHCR whose work we saw in Nepal. 


Breakdowns in the rain

A lovely family who we met. They have been walking for six months!
Editor's note:
 
Congratulations to Judith and Simon on completing a truly remarkable journey. They are soon to return home to Winsham, mainly by ferry.
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Please remember to contribute if you have not already done so to the UNICEF Fund for refugees; with all the terrible things which are happening in the world today, your help has never been needed more.

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Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia in north-western Spain. The city has it origin in the shrine of St James the Apostle. According to medieval legend the remains of the apostle were brought to Galicia for burial, the burial site being in Santiago de Compostela, in the 9th century. Since that time it has been an important place of  Catholic pilgrimage. In 1985 the city's Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.



If you would like to support Judith and Simon's UNCIF fund raising effort use the QR code