It was exactly a week ago when Charles Leclerc had a disappointing fourth place finish at the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix.
The fast-pace action was not only on the course. Over the F1 weekend—from Wednesday, May 25 to Monday, May 30—5,075 passengers were transported in 2,400 helicopter rides. There were 142 boats anchored in ports while 33 ships were anchored in Monegasque territorial waters. On race day Sunday, 1,744 cruise passengers from five ships set foot on Monaco soil and 86,831 vehicle entries/exits to/from the Principality were recorded (compared to 89,467 in 2019).
One race day arrival was not included in the government’s statistics, however, was Céline Gally and Neil O’Dowd who cycled 3,347 kms from Faro to Monaco raising money for charity. It took the couple three months.
“We have been trying to trace back how we arrived at the idea for the trip and we aren’t sure exactly how it came about to be honest,” expresses Céline, who was born and bred in Monaco. “It was likely a combination of a strong desire to travel after a long series of Covid lockdowns and Neil’s experience of having previously completed a cycle trip and a warm climate that led to the decision of doing a tour by bike, commencing in the south of Portugal.”
The two came up with a rough idea of a route based on bike trips from crazyguyonabike.com. “This is where we learned about the Alentejo region of Portugal and decided to include this as a slight detour from the coast in the trip,” explains Neil, 26, “and some places that we were already interested in visiting such as Porto, Lisbon, Santiago de Compostela and Bilbao.”
With the waypoints chosen, they used the website cycle.travel to create an itinerary following quiet secondary roads, where possible because, like the website says, “Life is too short to ride busy roads!”
Once the route was set, Céline and Neil saw an opportunity to raise awareness and funds for Mothers of Africa. Céline’s mom, Noeline, has been volunteering for the Monaco-based charity for a number of years. “We know the Monaco team well and have been following the amazing work they do to support women and children in Africa for quite some time,” shares 25-year-old Céline.
“Before embarking on the trip, we created a fundraiser page to collect funds. We also set up an Instagram page for the trip as a way to keep our family and friends up-to-date while on our journey and for us to share information on Mothers of Africa and the link to the fundraiser for those who wished to make a donation.”
Prior the Faro-Monaco fundraising trip, Céline and Neil were living in Dublin where they had both studied and completed some work experience in the field of engineering. “We would regard ourselves as reasonably sporty. I am interested in climbing, running and hurling—an Irish sport somewhat similar to hockey or lacrosse—and Céline is into walking, yoga and swimming. In saying that, our fitness improved a lot over the course of the trip and we took the first couple of weeks quite easy,” recounts Neil, who biked from the Netherlands to Monaco in 2019, but not as part of a fundraiser.
Céline adds, “We were fortunate to meet so many kind and friendly people along the way. Our incredible host in the Alentejo region showed us his giant amphora of wine, which he made as the Romans did. Then there was the man who offered us an armful of oranges from his garden at the top of a particularly difficult hill in Galicia are two occasions among many others.”
Their traversed landscapes varied from the sun-baked Algarve to the vibrant green of the Basque country and even the snowy peaks (“albeit in the distance”) of the Midi-Pyrénées. “To paint the trip in its entirety like this would, however, be disingenuous as in equal measure there were sore knees, days of non-stop rain and, on one occasion, a malicious act by someone who destroyed both of our rear tires with a blade during the night,” Céline reveals. “The true beauty of the trip is that of being on the road which is the simplification of daily life to two main concerns, that of sustenance and shelter, and the appreciation of the ordinary – a comfy bed, a warm shower or a delicious nourishing meal.”
At the time of writing, Céline and Neil have raised €2,505 for Mothers of Africa.
“We are very grateful for their amazing effort and contribution,” comments Susanne Bohush president of Mothers of Africa (pictured above third from left). “We are starting build of our new nursery school in Shiyala, Zambia, beginning July.”
As for Céline and Neil’s next adventure, they are not quite sure yet. “We would like to continue our travels after the summer to explore some parts of Asia. We’re not sure if this part will be by bike. For now we’re happy for our bikes to collect dust in the garage,” Neil laughs.