I had a very nice surprise this morning. I was sorting through some folders for a graphic for Motorcycle Live and I found this review on ‘Into Africa’ from Adventure Motorcycle Magazine (ADVMoto) I’m very grateful to them for the amount of time and thought that went into this.
Here goes:Sam Manicom considered himself an “ordinary bloke” when he undertook to ride a motorcycle the length of “The Dark Continent.” Yet he knew the journey upon which he was embarking was anything but ordinary. Could he have imagined the transformation he would undergo during this adventure of body and spirit? The story of both his trip and his transformation are well told in Manicom’s book, Into Africa, which provides a detailed account of the author’s experiences and their deep impact upon him.
Manicom was a shop manager on Jersey, one of England’s Channel Islands, when, in the early 1990’s, he decided to acquire a motorcycle, learn to ride it, and then to pilot it across Europe and down the length of Africa.
The first page of the book’s prologue quickly gave me an opportunity for a paradigm shift: “Many (people) said to me (over the years), ‘You’re incredibly lucky to have been able to travel the world, I wish I could.’ At first when people said that, my self-centred attitude was ‘if I can so can you.’ I believed that people generally have the ability to make their lives head in the direction they wish; I was wrong.” Into Africa is written “for those of you who . . . live in circumstances that may never allow you to ride two wheels into adventure.”
Like Sam, I had been inclined to think, “If I can do it so can you.” I realize now that I believed, whether consciously or subconsciously, that people have only their own self-limiting attitudes to rise above if they truly want to seek adventure. But that is neither fair nor uniformly true, as Sam observes. His point is well made, and his story reveals not only a spirit of determination but also a significant empathy and respect for his fellow man.
When Sam decided to give his life “a damn good shaking” he chose a BMW R80 GS to do it on. At first a nervous rider, feeling as if he were “riding a drunken pig,” Sam soon became a capable rider and seemingly one with the bike (which he eventually named “Libby”) after covering 22,000 miles, from Alexandria, Egypt to Durban, South Africa over the course of a year.
“One of the brilliant things about the journey was that the bike had made me go to places a traveler wouldn’t usually see,” writes Sam. “She’d taken me into office confusion, made me deal with the devious and also with the dusty remnants of old colonial systems. But she’d also taken me where good humour was the order of the day and where the frequent desire of the officials was not to cheat but to help. Almost every minute of whatever had been going on had been bonus time, though inevitably slow.”
The bike does indeed get Sam both into and out of some scrapes and allows him to experience this exotic land at its most basic level. And, although the geography is both challenging and spectacular, it is Africa’s people who are the threads weaving this journey into a rich tapestry of a tale. He befriends, and is befriended by, both fellow travelers and locals, resulting in many flavors of camaraderie. One of the most fascinating and surreal passages recounts his week in a remote village in Tanzania where he was the only westerner and there was no shared language. He “hung” with the villagers . . . blended and observed, and was eventually accepted to the degree that the chief offered Sam one of his wives for the night! Sam declined, but observed during this time, “Then, I had a strong urge to pinch myself. This really was me, in a village, in the middle of Africa. Months ago, I’d been selling shoes in a completely different world.”
Mark Twain (as quoted in the book by Manicom) said that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness” and this holds true. Towards the end of his journey, Sam realized that “Africa was continuing to change the way I both saw and thought about things.” In retrospect, the challenges seem daunting . . . if one had known, would the journey ever have begun? But the rewards were great . . . a sky-high stack of experiences that most of us neither will have nor would have imagined if Sam hadn’t gone to the trouble.
I found myself wishing there were more photos, but I am sure Sam does too. Unfortunately, numerous rolls of film were ruined late in the trip. Nevertheless, he tells the story with rich detail of the terrain, the people, the food, and the circumstances, creating that vivid imagery of the mind only made possible by the written word.
Some philosophical questions emerge for Sam by the end of the trip, “How many of the worlds that I’d been lucky enough to taste, had I at the same time managed to scar with my foreign ways? Had I been a form of pollution or just another fact of modern life? Had I helped the local economies by buying my food, paying for hotels, buying souvenirs and my petrol? Or, had I just flaunted my comparative wealth? Would what the continent and its people taught me ever make a difference to anyone else but me, and in fact should it? Had the simple fact of getting off my backside and getting out there to experience things Africa been enough justification for the trip? Or, was pure, simple, fun and adventure enough of a reason to have been there?”
For me, whatever the reason, I’m glad Sam was there and that he chose to share the journey with the rest of us. After his African journey, Manicom continued to find adventure on two wheels around the world and wrote another book, Under Asian Skies, which is next on my reading list!’
So, thanks very much ADVMoto Magazine!!! A wonderfully full review! 👍👍👍
If you’d like a copy then The Book Depository do Free World-wide delivery from this LINK.
It’s also available on Kindle.
And the Audio Book version can be downloaded from either Audible or i-Tunes 👍👍