Into Africa takes off full blast into a crazy motorcycle adventure with nothing more than a short introduction describing Manicom’s decision to learn to ride a motorcycle, before he jumps head-first into riding into the throat of Africa. Within the first couple of pages he ends up in an accident in Tanzania that leaves Manicom sitting in a jail cell and the pedestrian involved, literally, standing on one leg. Before the end of the second chapter, Sam finds himself in yet another accident, this time with a Fiat. One accident would deter many a motorcycle tourist - but two accidents within the first part of the journey?
Similar to Ewan and Charley’s adventures in Long Way Round, he soon found that he was on a big bike that was over-packed for the adventure at hand. Riding the overloaded and heavy motorcycle made traversing some of the roughe areas almost impossible. Manicom commonly ends his chapters, or adventures, with a statement about being alive and living the dream. It reminded me of a common CanyonChasers statement that the more miserable it is, the more fun it is to talk about later. But I found myself wondering when the fun would begin.
As the book continues with some eye-brow raising and at times illegal border crossings, Manicom finds himself holding somewhat of a celebrity status in Ethiopia. Manicom was informed that he and his travel mate were some of the first tourists to come to Gonder (or Gondar), Ethiopia since the war ended - and they were definitely the first to come on motorbikes in at least 20 years!
Throughout his journey I was most impressed with his tales of the locals. On a terrible road in incredible rain he consistently received help from the same small group of guys who would jump out of the back of a pickup into knee-deep mud to help out the motorcyclist – repeatedly, every time he fell. Or on an island in the middle of Lake Bunyonyi where Manicom stayed for nearly two months assisting an Aid group with some construction work. He befriended some amazing locals who had never encountered white people and were once terrified of the “white man”, but after a night in a bar drinking and laughing together they found that they had more in common than different.
I really appreciated what Sam called the “chameleon factor,” basically meaning to be adaptable; which is definitely a big part of motorcycle touring. No matter how well planned, things will not go as expected, and do you really want them to? Isn’t that why we ride to unusual places to get an adventure we wouldn’t ordinarily find in our mundane daily lives? Isn’t the unexpected the things we look back on with the greatest fondness?
Through his adventures and his sometimes too honest reporting, I found myself thinking that although I have always wanted to visit Africa, now I no longer wanted to go because of the harsh conditions Manicom faced. But by thee-quarters of the way through the book I already wanted more. His experiences changed from figuring things out as a newbie on a bike to living with a tribe that had never before had a visitor from the outside. All this caused me to want more and that “more” would only come from a first hand experience, ahh… maybe someday but until then onto his next book.
Into Africa is available from Aerostich and Bobs BMW in North America, with signed copies coming straight from the book website www.sam-manicom.com/orderform.htm
Under Asian Skies
Under Asian Skies picks up right where the Into Africa left off; with Manicom’s journey on a container ship with only 5 other passengers, somewhere in between Africa and Australia.
After a stint in Australia, and short medical stay in Germany, Manicom returned to re-start his Asian adventure in Bali with his bike ready to roll, a passenger/cost-sharing partner and a very bad back still mending. A back so badly injured that a motorcycle riding doctor in Germany said it would take six months to heal and that Manicom shouldn’t, probably ever, be on a motorcycle again.
Despite the medical advice, Manicom continued although his passenger and cost sharing partner decided to stay in Thailand with her newly found true love, leaving Manicom once again on his own.
India proved that Manicom’s patience could endure. He was unable to get through the red tape to receive his bike from the shipping company even though he could see the container that held his bike from behind the impenetrable Indian security gate. He wasn’t allowed to actually pick it up for weeks. Between this, the language barrier and the restrictive liquor laws, I’m quite sure that we would have lost one or more CanyonChasers into a frenzied outburst. The response from locals was “this was India” as though that was enough of an explanation for the delay.
Once his motorcycle was liberated, Manicom had a hard time getting out of India mostly due to the fact that he was trying to get into Iran. However, while waiting around in India, Manicom met up with his former friend and German nurse-maid, Birgit, who had tended to him while he was in Germany; only this time it was a much more romantic encounter. Their friendship was now in full swing and they were planning for another trip together that had the lovely Birgit on her own motorcycle. At this point, the trip turned towards home (or at least Birgit’s home).
Lessons learned from Manicom’s adventures include: Get your shots before you go and take loads of medicine with you; avoid shipping anything to India; trust those weird feelings you sometimes get; and you best travelling companion should always be cherished. While Into Africa and Under Asian Skies are two books, they really should be treated as one – as they both detail parts of the same 8 year, 200,000 mile adventure. They can be read indivdually, but we feel they are best read as a compliation. As soon as I finished the Into Africa, I was excited to start Under Asian Skies. And while the books do have sections that are a bit harder to get through because of Manicom’s honesty, the overall experience still makes the two books well worth reading and a must read for any motorhead who dreams of leaving the rat race behind in favor of the freedom of the open road and a beloved motorcycle. In short, this is one helluvan adventure!
Under Asian Skies is available from Bobs BMW and from Amazon, and again signed copies are available at www.sam-manicom.com/orderform.htm
Manicom is currently working in the third book of the series. It'll be covering Africa with Birgit this time. Then the plan is to cross to South and Central America. If all goes to plan then the new book will be released in the late autumn 2008. More information can be found on his website at www.sam-manicom.com
Page Updated February 5, 2013 12:24
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