Cycling an average of 90km a day, often in extreme conditions, being thrown into jail in Equatorial Guinea by aggressive and drunken border police, and facing possible death when taken hostage by drugged Liberian teenage rebels may not be a conventional idea of truly ‘living’, but, in September 2003, Riaan Manser rode out of Cape Town, determined to become the first person to circumnavigate Africa by bicycle. He thought it would take him a year it took him over two.
At the end of 2005, he cycled back into Cape Town, 14kg lighter, having covered 36,500 km through 34 countries. Intending to use his journey to generate local and international awareness of the often appalling standard of living in Africa, Riaan was also propelled by a strong desire for African adventure, a desire that was inevitably fulfilled.
In Around Africa on my Bicycle, Riaan allows the reader to relive the toil, excitement and occasional terror of his journey – negotiating the Sahara and Libyan deserts, learning French, Portuguese and Arabic, eating monkey, rat and bat, standing in front of the pyramids, being awarded the freedom of the Red Sea in Egypt, feeding hyenas mouth to mouth, and standing on the highest, as well as at the lowest, points in Africa.
‘I was living, exactly that, living.’