The first installment features Sam Manicom. Sam has travelled for much of his life. He’s hitchhiked, travelled by bus, train, bicycle and sail. On his latest journey he set off as a novice motorcyclist, aiming to ride the length of Africa. This planned one-year journey turned into eight years and 200,000 miles around the world.
“We all travel to have adventures, to learn and to find out more about ourselves don’t we?” says Sam when asked why he is drawn to potentially dangerous situations. “Something going wrong is a combination of all of those, and inevitably there’s a quirky or funny side to things.“
Maybe I have a different perception of what danger is. It can be a buzz where every sense in your body is working on full power. Things taste sweeter, smell richer and it’s at times where risk is involved that you find out who you really are.
“I’ve been lucky enough to learn that most fears are not based in reality. Many times I’ve been told such things as, ‘The villagers in the next place are all robbers; they will kill you.’ When I’ve ridden that route, I’ve found that the villagers were amazed that I’ve survived the place I’ve just come from.
“Treat people and situations with due respect and, though things can go wrong, chances are you won’t die. The chances are far greater that you’ll have had a fascinating time.”Here, Sam shares some of his incredible stories from his eight years on the road…
When he narrowly escaped a serious accident in the Outback…
As I headed up Australia’s Pacific Highway, pale blue flashed in the left of my helmet visor, and then my bike and I were literally flying sideways through the air.
A panel van pulling out of roadside bushes hadn’t seen me, and had hammered into me. Some 300 kilos of bike and luggage landed on top of me in the central reservation of the dual carriageway. My head was trapped right next to the fast lane and I was unable to move. I was stunned and in pain and petrol was spewing out of the bike onto my legs. Even with the slipstream of the speeding traffic by my head, I knew I’d been lucky. But would my luck last? If the first people to get to me were smoking then I’d be in real trouble.
Thankfully the first people to arrive weren’t smoking – but they were three Australian Hell’s Angels. The first, a large man with heavily tattooed arms, looked as if he had just rolled off the set of a really bad Hollywood biker movie. He wore filthy jeans, a badged denim waist coat and a German army WWII helmet on his head. His wraparound shades were the darkest I’d ever seen and on his chin he had several days’ stubble, but I wasn’t afraid. How could I be when he had two cow’s horns sticking out from the sides of his helmet?
His first words to me were pure Australian. “G’day mate. How’s it goin’?” Being a Brit, I of course replied, “Not too good, actually.”
Within moments they’d lifted my bike off me and while they roared away in a triple Harley Davidson blast, I stood contemplating my lucky escape. I’d collected scratches on my bike gear and bruises on my body. My bike was another story…
When he fell critically ill in Thailand (and was rescued by a prostitute)
I’d stopped for a while to enjoy exploring one of Thailand’s islands. My temporary home was a small bamboo cabin right on the edge of a white sand beach. The sea was turquoise and the palm trees rustled their unique sound every time the breeze joined us. Life was pretty darned good. Then I fell ill. Within two days I was so weak that I couldn’t get out of bed and was so dehydrated that I was hardly sweating.
A very pretty Thai girl was living in the cabin next to mine. She was from a poor mountain family, and had recently become a prostitute; working so she could earn the fees to continue her schooling. We’d sit on her veranda talking. I think that she enjoyed the conversations – in part because I didn’t want to take her to bed.
We became friends and it was Kulap that noticed my bike outside my cabin, but no sign of me. She knocked on my door and called out but I was too weak to answer. She came into my cabin and saw the semi-conscious state I was in. Unbeknown to me I had a bad bout of Dengue fever. She knew exactly what it was and over the next week Kulap nursed me back to health. When I had the strength to make it to a doctor, he told me that she’d saved my life.
When he feared for his life (more than once)…
I’ve been shot at a couple of times, had a 17-bone fracture accident in the Namib Desert, and my bike caught fire while I was riding it. The worst time was being jailed in Tanzania. I had an accident and was charged with speeding, driving without due care and attention, and attempt to commit grievous bodily harm. (I’d been travelling very slowly on the busy road into a small town; my senses were firing on all cylinders, and I definitely didn’t ride on purpose at the man who stepped out in front of me.) Being thrown into a jail cell with 20 men is the scariest moment of my life.
And when I realised that rape was on one of the guy’s minds… Thankfully fate didn’t let this situation head any further in this direction. My first book, Into Africa, starts with this story.
The people he’s met…
There were the orphaned children in Tanzania who set up their own business so they didn’t have to beg; the raggedy woman in the deserts of northern Kenya who insisted on sharing her food with me; there was the blond aboriginal man in the Australian Outback. We sat under the stars with him telling me about his family’s history and their lives today. Australian David, his Filipina wife Emmy and their seven-year-old daughter Matea are strong candidates for the most interesting people I have met. This family had been travelling the world in their motorcycle side car rig for years. Matea had been born on the road, spoke a series of languages fluently and was as much at home playing with the local kids as she was holding a conversation with adults.
This is a mere taste of Sam’s adventures. Indeed, he has written four books about his journey: Into Africa, Under Asian Skies, Distant Suns and Tortillas to Totems. You can buy them from Amazon and all good bookshops.