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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars African adventure; one man and his motorbike - the way it should be done!, 12 Aug 2008
This review is from: Into Africa: Africa by Motorcycle - Every Day an Adventure (Paperback)
The strapline on this book reads: `Africa by Motorcycle - Every Day an Adventure'

To get to this point, the place of being able to write an objective review of this book, I have read Into Africa twice - but not, I add hastily, because the author's style is difficult to deal with.

In fact the reverse is true, one of the author's many qualities is his ability to hold the reader's attention.

No, the first time I read this book was immediately after reading Sam Manicom's later work, Under Asian Skies.

The second time I approached Into Africa was after a lay-off measured in months.

And there was simple method behind my reasoning: I wanted to know how stand-alone Sam Manicom's works were.

Could I, for example, get as much enjoyment from reading the later Under Asian Skies without grounding myself in the fore-running Into Africa?

There are obvious similarities that needed to be dealt with:
· same author
· motorcycle-based
· adventure
· foreign travel to exotic locations

I'm very familiar with the genre; Moto Enduro, Jupiter, Lois on the Loose and the ever-charming Zen have all been books I've read and enjoyed (though on different levels).

But the question of being able to read a later work by an author without first reading the earlier one?

If I'm completely honest, there is a relationship between the two books.

But this relationship shouldn't cloud the judgement of the reader.

Each of Sam Manicom's books are worth reading for their own qualities, and these are legion, but chief amongst them - threading every chapter together in both books - is an underlying sense of purpose and quiet determination.

The adventures (and people) that the author encounters along the way are all treated as discoveries even though they are likely to affect his ultimate goal; these qualities alone set this book far higher than many in the same genre.

Last year the BBC screened a documentary called Long Way Down; it featured Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor and their motorcycle journey from John O'Groats to South Africa.

I implore you when considering reading a motorcycle travel/adventure book; please do not put Into Africa in the same category as Long Way Down.

Sam Manicom's journey from the British Channel Islands to South Africa's Cape Town is head and shoulders above Long Way Down.

This is the story that Long Way Down should have been.

Sam Manicom had none of the multi-million £ back-up; none of the support mechanisms with a back office staff in London `fixing' visas with a near unlimited budget at their disposal; none of the massively expensive (or expansive) lines of communication and...

None of the embarrassing histrionics or childish schoolboy giggles.

Into Africa is a book for grown-ups, for people with an enquiring mind, for readers who want to learn something interesting about the countries that the motorbike and its rider passes through.

This is a book for readers who want to `meet' some of the people along the way.

This is what Long Way Down isn't. It's also what Lois on the Loose isn't.

Into Africa is the journal of a gifted storyteller; a writer with keen observational skills, whose flowing narrative alone distinguishes him from his contemporaries.

For example, on one pit stop in the African outback:
Each day, the women would collect under a tree in the centre of the village. They would sit there through the hottest hours, fixing clothes and making jewellery out of beads and seeds. Every so often the jewellery would be lugged to the main road to be sold in order to buy such necessities as salt and medicine. The villagers grew, bred or made just about everything else they needed.

Do you see what I mean?

Throughout his marathon journey and despite obstacles that would have made many people give up, Sam Manicom remained stoically self-effacing, modest, practical and above all, entirely likeable.

He seldom judged, he observed with the skills of a behavioural therapist and, above all, he retained the ability to get along with people on every level known to mankind.

On relating to an aspect of village life in Africa:
Story telling is an art that belongs to an elder, a priest or as with the village in Kenya, a doctor. In East Africa the storyteller is rarely a professional as they often are in Northern Africa.

Sam Manicom, by his own very high standards, is a gifted storyteller who should, if the world had any sense of fairness about it, be elevated to professional level immediately. I would love to have my daughter listen to his tales as she grows up.

I don't entirely agree with his choice of motorbike (he chose a BMW and I'm a Kawasaki kind of guy), but because of his enthusiasm, his sheer joy at meeting new people in remote and sometimes very strange (not to mention at times, extremely dangerous!) places, I'm prepared to overlook this minor transgression.

So there we are then.

This is the book for the beach, for the tube, for the bus and always for the sheer enjoyment of reading it.
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