The first of four books chronicling author Sam Manicom's eight year motorcycling odyssey across the globe, Into Africa is simultaneously a daring and adventurous two wheeled trek across that continent, and a deeply interpersonal journey filled with keen observations and some gorgeous and at times (when called for) detailed descriptive writing.
In full disclosure, I met Sam on this trip and we have maintained a warm relationship since, despite his nearly killing me in Tanzania (I'm John, the American bloke who was with him for the motorcycle accident in Tanzania, chronicled in the first chapter). That said, I would give Into Africa a five star review regardless of who was writing it, as it is quite simply a fantastic read and a stunning achievement.
Deciding to "live the dream", Sam Manicom chucks his retail job in the UK for the ride of a lifetime. An amateur motorcyclist at the beginning and filled with many of the doubts any of us might have had on undertaking a trip like this, Sam perseveres for a ride through Southern Europe, into Egypt, down through some of the most treacherous terrain in the world in Sudan, to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. In some ways, it's a wonder he survived at all, as along the way he is shot at in Sudan, temporarily jailed in Tanzania, and thrown from his bike by a Namibian pothole in a terrifying accident that lands him in the hospital. For most, this would have been the end of the trip, but for Sam, this is all just the beginning, as the subsequent three books which detail his continuing travels around the world attest to.
The beauty of Into Africa however are not the accidents and adventures - exciting as those chapters are -- but the off the beaten path interactions with the locals. The chapter chronicling his journey to a remote village in Tanzania, where the curious villagers allow him to stay with them for several days -- Sam observing them while they observe him -- is one of the most beautiful and touching pieces of writing I've come across anywhere. Interactions with locals as well as fellow travelers of varied stripes (and of varying degrees of trustworthiness) are what makes this book different from other travelogues and so much more than just a book about a motorcycle adventure in Africa.
Readers who enjoy this book will also very much enjoy the rest of Sam's books which continue the journey. Into Africa is highly recommended not just for those who enjoy motorcycles, but for those who enjoy cross-cultural experiences, travel, and who are fascinated with the world and the people who inhabit it.
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I'm a great fan of Sam Manicom's work. I read all his books and had the pleasure of meeting him at EICMA in Milan. So I guess you can tell I liked the content of the books, that's way I would like to focus on the quality of the audiobook rather than its subject. I have some experience in the field of professional audio recording, having worked as an assistent engineer in some local studios and having a well equipped home studio for my music recording needs.
The audio quality of this project is generally very good, although one can ear the audible cuts between takes, some page turning sounds and some small glitches (small things that can happen when mixing a 26 hour long recording...). I guess the only element that might be unnerving to some are the constant fade in and outs between takes. They happen at different audio levels, so can be quite evident at times, a crossfade would have been less invasive.
Sam's delivery is funny, light hearted and really takes you along for the ride. The plus of having the author reading is own book, telling you his story, is quite evident. He's not an actor reciting a piece, but a friend telling you an adventure or two at the pub!
In conclusion, it's not an over refined, expensive production, but a genuine, thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. I commute every day both by train and car and Sam has managed to keep me company and make me remember that the world it's not limited to the confines of Milan's highways and traffic...
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This is not a book that you read, it's a heavily laden train, passing by at a gentle and steady pace but with great momentum, that catches a loose thread on your jumper and drags you along with it. You'll be travelling through Africa, whether you like it or not and it's quite likely that you'll love it. Sam Manicom's detailed observation and humble honesty present every incident in the journey in such an authentic way that you are transported right to that time and place.
Sam is great at sharing the "wow" moments, the surprise discoveries that are a fundamental part of the joy of travel. Similarly, he doesn't pull any punches when describing his encounters with the nasty behaviours of our species (and these are quite rare). There is so much to learn from comparing one way of life to another and Sam's razor sharp insight quickly and accurately distills these lessons and presents them in a way that I can comprehend and benefit from; without having to travel thousands of miles to do it.
If you're ever in doubt that the vast majority of humans are friendly, helpful, generous and caring then read Into Africa for a never ending stream of first-hand accounts of human decency.
The audio book, narrated by the author is fantastic, I started listening to it whilst fettling my motorbike for a little trip and then a few days later, it was so convenient to flip back to the text version (synchronised to exactly the right place, even on a different device) for reading in the doctor's waiting room. Even when reading the text version the voice in my mind is still Sam's voice!
I've been meaning to write this review for 3 years now - once on first enjoying it before my own big motorcycle adventure, when Sam's hugely evocative and exciting descriptions of the sights, smells, sounds and adventures of Africa set my imagination racing as to all that might lay before me, and now when I recently decided to listen again, partly out of nostalgia but also out of just the major comfort factor that hearing Sam's tales gives me. But don't let that description make you think that his trip was an easy, uneventful dawdle - it was anything but - the tales of multiple broken bones and imprisonments speak for themselves! What I mean by "comfort factor" is Sam's ability to welcome (more or less) every new encounter with fresh openness and genuine warmth, teamed with a natural humility and respect for each new person he meets, means that so many of his consequent experiences can't help but delight and amuse, bringing a contented smile back to my face after another tough day in the big smoke. I love this audiobook as a biker, adventurer and Africa enthusiast, and now in turn my mum (definitely not a biker!) is listening to it as she recuperates from a big op as a means of some high-quality escapism teamed with tales of the unexpected! A fantastic audiobook - can't wait to try the Under Asian Skies one too.
Into Africa is a first class account of Sam Manicom's travels down through Africa on a motorbike. Made all the more extraordinary is that Sam was not a seasoned motorcyclist before venturing on this trip and was, as he put it, "still learning" as he crossed Africa. The help and friendliness that he received from the locals after his several 'mishaps' seems to be a common theme from those people who are able to travel on a motorcycle. Sam's mishaps include a short stint in jail, plus a serious accident that could have had a very different outcome. Into Africa is the first of four books recounting Sam's travels around the globe over eight years. His style of writing brings his travels alive and let me feel part of them. Having finished Into Africa, I was very soon off to the shops for the other three titles; "Under Asian Skies", "Distant Suns" and "Tortillas to Totems". Each of Sam's books gives an excellent insight into life on the road, the places visited and the cross section of people he met on his travels.
I bought this book for a friend who isn't much into travel reading and doesn't ride a bike, but who did need a reminder of what's possible. Such as a non-biker buying a bike and setting off around Africa on the kind of adventures us lifelong bikers only dream of. Not to mention the fact Sam had never written a book before and openly wondered if readers would even be interested. Then produces a fantastic page turner! It's not just the adventure Sam takes us on, but the way he tells it. His writing style is akin to sitting with a good friend and listening to his travel stories. I so enjoyed the way he described everything he could see, smell and hear in a neat, interesting way that really takes you there, before he whisks you off again. I've read a lot of travel books and this is one of my favourites. As for my friend, he was not only inspired but got into reading travel books too!
This is the book to read if you want to discover the real Africa. Sam Manicom sets off on his BMW motorcycle to explore the continent and gain a broader perspective on life. What follows is a truly amazing adventure that opens up a round the world trip, which is related in Sam's three other books.
There are moments of great beauty, encounters with amazing cultures and people, good roads, bad roads, great places to visit, plus places which are more challenging. But all the time, the wonder that is Africa shines through. There's also the trials and tribulations of undertaking such a solo journey by motorcycle and episodes that come as a great shock to the reader.
After Ted Simon, Sam Manicom is probably the world's premier motorcycle travel author and this book will bring Africa to life for you and make you want to start your own adventure!
I can't award 4.5 stars and it just isn't (for me) a five star read. When I pick up a book I am looking for a start, a middle and an end so when I pick up a book and the first chapter places me part way into the journey and the 2nd chapter goes back to the beginning (or earlier) that is usually enough for me to put the book down without reading further. However, this time I stuck with it and I am glad I did. Sam tells it mostly with warts 'n' all from his 1st jail experience to waking up with a dose of diarrhoea. Sam leads us through his biker apprenticeship to jis coming of age as a rider, learning the skills he needs to keep him and Libby on the road.
So four and a half stars and good enough for me to dive straight into Under Asian Skies, his follow-up to Into Africa.
Sam's journey is one that truly inspires. It was only at the end of the book I realised that he was a year on the African continent!
Sam's writing style is quite conversational, which made me feel like he was talking to me directly, I felt like I was on the journey with him. He blends, perfectly, the right amount of biking, geography, history, natural history, self reflection and anecdotes to kept me from putting the book down. I would rate Sam Manicom and Ted Simon in the same breath!
His travels through Africa were not easy, but as he himself states, were more rewarding as a result.
The fact that his books remain one of the quoted and "go to" adventure motorcycle texts speaks for itself...and justifiably so.