Recently, I went on a harrowing train ride across the Sahara; rode through the dusty back roads of Ethiopia; experienced unconditional generosity of a Zulu man and even got to spend some quality time in a Tanzanian jail. I also felt the breathtaking majesty of Victoria Falls; bargained for papaya at a Kenyan roadside market and drove through South African villages, still reeling from the effects of the years of Apartheid. My guides were adventurer, Sam Manicom, and his trusty companion, Libby, a BMW R80GS motorcycle which took Manicom on a year-long journey across Africa.
Actually, I experienced Africa while never leaving Philadelphia which went through a blustery and snowy winter of historical proportions. But, for about ten days, as I drove my car to work over pothole, gravel and ice-covered roads, I was almost expecting to encounter the searing desert oasis of flowering shrubs, palm trees and green grass. During my commute I was listening to Sam Manicom’s Into Africa, read by the author.
I have read Into Africa before and really enjoyed it. However, listening to Manicom tell the story of his journey was an experience unlike any other.
Into Africa is an extraordinary adventure by a relatively ordinary bloke who one-day, almost on a whim, decides to learn to ride motorcycles, and then quits his job as a shoe store manager, and takes a year to ride Libby, the motorcycle, through Africa. As we learn from the book, aside from riding a motorcycle, painting is one of Manicom’s favorite pastimes. And, the man can paint a museum-worthy piece with just a few words. The image that emerges from Into Africa is that of a diverse, complex and awe-inspiring continent with many colors, shades and shadows, whose people face every-day adversity with grace, ingenuity, unconditional kindness and a great sense of humor.
Yet, it is not just Manicom’s ability to paint a picture with words that make this book so moving. Rather, it is Sam Manicom’s voice. It is a voice of zen-like acceptance, compassion and gratitude that deeply permeates his narrative. Thus, Manicom manages to treat even the worst moments of his trip and tackle some of Africa’s well-known ills with humility, humor and even a sense of appreciation. Manicom’s voice makes it clear that he takes to heart the key lesson that Africa and its people have taught him – “remember your yesterdays and dream of your tomorrows, but live the day!”
It is in the audio version of the book that the true voice of the author who relieves his adventure in every chapter comes alive. It is this voice that makes reading Into Africa a great experience and listening to it a truly special one. It is listening to Sam Manicom read his book that could transport you into Africa.