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Powering an Adventure Revolution

Around Africa - What's it like?

Adventure RevolutionJames Hipkiss

Think colour, chaos and warmth. Throw in mountains, deserts, jungles, savanna's and lakes. Now mix in a spectacular range of wildlife - and you've got AFRICA! Being a born and bred South African, I'd like to think that I have a natural disposition towards dealing with the everyday challenges that life in Africa can present. I'm an African, so it should be easy right?.... Yeh, scrap that idea! There's nothing that can quite prepare you for it! You have to throw yourself in there, taste it, smell it, see it, experience it!

I'm almost halfway on my journey to fulfilling my dream of becoming the first woman to circumnavigate the African continent on a motorbike solo. So far I've ridden through 14 countries via the West Coast of Africa and covered a total distance of 18 000 kilometers (11 000 miles). I've experienced an abundance of kindness and people from all walks of life welcoming me as one of their own. I've had moments of pure joy and moments of dread. I've been in situations where I wanted to burst out in tears because I didn't want to leave and other times just wanting to run for my life. I've been stuck in the middle of a jungle. I've sat on borders drinking beer and eating peanuts with border officials. I've been held captive, tied up with a gun against my head and I've been attacked in my hotel room just managing to escape an attempt on rape. T.I.A - This is Africa! It's not for the faint hearted. She will test you. One minute she'll welcome you with open arms, the next she'll leave you out in the cold to fend for yourself. It surely is an adventure of a lifetime! This is Africa and I love it!

I asked my friends on Facebook to post some questions they might have for me. I'll answer some of them here. Please feel free to post more questions if you have any. :) 1. Most inspiring moments? There have been so many. There are a few that stand out though: Like when I was on my way to Libreville in Gabon. I was running late and it was starting to get late. I had no idea as to where I was going or where I would stay for the night. I pulled over to take a break and just collect my thoughts. A truck stopped behind me and a man got out. He laid down a mat right behind me and started praying. I kept dead quiet and waited for him to finish before carrying on. After he had finished he turned to me, shook my hand and asked me where I was going. After I had explained to him who I was and what I was doing he said: Follow me, I'll make sure you find a place to stay. And indeed, he guided me through Libreville's chaotic traffic. Helped me book into a hotel and even bought me some food and cold drinks.

The next day he came to check on me and helped me to get to where I needed to go. I've had many of these moments where, when I need it most, help just appears! :) 2. Scary/challenging moments? Challenging moments: * Spending 13 hours on the road in a day negotiating very difficult terrains in Angola and only reaching my destination at 23:00, just before midnight. * Getting lost in Cameroon. * Fighting with border officials between Nigeria and Benin. Scary moments: * Being tied to a chair with a gun in my face. * Reaching towns at night due to unforeseen circumstances. * Man coming into my hotel room on the Senegal/Mauritania border and attempting to rape me. * People shouting at me and shoving me whilst trying to make my way through Owerri in Nigeria.

3. Did you ever want to give up and go home? There was a brief moment where I considered packing it all up and heading home. That was when I was held up at gunpoint. But I got over it. 4. Best photo spot during the ride? There are so many. Just about every kilometer presents you with awesome photo opportunities. I can't take enough photos. From the desert in Namibia to Angola's beautiful coastline, Congo and Gabon's jungles, Mali's hills and valleys and then getting into the Sahara. I actually wish I could take more photos. 5. Are you generally an insane person or do you think things through? *Smile* A bit of both I think. I do think things through. But at the same time I ALWAYS follow my intuition. When it comes to my having to make a decision, especially in difficult circumstances, I take a moment to step back and take my options into consideration. I deliberate within myself and then ultimately go with what 'feels right'. 7. What has been the best in general about your adventures? The people! I have met so many amazing and inspiring people. I have made friends all over. It's amazing just how quickly you become attached to people. I've had so many moments where both my 'hosts' and I stood in tears because I had to leave. It's my interactions and experiences with the people of Africa that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

9. Favourite country? There's more than one of course. I don't think I could ever single out just one. My favourite countries so far are: Angola, Gabon and Mali. 10. Would you rather go solo or ride with someone? I think that this will be the last trip that I take on solo. I have really enjoyed my trips on my own, but I think I'm starting to get all solo'd out. 11. Isn't it challenging to have a relationship when travelling like you do, or doesn't it bother you? Yes, I think it can be challenging. I am not in a relationship so I don't have any problems on that front. As cheesy as it may sound I do believe that the 'right person will appear at the right time'. I just need to find someone that can keep up!! :) 15. What inspired you to take this giant step to motorcycling when you started out on a bicycle? That decision came suddenly and was just as a surprise to me as to my friends and followers. Like I stated previously - when faced with a difficult question I take a step back, consider my options and then go with what feels right. When I was attacked near the Congo border and my bicycle and all my kit stolen, that decision came almost instantly. I shocked even myself, but somehow just knew that I had to make the change.

16. Has it ever occurred to you to leave it all and disappear I mean the UNPROBABLE LIFE ADVENTURE and not the programmed one? No. I really love what I do. It's an amazing experience and I've learned so much from it and grown so much through it that there really isn't anything else I'd rather be doing. 17. What are the fuel prices like in Africa? You're typically looking at between 0.5 -0.8 18. What do you do for food? Do you have a trusted, faithful dish? I eat local food. Something I have grown fond of is fried bananas which you'll find all the way throughout Central and most of Western Africa. And I don't always trust the red meat that's available, quite simply because you can't be sure about what you're getting. So I try to keep with fish and chicken. 19. You're a woman, what do you do when you have your period whilst on the road? It's a non-event. It doesn't bother me at all really. But then I must also mention that I'm not afraid to use the bush as a toilet. I always carry wet wipes and such with me. 20. What is the general attitude of drivers in other countries towards bikers? It's survival of the fittest out there, so you really need to be aware of what's going on around you at all times. In general I've found other drivers on the road to be fairly considerate around me, I think because I'm a sight they don't get to see too often. On the open roads you have no problems with other road users. It's when getting into a big town that you just have to be careful. I have a simple rule: You hesitate, you die.

21. How much road-kill have you caused? It pains me to have to say I have ridden over a chicken! I felt terrible!!!!! But that's it...only a chicken! 22. Have you had any marriage proposals on the road? Many! Especially at border posts the guys seem quite intent on getting hitched for some reason! :) 23. Have you had punctures and did you fix them? Not a single puncture thus far!! But I do know how to fix it, should it happen. 24. Is it necessary to have a little bit of mechanical knowledge? I'd certainly advise it! I service my bike myself and can fix just about anything. I carry tools and some spares with me. So I know that if something should go wrong and I'm out in the middle of nowhere, I could at least attempt fixing it.

25. What is the biggest technical challenge that you have had? My bike's been an absolute superstar! So I haven't had any major issues. Small things like lights and charge points not working that I fixed. What does help is that, should I fall stuck out in the middle of nowhere and I am not able to diagnose the problem, I have a technician back home on call that can help me figure it out and talk me through fixing it. "