I Like Motorbikes – Changes on the Road Through Africa

The rain beads down the window, droplets racing one another to the bottom of the plastic composite. I gaze out at the stony carpark and the neighbours van and wonder if the rain will ever stop, but living in the valleys of South Wales in winter, I already know the answer. A few moments go […]

May 8, 2024

The rain beads down the window, droplets racing one another to the bottom of the plastic composite. I gaze out at the stony carpark and the neighbours van and wonder if the rain will ever stop, but living in the valleys of South Wales in winter, I already know the answer.

A few moments go by and then I turn my attention once more to the laptop screen in front of me and continue working, I’m sat at the dining table in my 1990s produced Fiat motorhome on a campsite. Living like this allows me to save more money than if I were to rent traditionally, as well as allowing us more freedom for the future. I know that at some point this year my life will change drastically but I don’t know when.

Tom’s trusty Fiat campervan in Wales, UK.

For more than a decade I’ve yearned for adventure.

A long-term experience that allows me to throw off the shackles of work and a typical western everyday life and enter the realm of the unknown.  My partner, Lauren, and I have been discussing a big trip since we met and although we are working towards it, it still seems like a lifetime away.  The more people I tell the more I’m filled with a sense of imposter syndrome, talking about it is easy.

But what if I don’t like it?  What if I’m not physically or mentally strong enough to cope?  What if, what if?  The thoughts rattle round my head and I realise I’m distracted from work again.  That has been a theme for a long time whilst adventurous thoughts interrupt my flow.

Tom & Lauren making the change from talking about adventure to setting out on the road through West Africa.

Tom & Lauren making the change from talking about adventure to setting out on the road through West Africa.

Just over a year later and I’m sat at a wooden picnic style bench. All I can hear is gentle bird calls, distant conversations and ducks and chickens going about their day, scratching at the earth and looking for additional food. It’s so peaceful in this “community” outdoor kitchen which provides some shade from the harsh late morning sun with its tarpaulin roof.

Preparing dinner – Togo style.

The clay building to my right is Phillip’s house.  A German overland traveller who found his home whilst on his own adventure.  On this land high in the west Togolese mountains, he’s aiming to be self-sufficient whilst bringing a sense of diversity and permaculture to this land by recultivating native fruit trees amongst others on the 200 hectare land that he is granted access to by the owners who encourage him in his endeavour.

One of the species of frog benefitting from PermaTogo’s work.

His small holding is self-built with some help from fellow travellers that pass by or the locals who also call this area their home.  From the kitchen with clay ovens, the donkey stables or even the pig pen or traditional hut for visitors to stay in.  Everything came from hard graft and a dream.

The aforementioned donkey, in camp, high up in the Togo Mountains, West Africa.

I would be lying if I said this is what I expected to happen when leaving for this trip. I’m not particularly well travelled inside Europe and before leaving, hadn’t set a foot or a wheel outside of it.  The what ifs would soon have a chance to be answered.

11 African countries visited, nearly 10,000 miles (16,000km) and every moment has shaped us slightly into accepting the unexpected.  We hadn’t even planned to stop at PermaTogo, we had just wanted to ride the beautiful gravel mountain road that winds its way along the mountainside and overlooks the outrageously green Plateau beneath.

Overlooking the green plateau on the mountain road through the west Togo mountains.

As we were riding past, we heard shouts “hey… HEY!” causing us to slow down slightly and look over our shoulders.

Phillip came bounding through the bushes.  Next, we noticed his long hair tied up hap-hazardly behind him and his dreadlocked beard reaching past his nipples which gave this gangly man a surprising look to say the least.  His gentle manner put us at ease instantly when we spoke with him.

We accepted an invitation to at least take a look at the place and all of a sudden, a short visit turned into a 2-night stay.

After a back breaking day (for me at least) working with Phillip helping plant trees and remove wood from his truck and sorting it for building materials, it gives me a chance to reflect.  I’m still the same person but my life is so different now.

Another tree planted. Togo, West Africa.

Basic everyday things like making a coffee are now done on a gas stove with the saucepan both heating the water and acting as mug.  The seating we have is whatever is around us, be it a low wall or the floor and I couldn’t be happier.  Exploring the African continent is incalculably easier now than it would have been 30+ years ago with the advance of apps for your phone and the internet for sharing information but it’s still difficult at times.

Going hungry and thirsty whilst your skin beads with sweat whilst stood still in the shade of giant ancient trees feels tougher when coupled with language barriers and strange lands but ultimately it is far easier than I imagined.

Certainly a change from the campervan in Wales to a tent in the Togolese mountains.

Certainly a change from the campervan in Wales to a tent in the Togolese mountains.

So many times, I have uttered the words “wow” having been gobsmacked at the utter beauty our world has to offer us.  Travelling through the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and seeing the colossal rocks jutting out at jaunty angles with pastel colours and so many clear layers of sediment displaying many millennia of growth.

The rural nature of North West Guinea, riding on dirt and gravel trails for mile after agonising mile, but passing by straw hut villages with incredibly friendly people waving and smiling as we pass through their life for just a moment, as we whizz by the tall dried grasses lining the road.

Each day gifts us the chance to practice language skills, meet new people or endure the mundane such as buying groceries or doing laundry but it’s always subtly different.  Unfamiliar shops with different currencies or strange hotels gift us the possibility of exchanges that almost always end with smiles and laughter.

I’ve changed yet I’m the same.  A transformed life.

I may not be like Phillip having found my home whilst travelling, but I am happy right where I am.  Sitting astride my tiny motorcycle and witnessing things I dreamt of back at that rainy window inside the motorhome.

(This article was written by Tom Gould, a Guest Writer for The Africa Rally; to get in touch about joining our team of Guest Writers, or taking part in one of our events, please email the HQ Team on info@africarally.com)

About the Author

A British born passionate motorcyclist, writer, video creator and adventurer with a love of the outdoors. Motorcycles were not always part of his life but now form a huge portion of it.Since passing his test 11 years ago he has owned more than 40 motorcycles, competed in a 24hour off-road endurance, raced on short circuits, created a successful website & YouTube channel and is now setting his sights on bigger adventures! Having ridden more than 75,000 miles around the UK and mainland Europe in those 11 years it has long been a dream for Tom to tackle long distance overland travel, with a Trans-Africa overland trip forming the first leg of a round the world escapade!To connect about the trip or discuss sponsorship & freelance opportunities get in touch via info@ilikemotorbikes.com

Related Posts

I Like Motorbikes – A Ride Across Africa
I Like Motorbikes – A Ride Across Africa

This is Africa.  Known for high temperatures, being the cradle of humankind, diverse flora and fauna, varying people and languages and yet for many western countries it’s an elusive or misunderstood place with many negative connotations about it... Or rather that was...

Subscribe to our newsletter

Comments

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *