• Clotaire Mandel

Back from Africa, part 1.


Sun is shinning and we get out of the grocery shop with red wine and sausage, life is sweet. Back from Morocco, I’m rolling upward the country from Marseille to Saint Quentin. My hand is getting close to the car’s door handle when the phone is ringing, Eléonore.

“ Sweetie, you sure ? Yesterday evening was a guest in l’âne vert who lived in Africa for a while, he said you’re gonna get stripped off. You can lose everything Clo”.

We jump on the car with red wine and sausage, that’s the most important at the end, red wine and sausage.


Then I cracked on with a light heart, I had 7 months before the weather gets a bit more mild in the north of Africa. I didn’t know what to expect. I had pictures in mind, things tinckered in my mind, but everything had to be done.

So I first cycled this first step from France to Oman in 7 months, from where I took a flight to Cairo.


Africa. Let’s go.

I had to soar, and when the first spin comes, it’s a bit of pressure and apprehension.

I can remember the first photos of this African journey. A worry face looking through the window of this train who bring us in the north of Egypt, Port Said.

I don’t know what I was thinking about. I just knew having a look at any map was a bad idea. The map dizziness. Thousands of kilometres. Thousands of a bunch of things.


This pressure, it would not leave me in Africa. Not because it comes from myself, but from the others. They warn me with love. We’re alert since we start walking, talking, moving, taking decision.

So when you say you’ll cross this continent with a bicycle it’s a shit show.


Africa, right now, what is means for you ? Usually answers illustrate two extremes.


On a side, it’s a cathodic vision. It’s a war, stunted kids starving and begging. It’s sound and fury. Thirst and hunger. Unsafety. Wild animals, insects, mosquitoes.


And on the other side, it’s an eternal positive vision. Countries out of terrible situation from the past and who are now model of security and technological progress. It’s the continent of tribes, extraordinary languages and humans who hunt antelopes half naked.

Safaris and sunset. Hospitality and smile. The cradle of mankind.


So, personally, I sailed during 9 months between those 2 visions.


And a quick summary :


- I’ve been through : Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa.

So not any country in open conflict (Although debatable…)


- Myself, caucasian and male. This is important. Pretty stubborn and rarely patient out of my job, and i’m not working that often. I love my own space, my bubble, where nobody step in. Easy to say some days were pretty tough.


- 12 5000km in this continent in more or less 9 months. A few punctures and nothing broken. A few disappeared things but, can happen absolutely everywhere.


- I write it with a bit of objectivity, considering the amount of time spent talking about it with fellows cyclists and hundreds of hours sitting on a saddle.



It’s mostly important to analyse what made me cycling here, building the project.

A few years before I was reading website of travellers who went through Africa, and straight I just said to myself, why not me ? Why not after all.

Thing is, what I did read or listen, everything was pretty unidirectional. Cause this is torments of communication, you can show what we want and stick a lovely commentary under it.

And I clearly didn’t find myself in what I’ve been reading back in the day. So at some point I just asked myself : “Am I that jaded ? Are you not able to think positively ? Can’t you be happy with what you have ? Am I too blind to see the beauty other travellers are singing ?”


Then I rode with fellow cyclists, talked with other travellers. It’s a bit of the same pattern to everybody apparently. Almost at least.

Far from what I could read anyway. I had the feeling that some were showing a positif side of it, but just this one. And wait, far from me the idea of blaming or judging, we are free to share whatever we want.

But in fact, concerning myself, wonderment was sporadic. And I like the truth. Even if it’s not a feedback people enjoy earring or reading, but it’s my reality. It was my reality. My experience and my point of view. And this is not negotiable.

I sincerely say to myself that was a very special continent, beyond the rest of the world. That it’s necessary to be made for travel there, and then you can flourish. Wasn’t my case.


So I can’t pretend offering “the real Africa” or say “I did Kenya” or “I did Tanzania”. First off all I can’t handle this expression and also, that will force me to paraphrase Bouvier, which is is bit cliché nowadays.

I just offer a snap, a glimpse or my African journey with a bike. The rest is coming but I still struggle to seize the entirety of the journey to write properly on it.

Altought, I’m still alive, integer and with my bike. But thanks for you for you goodwill Eleonore.


Stay tuned !

le pedalistan www.lepedalistan.com lepedalistan clotaire mandel bikepacking biketouring voyage vélo traversée afrique

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