The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa by Neil Peart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Neil Peart is the drummer for the band Rush - as an author he is mostly known for writing a book about a 55,000 mile trip by motorcycle after his daughter and wife died in less than a year. This book was written and published years before that and is much lighter.
Peart had participated in cycle tours in Europe but decided to try something more challenging that would be combined with an interest in Africa, so he went on an organized bike tour of Cameroon in 1988. The operator only had Peart and three other clients on the trip. The book is a description of his trip and what it was like.
Generally "adventure" travel books don't describe organized tours but in this case the tour was probably more arduous than many independent cycle tours. The tour lasted for a month, for one thing. In the per-Internet world, they were quite isolated almost the entire time, relying on the relatively modest belongings the carried on their bikes.
There is plenty of description of how physically difficult this was over the month, with the heat and generally primitive conditions. (They generally used lower cost accommodations even when western style ones were available, mostly to keep costs down.). He does a good job of describing what he saw and experienced. Much of the focus, as with most travel books, is on his interactions with people, both the people of Cameroon and his fellow travelers and the tour leader. (I wonder what his fellow travelers thought of this - it is somewhat critical of each of them.)
From time to time Peart engages in introspective reflections that I gather are more the point of his motorcycle book - I found these passages did not interrupt the narrative. I enjoyed reading this and will likely read it again.
You were always aware this was a book about travel by bicycle but there was not much description of anything particularly technical about that aspect. As a cyclist I felt like I had a good sense of the difficulties for cycling in this part of the world as a tourist from reading this (although things have likely changed since this was almost 25 years ago). The tour operator is still in business at http://www.ibike.org/bikeafrica/.
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