There are few people who have chosen to immerse themselves in the Sahara quite like Chris Scott and perhaps not surprisingly the multitude of trips he’s taken over the years have led to quite a catalogue of stories. He recounts just some of them in ‘Desert Travels – Motorcycle journeys in the Sahara and West Africa’ (to use its full title), which has at last been reprinted.
Originally published in 1996, this isn’t a facsimile. Freshly typeset, it has lost all the small maps which previously accompanied each chapter, saving ten pages overall, and the cover has been transformed. This is what may confuse you if you are a Chris Scott fan (and as author of the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook he has many), because the chosen cover image is actually that which graced his ‘Desert Biking’ guidebook back in ’95.
Desert Travels is more than just a handful of tales of dust and heat, it’s a learning experience and a very enjoyable one. From his first naïve solo adventure as a young wide-eyed London dispatch rider in the 1980’s, through his dabble with being a tour guide and even a bit of backpacking, it really will get your juices flowing and make you realise just how much great adventure riding is not really that far away.
The bad news is that Chris dangles the carrot of temptation, but the authorities and current political situation in the region mean that access is currently almost impossible, as Algeria is effectively closed to overlanders now. Perhaps that actually makes the book all the more intriguing and adds to the romance of the area and the dream of ever riding there.
This isn’t a guidebook, but it’s certainly full of information and the history of bungled French colonialism peppers the text, especially during the story of SMT – Sahara Motorcycle Tours – his ill-fated attempt to build a new career. Even if most of us can’t now replicate the journeys he describes, this book offers a great window on a part of the world that is hugely misunderstood, and on the man who effectively coined the term ‘adventure motorcycling’.
And what’s more, at seven quid, it’s a steal.
Paperback 240pp £6.99
Published by Chris Scott (2015)