When Bealby embarks upon his African Odyssey, he is already an experienced motorcycle traveller, but uses Africa as a catalyst to help dispel a particular demon in his personal life.
Aside from anything, this trip is not just a west coast run from North to South Africa. Challenging though that is, he decides to return up the east side of the continent. Being the early 1990’s, the Algerian political situation means he is able to traverse the centre of the Sahara via Tamanrasset where he develops a relationship with a hotel receptionist who becomes a significant, though absent, player in the story. The journey provides many trials, not least an accident at the start which threatens his continuation, but he determines not to drop into the depths of despair that have dogged him previously.
Throughout the book there are recollections of an earlier fateful journey that bring the reader an understanding of why this journey was and needed to be, a challenge, a cleansing. These are skilfully interwoven and really supplement rather than detract from, the adventure in hand.
Jonny never takes the easy option. If he can take a route that will provide him with new adventure and experiences, and travel without other overlanders, then he will. This results in exciting illegal border crossings and heart-stopping moments where his discovery by man or beast is only a breath away.
Jonny comes across as someone everyone can easily relate to and his anecdotes, and indeed journey, are recounted in a way that make the whole book very enjoyable and engaging.
Originally published in 1995, the more recent Arrow Books version is not as easy to find as it once was, but at £8.99 is definitely worth seeking, even if the print is annoyingly small. Highly recommended.