If you cannot go on an amazing adventure, such as spending five years cycling around the world, then at least you can share in the adventure others have had, by reading a book they wrote about their adventure. This is what makes cycle touring books so brilliant to read: we get to share vicariously in the adventures of others.
Travels With Rosinante tell the story of when Bernard Magnouloux set off to cycle around the world. He’s a peculiar character you soon discover, and he has a a habit of poking fun at himself throughout the book, and isn’t afraid of his quirkiness. For example, he once tied his moustache with a bit of string to his self-inserted spoke-nipple ear-ring, to stop the wind blowing his moustache into his mouth!
Magnouloux set off in 1980, the world was a far different place than it is now. People like Magnouloux, Dervla Murphy and John Devoy were trailblazers. They went on extreme, unsupported adventures, often facing serious risks, before adventuring became a commodity. Seriously, haven’t you had someone asking you to sponsor them so they can go mountain bike in the Andes, or similar, “for charity”?
They were rebels, non-conformists is a world who mostly failed to understand why anyone would choose to travel long distance by bicycle, and they did so without GPS or mobile phones.
Magnouloux suffered with border controls in various countries. He set new records for time spent in no-man’s land, between border controls of neighbouring countries. In Mexico, he was in a fight for his life with three muggers, one of which had a gun. He is undoubtedly a very tough and determined character. When he made it to China, foreign tourists were only allowed into the country for the first time the year before. He ran into some challenges with the authorities. Like many cycle tourers, he preferred Pakistan to India. He also warns others of the stone-throwing that children in norther Africa seem to love to do at any passing cyclist.
Speaking of Africa, that continent is vast, and challenging. During the early 80s, many countries, such as Zimbabwe, were still newly independent. While the Rwandan genocide was still in the future when he cycled through the area, Magnouloux encountered animosity between the Hutus and the Tsutsis. Despite the challenges, and at times dangers that he encountered, it is clear from the book that he thoroughly enjoyed most of Africa. Just wait until you read about the special “desert” he was offered near the Mozambique border!
In 1986, when he cycled through South Africa, I was still a schoolboy. His route took him directly past my front door! I doubt I saw him cycle by, and even if I did, I would never have thought that decades later I’d be doing a review of the book he wrote about his adventure!
If an armchair adventure is what you crave, this book will deliver. There’s a problem though: the book is out of print, and has been so for quite a few years now. I bought my hardback copy second hand. You can still buy French versions of the book directly from the author’s web site, but I don’t know if he has English versions available. The author is on Twitter, if you’re interested in following him.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and I’ve no doubt that you will enjoy it. too.