Have you ever imagined crossing the African continent by bicycle? Alexandre Costa Nascimento did this and tells about his experience in his book “More than a Lion per Day”
“Once you do this, you will never be the same”. This sentence is on the registration form for the Tour d’Afrique expedition, as this made the journalist Alexandre Costa Nascimento, who adopted cycling as a way of life. He is the author of the blog named: Going and Coming by Bike, dedicated to cycling-tourism and cycling-activism and sustainable urban mobility, Alexandre was willing to quit his job in a big newspaper of Curitiba to accomplish his greatest adventure of his life: going by bike from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa. He afterwards documented this entire adventure in an editorial book. He has been crazy about Africa ever since he was a child; he foresaw a unique opportunity in this expedition for reuniting his three favorite perks: journalism, Africa, and cycling. There was still one year and a half separating him from fulfilling his dream. It was enough time for him to seek sponsorship, he was able to get support by way of a collective funding site and he also saved more money, so he could save the means for his trip.
The expedition lasted 121 days, 87 of them he spent pedaling and he rode through 11 countries: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. But his desire to transform his experience into a book made the mission even more difficult. “We pedaled and I was already prepared to take a photograph, afterwards, I would talk to people. My journalistic vision was ever present during the course of the entire trip. I brought a camera and a computer with me, but it was not possible to write all the time, or I would become exhausted. I had just one rest day every seven days. I decided to use that day for unloading photographs and updating the blog”, he explained.
The book “More than a Lion per Day” was published two years after the experience. That curious title meant something special to the author. “I had other options. But, as I faced so many challenges, and due to this, the maxim ‘kill a lion per day’ seemed a little like what I had gone through”, Alexandre expressed, as I had to be responsible for detailing the experience as much as possible. “In Zambia, for example, there was a road blocked by protestors and then the police arrived. We were in the midst of the confrontation. We also pedaled right alongside wild animals, such as elephants, rhinos, zebras, and giraffes. There was a surprise every meter we went. There was always something to test me. The title of my book could not be more appropriate”.
The book was divided into fifteen chapters. Curiously, each chapter was written about one country and linked that to a word defining the author’s trip in each location. “There was always one outstanding word to represent my trip through each country”, he tells. “For Egypt, I used ‘adaptation’ because I had to prepare my body for the journey and learn to have convivial with people from 15 different countries. For Sudan, I used the word ‘overcoming’ as I had to face sandstorms, I felt sick due to hypoglycemia and I almost had to give up. In Ethiopia I defined the word as ‘bravery’, as I had to ride up and down many mountains”.
Only 15% of the participants in the Tour D’afriqué were able to finish the 12 thousand kilometer course. “It was my big conquest. I made my mark: I am the first Brazilian and the first Latin American to have finished the course”, then I celebrated. “I had to spend four months away from my wife and that was very difficult. I face steep climbs, heat, and cold. Everything made me reach my limits. Just a second of weakness would suddenly make my goal, sink to oblivion. The greatest overcoming was to kill more than a lion per day”.
Alexandre also discovered an Africa that until that moment had been unknown by him. Seeing Africa up close, with all five senses. That is a transforming experience. Africa is a continent of opportunities. Unfortunately, the information coming to Brazil on Africa is still quite limited. Nowadays, I see this continent as a vast place, full of enormous human potential. There are still challenges. There is still poverty. But a great deal is being done.
Besides the book and the blog, Alexandre’s experience in the African continent has also been retold in lectures and seminars the journalist presents in Brazil and outside as well. At the moment, he is also seeking international editors to translate “More than a Lion per Day” to other languages, such as English, French, and Arabic. Besides that, the journalist also plans to repeat the experience. “I celebrated my thirtieth birthday on that trip. But also some friends have already set a reunion for 2033, twenty years after my first experience, when I will be 50 years old”. Who knows?
11 African countries
From Cairo to Cape Town, Alexandre went through a total of 11 African countries (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa).
About Tour d’Afrique: The expedition is the fruit of an experience by Henry Gold, who is the founder and director of the Tour d’Afrique Ltd. and the TDA Foundation. Besides the journey reuniting cyclists from diverse parts of the world, the group promotes bicycle riding as a means of transportation, in order to decrease the negative impact from cars on the environment, social, and urban factors.