After dodging bullets, bandits and escaping several near death experiences across nearly 40,000 miles, Spencer Conway lives to tell the tale of his successful solo circumnavigation of Africa by motorbike - something that no one has ever been able to achieve - until now.
In pursuing his love of motorbiking, Africa and charity work, Spencer conway circled Africa on the condition (read: challenge) that he do it alone, made by Diesel Films, who documented the journey. After escaping gunfire and bandit robber, Conway finally returned home to the UK this past weekend with a new world record to claim, made-for-Hollywood stories - and a check for nearly $43,500 made out to Save the Children. He of course, has no regrets.
After months of planning, fundraising, setting up his own website, Africa-Bike-Adventure.com and receiving endless support, Conway took off last November. His actor friend Richard E. Grant came on as a patron and, he even received a letter from Prince Harry wishing him luck. Waving goodbye to the crowds, the 42-year-old started up his Yamaha XT 660 and roared off into the horizon. Planning to ride down the East Coast of Africa and return via the West Coast, he aimed to travel through 28 countries. He beat his target and went to 32 countries, fully aware that the terrain would be treacherous, and at times dangerous.
And it was.
One day in January, while traveling through Northern Kenya, on the border of Somalia, he found himself dodging bullets. "I saw three guys on a hill, so I waved to them as I always did when I saw locals," he recalls, continuing: "As I waved, one of them spun round and just started firing at me with a machine gun and they came running down the hill after me." With blown tires and damaged brakes he took off as fast as he could, eventually taking cover in the bush for an hour before daring to get back on the road. Unharmed but in shock, he set off to get help, but instead walked 12 miles to the nearest village after he was forced to abandon his bike.
He later realized just how lucky his escape was, after talking to the local army officials. "They didn't shoot me in the back and the army said they wouldn't shoot you once to get you off the bike and not shoot you again so they must have run out of bullets," he said adding with relief that while guns are cheap, bullets are scarce and hard to get hold off. "I was so lucky." After finding a Catholic mission, he was offered a cup of tea and a place to rest by a German priest. The incident understandably shook Conway.
It took him three weeks to get back on the road, but he did, only to be attacked by a bunch of youths in Egypt. "They were 17-year-olds and had obviously been watching too much American TV and decided to try and get money off me and when I refused, they took a stick to my bike." After making a speedy exit, a taxi driver came to his rescue. "There is nastiness and niceness everywhere but I went to bed feeling good that night."
Despite the hurdles he faced, he never once thought of giving up. "In a strange way, it made me want to do it even more," he said, adding: "There is only about 3,000 in Biddenden where I live, but every single one of them was behind me - there was a lot at stake." Seeing where his money would go by visiting the charity projects gave him the determination to keep on riding. "There was a theater group in Angola and in the middle of the slums, they had built a little theater," he reminisced, adding "they put this show on for us and honestly it was like a west end production in terms of the effort they had put in."
This Sunday the streets of Kent were awash with flags and banners to welcome home their hero and friend. Having traveled nearly 40,000 miles in 286 days and covered one fifth of the world's surface area, it was an emotional moment for Conway. "It's so mind blowing it hasn't sunk it but it has changed me completely," he says, explaining: "The way I look at the world, the love for my family... my values have changed."
Although he's concentrating on turning his diaries into a book right now, he's itching to get back into his leathers and get back on the road. "I'm not going to stop," he says confidently. "Whether its buying motorbikes to take medical equipment around Africa, or a circumnavigation of South America, I want to raise £1 million (over $1.5 million) in my lifetime. That would be just great."
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Photos courtesy of africa-bike-adventure.com