Making of a Manser

2008-07-19 00:00

He spent more than two years circumnavigating Africa on a bicycle, but adventurer Riaan Manser is still convinced that he does not have enough stories to tell his grandchildren one day.

Which is why Manser, the author of Around Africa on My Bicycle and Out There Adventurer of the Year 2006, has set off on his next mission - to kayak 5 000 km around the island of Madagascar.

Manser believes he should "pay respect to what a good life should be". He hopes to be the first person to kayak around Madagascar, which is the fourth largest island in the world, without any assistance. Part of the challenge will be to catch his own food every day and to find fresh water. A number of people have attempted the trip, but none has succeeded.

Manser intends to take about a year to complete the journey. He has had a special 5,5-metre self-draining kayak designed to handle the extreme conditions he will experience and to carry a tent, sleeping bag, fishing equipment and spare boat parts as well as a laptop and camera equipment.

In an interview with The Witness, Manser said he is confident he will complete the trip.

"I have no doubt that I will get round the island. My determination is unwavering. There is no way that I will wake up once and not believe that I will do it," he said.

Living in Betty's Bay, less than a kilometre from the sea, has meant that he has been able to paddle regularly during the past two-and-a-half years, and Manser says he is fit for the trip.

Asked why he chose Madagascar, Manser said: "I thought of a couple of things I could do that would really change me, but there are very few world firsts to capture the imagination. It came down to me looking at a map of Africa and saying I have gone around a big chunk, but missed a big part of it in the Indian Ocean. Also, in the last 10 years Madagascar has become a source of fascination to a lot of people."

He intends writing another book about his experiences and a documentary will be made about the trip.

Manser says he believes his attitude will get him through the challenge. "I have to embrace the adventure. I tell myself that every day I will wake up and start the day with the attitude that whatever happens to me will be an adventure. When I started reading and researching for my bicycling trip, I read about the political situation in each African country. I looked at Eritrea, Liberia, Angola. I read about people fighting and being assassinated. The more I read, the more I realised there were so many reasons not to go. But I went, knowing that anything could happen.

"This is the same attitude I take with me now, knowing how much we can miss out on if we worry about all the things that could go wrong.

"All I know is that when I watched the video of my bike ride, over and over again I kept thinking to myself, jislaaik, I am so jealous of the guy in that movie. I am looking forward to starting the days with the same attitude."

Manser said he knows a number of people have attempted the paddle around Madagascar. "I read about one guy, a European, who tried to do the trip as an exercise for Lonely Planet. He was a very good paddler and they sponsored him to do it. But he got very ill and had to be airlifted out. I have also heard about three other people who tried and failed, but I have not done much research on them."

Visit Manser's own website here.

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