Rice & Dirt – Across Africa on a Vespa | REVIEW
How many of us have thought about jacking in our job and heading off into the unknown on a voyage of discovery? Family, friends, possessions and the hamster wheel of real life get in the way for most of us and it stays nothing more than a pipe dream. Although for us scooter riders we can get a mini taste of adventure just by setting off on our unsuitable machines for a weekend away, or Euro trip.
The author and main character in Rice & Dirt didn’t even know each other when they set off on their own personal adventures, nor did they realise they’d eventually be going back to Greece not only as a couple but also as around the world travelling companions.
Leaving their Greek life behind and heading on a one way trip to Africa and beyond, Alexandra Fefopoulou and Stergios Gogos had their own reasons for leaving their homeland behind, a country stuck in an economic crisis, wages slashed and jobs cut. Meeting a stranger and falling in love certainly wasn’t one of the reasons for leaving.
Stergios sold pretty much all of his possessions, aside from his trusty Vespa PX200 and headed off towards Africa (with less luggage than most of us take to a rally) in 2012. Around the same time, Alexandra left Greece and went off to Africa. Little did they know where their independent adventures would lead them.
North to South
I’m a sucker for a two-wheeled travel book, I love the sense of adventure, the unpredictability of life on the road, the twists and turns and chance meetings encountered by fellow travellers. Riding a Vespa not only to, but also right through Africa from North to South is a challenging prospect.
During his trip Stergios battled corruption and bureaucracy head-on, trudged through mud and sand, picked himself and his scooter up countless times, crossed rivers in hollowed out tree canoes and endured terrible ‘road’ conditions. He bought dodgy looking petrol from makeshift roadside stalls in recycled plastic bottles and met the local wildlife – up close. His trip dispelled a few myths about ‘no-go zones’ he’d been warned against, whilst so-called ‘safe’ places turned out to be more worrying and the people less hospitable. He was invited to stay with villagers as a guest of honour and almost ended up being married off to his host’s daughter. He was threatened at gunpoint by a drunken border guard and lived on his wits. It’s a story with plenty of twists and turns.
Throughout the 320-page paperback book, Stergios travels mostly alone. His original GTS riding travelling companion bailed out early on into the adventure but like find like and he soon meets other travellers along the way. Life on two wheels can be as lonely or as interactive as you like to make it and it’s easy to make friends on the road, or get away on your own. Having met and made friends with Alexandra during the trip the two met up again by chance later and she quickly agrees to jump on the back of his Vespa to make a whole new adventure, sharing the sights, sounds, smells and experiences on the road is much better than doing it alone.
Alexandra wrote the book based on Stergios’ journey and her writing style gives you an immersive experience. The fact that the trip has been done on a humble PX200, rather than some big BMW GS makes it instantly more appealing to us petrol heads but even if you didn’t know one end of a Vespa from the arse end of a Vega it wouldn’t stop you enjoying the story. First and foremost it’s a travel book, the mode of transport is important but the journey is what it’s all about.
A picture paints a thousand words
At times I felt like a bit more elaboration about a place or encounter would be good but a book has to end somewhere I suppose. I’d also have liked a section within the book with photos from the trip but the story helps to paint a good enough picture and there are still other books and a film to come. You can get a feel for what it’s all about and a taster for the film, plus read their latest blogs by visiting their website, World Vespa.
Rice & Dirt has just (August 2018) been printed as a paperback after being translated from Greek to English by Katerina Soumani and Edited by Overland Magazine editor Paddy Tyson. The text flows as if it was originally written in English and the editing is faultless. The good thing about Rice & Dirt is that the duo are still travelling together, they’ve ridden plenty more miles since the African part of the trip (you may have met them at Mersea recently after they popped down to sign copies of the book). They are currently getting ready to set off towards Brazil. I for one will be looking forward to reading about and watching their adventures as they unfold in the future.
One thing that amazes me more than anything about this journey is that Stergios and Alexandra have had no support whatsoever from Piaggio. They couldn’t even borrow a couple of Vespas when they came over to the UK in August and only managed to get a couple of Scomadis thanks to Sticky/Scomadi UK and Modern Scooters.
Imagine if BMW (KTM are still kicking themselves for saying no) had turned down Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor when they did their Long Way Down trip? BMW are still living off the massive worldwide publicity and resulting new wave of adventure riders that came as a direct result of that trip.
Buy your copy from SLUK
We’re selling Rice & Dirt on behalf of Stergios and Alexandra. it costs just £9.99 plus P&P, it’s available now and buying a copy will help to make their on-going around the world journey possible.
Buy a copy today or an elephant will suffer…
New products always in development…