Josée Clermont says that she is “encouraging people to follow their dreams” after solo cycling for seven months across nine African countries.
Yellowknife resident Clermont’s trip included South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda.
“It’s worthwhile pursuing your dreams, even though it sounds crazy to other people. If you research it well, it’s kind-of managing the risk of it. It’s a calculated risk,” said Clermont.
Clermont fell in love with Tanzania after travelling there on a work trip before the Covid-19 pandemic. When the pandemic ended, she vowed to return and explore the continent more thoroughly on her bike.
“I loved it so much. It was like a whole world opening up to me,” she said.
But ahead of her trip, some of Clermont’s friends and family expressed concern about her safety as a lone female traveller.
“Reactions were very mixed, depending on who I would talk to,” she said. “It’s true that there are social tensions and there are racial tensions in South Africa, but it’s still possible to cycle there and it’s a beautiful country with really nice people. You just have to respect certain safety rules and do certain things to stay out of trouble.”
Throughout her time in Africa, she made sure to focus more on the journey than the destination, attempting to immerse herself in each country’s culture.
“For me, I wasn’t trying to take the most direct route. I really wanted to discover the countries and see different things and meet people by visiting villages and schools. It’s all about soaking up the culture,” she said.
“I learned about the history of each country and how colonialism impacts these places, and it just made me more aware of many things. I also like to pick up a little bit of the language, so I started learning Kiswahili, which is the language in Tanzania.”
Clermont will not have to wait long to cycle in the savannah again.
She will return to East Africa this fall to cycle in Tanzania and Kenya. She will also be leading a cycling tour. (She said spaces are available, contact her if interested.)
“I think some Canadians don’t know much about Africa and its people. They think it’s so poor and miserable,” said Clermont.
“In Canada, we live in abundance and yet, the level of depression is quite high.
“The sense of community is so strong in Africa, and I think that’s so beautiful.”