Jolandi Rust: Experiencing Africa on a motorbike


‘I haven’t found a guy that can keep up with my pace’

Adventure is out there, it’s heading our way So grab your scarf and goggles, let’s fly! I’ve mapped out our journey; we’re up here to stay. A sunset is our home. A moonbeam we will own. My Spirit of Adventure is you! So goes a track in Michael Giacchino‘s album entitled, The Spirit of Adventure, which was released a few years ago. Still on the same subject, Kev Reynolds, mountaineer and travel writer, while reviewing The Spirit of Adventure, a book written by Colin Mortlock and published in 2009, says the most fundamental question facing anyone who breathes is: How best should I live my life? Indeed, every human being has a life to live and also a story to tell. But the most worthy of life is not one that is stale and sedentary but one that is purpose driven and filled with fun and adventure. So, what kind of life are you living?

What is your own story? For Jolandi Rust, a White South African, human beings must dream to dare and dare to conquer. Driven by her passion for adventure, Jo is determined to write her name in gold by being the first African woman to circumnavigate Africa on a motorbike. And she is just 28! Hear her: “People think I am crazy. I started this journey on April 7 and it has been exciting. I have faced so many challenges but I remain determined to achieve my dream. Maybe I am adrenalin junky, maybe I like living my life on the edge but that’s what keeps me going. “Mine is to do crazy things.

I love people who can believe in their own dreams. I have always been an adventurous person and what I do inspires other people. I decided I wanted to do something big with my life and because my passions are Africa, traveling and experiencing different cultures, I decided I would circumnavigate Africa on a bicycle.” Jo’s journey round Africa, a total of 40, 000 kilometers, will take her a whole year to complete. Even though, the journey is fraught with risks and great danger, she is optimistic that she will succeed.

TS Weekend had an encounter with Jolandi Rust while in Nigeria and here she narrates her sweet and sour experiences as she navigates across Africa on a power bike. Also in this edition, we bring you the story of Waidi Akanni, former Super Eagles player, who confessed that he almost got drowned in his quest to play football. Have a swell weekend! >TOSIN 08056008696

Whether she’s waiting to cross the border under the hot, sweltering sun with stern looking security guards scrutinizing her, or dodging bullets from armed bandits, or camping out all alone in the dense jungle of the Congo, or even stuck and covered in mud on an endless dirty road in Gabon, one thing that stands this lady out is her determination to succeed against the odds.

Indeed, she remained determined to achieve her dream despite narrowly escaping rape and probably death after armed bandits attacked her twice, and also after nearly being knocked down by trucks among other near misses. Ironically, but for the gadgets she’s wearing, she could have easily passed off for your everyday next-door-girl but she is not. She is a lady with a big dream; she wants to set the world record of being the first African woman to circumnavigate the continent on a motorbike!

Welcome to the world of 28 year-old Jolandi Rust, a white South African who loves living on the edge, and who describes herself as crazy but determined to write her name in the annals of history.

As I regard her, I realize she looks every bit an extension of her state-of-the art BMW power bike. Dressed in knee high boots, faded blue denims that accentuate her curves and a black coloured vinyl jacket that gives her that look of a fighter, including a massive black helmet that reminds you of an alien in a sci-fi movie, it is difficult to actually tell the difference between rider and bike as she sits astride the machine which has taken her through thick and thin in the last couple of months.

“People think I am crazy,” she confesses, taking off her helmet, giving you a heart-warming smile and throwing back her head as her hair cascades around her shoulders and her emerald eyes come alive. “I started this journey on April 7 and it has been exciting. I have faced so many challenges but I remain determined to achieve my dream. Maybe I am an adrenalin junky, maybe I like living my life on the edge but that’s what keeps me going.”

Once upon a dream

Right from childhood, Jo was never a normal kid. Born with a restless spirit, after graduation from the university, she traveled to Israel where she worked for a while and cycled across the Jewish nation before returning to South Africa. On her return to her country, she followed her passion and cycled across the rainbow nation. However, Jo couldn’t hold down a nine-to-five job because as she puts it, working nine-to-five was ‘killing me’.

Meanwhile, after cycling across her country successfully, a new dream was born; she wanted to be the first African woman to circumnavigate Africa on a bicycle. “Every person has a passion and you just know what your destiny is and a lot of people are afraid to follow that because they are scared of failure. I have never been an office kind of person. I had a few nine-to-five jobs and it just drove me insane! When I finished school I went to Israel and came back and cycled through my country. Then, I got a job in a law firm but I quit and got into my other passion, which is music; that’s what I mainly do when I am at home. I play rock music. I have no albums yet but I play the guitar as well.”

She explains further: “Mine is to do crazy things. I love people who can believe in their own dreams. I have always been an adventurous person and what I do inspires other people. I decided I wanted to do something big with my life and because my passions are Africa, traveling and experiencing different cultures, I decided I would circumnavigate Africa on a bicycle.”


Cycling across Africa might sound crazy but that’s exactly what Jo set out to do. However, she had scarcely started out when she was attacked on the Angolan border with South Africa by hooligans who threatened her with knives, robbed her of all she had and almost succeeded in raping her but for providence.

“It was scary,” she recalls, “I probably could have been raped! I first decided I would travel around Africa on a bicycle. I started in South Africa and cycled to Angola where some guys attacked me and took over my stuff. I narrowly escaped losing my life!

“It was around the weekend and these two young men were obviously partying so they were probably drunk. They attacked me with knives and took all I had. But the Angolan government reacted so quickly because I had a lot of friends and the governor of the area flew in and made sure I was safe.”

Blessing in disguise

For Jo, the near tragic experience turned out to be a blessing in disguise when the Angolan government waded into the matter, arrested the hooligans and offered to pick up the bill for her record-making odyssey across Africa.

She was overjoyed most especially when the Angolan government decided to sponsor her trip across Africa. However, after the experience, Jo realised there’s got to be an easier way of achieving her dream. At least, she thought to herself, if she was on a power bike, she could always outrun her pursuers and no one would be able to catch her or attack her. And so, she bought a BMW power bike and once more set out on her mission to conquer Africa. True to her words, when Jo ran into some armed bandits who attacked her with guns on the Namibian border, she sped off!

African hospitality

The popular belief is that Africans are hospitable people. Jo admits as much. As her journey progresses, she continues to experience large doses of love and affection from the people.

From Angola to Namibia, Zambia to Congo, Gabon to Cameroun and finally Nigeria, it has been a great show of love from the various peoples and tribes she has come in contact with.

“One thing that really surprises me is that every country I have traveled to, people have welcomed me with open arms and treated me like their family member which is really a great experience.

“You get a different image in each country. Everybody is unique in their own way. It’s been a very interesting experience. You get to see how people live which is different from the way we live in South Africa. Each country is different and that’s what makes Africa so very unique. Although, we are so very different, at the end of the day, we are all Africans.

“I have many wonderful friends now in each country and since this is only the beginning of my journey across Africa, word is spreading like wild fire about what I am doing so, people all the way know about what I am doing and are sending me contacts of their friends in each country that I can meet up with.

“It’s like a human chain carrying me around the continent to make sure that I reach my goal so, it’s not just about me anymore. If I can accomplish this, it’s also for a lot of people who believe in what I am doing. If I could be the first woman to bike across Africa alone, may be, it will help a lot of people pursue their own dreams,” Jo says laughing gaily as she brushes strands of hair off her face.


Jo insists that though, the African woman is very strong, she is scared of pursuing her dreams because of the fear of failure. “The biggest challenge I have faced is handling the power bike on the road. I have come to areas where roads are non-existent. In the Congo, there was so much dust I couldn’t even see my front wheel and then people with cars don’t always think of how vulnerable you are as a biker. So, you have to be aware of what’s going on around you at all times. Sometimes, I had to travel through muddy roads and that could be very challenging. I have been very lucky I haven’t had any real problem on the bike though, I can fix anything on it; I have all the tools and spares.”

Love life

Jo desires a relationship but she says there is no man in her life, at least, for now. Reason: she has not found the guy who could keep up with her!

“Probably, I’m intimidating so, I scare them away. But what I do know is that when I meet the right one, I will know that he is the one. All I want in a man are those things every woman out there wants including love and understanding.

“However, he needs to be someone that has the same thinking as I do; someone adventurous. He needs to understand that I am a very independent and very free woman. That means he needs to be very strong such that if I decide to ride through Africa again on my own, he would give his blessings and must understand the fact that I am very liberal.”

What would it take to conquer Jo’s heart? “I don’t know,” she says laughing out loudly. “Maybe, one day, I will find a guy who will tame me but he has to be a biker, a crazy guy like me.”

Nelson Mandela

Jo grew up in the dying days of Apartheid and so her childhood memories are those of a country uniting across the colour barriers, including that of the towering figure of Nelson Mandela: “Nelson Mandela means a lot to me,” she says, “he is the father of Africa; the father of all.  I was a small child back then. Now in SA, things are very different especially after the World Cup. People are really united now and we respect one another more than ever before. We are still in our baby stages of coming together as a country but it’s growing and it’s interesting what will happen in the future.”

Never say die

Jo knows that her mission is fraught with risk. Where does she find the strength to keep going?  Her response: “In life, good things happen and bad things happen but you have to carry on so you ask yourself, ‘are you going to carry on living or stop living because something bad could happen to you?’ Yes, I could lose my life in the process but I could also lose my life just living a normal life; you can die any time.

“I don’t want to get lost in the crowd. We all have our dreams and what we do inspires us. To some people, what I do is extreme while there are other people that do things that I think are extreme. At the end of the day, I have learnt that the most important thing we all need to have is respect and acceptance for one another and that’s been a big eye opener for me; how people have accepted me has been amazing.”

Happy moments

“I’ve had very happy moments on this trip. Like being back in Angola after the attack, when I got to the outskirts of Luanda, I saw 30 bikers waiting for me and we all drove all the way to Luanda. That was a very great moment. Crossing the equator was another happy moment for me. I crossed it somewhere around the end of May.”

Jo adds that happy moments also include those difficult times when she was in the middle of the jungle or stuck on a dirty road and covered with dust. “May be I am an adrenalin junkie; I like taking risks. I am one of those people that would like to jump off a plane! There is this saying ‘if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking too much space,” she says and we both share another laugh.

Coming to Nigeria

Jo came into Nigeria through Cameroon and rode from Calabar to Benin before finally hitting Lagos. And it would seem she is learning fast. Aside traveling and biking, Jo also loves delicacies. She says she has fallen in love with egusi soup, efo and amala.

“Most of the time you can’t tell that I am a woman because I have my gear on. But when I take my helmet off and they see that I am a woman they are very surprised. The people are very friendly, very helpful.”

Jo’s journey is a 40, 000km ride and will take her 12 months to complete. Even though, the lady has a long way to go, she is filled with optimism that she will achieve her dream and write her name in gold.

Next level

After laying the record what happens next? Jo explains thus: “I will start training for the Paris Dakar rally in Morocco where I will be for two months. The Dakar rally is the biggest in the world and no African woman has ever competed there so, the goal is that after this, I will be at the Dakar and be the first African woman ever to compete.”

Finally, I asked Jo the question that has been bothering me from the outset. Why do you want to set this record? She looked at me with that strange look that suggested I must be a Martian, a world too far away to understand her as she responded: “It’s what I want to do because it’s my dream. It’s been my dream since five years. I hope to inspire other African women to stand up and be something.”

Whether Jo is a nut case or an adrenalin junkie who loves living on the edge, one thing is certain, she is like a moving train ready to take on the world. And if she has to lay down her life to win the prize, it’s just one of those things. At least, she would have lived her life to the fullest.

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