Dreamtime Stories – with Charlotte Rochenard

Welcome to the second blog instalment of our series of Dreamtime stories, where we share the experiences of adventurers from their travels and expeditions!

We had the pleasure of talking with car surfacing designer and motorcycle enthusiast, Charlotte Rochenard – known for her solo motorcycle trip from England to Cape Town, via the west coast of Africa – to find out more about her inspiration, the challenges she’s faced, her favourite moments, and the effect travel and exploration has had on her!

 

Interview with Charlotte Rochenard:

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you came from

“I was born and raised in Brittany in France, where I had my first experience of riding a motorbike in my early teens. Living in the countryside made it easy to go around and play in the fields with my dad’s old Honda 125 dirtbike.
Fast-forward a few years, my studies in industrial design brought me to India, where I lived for a year, discovering the true sense of travelling while still studying. I bought myself a little motorcycle and started exploring the surroundings, meeting the people, and experiencing the culture of an area that was so far away from regular tourist hotspots.
This was the beginning of my solo travels and explorations. While working in the car design industry, I decided to take some time off to achieve a dream, and in October 2019 I embarked on my biggest journey – the crossing of Africa – alone on a motorcycle from England to Cape Town, following the west coast of Africa.”

 

Charlotte Rochenard leaving England

You’ve done some pretty epic things. What made you want to get out there and do something different?

“I love discovering new cultures, meeting new people, and discovering the world on my own terms. I’ve found that what’s not in the guidebook usually leads you to the most incredible moments. I enjoy challenging myself and leaving the main road, creating my own path, and stepping out of my comfort zone.
I have always loved the outdoors, and in adventure travel, I saw the perfect opportunity to embrace my passion. Besides, I always felt that I could only die once I have seen the whole world!”

 

Motorcycling through rural african road

 

It’s inevitable that when you do what you do, you encounter some pretty dicey moments. Have you had any times where you thought, “sh*t, I’m in a tough place here”?

I’ve always believed a challenge begins when there is a possibility for things to go wrong. My last adventure came to a premature end, as I was involved in an awful accident in the Cross River region of Nigeria, not far from the Cameroon border.
It was New Year’s eve, I couldn’t wait to get the next 3 days out of the way, this was going to be the toughest crossing. A small heavily-loaded motorcycle crossed in front of me, coming out of nowhere. I hit it at tremendous speed, while another vehicle crashed into my bike, resulting in hitting me.
It took me a while to realise the damage, as I somehow sat on my heels, trying to wave, when I noticed my hand wasn’t where it should be. I had a double fracture of my arm and thought “sh*t, that’s not great”, but at that point, I was adamant this broken arm wasn’t going to stop my journey. The trouble was, I couldn’t move…
I spent 10 days awaiting release from surgery to return to England, still unable to move; not knowing what was going on was quite nerve-racking. I eventually learned that I had a broken pelvis as the medevac doctor looked at my X-ray. As we were about to take off, I remember just thinking “Oh well…at least this is a valid reason to get me back home” and somehow I felt relieved, at least at this point I knew what was wrong. I could finally relax and fall asleep.”

 

 

 

What is it you struggle with most, doing what you do?

 

Sometimes, the interaction with locals can prove to be a challenge in itself. Some of the most amazing memories of my travels have come from my encounters with people’s unbelievably welcoming nature and kindness; people that invite you into their home and offer you meals, or even a place to stay for the night!
Unfortunately, no matter how kind and polite you try to be, some individuals in the communities you cross aren’t so welcoming. For some people, a white person such as myself can be viewed as a threat; not because of how I behave, but sometimes due to the behaviour of previous travellers who haven’t respected their culture, or what my skin represents to them – somebody who thinks they’re superior – particularly in post-colonial nations.
Thankfully, I’ve never been met with too much hostility, but micro-aggressive dirty looks, the assumption that I carried a lot of money, and even an attempt of extortion from a border officer made for some anxious experiences. This only shows that some scars of the past are not fully healed, and it is important for adventurers such as myself to practice fairness and respect, in order to change perspectives in these communities.

On your adventures, what would you say are some of the most memorable moments?

 

“When remotely separated from the outside world, in the most unbelievable landscapes.
Sleeping under the most amazing starry skies, from jungles to desert places.
The satisfaction of finally starting an adventure, when I took the boat from Spain to Morocco, physically landing in Africa.
Arriving in places such as Dakar; completing my very own ‘Paris-Dakar’, although this was only the beginning of my journey, I had already accomplished a childhood dream.
Making new friends, where we would sometimes only cross for a night or a week, but making life-lasting memories.
I also found luxury in being far away from the internet world as it wasn’t accessible.”

 

 

Would you say travel and exploration changed you?

 

“I have learnt to appreciate what you take for granted in your everyday life, while you live with the bare necessities for months and realise you don’t actually need more. It isn’t always glamorous, and you come across bad times, from being sick to general discomfort.
Often I had to tolerate rules and customs which made little sense to me, but I found that the ability to adapt to the situation has become a skill that is applicable to all levels of life and has made me take a different approach to problems of all kinds.
The fear of the unknown is something that can hold you back forever, and there is only one way you can overcome it; that is to throw yourself in it. Before leaving for the trip, there were many things I was worried about, but once I arrived in Africa they seemed to have evaporated. ‘Where am I going to sleep? Will I be safe?’ when all is said and done, in twenty years time, you will only regret things you haven’t done, not the things you have done. This has definitely become my way to be and think today after that trip.

 

 

Do you have a story to tell?

We’d love to hear about it! 

Share with us the best stories from your travels, expeditions & explorations and we’ll upload our favourites.

Acceptable Submissions:

  • Tell us about an adventure from your travels
  • Stories you’ve learned from foreign cultures
  • Coverage of your current or most recent exploration

Tell us in as much detail as you like, in the form of a blog, a video, with pictures or a podcast

All we ask is that it is appropriate for us to post on our website or social media channels, and consider the following things:

  • What did you learn?
  • How has the experience influenced you? 
  • The more you can describe the setting and your feelings, the better!

We can’t wait to see what you come up with! Send them over through our contact form or get in touch with our Facebook or Instagram pages.