Face to face
January 10, 2006
moto: Bonjean, here and elsewhere
The story begins at the end of the 18th century, on a quay, somewhere in Europe. Mr. Bonjean, a chemist by trade, readies to board a ship to travel to the new world, Brazil. Centuries later, Remy a Frenchman and Bernardo, a Brazilian are both descendants of the pharmacist and coincidentally passionate about their motorcycling, met one another by accident on the world's largest rally raid.
"One morning, I received an e-mail from a certain Remy Bonjean who spoke to me about the Dakar, motorcycling and ancestor chemist who came to Brazil from France nearly 200 years ago to work for the Emperor. At first I thought it was a huge prank before believing it, just in case...we have kept in touch by e-mail for several months, I asked him for some information. It was a rather strange feeling. We shared this passion without knowing it and without ever meeting, but after some weeks, it became more and more natural," remembers Bernardo.
Yet, when he arrived in Lisbon, Bernardo was a bit lost. " It was raining, it was cold and I was all by myself...with no one who I could share my enthusiasm, my excitement and my worries in the face of the unknown. And Remy came to see me. It felt really good that someone took an interest in me", he says. An astonishing first encounter in the middle of the scrutineering waiting area. The two cousins spoke, got to know one another, perhaps just a bit uncomfortable. Then, they went their separate ways to prepare.
Bernardo, a 28-year old trader has been riding bikes from a very tender young age. "My parents had a large farm in a region where it rained a lot and the best way to get around was a motorcycle." In the back of his mind, his dream was always to participate on the Dakar. "It is an incredible race, a little like going up Everest for mountain climbers or the Vendee Globe for yachtsmen. I absolutely wanted to be at the start on day. And now that I am here, I dream even more about being in Dakar." He rides at his own pace without taking risks or being over optimistic. " We kind of have the same philosophy", says Remy. " I don't know if it is a family thing. In any case, we have both chosen to take on the Dakar like a raid, in experiencing a massive adventure, with simply what we have."
Each morning at the start of the stage, Bernardo looks for his cousin. They have a coffee together, talk to each other about the day's event and promise to find each other in the evening. " We didn't know each other, but as soon as I finish, I look to see if Bernardo has arrived. I keep one eye on all of the bikes that make it to the bivouac and I feel better when I know he has arrived", recounts Remy. As for Bernardo, he isn't worried for his older cousin. He has a service team that follows him, supports him, and gives him their full attention if Remy has a problem. " I hope that I never have to do something for you," laughs Remy. A discreet and modest complicity is born, that will, for sure, continue to grow, at the pace of the stages that they each day nears them a little closer to Dakar.
moto: Far from the eyes...
"Making fine wine is a love affair. We put a lot of ourselves into it, for its authenticity, and for the love of the earth and people." Clement Mengus quietly recounts his life. He remembers the first time he rode a bike, and this passion that grew from the enduros he took part in each week. A little bit like wine that matures with the passing of the seasons.
Clement isn't having the Dakar he hoped for. "After the first two Moroccan stages, I was exhausted. I was cold and the stages seemed terribly long...it was really hard. But during each difficult moment, I thought about how lucky I was to be here and find the energy to go on. I thought about my mates who dream of being in my boots. For that, I have no right to complain, no right to give up", says Clement. Yet, at the Tan-Tan bivouac, Clement nearly quit. " I had a tough day. I even scared myself. I had a rather heavy crash just after the dunes of Merzougha. The bike was torn up and it wouldn't start. The riders that were with me thought I should retire, thinking that I couldn't re-start. And then, time stood still. I began to cry. Then I got angry, I didn't want the adventure come to an end here after a stupid fall. I took the bike apart to find the problem. And after 30-minutes, I was able to get it to start. I was up and running. I caught up to my riding buddies and we finished the stage together." But that night at the bivouac Clement needed to talk. "I called my girlfriend, but I got her parents on the line and they told me she was in hospital with a pulmonary infection.
He paces and suffers. He wants to do whatever he can to go home and be by her side and support each day in her preparation. "Finally, I was able to get her on the phone. We spoke and she convinced me to keep going." Because this story, this rally, is a little bit like wine of character. It needs time to age to feel all of its richness.
So Clement stays. He grits his teeth, talks to his dad who discreetly and attentively accompanies him on the rally. Together, they pamper his bike. Each night Clement calls his lovely. She tells him about the messages on his Internet site, the simple and enthusiastic words he sends to the children that Clement accompanies each summer on motorbike riding courses. And in a phrase, he evokes the future. "After the Dakar, I have another dream to see through," he says. I am a winemaker, I want to settle down and make my own wine at a domain that will also welcome motorbike treks. I have already located a few hectares, which could work out nicely". Clement is just 24-years old. He has many beautiful years ahead of him to age all his promises.