MIRROR: They took 72 days and 7.5 hours to cover around 18,000 kilometers from the North Cape in Norway to Cape Town in South Africa – 30 days faster than your predecessor. This is your fourth record, what was different this time?
Jonas Deichmann: The Panamericana from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego is harder on paper, but the difficulty with "Cape to Cape" are the unpredictable situations in some African countries. I woke up every morning knowing that there would be a surprise that day as well.
Jonas Deichmann, Born in 1987, was born in Stuttgart and grew up in the Black Forest. After completing his studies in International Business, he initially worked as an IT sales representative in Munich and became self-employed at the end of 2017 as an extreme athlete and motivation coach. He is a four-time world record holder in bicycle crossings – including in Eurasia 2017 and on the Panamericana 2018 from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.
MIRROR: Was it getting tough?
Deichmann: In Ethiopia, I have twice come into civil war-like conditions. In Shashamane at the time there were ethnic conflicts with several dead and I passed demonstrations. Most of the participants were very helpful, only a group of young men became aggressive towards me and came dangerously close to me. As a result, several senior authority figures around me and led me to a restaurant that was barred.
MIRROR: Did you check the security situation of each of the 15 countries before the tour?
Deichmann: Africa is an extreme example. I informed myself about the Foreign Office and the embassies. You need a rough overview and plan, but in the end you have to decide out of the situation.
MIRROR: They are not alone for the first time, but with a partner, the extreme athlete and photographer Philipp Hympendahl. He had to stop on the way – why?
Deichmann: We both got food poisoning in Egypt. In Ethiopia, the same thing happened to me again.
MIRROR: Did not you even have to stop it?
Deichmann: I have never allowed myself a rest day. In a food poisoning, I drive a little slower, but still the usual ten to eleven hours a day. If I take a break in such a situation, my body will collapse. In the end, you can do a lot of overhead: I always try to concentrate and believe that the next day will be better.
MIRROR: You have been traveling the whole distance without escort vehicle. What did you have on the bike?
Deichmann: Of everything only the bare minimum. The bike weighed eight kilograms and the equipment six – no food. In Africa, I reduced my clothes and replaced them with spare parts, as there is only one well-stocked bike shop in Nairobi between Cairo and Cape Town.
MIRROR: Did you have a breakdown?
Deichmann: My bottom bracket was over in Ethiopia, and I could not install the new one myself. In the end, a 13-year-old boy helped me out in a motorcycle workshop with a wrench and a hammer. I got a bit nervous, but he did well.
MIRROR: How did you ensure your water and calorie supply along the way?
Deichmann: I gained a little fat pad before the tour because it's hard to get the needed 10,000 calories every day. I got a problem in the Sahara, when I ran out of water and I had to drink Nile water – not dangerous. It was hard for me to get food there. After the second food poisoning, I switched almost completely to rice with ketchup, because I did not want to take any chances. Sometimes there were only bananas and cookies.
MIRROR: How did you sleep?
Deichmann: I always drove until it was dark – in Africa I tried to avoid night driving. Sometimes I found a hotel, there was often no one, and so I spent the night in restaurants, gas stations or in police stations.
MIRROR: Do you remember special sleeping places?
Deichmann: In Egypt, Philipp and I were held at a police station, which wanted to take us to a hotel with the pick-up partout. That would have violated our rules. Therefore, an Egyptian friend helped by phone and negotiated a prison cell for sleeping. And in Botswana, the many wild animals were a great experience during the day but not at night. When it was already dawning, I asked at a checkpoint if I could camp there in the garden. They then quickly called me in, as an elephant was walking through the camp. And the same night a dog was eaten by a lion.
MIRROR: Which of the 15 countries was easiest to cross by bike?
Deichmann: Norway and Finland have beautiful nature and are relatively easy to travel. Iran has also liked very much. The locals have often invited me to, also landscaped, the country was great.
MIRROR: Where was the progress rather a challenge?
Deichmann: In Europe, Russia has certainly been the most dangerous. There are hardly any bike paths, and we had to drive temporarily on the highway. Once, the side mirror of a truck touched me. And in Ethiopia, many children ran after us, asking for money, and many of them threw stones, some of them large. That was dangerous and disturbing.
MIRROR: Which moments were especially nice?
Deichmann: The encounters with the people. People who have hardly anything, shared with me anyway. That touched me a lot. And the night driving in the Sahara: During the day it is relentlessly hot at 45 degrees, but the night sky is impressive. I felt like I was completely alone in the world. From such impressions I consumed, if it was not so round. And of course the entrance to Cape Town at sunset.
MIRROR: Such trips are not for hobby athletes – you drove on average 250 kilometers. How did you prepare for it?
Deichmann: I live on my bike practically ten months a year anyway and am on an expedition, so I get to about 50,000 kilometers a year. Just before it started, I participated in races in the Andes and completed an altitude training. For my mental training, I put a home trainer in front of a white wall and drive ten hours straight. Then you nervously through the desert.
MIRROR: This is a life of extremes that you have chosen permanently. Why?
Deichmann: As children, we were always out there and doing sports. During my studies I cycled around the world for two years. With the records I can combine my passions: adventure with competitive sport.
MIRROR: How important are the records for you?
Deichmann: Most important to me are the experiences and the adventure. The record comes second, but it is a testament to the hard work and motivates me to continue to make difficult expeditions.
MIRROR: How do you finance these?
Deichmann: About sponsors and motivational lectures.
MIRROR: There are three major continental crossings in the world – the record for everyone now. Time for retirement?
Deichmann: I'm only 32 years old, there's no reason to retire. My next project will start in July and is still a secret – but will take longer. Next spring, my team and I will be releasing a book and a documentary about the "Cap to Cap" route.
MIRROR: Have you learned through all your life experiences?
Deichmann: In particular two things: one is capable of much more than one actually thinks. The hardest thing is to venture to the starting line. The other concerns the people themselves. I've been to more than a hundred countries so far. And despite all the conflicts, people around the world are basically friendly and strive for similar values.