For nearly 11 years, Mélusine Mallender has been on an expedition across the planet on the handlebars of her motorcycles. To her quest for freedom was added the desire to understand that of others, and to give a voice to the women she meets on the road. A feminist adventurer who breaks codes in her own way.
It’s all smiles that Melusine Mallender gets off his big motorcycle. A khaki green Triumph Tiger, which bears the scars of his travels. From the mirrors hang charms that its owner has gleaned along the way. Bolivian pompoms, an Orthodox rosary, a Muslim rosary, colorful bracelets… So many small gifts, each of which recalls one of those fleeting and benevolent encounters such as we have abroad.
Fists on the handlebars, Mélusine Mallender has already split the road in around fifty countries, and traveled more than 100,000 kilometers. Sociogeographer, member of the Society of French Explorers, she ran after a fixed idea: freedom. His first. Her first trip, made ten years ago in the saddle of an old, out of breath motorcycle – and which she recounts with a lot of wit in her book “Les Voies de la liberté”, published by Robert Laffont, October 2020) – notes of the initiatory journey. He took her from Paris to Vladivostok.
In four months punctuated with laughter, tears and effort, she had many happy encounters and some unpleasant ones. “Before I left, my father told me that people in the world are basically nice people, and only five or ten percent are a problem.” she remembers, “I was able to fully confirm his words”.
Biker Without Borders
With this first motorized adventure, Mélusine Mallender found her way: to continue to travel the world on two wheels, starting now with the intention of giving a voice to the women she meets by questioning them about their own freedom. “A protean notion, she explains, for some, the freedom is to do what you want as long as you don’t harm anyone. For others, it is to no longer be afraid and to live in peace; or to live near his family, to have a roof, to have enough to eat, to be able to choose his president or her husband. “
After building solid projects and finding sponsors to support her, the adventurer set off on the Silk Roads. She escaped to Ukraine, Turkey, Iran, Russia, Kazakhastan… She also traveled to the heart of the cradle of humanity: in Ethiopia, Somaliland, Rwanda, Uganda… Every times she brought back footage from her travels from which she shot several films. She rubbed shoulders with very different societies and cultures, where the role of women and their share of freedom could vary dramatically.
Benchmark of feminine freedom
“In Mongolia, women are often better educated, and finer in organizing finances than men” could she see, “In Indonesia, among the Minangkabau, women manage the household and property, which they also pass on to each other. But surprisingly the whole is placed under the responsibility of an uncle! There is always a background of patriarchy somewhere. I have never seen a society where the power of men / women was totally reversed! “
In fact, when she returns to France, the adventurer finds the place of women rather advantageous. “There is still work to be done, she recalls, but fortunately we have the right with us, and it is easier to talk about injustices. I’m confident. “
Inspiring in turn
Unconditional admirer of Simone Veil, Mélusine Mallender is not limited to a single muse. Throughout her travels, female figures have marked her more than others. Like that of Sanuu, a former slave in Nepal, pulled out of the woods by an NGO and became a motorcycle mechanic. Sarah, in Iran, who was cycling around the country to prove that an Iranian woman is able to move alone on this transport tool that the Ayatollah regime seeks to deprive them of. Or Hélène, in Katanga, became a boxer to take revenge on a man who had attacked her, and finally forgave him the day she met him again.
During her adventures, Melusine never had to box anyone. But she has learned to be on her guard, to anticipate and dodge overly pressing advances. There are advantages to being a single woman on a motorcycle, however. “A lot of people see this as a weakness. For them, I am not a danger. Also, I often enjoy kindness and protection, especially from families who might not have welcomed me if I had been a man. “ Wherever she goes, she arouses astonishment. His motorcycle is his best ally.
She speaks of it with surprising tenderness: “For me, it’s a symbol of freedom, of escape, of travel. Along the track, we get attached to it a lot, until it becomes a real partner. “ The adventures of Mélusine Mallender have awakened vocations. She regularly receives messages from motorcyclists who, listening to her stories, have also decided to cross the door to distant horizons.