July the 14th. Day 1, Ikeja, Lagos to Sokode, Togo
Temps: 23 low | 28 high
So after some hitches with my phone we finally left my house around 0730hrs. MWe consist of myself and my EASY RIDERS brethren who have come to ride with me to the border and wish me a safe trip!
We eventually get to the border although some of us get separated. I clear all formalities in no time and its time to go! Bye guys! And I am off!
Go into the Benin side and the adventure begins! I have already clear all formalities but am stopped as I am leaving the border. I show my papers but the official there says my papers are wrong and that I have to pay to pass him. No sir, I will not pay. Instead, we can go back to th’s customs post and I will do the right thing! So we go back and he is told that I am ok and should be allowed through! My first adventure……and so so early in my trip!
Going through Cotonou is uneventful and I am soon bound for the Togo border! Border and everything goes as usual. Have passed through this border several times so I know the ropes! Stamp my passport, get lesse passé and register with the police! Out of the border and my destination is set for Sokode. This town is familiar to me as we (the GS boys and Baba Ibadan) passed this route about 2 years ago!
Miss my way slightly in the town of Lome but am soon back on track and on the highway! The road is nice and the clouds overhead provide a much appreciated cover from the otherwise scorching sun! As I ride I pass the alma mata of all bikers, the WAHALA school…..so I stop for a photo. I believe we all must have passed though this school or its associates. Or else, why do we ride!
As I ride I notice that almost every town I pass along the way has a cemetery at its outskirts! Almost very town! Interesting because I didn’t notice this the last time I was on the road!
Its generally a cool day and I find that I hardly touch my hydration pack! I also decide that I will not stop for lunch. I had breakfast while we were sorting out the phone in the morning so I am not feeling particularly hungry!
The kilometers roll by and I observe the darkening skies on the horizon! I watch with keen interest and the horizon becomes darker and darker. And then the lightening starts! But it’s all on the horizon and slightly to my left so I am hoping I will be able to pass the storm without going through it! But even if I do end up under it, I really am not bothered; my rain gear is ready to protect me and the rain will cool me some, anyway!
Yes! The storm drifts further and further to my left and I can see that I will escape! But not so fast! Drops on visor! And I am in it! Very suddenly and without fanfare I get thoroughly beaten by this sneaky shower! And just as suddenly as it started, it’s over and I am left feeling so cool and nice! Thank you Father! I needed that!
As I approach Sokode, I begin to wonder if I shouldn’t just push on to the next town. It’s less than 40km away and there is still daylight. Can’t seem to make up my mind as I ride into Sokode. I pass familiar sights and as I approach the hotel we spent the night in during our Dakar trip. I flip a mental coin….heads I stay, tails I stay….so I stay!
Check-in is quick and I am shown my room! A cool shower and I am in the restaurant for dinner! I eat my food in silence as I am the only guest for the night! I recall when I was here the last time and remember the laughter and experiences that we all exchanged! Non of that today! My meal is over and I head to my room in silence! I begin to think of going back home tomorrow and forgetting about the whole trip! Don’t know that I really like all this silence! At the same time I pull out my map and look at my goal for the next day, Bobo Dialaso! Over 800km and a border to cross! We will see when I wake up how I feel!
Say a prayer switch of the lights and search for the warm embrace of sleep! She is closer than I thought!
July the 15th. Day 2, Sokode, Togo to Bobo Dialaso, Burkina Faso
Temps: 24 low | 28 high
The call to prayers from the nearby mosque wake me up and I know it’s about 530ish!I laze around and eventually get up at 6! Outside, looking through my window, the sky is full of clouds! The clouds settle over my heart and I feel really slow and low in spirit! Take a warm water bath, get ready and I hit the road a couple of minutes before 7.
I don’t think I will have it as good today as I did yesterday, weather wise as I see the amount of dark clouds over me! But I make up my mind to don my rain gear at the slightest hint of rain!
The road begins to wind up the range as I make my way to Kara in the north of Togo. I am at once struck by the beautiful scenery! The beauty before my eyes lifts my spirits and I am soon glowing again! I vow to take as many pictures as I can and I start at the first opportunity!
It’s still very early and the road is quite free of traffic. The occasional truck is all I see as continue climbing! It’s tough for the trucks and I see signs on the road of the ones that didn’t quite make it! I can imagine in some places the plunge is as far as 200 meters! And those ascending are doing it in first gear! I hear their engines straining to hold the truck back from the plunge, long before I see them! But it’s all so cool and nice and breathtakingly beautiful.
Soon enough the climb is over for me and the descent starts! Down down down I go and come up to this 3km long queue of trucks! I thank God I am on a bike and soon am at the cause! A truck had broken apart at a tight turn! It was in the process of having its cargo loaded on to another truck while at the same time leave just enough space for only 1 vehicle to pass at a time! That, of course, excluded me and in no time, it was behind with Kara in front of me!
Kara!!! Very nice town it seems. Perhaps even bigger than Sokode and I observe a very beautiful looking hotel on my left! I decide, there and then, to make this town my target the next time I take this route!
The road keeps on heading north to Mango and pretty soon the dark clouds begin to off-load their own cargo! I stop and put on my rain gear! It feels really nice to be insulated from the wetness and I soldier on through the rain. The heavy part stops after about 30 minutes and I observe that the temperature is at an all day low. In my rain gear I am not only insulated from the rain but also from the cold so it’s ok!
My first stop is Mango and as I approach the town I start looking for the roadside canteen where we had stopped the last time! Spot it and come to a stop in front of it! The cook this time is a lady and I wolf down some bread, an omelette and a cup of coffee! Memories again of the last time; we had stopped here and met with some guys on their way to south Africa. We had all eaten together and taken pictures and laughed……and now, silence!!!
I could get used to this silence! I have to get used to this silence!
Breakfast over and the border beacons! Shortly, I am there and it’s a breeze passing through! I wonder; why are the southern borders so stressful and the northern so easy to pass through?
The road leading up to the border has road works and with the rain, they have become a right muddy and gooey mess! I call on all my Guinea training to avoid an intimate knowledge of the mud and wonder what the situation will be after the border!
Don’t have to wonder for long…..the road does improve and I am riding along at a good pace pretty soon. As I pass through Tindangou, I spot the exact place I had sat while we waited for the issues with Baba to be resolved the last time. Nothing had changed. Except that there was a lot less traffic now!
The weather remains cool and pretty soon I am approaching Ouagadougou! I begin to feel some apprehension as I recall all the road works from my last trip. Road works and rain don’t mix very well for me! But it looks like I have nothing to worry about as everything is now finished and along with the many sign posts, I have no problem whatsoever in passing through the city and heading on to Bobo! Ouagadougou has become a really beautiful and opulent looking town, with flyovers and all!
I still have day light enough to hit my goal for the night so I am quite pleased. Traffic is light and I am amazed to see a Porsche Panamera on this stretch of road and it strikes me that in spite of the economics, there will always be some that have a lot more than others!
The kilometers count down and I am in Bobo Dialaso! Locate a hotel on the main road in to the town, reserve my room and I am off to look for a bike wash to have the bike cleaned. It is washed as darkness falls over the town and pretty soon I am back to my hotel!
At Saby Hotel, I get my dinner, some erratic wifi and a drink! I attempt to take a shower and discover there is no hot water! Reason! Solar heater has not worked for some time as its been raining almost everyday for the last couple of days! Ok, no problem, the kitchen will provide the hot water. And a bucket!Bath taken, I look into my maps and determine my goal of Bamako is doable for the next day! I need to reach the city early enough to get my Mauritanian visa and to do that, I have to start very early the next day! So it’s off the bed for the night!
Silence is becoming OK these days! Or I am changing! Thanks you, God, for another great day!
Day 3. Bobo to Bamako,
Temps: 24 low | 32 high
I wake up to another cloudy day and set off early after having the hotel’s complimentary breakfast. So much noise was made about this breakfast during check in. Turns out it’s just a couple of slices of bread some jam and butter and a coffee. Ok. But since I need to make tracks there is no time for any supplements.
I find my way out of Bobo and am on the road to the “frontier”, as the border is called in the Francophone countries. I seem to be the only one on the road to the border this morning and some discomfort begins to creep into my heart! Could the problems in Mali be much worse than I imagine or was made to believe? I don’t know but I continue riding on! I begin to also contemplate a plan B. supposing…..just supposing I can’t get in? Actually I don’t have any feasible plan B. I need a visa from Bamako. The words of the immigration “police” reassure me as I remember them. What did he say? Ah yes! “The Islamist have the north and in the south there is no problem.” Ok!
I pass a sign and stop. Make a u-turn and go back for a picture! What do I call this!? Is there a factory in the bush somewhere here!? Picture taken and I am on my way again.
Incredible! Some vehicles! At last! Looks like they must have set out quite early. And buses at that! Filled up with pass angers! And with Malian number plates! Then it means they are border bound…..and hopefully know more than I do! Caml settles in my mind and I continue making progress towards the border.
I pass the vehicles and come upon another bus soon after! But there seems to be a problem. Why is he moving so slowly!? He has the whole road to himself and he is moving so slowly! Alarm bells start going off in my head! I am now about 200meters behind and slowing down too. Looking past the bus, I can’t find anything further up the road that would be causing him to slow down. I also slow down further! I overtake cautiously doing about 30km/h and when I am almost abreast the driver, I see what he had seen before me! A baby in the middle of the road!
I look around and see a compound about 50meters from the road! Unbelievable! The baby can’t be more than a year and a half. Oblivious of the dangers the road poses, he had probably walked/crawled his was to the road and was now standing and waving his hands and generally having a nice time! His smile was so full! Like he had achieved a personal goal! I stop and lean on my horn till I see someone running towards us from the compound. Then am off just as I see the driver getting out of the bus! I assume he has to words to give the baby’s mum. Meanwhile, at no time did his smile fade.
As I ride on, I contemplate the innocence of a child! Jesus had said this! A child is so trusting! So “brave”! But in this case, his mum is so careless! I wonder and hope he is allowed to grow!
The border comes up faster than I anticipate and as always, I go through the formalities. And basically they run like this. First Burkina Faso “Police” stamp me out and the “Douane” cancel my Laissez Passer. Next I cross from Burkina Faso into Mali…in this case….the distance is about 50meters of well tarred road. In Mali, I show myself to the “Gendarmerie” who write my details in a book, the the “Police” who stamp my passport and finally onto the “Douane” who issue me with a Laissez Passer. In Mali, this costs 5000CFA. Also, apparently, I need to take my Laissez Passer back to the Police to have them endorse it. Then I am good to go.
But not so fast!!! While waiting for the Douane to write the Laissez Passer, I leaf through my passport. Oh oh!!! This can’t be right! They have put a “SORTIE” stamp on my passport! This cant be right! It should read “ENTREE”. So as I take Laissez Passer for endorsement, I also point this out to them. With apologies, the wrong stamp is canceled and the right one put. As I drive away from the border on my way to Bamako, I contemplate what the “small” mistake would have cost me!!! Probably at the border out I would have found this out! Then I would have had to ride all the way BACK, across the whole country, to have it sorted. Not a pleasant thought. I say a silent Thank You to God and find my way to Sikasso. Fill up with fuel and am Bamako bound.
At the outskirts of Bamako and find this beautiful sign and stop for a picture!
Then its off to locate the Mauritanian embassy. I have the co-ordinated on my GPS, thanks to Inyang who passed this route in March but its still tough going through the city centre. There is traffic everywhere and this certainly doesn’t look like a country in “trouble” where my life might be in danger.
I fill out the form for the visa and pay for it. I am told I can have it in about an hour if I wait so I go to the waiting room to pass the time. My phone locates a nearby free wifi and pretty soon, I am catching up on my email. In the waiting room is another young man, Michele, a Cameroonian who lives in Morocco. We chat and I tell him my plan, to go to Morocco, but first through Senegal. He explains to me that this route I have chosen is longer and I should consider the alternative route (which would mean I will by-pass Senegal and go directly into Mauritania through Mali’s northern border.) With this knowledge, I begin to consider the alternative. Hmmmmmm
He is called and give his passport and shortly later I am called also. The officials are extremely apologetic as they tell me the particular official with the authenticating stamp has closed for the day and I have to come back tomorrow. No problem. First thing, I will be back. So its off to find a hotel.
I find Mande Hotel, which is relatively close to the embassy and after settling in, order lunch. The Hotel is a four star affair situated on an island in the middle of the river Niger. Blanks witht he Niger in the background……looking good!
Ahhhhhh….lunch is great and I sit in the restaurant chatting with the receptionist.
View from my table…..with the Niger river gentle passing by…
I run my plan by him expressing my concern of passing into Mauritania from the northern border; concerns based on the availability of petrol. Mauritania has extremely few PETROL stations. There is diesel everywhere but for petrol, that’s another matter. After some consideration we agree that I will need a jerry can for petrol. He calls a young man out, who tries, without success, to sell me some Malian art. I give him some money and soon enough he is back with 2 can for me to choose from. I choose my “auxiliary tank” carefully, retiring to my room to hatch the new plan.
I see my target for the next day as being Ayoun, a town about 150km into Mauritania. OK! I am good to go. Calm settles over me as I consider and reconsider my plan. All is well and I like it. Ayoun it is then. Sleep comes quickly when things are going your way!!!
July the 17th. Day 4, Bamako, Mali to Mauritania.
Temps: 26 low | 34 high
There is no hurry in starting out today. I have a 9am appointment to pick up my passport and I can’t leave Bamako before that. Strap on my “auxiliary tank” and find out that its not a bad fit at all. Settle my bills at the reception and ride out to the embassy.
I am at the embassy at a few minutes past 8am and spend the time waiting for the officials to arrive. Eventually get my passport at about 930am and am off. Stop at a filling station on my way out of Bamako and have my “tanks” filled. Almost 40 liters of fuel!!! That’s quite some endurance! I am ready for Mauritania!!!
As I ride past Kati, I decide that I MUST not miss my breakfast this morning so I make a stop at the next “mai tea”. The egg sandwich and coffee is just what I need to get started. Breakfast over and I am back on track again! Next stop is for fuel.
As I ride, I observe the vegetation is beginning to thin out. No more the thick forests of the past couple of days. Now it’s just bushes and trees. I also begin to see carcasses of cows! The first one is ok but then I see another. I reason that this must be road kill or else, why would they be so close to the road.
The frequency is about a cow every 50km. probably got hit by a driver in the night. Here the animals share the roads with the cars and trucks and there is a price to pay for that.
Interesting road side art demands a mention.
I see patches of farmland too. Different cash crops having been planted. I stop at a plot where a horse and plough are being used.
The young boys run to me and we talk. They are in school but as its their holidays, they are helping out their parents with the farm work. Interesting. Groundnuts are being planted today! And they are all so happy to have their picture taken.
I arrive at Diema junction and again a flood of memories comes over me. We had stopped here to have some roasted meat during our Senegal trip! We had also refueled before riding on to Kayes (Pronounced Kai) for the night. So I refuel too but my destination today is Mauritania. So the first exit at the roundabout is for m and I am on my way to Nioro du Sahel…the last town in Mali before the border.
I have been lazying around all day with my frequent fuel stop and all but I figure I still have time to get to Ayoun in Mauritania. I ride into Nioro and see a hotel in the distance. I figure that I still have a lot of day light and can easily get to my target so I aim for the border. Border formalities on the Mali side are over briskly and I am ready for Mauritania. But again, I refuel…and the bike takes about 4 liters more! Also I quick change of money….$100 get me 26000 Ouguiyas and I am good to go.
Mauritania is surprisingly “modern”. I notice solar panels and battery banks on almost all the buildings at the border post. The Police take me into their office to stamp my passport and verify my visa. The official put on his computer (which, along with all the usual immigration passport control equipment, looks like abandoned property) and I am surprised to see that it all works. My passport is scanned and I am processed quite quickly…all in less than 10 minutes. Then it’s off to have my bike sorted. I need insurance and the local store offers that.
The Gendarmerie process and prepare the temporary vehicle license and I am set to go.
Now Mauritania requires all foreigners to have a “fiche” which they must have prepared and which contains all the Biodata and vehicle info on a sheet of paper. Inyang had sent me a template and I had prepared mine. Only thing was that this small piece of paper looked so insufficientto me that I could not believe that it would be sufficient. Soon enough, I was stopped and produced the “fiche”. The police looked at it and waved me on!!! Really!!! Wow!!! It works like a charm!!! However, in less than 10 kilometers I have been stoped like 3 times! At this rate I begin to wonder if I have enough of the fiche to pass through! Oh well, I will have to produce more. As I approach the next check point the police wave me off the road. I pull over and switch off my engine as I get off the bike. After an enchange of gestures and a couple of words it begins to sink in what they are trying to convey to me…..it’s about 18minutes to 7pm and foreigners are not allowed to move from 7pm to 7am. So whats going to happen to me? Ayoun is about 1 hour away? I am going to spend the night with the police!
The senior officer at the post is on the phone and soon enough the local commissioner arrives the post. He explains to me, in fairly good English, that I will be escorted to the police station and I must remain there till 7 am. He also takes my passport from me in the rare case that I decide that I don’t want to follow his “advice”. All this is done in a very courteous and polite manner. It is surprising to me that they would take so much care not to “offend” me. So its off to the Station where I am shown a spot to park my bike and a mat for my use. Wow…such luxurious accommodation!
I ask and am escorted to the local “fast food” joint for chicken and chips.
My escort is a young police officer but he is packing a pistol! I offer him food as I order and he politely refuses. Supper done, we walk to have a drink at a nearby store and he tells me he learnt English in school. He is from Ayoun and will be traveling there the next day too!
Supper done and its back to the station and my mat. Meanwhile, my mat is on the floor in front of the station as are the bunks of the 3 policemen who are at the station with me. I get out my rain gear to use as a pillow and get comfortable.
I lie on my back and for the first time in a long time, I look at the sky! It’s a clear night and I see the stars! Its amazing that I have been so occupied with life that I have not even stopped to look around me and see the wonders that God has placed before us. I felt a calm settle over me as the fear of not being in control melted away. Surprisingly, I find that sleep comes quickly! And I welcome it!
July the 18th. Day 5, Moribougou, to Nouakchott, Mauritania
Temps: 24 low | 37 high
Wake up with first light after having ignored the call to prayer from the Mosque close by. Arrange myself and start the wait till 7am. The police men also stand up and do their cleaning…no bath for me today it seems!
In the picture, you can see my rain gear which is my makeshift pillow on the mat!
Around 630ish they begin the ritual of tea making and soon enough a cup is in my hand. Along with bread, what more could I ask for. At 7am, the commissioner, who had come around earlier, hands over my passport to me, bids me “Bonne Route” and I am off.
As I ride, the frequency of the Police check reduces to a check every 30 or so kilometers. I get to Ayoun and find out that I didn’t really miss much by sleeping with the police…its quite a small town. I would have been surprised to see a hotel there. That being said, I do find fuel. At the service station. But it is sold by the bottle and all that I get is 6 liters…which just fills my tank. OK. So I am off to Kiffa, where I expect to get more fuel.
The road to Kiffa deteriorates and soon enough I am riding in dirt! I hate riding in dirt!
Apparently there are some road works going on and I am soon and am having dust for breakfast, being served by the big construction trucks.
I find this water pump amongst the desert sand and I wonder, did it ever produce water?
The road kill frequency has increased in frequency and now I am seeing a dead cow every kilometer…some times 2 or 3 at a time. And from time to time, I pass the herd. The cows are painfully think and in the hot desert, I wonder what exactly they eat! It is a sad sad situation I see.
The road works and bad section last less than 50 km and I am back on good newly laid asphalt. I arrive Kiffa and sure enough, there is no fuel here in this town. Hmmmm! Next target is Aleg! Hopefully there will be fuel there.
Approaching Aleg, I need to call on my “auxiliary tank” and make a refill.
I still have about 4 or 5 liters lets to spare and as I arrive Aleg, I find fuel here. I buy just enough to ensure I can hit Nouakchott and start to head out. At the city outskirts I decide that I need to stop for food but I haven’t seen any restaurants or similar things so I make do with the corner store. Take some biscuits and some drinks and wolf them all down even as the bike draws all the children in the vicinity!!!
Food break done and I am on the road again. An interesting thing I notice is how some cars have their roofs painted white. As I ride I ponder this. Are they taxis or what? Later I find out that its done to reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the car’s body! Wow! It gets that hot!
The landscape gets more and more “empty” as the vegetation reduces more and more.
But the road kills do not reduce. Eventually, Nouakchott is on the horizon and with fuel to spare.
As I drive into the city, I look out for an opportunity to change money. Find a shop that changes money and I change another $100. The money changer speaks very good English and points me to a budget “hostel” and where I can get dinner.
I wash my clothes, have a much deserved shower and go off to eat at the “Syrian” restaurant I was pointed to. Dinner done, I head back to my bed and after outlining my plan for the next day I tuck in and am asleep in no time.
July the 19th. Day 6 Nouakchott, Mauritania to Dakhla, Morocco.
Temp 22 low | 26high.
Woke up around 730 and start getting ready. Stock up on water and juice and I am out before 830! Work my way out of the city in the direction; Noudibou! The mile marker says 460km to go and I brace up.
The loneliness I felt in the begin is now a thing of the past and today I have Duane Sheriff keeping me company. With the lack of any visual stimulus there is so much concentration available to learn new things. And new things I learn!
The kilometres are passing by and its clear that things have changed! No people for one, no towns any more. No nothing! Not even dead animals by the road side!
Then, like an oasis, a Total fuel station! Gare de Nord its called and I am delighted to see it.
And its so conveniently located just about half way to Noudibou! Fill up on petrol and I know I am good to go to reach NDB!
About 100km to NDB I see what looks like an oasis of sorts….vegetation and power lines all around..yet this doesnt look like a town and the GPS does not see anything there either. As I pas it I notice a rail line now running beside the road. I ponder on this…a rail line from nowhere to NDB. Must be some exporting going on, I conclude. Later I find out that there is a mine and the line serves to take ore to NDB for export.
30km to NDB, I come across my turn which would take me to the border but i cant take it just yet! I need some more cash and some more fuel so ride into the town!
First stop at the bank and the ATM is out of service! Next stop and the ATM swallows my card!!! Ok, cash is king so walk into the bank and change €50 to 18000. Fill up with petrol and it’s 30km back to my turn and the border!But enroute I happen to see the longest train ever….being drawn by two engines!!
All is good and I exit Mauritania without much ado! The road ends about 5meters past the border post gate and there are several track that are options to follow. I pick the darkest colored one…..dark from tire wear so I figure it must be the right one. The tracks are on stone and sand. The landscape reminds me on no mans land in the movies with abandoned and cannibalized cars and all sorts of stuff. I even begin wondering if I haven’t made a mistake!
Then on the horizon, I see a communications tower and I figure that must be my destination. A couple of minutes later and I see a car heading towards me and I know I am on the right track!
Joy!! as I see the border and people just outside of it! I ride up the the barrier and the officer there motions me to park on the right! So I park the bike and walk to him. We exchange some words and it dawns on me that he is telling me that the border is closed! He says that they close at 6 and it’s 615pm! But I look at my watch (set to Mauritanian time) and I see that its 515pm. But smiling he lets me know that Moroccan time and Mauritanian time are not the same!
Crap! I begin to look around for a soft place amongst all the rocks surrounding the post as I consider it might be another wonderful night under the skies! Can’t see anything comfortable! Try to talk to him to allow me, perhaps i can talk to his boss but he points to the cameras and says there is nothing he can do!
Apparently, I am not the only one in this predicament! There is a Senegalese stuck out here too! So I am standing there, pondering my situation and I see 2 men walking toward the barrier from inside. They come to the barrier, talk with the sentry and on the radio and miraculously we are allowed in!
My opinion about this people is already beginning to change and I am finding that they can be compassionate to travelers! Well I will find out in time! I am processed in about 30minutes and am out of the border post. Its interesting that every time i am processed, and the officials ask for my number and i say it is BLANKS, they stare at me like they didn’t hear me. This border was no exception. One of the customs guys insists on coming to see it for himself And gives me a big handshake and smile. Obviously he likes it!
And just out the border what do I see? A fuel station. Which means all the time I spent in NDB was unnecessary. Oh well, better safe! My destination is El Argoub which is about 300km away so off I go!
About 100km from the border I come across another oasis! Hotel Barnas! but I figure, if this hotel is here then there must be one at my destination so I push on as dusk settles in.
The landscape changes and again I am struck by the emptiness and wonder of my surroundings.
As Dusk comes it brings along the cold! Very light traffic as I am now used to and I arrive my destination! Stop at a filling station on the outskirts of the town and talk to the sale person.
He assures me that there are no hotels in town….and that my best bet is to head to Dakhla. A town I can see by its bright lights to my left. But its across the lagoon and I have 80km to ride to get to it!!!
OK. Change of plan. Soldier on to Dakhla! Ride in about 80km later and I am at once amazed at beauty of this town.
Going down the mainstreet and I stop at the first hotel I see! The hotel Doumss!
A night is 371DM! I pay and walk up to my luxurious room for the night! But not before I am asked to park my bike beside the hotel entrance up the curb. Bikers appear to get a special treatment here!!! I deserve this I think to myself considering it’s almost 11pm. Wifi is up! Write my report for the day and I am off to sleep!
July the 20th. Day 7, Dakhla to Tan-Tan, Morocco.
Temps: 22low | 36high
Woke up rather late. Guess from the late ride from the day before! Light complimentary breakfast and I am set to leave! I find the man who serves my breakfast standing by the bike as I step out of the lobby door! Again we exchange smiles and words…..his are French and mine are English! I put my case on and he points to my auxiliary tank with a questioning look. I explain it for “essence” and he tells me not to worry because morocco is not Mauritania and there is petrol here! Really? Yes! I decide to ditch my faithful keg which has served me so well! But from my experience, I would do just as well with a 10liter can, which is what I intend to get for my return trip! He tells me that the next fuel station is about 175km from Dakhla and after that, about every 120km. No problem I say, explaining that I can do 320km on full tank, easily! I take some pictures and am off!
Fill up at the last station on the road out of Dakhla and am off! At the station, though, I get an answer to a question thats been on my mind since i got into Morocco….how do they kep the sand at bay? I am feeling very nice today, even though I am starting so late…..it’s almost 11am!
The usual landscape continues….which I still haven’t gotten used to….emptiness! It is so devoid of life that I have noticed that my helmet visor doesn’t need cleaning during the day. There are no insects splattering on it…..it is that empty!
Temperature is a cool 22 as I travel on but I remember the man at the hotel had told me that the forecast for today was with temperatures in the high 40s. Non of that yet. I guess the winds from the ocean are winning the temperature battle. Then I take a turn and all of a sudden the temperature begins to rise! I have never experienced such a rise in temperature. I look at the reading on the dash and it shows a higher figure every 5 to 10 seconds….sometimes jumping some figures as it climbs to the high of the day; 36! This is like a thermal shock to my body and mind as I can’t understand what has just happened!
As I think about it I figure that the western bound winds blowing from the desert must have overcome the eastern winds! This sudden change in temperature allows me to evaluate the two situations! Yes! I prefer riding in the cold!
Well, I soldier on and just as suddenly as before, the temperature drops! But this time it drops to 26 and all else is more or less fairly “normal”. The head winds inclusive! And these headwinds today are phenomenal! I noticed my tank bag had moved and I was wondering when it had happened as I straightened it. But a short while later I found it bent over again! So I straighten it and begin to observe! Apparently, the winds are so strong, they are pushing my tank bag! And the funny thing is that there is absolutely nothing (like bent over vegetation or the like) along the road to even give a hint of how strong the winds are.
But that’s just the tip of the ice berg! I have noticed, since I left Nouakchott that my range has reduced! From 320 to 250ish, and that, at a speed of about 110km/h. So I continue watching this figures as I go along! Now I have been having considerable hesitation from the bike since I left Nouakchott and when I got WOT, the engine even attempts to stall. I wonder if my fuel filter is blocked or what! Also I have lost the GS911 app on my BB on my first day when the phone was acting up so have no way to check what is going on.
I reach and pass the fuel station at the 175km mark. I am looking at the range figure, the consumption figure and the mile markers on the side of the road. Pretty soon I begin to realize I am 60km short on petrol! How could I have passed that station! And now I am going to run out of petrol in the middle of nowhere! And I don’t even my can anymore! What to do!
I drop my speed to 80km/h and watch my figures! Nothing really changes! So I begin to device a plan! I will ride till the bike comes to a stop! Then I will hitch a ride with any of the truckers on the road to the next town, fill up a can, hitch a ride back and it’s done. In my mind, the goal now is to get as close as possible to the town so that I will reduce the distance that i would need to run back and forth!
Because I am going much slower than the limit (100km/h) I am constantly looking in my mirrors to see what’s happening behind me! Soon enough I see a big shadow closing in on me. A truck is about to pass me. And I think about it for a while as the truck looms larger and larger in my mirrors. If my increase in consumption is on account of the cross/head winds, then if I have someone in front of me, then I should not have any problems! Ok! So the plan is hatched! As the truck passes, I will slip in behind it and see what happens!
I motion the truck to pass as i put on with my right blinker and he passes. I immediately tuck in behind him with about 1 or 2 meters between us and check my performance figures! Wow! My consumption figures now reads 31km/l….and that was from a figure of between 9 and 10 km/l. I ride this way for the next 40km to the next stop…..a police check! By this time I have no bars left on my fuel gauge. Which means my range is 0km. The police motion the truck on and ask for my passport. I watch as the truck moves away with my hope of reaching the next town while the police leaf through the passport. He is done and wishes me “Bon voyage”. I start the bike and wonder if I can catch up with the truck. It’s a battle but eventually I catch him and again my consumption figures improve!
One draw back of this my solution for the bike was an increase in temperature. I guess I was so well shielded by the truck that there was even not enough air to cool the engine! Oh well! Small price to pay! I keep my eyes on the temperature gauge though!
Furthermore! I have also observed that I am quite tense. And why shouldn’t I be! 2 meters behind a truck moving at 100km/h! And with my brake lever covered by my throttle hand! But I realize that I have not seen a single pothole on the road since I got into morocco and I relax a bit!
We go like this and I guess I am now riding on vapors as the truck starts slowing down! Are we there yet? No we are not! Another check point but this time I can see the town in the distance! I come off the bike as my details are filled into this “register”! The police man is very friendly! So friendly that he offers me a cigarette and tea before he asks for a gift! I give him 20DH for the Ramadan and ask where the next petrol station is! He points and I can even see the sign board in the distance. So I am getting ready to leave and the other police man at the post, the one who actually stopped me, comes over and says some stuff to my “friend,” who then turns to me and tells me that the minimum following distance is 30m and that I was too close to the truck!
Wow! These guys are on top of their game! Anyway, all is well and I am off to buy fuel! The bike didn’t start until the fourth attempt and I take it easy to the fuel station! Fill up with 18.3 liters! Means I had 0.2 liters more or so! Never again! New rule! Fill up every 100 to 150 km. period!
The riding conditions and the landscape doesn’t change much….more and more of emptiness and head/cross winds. I do observe that some cars have covers over their head lamps. I can imagine that with the winds picking up sand, the drive can simulate the sand blasting process!
I arrive at Layoune, which is a town even bigger than Dakhla. Its 4ish and the town is begin to stir. Its the Ramadan now and there is virtually no activity till about 10/11am. As I ride through the town, I figure I should find something to eat so I stop at a cafe. There appears to be some food ready so I order lunch. A salad, some fish and a soup. Its good and I wolf it down!
I don’t really have a target for today as I decide to ride for as long as possible to get to big town. carry on out of Layoune and fill up on the outskirts. At the fuel station I meet an older man who speaks English. He tells me of a time when the Paris-Dakar race ran through. He used to be a mechanic and the best bike for teh race then was Honda’s African Twin. He also confirms the “wind situation” but tells me that when I am coming back, the wind will be working for me and not against me as it is doing now. I have another drink while he fills me with stories of a different time. Interesting.
He tells me to be patient on the road as he bids me farewell and I am off again. I have noticed that here the road runs by the coast as it has been doing since Mauritania but the elevation is about 30 meters or so. Once in a while I see some folks close to the edge. I can imagine it looks awesome. But somehow, I just cant get out of my mind the thoughts of slipping off and with no one knowing I had slipped. And my solitary bike standing on the road for God knows how long! No I am not the curious!
But I stop at this place. A hole in the ground. Its been created by the sea having eaten away the earth beneath. Its amazing!
As dusk approaches I fix my target for today on Tan-Tan. A small town a couple more kilometers ahead. Its soon night and I am riding with head lights on. There has been considerably some traffic since Layoune and it is a comforting feeling, not to be the only one for miles around. I ride round a corner and see Tan-tan laid out! Its quite a sight!
As I ride into town, I find a lot of shops still open! I stop at the first store selling car things and ask for Fuel Injector cleaner…..perhaps this will help with the hesitation I am experiencing. I am offered tea and wait while its gotten from a neighbor’s store. We talk a while and I find outthere is a hotel on the next street and also during the Ramadan, there is more happening at night than during the day. We take a picture together, with me holding my prize and I am off to the hotel.
Hotel located, I pay and am shown my room. I have seen better but I am tired and didn’t really see any better options as I rode into town. It will do! Have a bath, a look at my maps and its lights out for me!!!
July the 21st. Day 8, Tan-Tan to Rabat, Morocco
Temps: 26 low | 48 high
Set out really early today, leaving Tan-tan’s best behind. The night before I had been asked to park the bike in a more secure manner.
I want to avoid riding at night even though it is much cooler and the risk of running into an animal in the middle of the desert is next to nil. My thinking is that I need to get to Rabat early enough to rest enough.
Pass through the city gates and I am on my way.
It’s all quite uneventful and I make my first stop for fuel at a shell fuel station. Have been meaning to clean the windshield and headlamp so now is a good a time as any. Water from the station and I am wetting the screen to soften the insects from Bamako. 2 young boys appear from nowhere and offer to help. I politely decline but they insist. One gets a napkin and the other gets more water and they start washing with me. I like their spirit so after all their efforts, I give them 5 DH each mount up and am off.
I am feeling quiet this morning so a calm 100km/h with the sound of the passing air as my companion I proceed.The rising sun sets the mood and I follow….its so beautiful. Pictures are just not good enough!
Very soon I come upon an accident. A truck has over turned. I must say that this is the first I am seeing any and I can understand why! Already there are two Royal Gendarmerie officers at the spot taking pictures and measurements. They do this while also coordinating the traffic! The tow truck to take the wreck away is also waiting for them to finish documenting the situation and I guess in an hour, there will probably be no sign that anything had ever happened here! As I pass the wreck I see that they came to the scene to motorcycles an BMW R1200 and a Honda ST1300 or something like that! Neat!
Now we enter the mountain range going to Tiznit! The road has been carved out of the side of the mountain and as is typical with such roads, it twists and turns as it changes elevation.
Some turns are so tight that I have to drop my speed to 40km/h! However, the tar is perfect and there is almost no debris on the road. Nevertheless, I reason that I would rather take it slow than risk ending my trip so as to enjoy the corners. The view is breathtaking and I struggle to keep my eyes on the road, remembering the number 1 riding rule; you will go where you look! Lol
I pass several truck, even though the continuous white line in the middle of the road says passing is forbidden, as they labour down the mountain in 1st gear and constant brakes! Funny sight at the exit of the pass……a truck garage!
Passing through a Tiznit I notice its about 9 am and no one is about yet! This is a big town and I spot several nice looking hotels along the main road. It’s a potential stop on my return trip!
It’s the Ramadan and today is a non working day so I guess that explains it! I have also been very particular about obeying the speed limit signs! There are also signs warning road users of radar checks! I have decided not to pay for any speeding ticket but we will see!
So I am moving along behind a truck doing 30km/h in a 60km/h zone and I am wondering why? The cameras on the road are not on my mind as I decide I have had enough and I pull out to overtake. The good thing is that I waited for the white line to become broken before I pulled out! My speed was approaching 60 when I sighted the radar gun aimed at me! I looked again at my speedo, just to check that I was good and keep at it. As I approached the police post, an officer motioned me to pull over! No problem! He walks to me as I come to a stop and ask the usual question; “Nationality!?” I reply with the usual answer and he motions me to proceed. So I am off.
The road turns into a dual carriage pretty soon and I am heading into Agadir! The weather has been quite cool and I have been thanking God for the seemingly cloudy skies! But all that is about to change as I get on to the highway to Marrakesh. Make a stop for petrol, some snacks and a drink! Fill up and offer my card! Sorry boss, we accept only cash! And I am fresh out of cash! Ok what do we do? Can you guys hold on while I go to an ATM? No problem! Really? Really! Ok! So to the ATM I go draw some cash and am back to pay my debt. Fill up with chips, yoghurt and sprite. Temperature is now about 36 and I have a brain storm! Whats wrong with dousing myself with water? So I go to the car wash and ask the guys washing a payloader to use the hose on me! They are surprised at my request but oblige me and we all have a laugh! I am now well soaked and I jump on the bike!
It feels so good to be cool again! The temperature keeps on rising on the tolled dual carriage and eventually I see 48C as I approach Marrakesh. But that’s ok. In Tan-Tan the day before, I was informed that the temps had reached 54C!
In about 30 to 40 minutes, I am dry again and it’s time for another car wash stop! This becomes my routine and I am wondering why I have never thought of it before. I promise to make this a habit, even when I get back to Nigeria. Riding in the low and high temps have different effects on me, I observe! Hot makes me drowsy! Cold keeps me alert! So this is how I proceed to Rabat and my night stop for the day!
I follow the road into the town and stop at the first hotel I see…Oscar Hotel. I am received so warmly by the staff that its simply impossible to walk away in search of an alternative. The promise of a good meal and accomodation is more than I can resist and I am checking in immediately.
Fantastic Moroccan meal and tea.
Along with a 4 star accommodation soothes me and I am in bed pretty early for the night. Tomorrow is going to be a slow push to Tangiers so it’s all good!
July the 21st. Day 8, Rabat to Tangier, Morocco
Temps: 26low | 37high
I just don’t get it! Breakfast consisting of just a bun or two and some jam or butter along with a cup of coffee. This is certainly not the kind of breakfast I need but what to do…..apparently its the French style. I have mine, smile and go out of the hotel for a walk in the city!
I might have been walking in the middle of the night for all the activity I saw! It was unbelievable. Almost everything was closed. And that is at 930am! The Ramadan has serious implications to the socio-economic life here and I can imagine that more or less, everything stands still during this month of fasting!
As there is nothing to see I find my way back to the hotel and get ready to leave! My goal is to get to Barcelona by ferry. However my search on the Internet has shown me that there is no service today and the next ferry goes out tomorrow! So no hurry at all!
I get on the road and follow the main flow of traffic keeping my heading in a north-easternly direction!
I don’t want to go on the expressway today (it being tolled has nothing to do with my decision) so I will avoid it as much as possible. As I make my way through Rabat, following the signs, I can see that this is a very modern city, complete with a very new tram system.
I continue to follow the signs and pretty soon I am at the city limits and on the the road to Tangier! However, it becomes pretty clear that I will need to get off as soon as possible! The speed limit is set at 60 or 80 in most sections of the road and even though I am in no hurry, this speed is a bit too slow for me. And the police checks! Wow! Almost every 10km. And the radar traps? On this short stretch of road, there were two! So I bid my time and ponder on the reason why I should be on the expressway. It is completely fenced in, so there is very low possibility of anything going across your path. It winds it’s way through the country side and avoids towns, so there are no distractions. The speed limit there is set to 120km/h so you can actually just pin it and forget about it. Nothing is going to cause you to need to slow down except you decide to. All good reasons to get on it. Only down side is that it’s tolled!
At Kinitra, I join the expressway and immediately remember WHY i didn’t want to be on it……..there is absolutely nothing to stimulate one……..except the road itself! And try as I might, I just couldnt find anything stimulating about the asphalt!
Approaching Tangier, the road takes quite an engaging twist as it winds between railway bridges and over deep ravines. I wanted to stop for some pictures but I just knew that I mustn’t. One interesting thing was all the farming that’s going on. On one side there was the desert and on the otherwise was a lush farm complete with its sprinkler system and all!
On and on I go and pretty soon I am in Tangier but I need to be at the new port so I follow the signs to Tangier Med. oO the last stretch of road before the port itself there is a long building, almost built into the hillside. their are agencies who are almost all selling tickets for the ferries. I drive past until i get to the end and I figure I have time might as well stop and ask some questions and see whats up.
I come to a stop at the last agency and walk into the office! Mohamed greets me and we start discussing pricing and routes! I find this young man very amiable and explain my plan to him. He makes the suggestion of taking a ferry to Sete instead of Barcelona! This was also an option for me except that I could not find any ferry that was going there from Tangeir. He got on his computer and pretty soon showed me the options. The ferry to Sete would leave 2hours earlier than the one to Barcelona and the price difference wasn’t so great.
I considered the options and decided for Sete! What would I miss in Spain? I had been told that everyone there spoke only Spanish and Mohamed had said the same thing too…..without my even asking! So Sete it is and my ticket is ready! I ask for a hotel to spend the night in and he tells me there is one just 100meters back. No problem there either! Fantastic!
I stay with him and we chat a bit! Eventually our conversation comes back to ferries and travel and he ask about my return. I explain that I have no set plans but I might be taking a ferry from Genova. So again we get on the computer and pick a date and see the costing. It’s quite a sum but it’s 2 days on the ferry and I have the cheapest ticket possible! Wow! What other options are there I ask and we look again! He shows me the prices from another Italian port, Livorno and seeing that this is $100 cheaper, I take it. So now I have a set return date! All is well!
Mohamed invites me to come back to the office at 730pm so I can eat with him as he breaks his fast. I promise to do just that and I head to the hotel! Very nice clean room I have. Take a shower and go for a very late lunch over looking the Spanish coast! It’s really nice!
I laze around and soon it’s 730pm and I am at Mohamed’s. He explains to me that he is open for 24hours a day because there are always ferries and potential ticket sales.
We eat together and spend a lot of time talking. This, for me, is the first time I have been able to chat with anyone since I left Nigeria and I am enjoying myself in our conversation! Its 10pm very quickly and I prepare to go back to my hotel but not before we make the plan for tomorrow. He lets me know that we have to confirm the ticket so I should come around 10am as he closes at this time. I will then have to go to the port proper and confirm all the tickets and I will be good to go! I bid him farewell, and go back to my hotel, my room and my bed! Thank you Jesus for a great day!
The Crossing to
Today I cross into Europe! My ferry leaves at 8pm and I feel I have so much time on my hands! I have some “to-dos” for the day and since I have so much time, I lie in bed till 830am! Go to the restaurant and have the usual complimentary breakfast and its of to the port for my ticket’s confirmation! Pass by Mohamed’s and spend some time chatting! They show me a shrub growing my the side of the container office……turns out its marijuana!
Lol! Apparently, it grows wild here! I stay and watch the container (which is the second office) moved to a better position for “better publicity” then bid them farewell!
Am at the port and my ticket is confirmed. Also I am told to come early as everything closes earlier than usual on account of the Ramadan! So item one, done! Now fill up with fuel!
At the hotel, I have been told where to find the fuel station so I drive there like I own the place. Pass several “lavage” points and make a mental note to help with my 3rd to-do! The fuel station is just as described and I have full tank to hit Europe with!
Now item 3….”lavage”…..which means “wash” and in my case, its bike wash! Stop at the place which I had marked earlier and 3 guys pounce on BLANKS a I look on.
When they are done, I realize that my boys back home do a much better job. Its much more difficult to wash a bike than a car is it has so many nooks and crannies where dirt can get to and which then becomes almost impossible to reach to clean! But they have done the best they can and I pay the bill like its a car that was washed…..20DH!
As I get back to the hotel, I am amazed at the extend to which this lady is taking her job of cleaning windows. I take a picture to show folks back home. And all for a monthly wage of less than 1500DH (I am told).
A final check on my emails and stuff and I am ready. I pack my bags load up and head to the port! Bikes are given priority here because the rider is exposed to the elements and so the security officials motion me to come to the head of the immigration queue where my passport is stamped out! Then its up to customs and very quickly, they are done with me! Shock of shocks! A temporary Moroccan license didn’t cost me a dime! I had thought that I will be billed on exit but nothing like that! So I am out of the control points and ride to pier 8 where my ferry, The Fantastic, sits! Now we wait to board! And off course, I have ridden to the head of the queue!
Boarding starts at about 3 hours to departure and the ferry doors are not shut till about 3 minutes to departure. We wait another 15 minutes as a ferry has entered the harbour and is berthing! Shortly we start to move….painstakingly slowly at first (so there is no chance of hitting the pier) and once we are cleared of the harbour mouth, its full speed ahead! I check with the GPS and find that we are doing 45km/h.
Nothing more to see as it dark already and I go to look for something to eat!
Sorry but no Nigerian food in any of the 3 restaurants on board and I have to settle for a kebab…..which turns out fairly ok! Dinner done, try to buy some wifi credit but when that fails, I go off sleep! In the “pullman” seats!
Sleep could be better as it gets pretty cold during the night, but I manage to get about 5 hours before its 7am and the activities around me make it impossible to continue. So off for some breakfast and to see what the day will bring! I feel I have about 8 hours of riding to get to Paris from Sete but I have to check with the map! I would love to see my girls tonight! That thought has me smiling already!
But I have miscalculated and we arrive Sete tomorrow and not today! Oh well!! What to do! Spend the day loafing around and capturing the view. A chat with one of the crew tell me that the ferry is lest than 30% full! Really!
Soon enough night time comes and its back to my Pullman accommodation. Try to get some sleep with minimal success and can hardly wait for the next day when we arrive Sete.
Its so good to see the harbor that is Sete!
Formalities only consist of a stamp in my passport and I am riding in Europe.
The GPS plots the fastest way to Roissy and I am off!
I must confess that I do end up having my photo taken once…but that’s not important!!!
Evening find me in Paris and with my Family and the start of my Rest days!
July the 25th
FIX THE HESITATION
Blanks had been acting up all the way from Mauritania. The hesitation has not gone away! So my first goal for today is to get this sorted. I spend some time on the internet and found the closest dealer to Roissy where my family has hired an apartment. BM Bymycar Noisy, on Rue de Paris. Great! Put in the address on the GPS and about 15 minutes later I am there!
To be it mildly….I have never been so well catered for by any dealer….ever!
The head mechanic, Rudy got on my bike and didnt let go till about 130pm…well after his lunch break had started!
He plugged Blanks the diagnostic equipment and did everything that the GS911 would have done but no joy. Recall was done, fuel pump controller, fuel pump, throttle body sync….we even put new plugs…but nothing would solve the problem.
After a brain storming session, the workshop manager, Cedric, goes to the showroom and brings a brand spanking new GS and proceeds to take out the fuel tank. Changing the tanks solved the problem and we realized that even though the fuel pump as running, it obviously was not delivering the right pressure. New fuel pump installed and all it well.
I also ask Cedric to reprogram the bike and remove the RDC (TPMS) from the CAN! The wheel sensors had failed a long time ago and I had since changed to an after-market system from Orange.
Rudy explained that the new system goes through Munich for re-programming as he hooks Blanks up again!
Reprogramming done, and I am good to go! I am so impressed and satisfied with the service I have gotten. These guys not only made me a priority but didnt give up until the problem had been solved….not even a tea break!
I ride back and park in the underground garage where Blanks will be for the next couple of days why I and my girls tour Euro Disney!!!
July the 30th. Day 1, Euro Tour!
Paris – Strasbourg
A lazy start as I am reluctant to leave my girls…and its been drizzling over night but its time to go. Load Blanks up and bid farewell to my girls! My goal for today is Strasbourg. The GPS plots my route and I am off. About 20 minutes into my trip and I discover that I am feeling uncomfortable. Whats not right? Whats happening? The it hit me….I have left my Airhawk in the apartment!
Well I figure that since I have survived all this while, albeit with it, it wont make much difference without it. Why loose the time to go back just for the Airhawk. I get on the highway and make tracks. its a relatively cold day with slight showers here and there but over all, I make progress and arrive Strasbourg without incident! Locate a hotel close to the central train station, park the bike, go for dinner and its an early night for me. I have to get to Malta tomorrow which would mean quite a few kilometers….so the earlier I start the better.
July the 30th. Day 2, Euro Tour!
Strasbourg – Malta, Austria
Temp 18low and 27high.
Malta, Austria! Thats my destination for today! The GPS does not know such a town exists. So the hotel owners have graciously provided the coordinates and the route is clearer.
As I ride out of the secure underground parking where the bike spent the night, the GPS plots the route and I am off. Funny thing! I make a couple of turns and I am in Germany! My bike isn’t even warm yet! So stop over at the first fuel station and fill the bike and my 10 litre can for today’s “run to empty” trial. Reset my odometer and fill up my tires to the right pressure and am off!
My route takes me directly on the autobahn and the kilometres start piling up!
There are quite a few sections where there are road works going on but there is no traffic to contend with. Periodically I get on to the limitless section of road and I open the taps! The GS doesn’t have high speed as one of its strong points! The road is really spectacular. 4 lanes wide made from concrete, in most sections, and so so smooth!
Eventually, my tank reads empty, and it has done 308.3km. I continue riding as dictated by the road speed limits. I am amazed as the kilometres pile on some more! Of course I am riding on the right lane of the road in readiness for the loss o power that will come when there is no more fuel. And it comes……at 366.8km! That means that even when the instrument says 0litres, I still have enough for almost 50km. No problem, refill from my jerry can and I am off again!
Stop at the next fuel station and meet two bikers at the pumps. Both with their wives and both over 50years old! Come to think of it, most of the bikers I have met on this trip have been over 40! There are quite a number of bikers on the road, most with touring bikes and riding two up! I also notice that in Germany the bikers behave very differently from the bikers in France.
In France, everyone displayed some form of courteousness or the other, from waving a foot to operating the blinkers! But here….nothing! I guess its a German thing. Perhaps a sign of weakness to offer a greeting to a fellow traveler. Having said that, I must confess that on my first day in Paris, I was amazed at how the bikers ride……impressed but amazed. The lane splittling, at speeds….and the scooters…even in Lagos, we dont ride like this!
Back on the road and I pass a Skoda towing a Hayabusa and an Aprilia! I nod to the driver as I pass, wondering if there is an event some where. Also I have been surprised at how few bikes are on the road! Perhaps everyone is working!
Ok! I make progress and soon enough I am in Austria. I don’t need to buy the “Toll Pass Vignette” as i got mine already at the fuel station and my bike is already wearing it on the wind screen. I have decided not to run on the high way as I go to Malta. John, who is the owner of the hotel, has mentioned the roads to take and I put them on the GPS! These B roads take me through the towns where the speed limit is 30 or 50 depending on what road it is. He has also mentioned that breaking the speed limit is a no no and the police is always checking with speed traps and radar guns so I stay alert and watch for the changes in the speed of the roads!
This road takes me past, beside and through so awesome landscape with the mountains and streams all around! It’s really so neat! And the curves! I notice that even in the tight turns, the white centre line is not continuous. This would mean that overtaking is allowed. But as I can imagine…..it’s at your own risk!
The elevation gets to as high at 1755m and drops suddenly to 1432m. It’s almost like I am in a roller coaster! There are so many things fighting for my attention!
Eventually, I have to stop and take a picture or two! Its magnificent!
And the amount of bikers here is unbelievable! I pass a couple and most of them have foreign plates! There must be a reason why in this short piece of road, there are so many riders! I continue to be extremely cautious around the small towns that are almost every 5 to 10 kilometers. Sure enough, my care pays off as I find a couple of bikers paying their fines round a bend where the police have stationed a speed camera.
I arrive Malta and my coordinates are right. In front of the hotel is parked the Skoda with the two bikes on the trailer. By the way…the Hochalmspitze must be one of the best kept secrets in Austria.
I passed this car some where around Munich! Ahhhh, he went on the high ways while I took the B road! John comes out to welcome me…..and a warm welcome it is! With a raddler in my hand he takes my picture and post it on his website as the first Nigerian to visit! I meet the driver of the skoda. He is here with his wife along with some friends and like I mentioned earlier, they are all in the 50s and 60s! Some were even racers back in the day!
I meet other travelers and soon find friend in Piet and Trudy and all the crew from Holland! In the evening we have dinner together and I find that bikers here are just as vain as everywhere in the world….wearing their bike colors and stuff…I vow to wear mine the next day!!
We sit around the table well into the evening exchanging stories and I at once feel so at home here! As the evening progresses we exchange stories over dinner! Piet shows me his website and pictures and eventually everyone is around his laptop looking at them!
Dinner over and John helps me plan my tomorrow! I have close to 400km to do taking in some of the most spectacular roads in the Austrian alps! And he taps me one thing, here distances are not given in mileage but in time!
As I go to bed, I imagine that this is a bikers dream! I have my plan ready for the next day and say my good-night around 10pm…then its off to my room and my bed…I have such a happy and peaceful rest. The air, the surroundings, the beauty of this place just points to the awesomeness of God. I consider this as I drift to sleep with thanks on my lips for His goodness.
1st of August.
The Grossglockner and Nockalmstrasse
What a view!
That’s what greets me as I wake up this morning! Awesome! I am so excited! Having spent last night listening to the “exploits” of others I am so eager to see things for myself! Take a shower and I am off to have breakfast! Lol! Same same!
I had observed some oil where there shouldnt be any and I am slightly alarmed! I speak with John who was a Citroen mechanic for like 30years and we look at it together. There are no oil shortages at the gearbox or engine so he wipes of the “oil streak” and we agree to look at it in the evening.
GPS up with the routes that John had suggested…I have a trip into the National Park up the Grossglockner and later up the Nockalmstrasse. But first a trip to the BMW dealer to see about the leak. So I ride into town and locate him. I have second thoughts about going in so I just make a u-turn and I am headed back to my route!
The number of bikers continues to increase the further I go! All sorts but mostly touring bikes. The view, the crisp air, the winding road…..biker’s heaven! I am so so astounded by all the beauty. It’s truly amazing! I will be here again! The pictures will tell the story!
The white dot in the middle of the picture is actually a helicopter….that gives some sense of proportions!
Needless to say, I ran out or memory on my camera! So I start using the iPhone! It’s got a fairly decent camera and I rely on it for the rest of my day.
At the top of the Nockalmstrasse there is a restaurant, The Glockenhutte! And I am hungry! Walk in and talk with the owner! Fam.
He cant beleive that I have ridden from nigeria! He has to come out and see the bike for himself! He is utterly amazed and tells me how he has a Harley (showing me the picture on the wall) but that he can never ride during the season because that’s when the restaurant runs! So he travels to the US during the winter to get saddle time. Follow his recommendations for my late lunch and have roasted pork chops, sour grout and dumpling! As I wolf it down he comes to my table and give me a neck tube, compliments of the restaurant! Along with a map and some other small gifts!
A couple arrive on an antique NSU that looks so so nice, it deserves all the pictures I have taken!
Then it’s back to Malta! I do pass through town to get a new memory card for my camera and eventually arrive my hotel at a little past 7!
And of course…in the evening…over dinner…as we exchanged our stories for the day…I showed everyone my ERMC crew shirt!!!
From Left to right; Piet, Klass, I, Ap and Trudy.
I realise that I have to return to this placead at that time, I will need a little more time!
We stay late into the night as Piet will be leaving Trudy will be leaving the next morning. But eventually its time to say good night and go to bed. What an incredible day!!! Fantastic!
2nd of August. Malta, Austria to Treviso, Italy!
Temp 18low and 32high.
Another lazy start today as I have less than 400km to go on my way to the Ferry in Livorno. Have my breakfast as Ap and Klass tell me I have just missed Piet and Trudy who are on their way back to Holland. We have a low keyed photo shoot and its time to go. The 2 might spent here were simply wonderful. I know I need to return.
John and I
Klass and Ap
On my way out I stop and spend about 1 hour at the Porsche Museum that’s close by taking pictures of almost everything on display. It’s a private museum but provides quite some interesting displays and information.
So my route today will take me up the Austrian Alps through to the Italian Dolomites and I maintain an open mind as to what today’s riding will be like. When the word “Alps” comes up, you need to know that for a biker, it means twisting, turning, climbing, descending with sheer cliffs of the left or right side and views of scenery to make you marvel. Smells that cause a stir deep in one’s soul.
The roads do not let me down and very soon the climbing starts! In these parts, the climbing is done via roads that do a 180degree turn every 100meters or less! Sometimes the turns are so tight that I find that I need to be in first gear to make them! All the while I am looking over the top of the trees that are now at the level of the road! This view is better than to consider the plunge that is just a couple of inches away! I keep on riding, twisting and turning, through one tunnel after the other. And all of a sudden I am in “Italia”. OKI
I am surprised to find that the beauty of the Alps can take on a different dimension but it does…the Italian side takes on a completely different kind of beauty as I desend. The roads are also norrower and I distinctly rememder a turn I made which had me facing a truck with less than 1.5 meters to spare. I wonder how a car would have made it in that situation.
My descend leads in to a town and I stop to take a picture of the Italian side that I just came down from.
Mount up and about a kilometer later come upon a radar trap. I wave to the Policeman as I pass and he waves back. The roads are devoid of traffic today….or so it seems and I ride more or less alone for another 100 kilometers…passing one sleepy village after the other.
Then I start seeing bikers and I realize I must be coming close to Dolomite country. An interesting sight catches my eye as I climb again!
The pain in my bum also begins to remind me that I didn’t do right by forgetting my airhawk. The pain get progressively worse and my appreciation for the airhawk gets deeper and more profound.
As my route takes me to bigger and bigger towns I realize that I must get a replacement for the Airhawk. I will definitely not be riding to Lagos with out my bum if I don’t get it. So I start looking out for bike stores. And that’s how I come upon Valerisport, A bike shop in Cornuda.! And Valerie herself, who turns out to be camera shy!
Communication is a bit of a problem as I don’t have any Italian what so ever but Marco steps in and helps me out. Marco works for TCX and Ii find out that they make almost all the boots for BMW!!!
After a lot of back and forth, it is clear that I will not get the airhawk here. He make a few calls and directs me to Treviso…which, being a bigger town with a lot more stores, might have what I am looking for. In Treviso, I go to the BMW dealer. No joy but he directs me to the Honda dealer. No luck…but I do get to test ride the manual version of the Honda Crosstourer. And riding it back to back with the GS leaves me feeling like the GS is the better deal. Perhaps if I had the DCT version, I might have felt differently? Oh well. I am directed to the yet another outlet which is close to the airport and find my way there.
The search for an Airhawk has taken on a different dimension as I imagine what my bum will feel/look like by the time I get to Lagos if I don’t get it. Still not joy. But the kind man at the store tells me about www.bikerfactory.it. OK. We search the website and sure enough, the airhawk is listed as 109 Euro. With the way I feel I will pay 5 times that price to get it. We call and the voice at the other end explains that they do not do counter sales….all purchases are done over the internet. But my new found friend will not take no for an answer and I listen as he passionately pleads my case in Italian. I hear Lagos several times in the conversation and eventually he puts the phone down. The offices will accept to open this once to allow me pick up the airhawk. BUT the store is in Arezzo which is like a 100km detour for me. What!!! Only 100km? that’s not a problem at all. We locate the address on the GPS and I have a clear plan for the next day. That done, I am happy to close for the day.
I find a nice hotel, have a shower as I do some washing. Then I am off to the restaurant, down the road for some dinner and it’s an early night for me. My Hotel is a family owned/run affair and I begin to notice in Italy, so many businesses are family owned and run. The weather has been quite warm and even borthering on hot here and I figure it will get hotter the further south I go! But for now….its sweet, sweet sleep for me.
3rd of August, Treviso, Italy to Livorno!
Temp 26low and 36high.
I have to get the airhawk cushion which is held by an online retailer in Arezzo! He doesn’t sell to people but he has made the exception. I have decided that I need to be very early to avoid the lock up that occurs in Italy between 12 and 3 pm as people go for their lunch! So 730am finds me en-route! No B roads for me today so it’s on to the expressway and straight into a toll station! The Ticket issued and I am on my way!
I arrive and find the address and the airhawk cushion! All is well. Just one little thing though! I have seen a new GIVI box which I would like get. I am directed to Enzo of Motor Shop Mengozzi…. with an address that the gps knows!
Enzo’s is a fairly big place selling scooters and bikes! We talk a bit and he let me understand that the luggage is in his second shop where there is also a service centre! Really? Fantastic! I can have the bike serviced also! It’s already about 10,000km since I left Lagos! So he hops on his scooter and we go to yet another shop selling bike accessories! Apparently his wife Grazia, runs it and I end up buying a pair of gloves and a summer jacket! He points me to a restaurant for lunch, gives me the address of the service centre and we are booked for a service at 3pm.
I follow the gps to the Tuscani restaurant that Enzo has recommended! As I park the bike I am approached by a young man bearing stuff he is trying to sell! As he opens his mouth to speak I realize that he is Nigerian! Patrick, that’s his name, and Emma, his friend, came from Nigeria about 8 months ago and are in the process for getting papers! He is so ecstatic to see me! And as typical Nigerians, we cause quite a stir with our loud voices and laughter! I wish them all the best as they wish me a safe trip back, then we part!
Lunch is really nice, a pleasant surprise, then it’s off to Enzo’s Service Center! I see the box and the bike is serviced. He has arranged to send my old box to Lagos by freight so all is well!
My mechanic for today!
We are done and I am on my way to Livorno! I hit the highway but am very quickly bored! I think to myself and decide to get off it and move to the B roads! Next exit am out and on to the nice scenic country side.
I make a stop for a drink and batteries for my toothbrush! I have decided not to buy any more fuel in Europe and I figure what I have will be enough to get to the fuel station in morocco! Drink finished and I am on the road again! But not before some photos of Blanks with her new box! Isn’t she lovely?
I arrive Livorno and drive to the city centre in search of a hotel! First one is full, as is the second and third! What’s up? I am told that as the weather is so warm everyone is coming to Livorno for the beach during the weekend! However, there is still hope and I am directed to the central train station, as there quite a few hotels around it.
Hotel Stazione might have a room but I won’t know for another hour! Ok! I will ride around and see if there are alternatives! My petrol level is very low and I decide that I need to put 5 Euro’s worth of fuel to avoid running out!
In the service station, I reach for my wallet and it’s not where I expected it to be! A thorough search reveals that I have lost my wallet! In my wallet are all my cards and all my Euro! I am in a daze! A thorough search of everything on me and the bike only re-confirms that the wallet is gone!
Ok! What’s my plan B? I find that I have 10 Euro left and $100. All other currencies are for Africa. It’s back to Hotel Stazione where I can have the room! I explain what has happened to me and after talking with the manager, Christine accepts to be paid in dollars! I also get 10euro back as change. I park the bike in the secured parking and go up to my room. Emptying my entire luggage out on the bed and taking stock of all I have reveals that I don’t even have enough money to cross through Morocco and Mauritania! I refuse to panic! But I am feeling very uncomfortable! I take a shower; drink some water (cant afford dinner today)and go to be bed! I have only 20euro for the next 3 days! What a mess! But I refuse to feel bad! My thinking is that it’s just money and I could always sell my watch or a phone or something! I have options! This begins to look like a plan and I send out emails to have my cards blocked, turn off the lights and am asleep in no time!
4th of August. Livorno
I woke up with a start around 230am! Thought running through my mind pointed to the stress I was going to encounter on account of my wallet loss…..the money I didn’t have now, the cards I couldn’t use as back up!
As I considered solutions to this I felt a deep sinking feeling as it occurred to me that I had also lost the memory card containing all my pictures from my outbound trip! This new realized loss caused me to consider options for recovery!
I tried thinking back to when I saw the wallet last and what had happened. I had stopped for a drink and used the wallet to pay! Ok! Put on the gps and locate the point there this happened……an Agip fuel station about 50km away! Fine! I resolved to go back there in the morning! With this, I felt a peace come over me and I went back to sleep!
Up at 8 and start trying to raise funds! Its good to have dependable people as friends! In no time, 100euro is wired to me and more is being arranged for Tangiers! Great!
And I? I set off for the fuel station! As I ride, doubt come to my mind but what do! My ride is quite slow as I am trying to be as economical as possible with my fuel. This means very gentle acceleration and avoid using my brakes as much as possible! Slowly but surely I come upon the fuel station and park my bike exactly like I did the last time! My eyes scan the surrounding but alas, nothing! I walk into station store and the attending lady appears to remember me because she has a smile on her face! But what does this smile mean? I start speaking as she does too! I understand that my wallet was found but there was no way to reach me! Relief as she hands it over to me! Unbelievable! God’s hand clearly in action.
I am not the big spender! Buy more fuel and start my journey back to Livorno after expressing my profound gratitude!
As I approach livorno, I decide and go to the port to confirm my ticket! No luck as the office doesn’t open till 1600hrs and its not even 1300hrs yet! Ok, its back to the hotel with a plan to visit Pisa and its leaning tower…..less than 20km away!
Get a directions and I am off! So many tourists and everyone taking pictures of holding or pushing or carrying the tower.
I take my pictures making a note to return with all my girls! I am done and heading back….its close to 1600hrs now so I am back at the port and have my boarding pass. With some hours more to kill, I find my way back to the hotel! Pack up my stuff and laze around the lobby till 2000hrs, and I am off to the port!
So many bikers! Wow! apparently my ferry goes to Tangiers via Barcelona and a good number are on their way there!
I meet with Marco, Carlo and Andreas and we chat as we await the boarding call! Bikers keep on coming and a group of 3 bikes with 4 people arrive! One of them immediately gets off and starts looking at number plates for the bikes on the boarding queue! He is estatic when he discovers BLANKS! Aldo and Lori are traveling to morocco with Angelo and Chizia! We exchange stories as we take pictures and all! Its so funny how I have discovered that even though people are so different, they remain the same!
Boarding time and we ride into the ferry! The Ikarus Palace is big and this time….its a packed house!
Bikes to Barcelona
Bikes to Tangier Med
Departure is supposed to be at 2330hrs but there is still a long queue of cars making their way into the belly of the ferry and its 2300hrs!
I find a sleeper and stake out my territory, then I am off to familiarize myself with the ship! I locate the showers and all the vital services. Its late and I go back to knock off for the night! Its almost midnight and there are so many cars left to board! Looks like we will be late! I sleep off peacefully and happily….what a spectacular turn of events.
5th, 6th and 7th of August.
The Crossing and on to Tiznit!
What’s there to do on the ferry!? I have 46 hours to burn and thanks to my new found friends, the time passes quite quickly. Pretend to be a photographer?
Life on the ferry! Hmmm
I had gotten a “pullman” for accommodation and this is best to be described as a hostel. There were about 70 or so men to share about 6 toilets and 2 showers. The first night, I was had my shower around 4am which was the low period for the showers
I spend most of my time with Angelo, Cinzia, Aldo and Lory and we share stories and all.
Angelo, Aldo and myself
Angelo’s Cinzia, Myself and Aldo’s Lory
Its so interesting to hear that even though they are Italian and live in the “developed” world where everyone is better educated than in Nigeria, the opposition from family and friends to riding is still there. And the arguments are still the same! The days pass more quickly and I hear from them that the cabins are not so bad. hmmm. Nevertheless, I can imagine that if I was in a cabin with a stranger, it would be quite similar to being in my pullman seat. I use this to console myself and vow to make this trip with someone I can share a cabin with.
We transit in Barcelona and Marco, Carlo and Andreas get off! We take a picture together before they depart and wish each other all the best.
Its so amazing the way we all have just “flowed” with each other even when the language was a slight barrier.
Then its on to Tangier!
We say our good byes and I promise to send email and updates. and I go below to the car deck to get ready to disembark.
Mine is the first bike off the ferry… I have made extra effort to be. I have the furthest to go! Riding off the ferry I go to the Customs and am processed pretty quickly…bikers appear to be given priority. Change the remaining Euro I have into Moroccan money and I hit the road.
The road does look completely different in the opposite direction. It’s a much cooler day today as I approach and pass by Marrakesh and I make good progress.
It is majorly an uneventful ride except for the stops I make for pictures I have noted earlier to take on my way back.
I arrive Tiznit, my goal at dusk and the center street is where all the action is. I ride to a filling station and fill up….don’t want anything to delay my departure in the morning. Next stop is one of the hotels on the main street. Underground secured parking is available for my bike and I even have an A/C in my room. As it is really quite cold this evening, I wonder what I will need this for as I am show my room and an attempt to put it on is made.
Room sorted now the hunt for food. As I step out of the hotel, I am approached by Mohamed. He sells jewelry and is dead set on getting me to his store to sell me some necklace or bangle. Sadly, I am so tired that I cannot move after settling in to my chair at the nearby café. We chat as we eat (he accepts my offer to pay for his dinner) and he explains to me that all the life is strats from 9pm inTiznit during the Ramadan. The buses I see inform of my café are also en-route Casabalanca and Rabat and would be departing shorlty.
Most will run their route half empty with half priced fares. Business is that bad.
We chat some more as Mohamed tries to get me to promise to see him in the morning but my priorities are slightly different from his and we part with the promise of seing whenever we see again. I go up to my room, have a shower and try to get some sleep. But sleep isnt coming so easily…I wonder why!! Ahh!! There is so much noise…OK, Tiznit has come to life and people come out after the day’s fasting. I look out of my window and I am socked to find so much activity on the streets below. Truly amazing. So, I shut my windows and try again…with success. Tomorrow is another day and should be my longest day yet!
8th of August! Tiznit to border!
I wake up really early today! I have a lot of kilometres to cover today and even if I ride fast, it’s still going to require a lot of time!
The day starts pretty cold and I thank God I have my insulating “Airshell” jacket beneath my riding jacket! This along with my new gloves insulates me from the cold! I make progress and it’s quite an uneventful ride!
The landscape doesn’t change much, riding along the coast!
Shortly after Tan-Tan i pass a group of cyclists…no support vehicle insight but the group consisted of about 12 riders all weighted down by the side bags! I gave them a wave and they waved back enthusiastically! Its so nice to meet fellow travelers.
Every 200km or so I fill up my tank and hit the road! Duwane Sheriff and I! A stop in Layoun for drinks and snacks fuels me up…..the Ramadan being during this period means everywhere that has to do with food is more or less closed! The time passes as do the kilometres and eventually I am at Hotel Barbas, my destination! Apparently, its not such a bad choice as the UN use it too 😉
I get a nice room for 150DH and have a shower. It takes about 10 minutes for the hot water to come seeing as the hotel uses solar heaters and the hot water needs to flow through the whole length of pipe to get to me. Also interesting was how salty the water was. Oh well, I need a shower and the salt water will do! Shower done, I go to the open courtyard and have a wonderful dinner! I also spend some time using the WiFi, then I find my way back to my room and my bed. Don’t really need an early night but as I started very early, I have more recovery to do! The border opens at 9am tomorrow so I plan to leave at 8am. No hurry!
As I look at my helmet, I notice that there aren’t any insects to clean off the visor! I think back and recollect that this was also the case on my trip out of Africa. There are absolutely no insects! That says a lot of the effect of the lack of vegetation. I spend some time pondering on the apparent emptiness out here and eventually drift of to sleep!
9th of August. To Border and on to Nouakchott
Temp 18 and 38
Unbelievable! The queue of vehicles exiting Morocco has completely taken over the whole road! Both lanes and a 3rd lane by the side of the road! And about 1 km long! Good for me with the bike! I ride right to the gate and am in! The reason for this is the Ramadan! The border control opens late (9am) and closes early (3am). I take the fiche at the border gate, fill and join the queue! Passport done, it’s time for customs. As usual, my bike’s registration is a source of intrigue and the officer confesses that he has never seen this type of “matriculation”.
There is this constant alarm sounding…. The X-ray machines work overtime scannin the trucks!
3 checks….passport control, customs and just before the exit gate, gendarmerie registration! All done in about 1.5 hours and am out!
Now it’s no-man’s land territory I end up getting stuck in the sand!
From out of nowhere some guys appear and push me out…..for a fee! The key is to stick to the left side of the “track” where there are rocks! The right side hold a promise of movement but it’s based on loose fine sand! The loaded GS with her balding tyres are no match for the fine sand!
Mauritanian control and I am done in no time! Hit the road with 450+ km to go! And now, it is hot! The heat doesn’t let up and there is not respite. It is steadily rising and soon enough I see 38C! It’s ok because I know soon I will get to “Gare du Nord” and get fuel, for the bike and for myself!
Interesting is that the road does appear different now that I am moving in the opposite direction! Well on and on I go and pretty soon, the fuel station!
I fill up with fuel, noticing that the cost is more or less as in Nouakchott (unlike some folks have mentioned on some blogs!) then I scout out the minimart and get a drink and some cakes to eat! I am surprised to meet Didi, a friend of the store keeper, who also speaks good English. He tells me that he studied English at the university in Nouakchott and plans to get a job as an interpreter. But for now, he has traveled over 200km from home to take up a job at another store close by, as the store keeper. Things are not easy for young people…anywhere!
While I am wolfing the cakes down, I hear the distinct sound of a bike. I step outside and see a BMW! With Edwardo and Anna on it! We take pictures as we exchange some stories. We agree to ride together as we are both going in the same direction.
We ride on to Nouakchott, stopping at all the check point together. Soon enough we are in Nouakchott and I lead the way to the Shahara Auberge! Edwardo wants out and I can understand…not the best accommodation for a luxury cruise with your mum in law. We part and vow to look out for each other on the next day. He is also going to Dakar and will be passing Rosso.
I also happen upon Sebastian. We recognize each other from the border crossing earlier in the day and spend the rest of the day talking. Its so good to have someone to talk with in English! The company is really good and as Sebastian has passed this route several times before, he offers me some useful tips!
We go for dinner across the road and do some more talking. Several more travelers come thorough and stop at this same point. More stories are shared. I find out and have decided that as the first ferry to Senegal leaves at 9am, I need to be at the boarder at 830am. This means I have to leave Nouakchott at 630a, at the latest. Rosso is a little over 200km away so i figure its doable. Tomorrow being a Friday might also have the border close for mid day prayers? I just don’t know and really don’t want to find out. So with this plan, we bid each other good night and I head to my room and to my bed!
10th of August. Nouakchott, Mauritania to Bakel, Senegal (via Rosso border)
Temp, low 28C, High 36C
I am aiming for the “dreaded” Rosso border! With my experience at Aflao Border, i am looking forward to the “challenge”. But i have a plan! Unlike others who have gone before me, coming out with nasty experiences, i have decided that i will not re-invent the wheel! I will get a “facilitator” as quickly as possible and have him do all the leg work!
I want to be at the border as it opens (so as to have enough time should any eventualities arrise) so i am out at 630am! But not before a photo with Sebastian.
Nice cool ride out of Nouakchott to the border and I am there at 820am! Locate Dauda (also David)! (0022246476883)
He is my designated passage agent (or facilitator)! And he explains all that I need to pay. Ferry cost 5000, passport 1500, custom 4000, tax communal 2000, embarkment with police 2000, police 1500. Total 15500! I miss the first ferry but I am on the second! And is always the case, the bike goes to the head of the queue!
On Senegalese side 26000cfa, lesse passé 2500, police 3000, tax 3000, custom station 10000, port sortie 5000
I have more details of this experience here!
And all was going well until the police find that I don’t have an exit stamp from Mauritania in my Nigerian passport. Talk about mastery and pedantry! Obviously, the guys here have no training on handling people with dual nationality! And they will definitely not take an education from me! 10000cfa got my Nigerian passport back to Mauritania and the Mauritanian exit stamp! All completely legal as I had to also send my other passport and show the original exit stamp. Hmmmmm!
While waiting for the stamp I see that every ferry trip is bringing a trailer load of onions! Apparently Senegal imports onions even though they also grow them. The home grown onions are not only more expensive but don’t have the visual appeal of the imported once. So local industry destroyed for imports! But then again, what’s local industry doing wrong?
Passport stamped, all custom/police issues resolved and I am wondering why is this border so dreaded! I can’t imagine doing 100km or 3 hours on account of 50euro or so for “processing”. And there were some indians on my ferry….. They were processed with out issues! I think the only “delay” is with the customs for the vehicles! Perhaps 10 to 20 minutes per vehicle. But that is nothing compared to other borders I have passed!
I take the right fork to Richard Toll and start heading east…..towards the Mali border. It’s so refreshing to see greenery on both sides of the road! Not to see the road ending in the horizon because there is nothing else to see! The road makes its way and I notice that Senegal is a much more developed country compared to Mauritania!
Donkey drawn carts and livestock flourish!I stop in Matam to buy fuel, have a drink and something to eat. With the Ramadan on, it’s virtually impossible to find cooked food before evening and I have resorted to eating biscuits for brunch!
As the vegetation around me increase so does all the other animal life and soon I begin to see casualties. I have 3 bird strikes…..2 on the bike and one on my shoulder!
I have a look at my map and decide to aim for the next “big” town, Bakel! I have about 1 hour of day light left and about 140km to go! Ok let’s do it! For the last 100km or so the road has taken on the character of an exam! The course is “avoid the holes”. As the sun sets, I struggle to keep my scores high! Bakel in sight and I am happy to see what could only be street lights from the distance!
Ride into town and observe that the town consists of a couple of streets but not to worry, spot a sign for a hotel and move towards it! Ride in and am pleasantly surprised to find its not bad at all….with a/c and even wifi…..but alas, without a room for me! I meet Ben there, an American doing some work towards getting his phd and he tells me there’s another hotel in town. I get directions from him and am at Hotel Islam in no time! I secure my accommodation for the night, a nice clean room with a/c and no window, and dash back to Ben’s hotel for dinner and conversation!
We have dinner…rice and onion stew. This is typical Senegalese food and it is very very nice. THen we stay up and continue talking for quite some time. But as usual, the time is never enough an i have to say bye and ride back to my “hotel”. The receptionist insist I bring the bike round the back and into the building….who am I to say no!? So blanks sleeps indoors and I sleep upstairs!
11th of August. Bakel, Senegal to Bamako, Mali!
Temp, low 26C, High 30C
Started early without any knowledge of what the border crossing would be like! Bakel is about 65km from the border and the road is in very good condition! It’s quite cloudy, a sharp contrast from yesterday’s sunny day! The road has quite a number of twist and turns as it winds it’s way through the hills that seem to surround Bakel!
I am upon the border without even realising it! I begin to see familiar things; the tire repair guy where we tried to patch Baba’s tire, the shop I bought drinks from and the fuel station! Yes! Time to fill up! But I don’t remember this much traffic! There are so many trucks! It’s almost impossible to squeeze through!
The control post tells me I have missed the “police” so I need to go back about a kilometre to it! Fantastic!
Breakfast while the officer fills my entry! This is the first time i have seen food being cooked since i go into Africa in the morning….Ramadan!
I am cleared, jump on the bike and am off! There is nothing to do with the customs and I am on the bridge that separates Mali from Senegal!
The traffic is out of this world and I squeeze and inch my way closer to Mali! Finally I am off the bridge but the trucks don’t relent! Eventually I go off road and shortly arrive at Mali customs!
5000cfa get me a receipt and my laisse passé. I ride a bit further on to the police for my passport’s stamp. The guy asks for my yellow card! Check! He then tells me I have to pay 10000cfa for the passport stamp into Mali! My outburst of laughter caused everyone to turn and look in our direction! Long story short, I get my passport stamped for free…..as it should be……and I am on my way again!
The cloudy skies darken and I realize that pretty soon it’s going to rain! Stop and put on my rain gear!
Just as I am rounding up with it, the rain drops start! No problem! I am insulated and ride without any encumbrance! However, this down pour is like nothing I have ever seen! No wind really but the amount of water pouring down is so great that visibility reduces to about 150meters! This is a first for me and I slow down! But as my pilot friend,’s words resound in my mind (weather rarely last over 30 minute) I get encouraged. After about 10 minutes of this driving rain, respite! I only know because my visibility starts to improve! Eventually, it’s slowed down to a drizzle and I smile to myself as I give myself a prize for passing through this!
The further I ride into Mali, the lusher the vegetation. Eventually Bamako beckons and I ride directly to the coordinates for toungatours. Ring the bell and Ann opens the door!
Sadly and on account of the political problems, the tourism industry has collapsed and she has had to close shop! Sad sad sad! Black Africa has so many problems…..and they are mostly brought on by ourselves!
Ann directs to the Sleeping Camel, which is a couple of meters away and I get a fantastic room with a/c and all the wifi I can use! And all for the budget price of 15000cfa. Yes! Business is that bad! The tourism and associated industries simple collapsed from one day to the next. Settled in, take a shower and off to eat! Of course their restaurant has been closed for sake of the crisis!
Have a table by the road at “Nadine’s” which is about 500m from the Sleeping Camel!I eat a good meal…..I deserve it. When am done, I sit watching people as I have a drink! 2 fellows approach me and start talking! I have grown very partial to English speaking people. Soon enough, I realise they are not scammers and invite them for a drink! As we drink Seck Dolo fills me in on what’s happening in Bamako and Mali! Sad stories! But Africa is full off them!
I do learn that Mali is a wonderful place and I wish I had time! Would have taken 2 or 3 days with Seck and seen the Mali people! Well. Next time!
Say my good bye and am back to the sleeping camel and sleeping shortly!
12th of August. Bamako, Mali to Bobo Dialaso, Burkina Faso!
Temp, low 26C, High 29C
Bright sunny morning as I wake late. Start and leave Bamako feeling quite sad at the situation in the country! I would definitely be coming back and to spend some time too!
Stop at Bamako outskirts for my road side breakfast of egg sandwich and coffee and I am good to go! Pass through the border uneventfully and am in Bukina Faso!
The further I ride in, the more the vegetation gets dense! It’s a slow and leisurely ride to Bobo-Dialaso. It’s Sunday and probably that why the traffic is so light! It occurs to me that I have never ridden this route before and the road does seem different when moving in the opposite direction!
Locate Iba Hotel which is on the main road out of Bobo and ride in! It’s beside Saby Hotel where I stayed on my outbound trip but it’s much bigger and as I expected, more expensive! The price read 42500cfa for a single occupant room! Wow! That’s almost double to Saby! But it is a more posh hotel with more luxurious facilities! There’s even a pool!
At the reception I meet Yusuf and his English is so much better than my French so we talk in English! I ask for a discount seeing as I am low on cash! After some negotiations I get the room for 27500cfa! And the room is fantastic! I love the down filled pillows! And the hot shower is just what the doctor ordered! Fantastic!
Ride into town to a “bar” for dinner…..grilled fish and chips. That’s done and I am back to my room! I tuck myself in after doing some washing and I sleep off almost instantly!
13th of August, Bobo Dialaso to Techiman, Ghana.
Temp, low 23C, High 28C
My target today is Kumasi! So I wake up bright And early and head to to Hamale (BF)/Hamile (GH) border! Leave BF and the asphalt ends there!
Ride into Ghana and have finished with the immigration formalities in minutes…..now it’s time for customs! And it was TIME for customs!
It just so happens that there is a meeting going on with the whole customs team! Means no processing of any sorts! The wait last about 2 hours till the meeting finishes. By this time the queue has gotten longer although I am it it’s head. With courteous apologies an attempt is made to process me! Until the report comes that “the system is down”!
Another wait for the “system to come up” and the border ends up costing me close to 4 hours! And 36cedis! That done and I am on the road again! The dirt road that is the road out of Hamile border. This lasts for close to 45km and ranges from 1st gear slow moving to 100km/h in 6th! Then it’s Tarmac! My mind goes from time to time to my rear tire as I consider if it will get to Lagos. Its done about 15,000km already!
I try to make up for lost time at the border while keeping a speed low enough so as not to aggravate my wearing tires!
With just a stop for a drink, 1816hrs find me leaving Techiman with over 120km to go to Kumasi. I counsel myself and make a u-turn back into Techiman! Don’t want to be riding in the night if I can avoid it! Not if I can avoid it! Dymns hotel is closest and with rooms available for 30cedis, I stop for the night, a warm meal and much needed sleep! Tomorrow is another day!
14th of August. Bobo Techiman, Ghana to Accra, Ghana!
Temp, low 22C, High 25C
It is so cold this morning! As cold as it was during the coldest days in Europe…..22C! I don my Airshell and hit the road after having the complementary breakfast at the hotel restaurant!
I watch the thermometer, expecting to see a rise in the temperature but no such luck! Eventually, as I exit Kumasi, I get 25C. This is as hot as it gets for me for this day!
The rumble strips, speed tables and speed bumps make progress slower than usual but the traffic keeps things interesting! Until about 40km out of Accra where construction work starts. The road has been torn up and it basically does not exist, as a road and the GS suspension and tyres are tried over and over again over the “off road obstacle course” that the road has become!
Eventually get into Accra and start my hotel hunting! I have 1 day to get my tire and sort out the Final Drive and I am also thinking of taking a rest day! We will see!
My possession of limited funds and time lead me to Apaade Lodge in Tesano! For 70cedis (after discounts) I had a fantastic room and bathroom! The lodge is in a really quite part of Tesano and offers a swimming pool, nice restaurant and modestly priced rooms and services.
The lady at the reception, Joyce and her colleague, Likia, welcomed me and all the staff I came in contact with were so warm and nice! As far as I am concerned, one of the best kept sercrets in Tesano!
I look at my tire some more and realize I must get a tire from Lagos.
I get to Victor who organizes everything for me so that I can have my tire flown from Lagos and ready for pick up tomorrow. So no more worries for me.
I drop my stuff in my room then it’s time to get an ATM. End up without cash but in Accra I am more or less at home. Call Martey (a biker brother of mine) and soon I have some cash. He invites me to his house where I meet his family and have fufu and Banga soup. I recount some of my experiences and we all have a laugh! As it gets late its time to go back and he drops me back at my hotel and its off to sleep. for me! Tomorrow I sort out my bike and tire issue. The day after that, I have decided to take as a rest day and will just loaf around doing nothing!
17th of August. Accra, Ghana to Lagos, Nigeria
Last leg today and I already feel at home.
After my two days in Accra and I well rested and head out after a hearty breakfast. With a tire from Lagos as my pillion I find my way to Tema.
I stop outside Tema for Walter (another Biker brother from Accra) to meet up with me. We have had some misunderstanding and couldn’t see earlier.
The time passes quickly as we talk and soon its time fro me to leave.
On to Aflao where I process my exit briskly. I also meet Lizzy as I round up. Lizzy is my “facilitator” at this border. Cross out of Ghana and sort my paper work in Togo.
We have passed this border so many times that the officials are familiar to me and we all exchange pleasantries.
I pass through Lome and and on to Benin. Nothing spectacular and I am in Benin and on to Cotonou and then the Seme Border. I am in Lagos and at home about 80 minutes later. 36days after I started!
Been there, done that.
And my tire made it.