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Route Planning Where to go, when, what are the interesting places to see
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  #1  
Old 9 Jul 2012
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Africa vs South America?? 4-5 month trip...

Hi all -

Due to an upcoming career change I have 4-5 months to do a big moto trip starting in January. I am looking for some advice from riders who have been there & done that.

The two options:

Option 1) fly to Cape Town, buy a bike once I am there, and then head north to Morocco via the west coast route through Namibia, Angola, Congo, Nigeria, Senegal, etc.

- Advantages: more adventurous, not as touched by tourism, radically different cultures, covers a part of the globe I haven't been to yet.

- Disadvantages: flight cost (one-way in, one-way out), bike purchase cost, visa hassles (mainly Angola and maybe Congo?), not likely to find a great bike for my budget ($2-3k), bike cost is probably a write off at the end since I won't be returning to the country where I bought it.

Option 2) Ride out my back door on my own bike, head south from Oregon, spend the time bouncing around South/Central America, ship the bike back, and fly home at the end.

- Advantages: easy, more fiscally responsible, one language to deal with, more relaxing, do it on my own reliable bike, no visa hassles, less planning required, no need to purchase a bike, get better at spanish.

- Disadvantages: Not as exciting to me personally, route is well-traveled, less diversity and interest in terms of cultures/people, and also I have already been to several of the countries i would be crossing.

It may be a long time before I can pull off another trip like this. My GF is cool with the trip and she wants to meet me somewhere for a few weeks part way through. In terms of relevant travel/riding experience, I've done moto trips (mostly solo) in SE Asia, India, Uganda/Rwanda/Burundi, Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina/Bolivia/Chile. I've also spent some time backpacking around Kenya/Tanzania and South Africa. I ride dirt and dualsport in the US, and I much prefer dirt roads and small, off-the-beaten-track towns vs pavement and cities.

I'd like to keep expenses under $15k for the trip including everything (flights, bike shipping, bike purchase, visas/border fees, gas, etc). Definitely no more than $20k.

One the one hand, Africa is definitely calling to me; especially the stretch from Angola to Senegal, crossing lots of different countries and getting out into the countryside and meeting people, experiencing the culture, etc. That kind of stuff really gets my blood pumping. On the other hand, the ease of just riding out my back door with zero planning on a fun, reliable bike also sounds very appealing, and I'm sure I could find plenty of offroad adventures in South/Central America to keep my inner adrenaline junky in check.

Anyone want to weigh in on this? Where would YOU go?? I keep bouncing back and forth between the two and I can't seem to decide.

Last edited by Sideoff; 10 Jul 2012 at 20:56.
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  #2  
Old 9 Jul 2012
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You forgot: ship your bike to Urp, ride to, through and around West Africa until tired of doing so, ride back to Urp (or make other arrangements, whether legal, quasi-legal, or entirely illegal).

Most riding is similar no matter where you go. If you're looking for "unstable and war-torn," best examine your motivations carefully; lots of people consider Colombia "unstable and war-torn," and you know what that's about. On the other hand, West Africa's fun, and everyone should go there.

Hope that's helpful.

Mark
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  #3  
Old 10 Jul 2012
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As always depends on many factors but from what you say, you have the freedom to push your boundaries at the moment and Africa is calling to you. I'd lean toward doing the trip that is hard and far away and that a person may not get to again for sometime, if life has it's way and intervenes.

It's fairly easy to get down to Central and South America from where you are, heck you can just ride out your front door. Africa is another level of logistics and planning and cost as you know. Ride there while you can, so you can be a grizzled old guy showing your kids pictures of you ridng in deepest, darkest Africa. Rare are any regrets.
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  #4  
Old 10 Jul 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markharf View Post
You forgot: ship your bike to Urp, ride to, through and around West Africa until tired of doing so, ride back to Urp (or make other arrangements, whether legal, quasi-legal, or entirely illegal).

Most riding is similar no matter where you go. If you're looking for "unstable and war-torn," best examine your motivations carefully; lots of people consider Colombia "unstable and war-torn," and you know what that's about. On the other hand, West Africa's fun, and everyone should go there.

Hope that's helpful.

Mark
Thanks for the response Mark.

I changed my original post to remove the phrase "war-torn and unstable." That was a bad choice of words. One reason the western route is appealing to me is that it crosses many countries which have experienced conflict/instability in the recent past, and countries like that are often very interesting to visit. That plus the fact that I haven't visited any of those countries before, as opposed to south/east africa.
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  #5  
Old 10 Jul 2012
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Originally Posted by MountainMan View Post
As always depends on many factors but from what you say, you have the freedom to push your boundaries at the moment and Africa is calling to you. I'd lean toward doing the trip that is hard and far away and that a person may not get to again for sometime, if life has it's way and intervenes.

It's fairly easy to get down to Central and South America from where you are, heck you can just ride out your front door. Africa is another level of logistics and planning and cost as you know. Ride there while you can, so you can be a grizzled old guy showing your kids pictures of you ridng in deepest, darkest Africa. Rare are any regrets.
Right on MountainMan. Thanks for the feedback. Good point about taking this possibly once in a lifetime opportunity to go for the one that is hardest and farthest away while I have the chance. Although the logistics seem daunting right now, if I was to fully commit to that trip and just start putting one foot in front of the other and assembling the stuff and contacts I need it probably won't seem like such a big deal.
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  #6  
Old 10 Jul 2012
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Go for Africa. You won't regret it.
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  #7  
Old 10 Jul 2012
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Alternatively fly to Cape Town with a return ticket, you will need one anyway, buy a bike there, do a circular tour of southern Africa, you should get to Kenya without a carnet, sell bike in Cape Town, fly home.
No need to ride the same road twice and up to ten countries you can visit.
By the way nearly all speak English except Mozambique where you can get by and all with the adventure of driving on the left!
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Last edited by mark manley; 10 Jul 2012 at 23:07. Reason: more info
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  #8  
Old 10 Jul 2012
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Originally Posted by mark manley View Post
Alternatively fly to Cape Town with a return ticket, you will need one anyway, buy a bike there, do a circular tour of southern Africa, you should get to Kenya without a carnet, sell bike in Cape Town, fly home.
No need to ride the same road twice and up to ten countries you can visit.
By the way nearly all speak English except Mozambique where you can get by and all with the adventure of driving on the left!
Southern/Eastern Africa is beautiful, but on this trip I am hoping to cover a large chunk of territory I've never been to. In the south/east, although I've not visited Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, or Mozamique, I have visited South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. Whereas west africa is totally 100% new to me. I always seem to end up in the south/east since those places are so easy to visit for a short trip, plus english is widely spoken.

With west africa I've looked at shorter trip ideas like ghana/togo/benin/burkina faso and/or ghana/burkina faso/mali/senegal and always found that with only say a month to travel, and with wanting to begin in an english speaking country to acquire the bike (i.e. ghana), too much time/money would be spent acquiring a moto and getting the required paperwork for a short trip. For example in Ghana I was informed it's a minimum of 2 weeks after buying a bike to get the required paperwork for leaving the country. So now that I have this one long contiguous chunk of time I was really hoping to traverse an area where I might not otherwise get to go, hence the decision for the west coast journey. Plus the thought of fully crossing the continent has a certain appeal to it.

Am I overstating the interest of the west coast route and/or terrain? Did anyone find the west coast trip "boring" in terms of riding or culture... or over-traveled? Part of what makes it so appealing sitting here in my office in Oregon is my perception that not a lot of tourists go there, I mean from south of Senegal to north of Namibia. But maybe that's just because I'm in the US? Obviously it's a lot more accessible to Europeans traveling overland.

I noticed that, so far, no votes for south america. Thanks for that, that's the confirmation I was looking for. I was already leaning toward africa. The only reason I started waffling was that I was originally hoping to do a totally minimalist trip with hardly any advance planning or gear, just arrive in S Africa and sort it out from there, but after reading a few posts from people who encountered visa issues en route (mainly Angola) I realized the minimalist thing might be harder to accomplish than I had first thought, and then south america started creeping back into the picture. But at the end of the day I think I'll be happier putting the time, money, and planning into making africa happen. Like MountainMan said... I'd like to be that grizzled old guy telling stories about africa

Last edited by Sideoff; 11 Jul 2012 at 06:43.
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  #9  
Old 11 Jul 2012
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Hi Man,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sideoff View Post
Did anyone find the west coast trip "boring" in terms of riding or culture... or overtraveled?
If you feel like going to africa do so but you allready know to get the Visa for Angola can be a nightmare. This took me 3 Months even i had a Visa Agency "helping" me.

No the westcoast is not bouring at all...the ferry from Kinshasah to Brazzaville is a chalenge...the road from there to Gaboun too not forgeting Kameroun.




I nearly got robbed in Nigeria when people jumped me and selling and illegaly importing a bike in a country you dont know can be hard as well. Still I dont want to frighten you.

Riding the rough west coast through Africa part 3

Southamerica is much easyer to travel. There are hostels available everywhere. People are friendly and the paperwork is much easyer. It will also be cheaper because there are more tourists who looking to bay a bike. The moast expensive part will be the ferry to cross the gap between Panama and Columbia

Motorbike trip around Southamerica: Chile and Argentina part 1

It just depends if you want holliday or real adventure. So or so you will not regret it, Tobi
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  #10  
Old 11 Jul 2012
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Adventure is where you find (and create) it, and there's plenty available in South and Central America. There are also opportunities to take those classic photos of bikes traversing muddy roads....if that's what you want.

I didn't recommend South America because your OP said you'd already been riding in various countries down there, not because I think it's a "holiday" rather than an "real adventure." Africa is less predictable and more challenging in a lot of ways, but there's also the fact that sometimes one is not in the mood for more challenges (Three months for an Angola visa? No thanks). The reason I suggested a West Africa trip is because it'll put you through your paces and offer as much adventure and uncertainty as you choose, without the difficulties of the Congos and Angola.

enjoy,

Mark
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  #11  
Old 11 Jul 2012
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Originally Posted by markharf View Post
Adventure is where you find (and create) it, and there's plenty available in South and Central America. There are also opportunities to take those classic photos of bikes traversing muddy roads....if that's what you want.

I didn't recommend South America because your OP said you'd already been riding in various countries down there, not because I think it's a "holiday" rather than an "real adventure." Africa is less predictable and more challenging in a lot of ways, but there's also the fact that sometimes one is not in the mood for more challenges (Three months for an Angola visa? No thanks). The reason I suggested a West Africa trip is because it'll put you through your paces and offer as much adventure and uncertainty as you choose, without the difficulties of the Congos and Angola.

enjoy,

Mark
I think the best thing to do would be for me to quit waffling and just focus on Africa, but hold off on making the decision of whether to do a one-way cross continent trip vs a loop through west africa based on whether I get an angola visa or not. I'll get a brand new passport before I apply and I'll apply from my home country, maybe that will help. If I get shot down on angola then I can decide whether to cross the congo or instead do the west africa loop as you suggest. Some of the trip reports from crossing the SW congo sound fairly crappy. Lots of problems with police, bribes, aggressive locals, etc.
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  #12  
Old 11 Jul 2012
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Originally Posted by ta-rider View Post
Hi Man,



If you feel like going to africa do so but you allready know to get the Visa for Angola can be a nightmare. This took me 3 Months even i had a Visa Agency "helping" me.

No the westcoast is not bouring at all...the ferry from Kinshasah to Brazzaville is a chalenge...the road from there to Gaboun too not forgeting Kameroun.




I nearly got robbed in Nigeria when people jumped me and selling and illegaly importing a bike in a country you dont know can be hard as well. Still I dont want to frighten you.

Riding the rough west coast through Africa part 3

Southamerica is much easyer to travel. There are hostels available everywhere. People are friendly and the paperwork is much easyer. It will also be cheaper because there are more tourists who looking to bay a bike. The moast expensive part will be the ferry to cross the gap between Panama and Columbia

Motorbike trip around Southamerica: Chile and Argentina part 1

It just depends if you want holliday or real adventure. So or so you will not regret it, Tobi
Hey Tobi, great to hear from someone who has done both! I had already found and read a lot of your Africa trip report on the internet and heard about your angola visa problems. Sounds like a great trip overall.

There are a ton of similar reports from other overlanders getting stuck at angola and having to find other ways around. I am thinking that if I get an Angola visa ahead of time from the US and it expires before I get there, it will be much easier to get it renewed on the ground from namibia than it would be to get a brand new visa.

I noticed you camped alot. Could I do the western route without camping gear? Between food, tent, bag, pad, stove, and fuel even my ultralight gear takes up a lot of space. I'd prefer to go as minimalist as possible.

Pete
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  #13  
Old 11 Jul 2012
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Hi,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sideoff View Post
I noticed you camped alot. Could I do the western route without camping gear?
In Southamerica you will definitly be able to find hotels and hostals everywere. Same along the eastcoast of Africa. Along the west coast it will be much harder. There are not so many tourists and therefore hardly any hotels.
I heared some people spend a lot to stay at some church missions. You could probably also rent the house of people so they will sleep at there friends house or so. Its just a matter of money but remember there is malaria so a tent protects you best against moscitos.

Travel save, Tobi
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  #14  
Old 14 Jul 2012
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We backpacked through south america in the mid seventies and it seemed an adventure, have always wanted to return on a motor bike but not made it so far. my daughter is travelling around there at the moment and it seems like one big piss up to me, just full of tourists getting totalled from one town to the next.
In 2011 my wife and I rode our bikes down through west Africa from Morocco to Cape Town we met very few travellers but endless friendly helpful locals and it was quite an adventure.
Choosing between the two should be simple if you are looking for adventure....West Africa.

Simon
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  #15  
Old 15 Jul 2012
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south america

go to south america .....exreme continent
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