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Old 6 Dec 2010
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Gibraltar to Timbukto - How?

Hi All,
Proposing a trip beginning from Paris and ending in Dakar. We don't necessarily wish or need to follow the Dakar rally route because we also want to go to Timbukto in Mali on route and so the preferred route will be Paris, Gibraltar, Timbukto, Dakar.

Looking on maps it would appear that there are roads of sorts between Timbukto and Dakar but from Gibraltar to Timbukto there is little or nothing - except desert and lots of it!

My questions...
  1. Are there tracks from north Africa southward through the sahara to Timbukto and if so how easy is it to navigate?
  2. Are there points on route where fuel/food can be got?
  3. How many days roughly for this leg of the trip (I know it depends on so many factors but if someone could relate their experience)
  4. I won't open the "what bike" debate except to say that it is going to be purchased for about £1,000 (€1,200) ($1,500) and worked on before the trip, but i'm erring towards a Suzuki DR350/400 or Yamaha XT600...thoughts?
  5. Any other advice?
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Old 7 Dec 2010
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I think that what you got in mind is not so easy. The easiest route will be the atlantic route till Nouackchott and then take the road to the east to ayoun el atrous. From there to Bamako and then drive up to timbuctu (Djenne, mopti and dogon are really worth to visit). Then from timbuctu back to bamako and then heading west to Kayes and then further west to Dakar.
Roads directly from Maroc to Mali are not possible. There is a road from Nema (Mauritania) directly going east to timbuctu but not possible alone and because of the safety aspect not wise to do right now. When you want some more off-road you can drive from nouadibhou to choum, chingueti and tidjika. But not easy to drive and need more people (don't know about safety overthere). have never driven the last route myself so can't give you more information about that. Also not about your motorcycle choice.
And I would say mali is more beautifull and more to see then in senegal and you got less border hassle.
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Old 7 Dec 2010
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Hi Declan

If you're crossing the Med at Gib (prob Algeciras if you're using commercial ferries) you'll be heading south taking the "atlantic route". That's shorthand for riding through Morocco and eventually following the only tarmac road that'll get you to the Western Sahara / Mauritania border. My first suggestion is to search here for "atlantic route" There's a lot of info on hotels / fuel etc that'll answer many of your questions. If you've got an hour or two to waste you can follow the road south on Google Earth and get an idea of what it's like.

It's about five days from the Med to the Mauri border if you don't hang around much for sightseeing. The area from around Tan Tan south is politically sensitive and although there are other roads that you can see on maps they're pretty much off limits at the moment. The route that hugs the coast is the one you'll be on.

The first time I overnighted in the desert is the first time I really wished I had a reliable bike rather than a cheap one. Bear that in mind when it comes to choosing a bike. Fuel and water are available - about 250 miles is about the furthest you'll go between filling stations but having a 251 mile range leaves you with a problem when you arrive and they're out of fuel for the next week.

After Nouakchott the usual route is along the "route d'espoir", a 1500 mile road that ends at Nema. On a map Nema doesn't look that far from Tim - a bit of off road and you'll be there! If you're on your own and it's your first time in the region, don't do it. Go via Bamako and along the road that follows the Niger river, via Segou, Mopti etc. There have been a number of reports here recently saying that due to security concerns there are a lot of checkpoints along the route d'espoir. Find those and have a look through. Security is becoming a serious issue.

The Atlantic route is 1000+ miles of this

This is when you really need the bike to start the next morning

You'll have a few hundred miles of this on the way back from Bamako to Dakar (this is near Kayes)
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Old 7 Dec 2010
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Thanks Brend and backofbeyond,
Lots of good information from both of you and thanks for the great pics backofbeyond.
I need to go back to studying my maps and researching the security issues in Marautania. i'll post again soon...
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