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Desert Travels - Motorcycle Journeys in the Sahara and West Africa!

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Old 27 Feb 2003
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Timbuktu to Gao to Niamey

Has anyone travelled from Timbuktu along the Niger River to Gao by vehicle or by boat. I did it years ago (1986) by vehicle so know the route, but is it still a security problem. If travelling by vehicle is still dangerous, what about using boats? Also has anyone crossed the border from Gao to Niamey via Ayourou into Niger?
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Old 3 Mar 2003
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Chasser, The latest info I have is now more than a year old. In December 2001, I travelled by 4WD 'taxi' from Timbuctu to most of the way to Gao. The vehicle left from the market near the Cafe du Nord in Timbuctu. The guy drove like a maniac through the night, but I survived. I abandoned the vehicle when we stopped for 6 hours to 'help' a pal of the driver who had broken down. It became very difficult to estimate when we would get going again, so did the last 70km by a pirogue with a small outboard engine, -and that was much more relaxing than the 4WD.

It was not indicated to me that the route was dangerous if I travelled in the taxi, but I may not have been as comfortable about the trip if I had been in my own 4WD, as I know at the time bandits had atacked and robbed vehicles at the time. (In particluar a 4WD driver was killed shortly after leaving the ferry when leaving Timbuktu-Mopti in Novemver 2001)

After a side trip to Hombori and back, I travelled by truck (Dec.2001) over the border into Niger. I think the truck leaves only once a week (perhaps twice), from the bus station. I was offered the opportunity to pay extra for a seat in the cab, -and it was money well spent. The people in the back had to stand up all the way(or sit on their luggage), while I could at least sit and enjoy the view from the front. We stopped in a town for meal break, slept in a village on the floor of the bar (I think) for a few hours in the middle of the night, and than crossed the border in the early dawn. I had a Niger visa with me (organised in Europe) so had no problems there. We transferred from the truck, in a town in Niger (I haven't got the name with me now), to a Toyota van for the last 200km to Niamey. (Five of us to a row of seats!). Another memorable sector in my West African travels. Accomodation in Niamey was a small problem, as the Catholic Mission was full and unhelpful, and eventually stayed in the Village Chinois. (near the big Sports Stadium approx. 4km from the centre -all the taxi drivers know it) I heard from others that it was not a particularly safe place but had no problems myself over the total of 7-8 nights that I was there.

If you have any other specific details you want to know, please ask here.
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Old 3 Mar 2003
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I drove my own vehicle from Tomboctou to Gao in October 2001. Distance is travelled was 320 miles and it took ten hours hard driving.

We took a guide for communication reasons as we were a little worried about banditry. The piste however is fairly obvious and as you are tracking the Niger you cant go too far wrong. It is also fun to drive, and beautiful in places. Left Tomboctou at 6:00am and arrived at Gao at 6:00pm.

Would suggest doing journey in two days. Advice given was that if you do camp then camp at one of the villages on the way rather than in the bush, as then you will then have the security of watchful eyes rather being in an exposed and remote camp. We heard different tales according to who we asked as to whether Bandirty was current or not. Sahara Passion had a guest house in both places so they can provide help and also raise the alarm if you dont appear in Gao within a given timeframe.
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Old 16 Mar 2003
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After talking with C Scott by email I was inspired to do the Sahara. Part of my trip was this route. I has a 4x4 support Truck
and did Goa from Tombucktu in two days riding a DT 125 I bought there This was three years ago. At that time I was 67 years old
I am going to a lot of the Sahara again this time on something bigger as I am three years older, but still have that adventure
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Old 29 Mar 2003
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A good friend of mine was murdered by bandits a few km outside of the town of Ber (east of Timbuktu) in Oct. 2000. He was traveling alone by camel. He had cashed in some travellers checks in Timbuktu. He was easy prey. Check the Canadian Foreign Affair travel advisories for some details. Be safe!!!
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