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sub-Saharan Africa Topics specific to sub-Saharan Africa. (Includes all countries South of 17 degrees latitude)
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  #1  
Old 12 Sep 2007
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Advice for *cringe* my own Long Way Down?

Though before I start I would like to point out that this has been all that non-biking people have said to me in recent weeks:

"Oh, so you're doing a Ewan then are you?".

No I am bloody well not doing a Ewan, he nicked it from other people first so if I'm doing an anyone I'm doing a Ted Simon or a Mondo Enduro type deal

With that all over, I'd like to say hello to all of you! First heard of the site through Dan Walsh's writings for UK Bike Magazine I think, and now I've joined seeing as I'm trying to summon the courage to make my own trip. The plan so far is as follows. I'm 22, have just graduated and as such I have few ties to anything in particular and I'm floundering when it comes to a 'real' career. So now seems the perfect time to bugger off and do the trip of a lifetime on a bike before mortgages, family (assuming that happens of course ) bog me down. Ted Simon has been a great inspiration so far, and the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook by Chris Scott is in the post. The idea is to ride from the UK down through Africa and then deciding at the bottom (Cape Town) whether to ship the bike anywhere else e.g. South America. I've already done some of Asia (teaching in China, travelling in China, HK, Vietnam, Thailand,) so Africa is the biggest unknown/challenge I can pick. Of course, this is all a little ephemeral and non-specific so I shall put down what I know/think/am wondering so far:


* The Bike:

- Seeing as sand riding is a high probability I am steering clear of the large capacity bikes due to weight, and am looking more in the 600cc range for a balance of weight and power.
- Have test-ridden a Yamaha XT660R following the positive reports from Damon L'Anson's altitude record in the Himalayas, though it still seems unproven in wider circles due to being relatively new. Was impressed though.
- Rode my Dad's old 650GS Dakar, would feel comfortable on it, not sure if I can justify the extra premium cost associated with buying a Beemer though. Not ruling out other avenues, KTM (again cost a problem), more reading to be done.
- Have ridden his 1200GS enough to be confident this is too unwieldy.


* Skills:

- Have been riding on roads since I was 17, had a 125 Varadero, then my SV and have covered nigh on 35,000-40,000 miles in 5 years due to the bike being my only form of transport. I feel this is experienced enough to feel confident of making a trip, though with much to learn of course.
- No off-road riding experience as yet, and I think it would be foolish to leave without some. Thoughts are to pay for off-road days or to buy a ratty old thing to do some greenlaning on. An important factor here is that a £100, £200 or whatever cost of a day's course represents a good chunk of time in Africa on the projected budgets on the overlanders website. So any cash spent here is 'worth' a lot of travel time as it were, as such I'd like to minimise it and I don't think I'll be lucky enough to afford the luxury of the BMW off-road course for e.g.


* Mechanics

- In short, I know bog all. I know that before I go I shall need to know a tad more than that.
- I was initally thinking of putting myself through some mechanic night classes or similar, though initial research shows these to be rather few and far between these days.
- I had also wondered about asking a local mechanic if I could watch him, though I'm not sure whether I would need to pay to cover the cost of being a nuisance in the garage/even whether I'd be allowed to do it. Maybe terribly naive?


* The Route:

- This has become shaped more and more by the advice on the FCO website which tends to suggest staying away from countries on the South-West coast of the 'bump' as I think of it (the main headland at the top of the continent) and in the centre of the 'bump'. This would include places such as Niger, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Congo etc. The route therefore seems forced into a similar on to Ted Simon's, i.e. North-West Africa first, Morocco, across the top through Libya to Egypt, down the East side and then able to move inland further down the continent. I need to do more reading, and will double check all advice to ensure it is reasonable rather than unnecesarily cautious.
- It seems the principal 'safe' route which leaves little other option.
- This ties in nicely with my girlfriend who has just left for her year abroad (as part of her degree) in Morocco. So that would be my first stopping point and I could spend some time there with her and exploring the area.


* The Money:

- Currently working odd, manual jobs through an agency. Only £6 an hour which isn't mind blowing but it all helps. With the overtime I've usually been working I'm getting about £300 per 5 day week (started 2 weeks ago).
- Rather than sitting here working a dead end job for ages to afford it all (which nearly killed me last time I did it) I have some cash invested for such an occasion. It should amount to approximately £6000, to which I will then be adding a number of months of work, however long it takes to plan really. I envisage this being anywhere from 4-6 months. So an approximate total of £6000 + £5400 to £7800 = approx. £11.5k to £14k. This is before buying any bike. Judging by the costs of an XT660 atm I could, if I must, sell the SV and the difference, if any, would not be vast. Or I could use some of that cash to buy the bike and keep the SV for when I get back.
- Judging from a post on here recently, someone asked if $30k would be enough for a RTW including a large number of 'First-Tier' countries as a sub-section on here lists them. Most replies suggest it is plenty, even despite going through Europe, USA etc. So if I can reach the upper end of my projection, £14k = $28k so I'm getting the feeling this should be enough for Africa?


* The Work:

- From my previous experiences of travelling, though admittedly not under my own steam, I know that I can get fed up of constantly moving on, packing up, etc. etc. In other words, I am likely to want to stop from time to time, partly to rest, partly to make local friends and soak up the culture of a region in a way you cannot when you are only passing through.
- Therefore I plan to work in any number of ways while I am out travelling. The principal option is to teach English. I have a TEFL certificate and 6 months experience of solo-teaching classes of 70 13 year olds in China. My thought is that I could apply for local teaching positions if/when I decide to stop somewhere. Although I do not expect to make money from this, from what I have read so far and my experiences in Asia, I could expect to be given food and accomodation. In other words, though not earning I would not be chipping in to the cash reserve, I can stop for free and benefit the local schools while getting to make friends and explore one area in a little more depth.
- Volunteer work on any number of other schemes would also be a viable option.


I guess that is it so far, I am currently spending most of the time when I'm not working reading instead. Just soaking up any and all information I can, on bikes, budgets, visas, vaccinations, countries, so that I can think it all through when I'm at work (which requires no mental exertion so I can still perform fine ).

Just wanted to post it all up really, for one it helps me take an objective look at how far I've got (not far really ). But I would welcome any and all tips you may have, I'm sure there are considerations I have not yet thought of and that in some areas I am being a little naive or even arrogant (my guarded assumption that I'll be able to pitch up anywhere and teach for instance). Thanks in advance for anything you guys and girls may have to offer

Duncan

p.s. apologies if that is an unreadable wall of text, I tried my best to categorise it!
p.p.s. hope this won't anger the forum gods by being in the wrong section. Short of splitting it into loads of separate parts I couldn't find a better place!
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  #2  
Old 12 Sep 2007
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North-West Africa first, Morocco, across the top through Libya to Egypt

Cant do Mk-Alg - see: http://www.sahara-overland.com/routes

This has become shaped more and more by the advice on the FCO website which tends to suggest staying away from...

...just about anywhere foreign. Recognise that they now advise against travel in certain areas of countries and don't write them off as they used to do.

As you will read here nothing wrong with a transit through West- and then central Africa right now, ASAIK (see AMH). The Nile route is easy and quick, which is why LWD did it.

Once its over you'll be amazed how easy it all was.

Ch
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  #3  
Old 12 Sep 2007
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Wink

Hi Duncan,
Welcome is appropriate I guess, so

No need to apologise for your first post IMO - works fine for me and your sections are very clear.

I too have thought about a motorbike maintenance course but, as you say, they are like rocking horse manure nowadays - much easier and cheaper to teach "not very much" with no overheads.
Anyway, I don't reckon that you will get much joy with observing "professional" workshops - too much at stake for the dealers!!
Here's a website that I found a few months back with some useful reading (what more!!):-

http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hub...al-stuff-27640

I agree with getting an old "winter hack" bike and do some work on it; new bikes are all very well, but they don't need working on, usually anyway.
I don't mind taking bits off old ones but I am not keen on making expensive mistakes with the newer technologies; on that front, once you get into FI, canbus technology and the like then doing own maintenance becomes much more difficult. There are loads of threads on here with discussion of these themes, so happy further reading!!

PS *cringe* caught my eye - very accurate!!!!!!
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  #4  
Old 12 Sep 2007
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interesting

Duncan,
As you are discovering, there is a hell of a lot to find out but don't be forced into thinking that you have to 'do' your trip like everyone has done theirs. Incorporating all of the 'best practice', most efficient routes (GPS wpoints), journey-times between x and y isn't the most important thing. Creating the experience you want from your trip is!

People use the Hubb for a number of different reasons; to say hi (as you've done), to tease out hits and tips, sort out a problem, liase with travellers and share resources etc. What it won't do, and other Hubb users correct me if I'm wrong/harsh, is troubleshoot your RTW trip like a teacher marking your homework. All of the answers to your questions are on the Hubb for you to find and it's certainly not my position to tell you how to use this wonderful resource. Don't be disappointed if you don't get a comprehensive reply to your questions - be mindful that everyone else is busy planning trips/hunting for solutions etc. so my only suggestion is to break up your questions into smaller, specific chunks. Check the Hubb to see if it's been posted before, post in the correct areas and above all, remember to give back to the Hubb after you've used it by posting travel news as you research/pass through places and taking time to answer questions if you know the answers.

Hope the planning goes well. I'm off to Africa next week (L.W.D. ).
Ed
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  #5  
Old 12 Sep 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Scott View Post
North-West Africa first, Morocco, across the top through Libya to Egypt

Cant do Mk-Alg - see: Sahara Overland ~ Trans Sahara Routes
Ah, must've read something wrong. The info I saw seemed to suggest it could be done but with careful route picking. My mistake, thanks for the link though. No doubt as I plan my route things will change in one country or another before leaving and it'll have to be worked around. Still, all part of the fun I suppose and if you can't do it from home with the PC then you'll get a sharp shock when it happens out in 'the field' so to speak!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Scott View Post
This has become shaped more and more by the advice on the FCO website which tends to suggest staying away from...

...just about anywhere foreign. Recognise that they now advise against travel in certain areas of countries and don't write them off as they used to do.
I guessed as much, a bit like medicine having to list every possible thing that could go wrong just to cover their own backsides. Just wanted to double check, that opens up another chunk of the continent

Quote:
Originally Posted by Walkabout View Post
Anyway, I don't reckon that you will get much joy with observing "professional" workshops - too much at stake for the dealers!!
Know that a proper franchised dealer wouldn't, the perils of Health & Safety etc. Reckon it would be worth a try with a local independent? Going to one tomorrow, will ask and find out! Ta for the link btw.

Quote:
Originally Posted by edteamslr View Post
What it won't do, and other Hubb users correct me if I'm wrong/harsh, is troubleshoot your RTW trip like a teacher marking your homework. All of the answers to your questions are on the Hubb for you to find and it's certainly not my position to tell you how to use this wonderful resource. Don't be disappointed if you don't get a comprehensive reply to your questions - be mindful that everyone else is busy planning trips/hunting for solutions etc. so my only suggestion is to break up your questions into smaller, specific chunks. Check the Hubb to see if it's been posted before, post in the correct areas and above all, remember to give back to the Hubb after you've used it by posting travel news as you research/pass through places and taking time to answer questions if you know the answers.
Cheers, no offence taken. The last thing I'd want to do is breeze on here and demand to be spoon-fed: "Here's what I want, now plan it for me HUBB people". 'Cos I'd miss out on the important part of knowing/doing it all myself and I'd be up the proverbial creek when on my own when it matters.

Just wanted to put it up, partly as I said for my own peace of mind/to objectively see how wishy-washy it is so far /to semi-lock me in by announcing my intention to the world so I can't chicken out quite so easily ! So thanks for the encouragement one and all, will go root around the rest of the site and perhaps update this/post or contribute to more little things as I go. So much to do, I'm partly tempted just to sort out the bare minimum and bugger off. I imagine you could keep yourself busy planning for ever and never go if you're not careful. Don't want to end up in my own 'Iceman Cometh'!
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Old 12 Sep 2007
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Up to my eyeballs with Congo and whatnot today - found a good website here of a recent west side transit on BMs:
http://www.kilkennytocapetown.com/Route/Route.html

and heard from another guy who did the barge thing out of Ouesso so the book is still broadly accurate (on that page at least)

Ch
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Old 13 Sep 2007
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Duncan you seem to be approaching things very logically ,I don't imagine you'll have many problems that you can't sort out yourself .
Just a couple of points : I would take an off road course if I were you ,it will sharpen up your skills and save a lot of time that you would have wasted if you went thrashing around fields and gravel pits on your own ,trying to acqauint yourself with "off road techniques".
As regards the bike mechanics ,I think it pays to have as much knowledge as possible .However modern bikes are much more reliable than in days of yore ,so I wouldn't worry too much about your lack of knowledge .But read as much as you can about your bike of choice and find out it's quoibles and the remedies .
Your choice of a 650-ish thumper is a great one and there are several that would be suitable ,none are perfect but all are good enough .Go to dealers and get your bum on the seats and try 'em out .
Preventative maintenance is extremely important but is very frequently overlooked by "hard up" younger bikers .It is easy to change oils and check levels and adjust chains and check sprockets - but many blogs have tales of woe about stripped threads ,broken bolts ,worn out chains and sprockets that came as a complete surprise to the rider . - Bullshit ![ But it makes for entertaining reading though ]
Most bikes will look after you if you look after them and doing your own servicing makes you more familiar with the bike and can mean that you will fix small problems before they become big ones .

So just go for it .
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Old 13 Sep 2007
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Wink Trials riding

Hi again Duncan,
Dodger's post reminds me: get along to your local trials riding club and beg, borrow or otherwise get your hands on a bike there - you will find them very friendly, if you are genuinely interested in learning from them.

Motocross racers won't have so much time to talk with you - they are too busy racing!! Just a thought about offroad riding skills.

Dodger,
Nice quote for a signature - how about tiding up the spelling/typing!!?
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Old 13 Sep 2007
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Smile LTD.....Long Time Dead

I wish I had done what you are proposing many years ago, and I wish you all the very best, whether your trip is LWR,LWD who cares, I hate not the planning but the paperwork, when I did a Senegal my attitude was look upon it as 'doing' a London-Newcastle run everday for however long, now, if I was going to Newcastle, say today I'd fill the tank, check the oil and be on my way, I know some people love the saying. "Fail to plan,Plan to fail" but I met some of the nicest people whilst sitting by the roadside with '78 Meriden Bonneville years ago.

An idea for keeping costs down without using the offroad schools is to approach your local TRF or Enduro club, see if anyone could either lend you a bike or give a bit of tuition on theres. I know our London based Enduro club is very helpful, as I am sure most other clubs are as well.
Have fun
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Old 14 Sep 2007
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"-- - how about tiding up the spelling/typing!!? -- "

Ah thank you , I shall "tid" up the spelling and the typing!!? forthwith and
verily I shall perform grammatical surgery and strive to incorporate a missing comma .

Thus ; 'tis done !
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