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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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Old 14 Nov 2009
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Road conditions - west coast

Hi folks

I got an email from Ollie who was asking me about my route down the west coast. I thought I'd put the question on here to pick the community's brains, rather than just mine.

Ollie should appear in due course.

Here's Ollie's question:

> We are in the process of planning a trip from London to South Africa in
> a large lorry. It is a charity project and I am trying to get some info
> on road conditions. The idea is to take an articulated lorry all the way
> carrying aid. It is my job to find out if this is possible. The route
> would follow the west coast of Africa via Senegal, Cameroon etc. I am
> not sure what route you took but you are the only person I have found
> who seems to have been traveling through Africa in a similar sized
> vehicle.
> It would be great to pick your brains about our route.
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Old 14 Nov 2009
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Probably not a good idea

I'd say getting to Nigeria will be fine... Morocco to Nigeria is almost all tar now.

However, from Cameroon until Namibia you'll have a LOT of problems trying to get an artic through. Here's an example: If you take the coast route from Nigeria into Cameroon (there are 2 border crossings, 1 in the north, 1 in the south near the coast) you will have to drive along what is often regarded as the worst road in Africa. It is known as the Mamfe road, it is 60kms long (from the border, to a town 60kms into Cameroon called Mamfe). In the rainy season that 60kms will take trucks and 4x4 / SUVs a week! There are sections of that road where the mud is so bad you can expect to do about 400m in a day!! There are potholes so deep that when we drove our truck into them, if you're standing on the side of the road you can't see the truck anymore! I hope I'm not freaking you out - I thought it was awesome, what an adventure like this is all about! I'm just trying to paint a picture that makes you realise the kind of conditions you'll encounter! It's by no means impossible, but it is very tough going.

I never once saw an artic on those roads. However, we often took the more off the beaten track routes. I think perhaps if you went on more conservative routes you may have a chance... although do keep in mind that Cameroon, Gabon, Congo and DRC are all predominantly equatorial jungle, with few or no tar sections. Getting an artic through thick mud... hmmm, I don't envy you! I'd say a rigid axle would be much more realistic, and a 4x4 even better.

All the local trucks I saw were rear-wheel drive, with double rear wheels. They often got stuck in the more tricky sections. As you know we had a 4x4 which just ate the mud. If you can, I'd suggest going for a 4x4 truck... if not, then a rigid axle with double rear wheels. I'd highly suggest not taking an artic. Best of all, buy mine!

Try speak to some of the overland companies - they may have more info on a feasible route. I know Dragoman does the west coast route... I'm sure there are others.

Hopefully some other people on here will have interesting things to say?


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Old 14 Nov 2009
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Ollie I would say good luck with an artic! Thats where we will be headed some time soonish!

Steve, according to Dragomans website they do not do the bit between Nigeria and Namibia African Adventure Travel Overland Trips ?

Why an artic at all? If that does get stuck how will you get it out? How would a carnet work with that, do you need one?? What will the trailer do downhill on slippery mud?! If an artic has never been down the middle bit its fair to say even with a good surface it won't fit?

Wouldn't a number of rigid two axle trucks, perhaps one of which had 4*4 and a winch, be better if the roads were bad?

If you insisted on one vehicle perhaps a trailer with a steering axle at the front? Then you could drive the small low geared tow vehicle (with winch) through the tough bit first, then pull the trailer from better ground? No idea how easy that would be in practice!?!?! Backing up would be a little harder too!

IMHO if you're taking someones donations to people in need you want to be sure it'll get there, an artic makes that less likely driving all that way. Ship the middle bit? Use local transport for that part? Take a bulldozer? A coach load of year out students with shovels and bowsaws?!
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Old 14 Nov 2009
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You'll certainly have to make friends with the local truckers as they'd be the only people to help if you got stuck but if you're avoiding Cam/Gab/Con/DRC/Angola then you'll have no problems with road conditions, as mentioned earlier it is 99% tarmac or very near-tarmac. You can probably put a truck on a Carnet but expect the borders to take longer - they just won't believe you're not up to something dodgy.

You will also attract attention from people wanting lifts! All that space in the back will be too tempting to the locals and their animals and you'll probably spend a fair amount of time evicting them whenever you stop!
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Old 17 Nov 2009
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Thats great, thank you for all your advice, especially about the type of truck to take. So the general consensus is that it could be possible from the UK to around Nigeria and everything from there will be a real issue. Steve, you mention the coast road in Nigeria, heading into Cameroon. In your experience is this the main route that overlanders take? Looking at the map it seems to be the only way into the country in that region?
What are peoples thoughts on Togo and Benin road conditions?
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Old 17 Nov 2009
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I work for Oasis Overland Oasis Overland - Overland adventure travel | Oasis Overland and have done London to Capetown 5 times in 4x4,6x4 and 2 wheel drive Trucks.4x4 or 6x4 is defenitly better but we always managed in the 2 wheel drives.years ago a few overland companies,economic and Truck Africa,took 40 foot artic trucks through Ziare,lot of work but they managed
Last year it took us 10 days to do 200km on the Mamfe road in cameroon as no trucks had been down it for 2 months and was the worst ive ever seen it but we got through in a 6x4 (had to employ 10 locals to help dig)

So anything is posible if you have the time,and you definitly feel like you have acheived somthing

Cheers Grant
Just in Moroco now heading down to SA again
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Old 19 Nov 2009
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Originally Posted by okokok2 View Post
...the coast road in Nigeria, heading into Cameroon. In your experience is this the main route that overlanders take? Looking at the map it seems to be the only way into the country in that region?
In the south yes. There is another border in the far north overlanders use, crossing at Limani. Go on the A4-7 from Maiduguri in northern Nigeria through Bama and on to the border at Limani. I have no experience of this border, but it is possible to cross here.

Originally Posted by okokok2 View Post
What are peoples thoughts on Togo and Benin road conditions?
Absolutely fantastic - no issues at all, tar all the way (bearing in mind I stuck pretty much exclusively to the coast)
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