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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 24 Oct 2005
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Vespa through Africa

A friend of mine, currently riding in Africa on his BMW dakar, has inspired me to get onto the saddle for some serious adventuring. I have not decided on the type of ride or where to go, but I think riding Africa on a Vespa would be radical (people have riden around the world on Vespas before, so I know it can be done).

I'd like to ride from Cape Town and up east. Unfortunatley I don't have the opportunity (or guts) to leave home for extended periods of time.
My plan is therefore to do Africa one piece at a time. Most likely I will only be able to do it in 3-4 week intervals, sometimes longer.

Though a lot of people would have opinions against not taking ones time, I would be going pretty fast. However, I don't know what FAST is in Africa.

So here are my questions. How far would I likely travel in a day (6-10 hours). What speeds would I likely average? Which delays would i likely encounter (how severe?).

Other questions: How long would it take to travel from Cape Town to Mombasa? How long would it take to travel From Cape Town to Dar es Salaam? Anybody know the distances on these routes?

The Vespa I would be riding would have 10" wheels and be able to do 110 km/h on good roads. On poor roads I have no idea as I have never taken it on anything but paved roads. Purchasing a motorcycle ideal for this trip is an option, but if the challenge is not to great, I'd really like to do it on a Vespa. As a matter of fact, I'd like to go around the world bit by bit on a Vespa.

So why the Vespa? I ride both motorcycles and scooters, and believe it or not, in my opinion, the scooter is in many instances a superior to motorcycles. While you on a motorcycle have to use a bit of muscle to handle it, with scooters telepathy will do. In congested traffic, I will in lane splitting outrun allmost any motorcycle. The protection of the leg shield combined with a wind shield, in addition to a comfortable sitting position where one can shift around, makes for a very comfortable ride. And slow speeds is not exactly a down side when you want to take in the scenery. The negative aspects is power, small wheels, poor shock absorption and no cred amongst other two wheelers. Also, it is cheap and road side repairs are a brease. Allmost anything can be fixed with the most basic of tools. It can take serious abuse and just keep on running and will run on crocodiles blood if it had to (well this I'm not sure about). But, most of all, it is one of our most important cultural heritages and deserves to be treated as such. Also, I think it would give my adventure a bit of spice. Lastly, people are not going to try to hustle me as they'll think I'm dead broke :d

Any opinions on any of these matters are appreciated. I am a newbie here and I am only in my preliminary research stages. I have however wanted to do something like this for many years... So, I hope you guys will not my newbie foolishness make a lasting impression. I'm sure you guys will straighten me out eventually.
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  #2  
Old 25 Oct 2005
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Hi Wheelie,

Have a look at the statement in the introductory text to the 'Which Bike?' forum (where this thread should belong?) - 'we believe any bike will do'. As I think someone else on this site (Grant?) has said, IMHO the key is that you like your machine, and it sounds like you like your Vespa.

You may struggle on unsealed roads, but having said that I have a film at home showing scooters competing in the Scottish Six Days Trial (a tough event) in the 50s or 60s, although the film does show them struggling on the hills.

IMHO the keys to travelling in Africa are having the ability to cope with a little stress, carrying sufficient fuel and water, adopting a relaxed pace, and travelling light.

The so-called 'rally-replica' machines are popular with reason, but you don't have to use one. There's a good travelogue by a rider currently in Africa on a Royal Enfield at http://www.ipercolate.net/

Cheers.
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Old 25 Oct 2005
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There's a man you should google for...Giorgio Bettinelli, unfortunately totally unknown because although he has written 4 books about his travels these have only ever been published in Italy, and in italian. Giorgio has spent the past 10 years riding around around the world on PX Vespas, and has crossed Africa at least 3 times, I just finished reading his last book which tells only about the African part of his incredible world tour by vespa, from Patagonia to Tasmania Overland. Apart from slight mishaps, such as melting the clutch in the middle of the Sahara then getting kidnapped and robbed of absolutely all his belongings in Congo he seems to have had very few problems. There isn't that much about him on the net, but I hope you find some info that can help...Personally I find Vespas great for relaxed travel (I rode mine to Istanbul two up with plenty of luggage and guitar, not so long ago) Cheers, Antonio.
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Old 26 Oct 2005
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Know about this Italian Bettinelli fella, and I really want to read his books. I have searched forever for english editions of these books but no luck so far. Do you, or anybody else know if any of his books are translated to english and where I can find them?

I just finished reading the tales of the enfield fellow. Great reading! This is the way to go! I mean, your ride is atleast half the experience, right? I am a bit worried about the Vespas capabilities in sand though. Any comments?

I'd be really greatful if anybody could fill me in with info that can help me calculate distances, travel time, speeds, etc. I am really clueless here. As I said, I'd be going pretty fast, meaning I would not stop to explore a great deal...

Thanx for all the input guys!
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Old 26 Oct 2005
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Hello Wheelie – well I certainly admire your spirit to do Africa on a V. It sounds that like me you are unable to do a prolonged trip hence your interest in traversing Africa in parts. My two cents however is why don’t you consider picking a country in Africa and touring around there for 3 to 4 weeks as opposed to trying to cross the whole continent. Heck you may decide that after a couple of countries that you’d like to see another part of the world. I’m also in no position to take a prolonged adventure so I’ve decide to spend a month in Kenya (Jan) on a rented bike. After that trip I may return to Africa or go elsewhere. Many years ago I traveled India on an Enfield which was a fantastic experience. But whatever you end up doing I wish you the best of luck with your adventures.

Carpe Diem
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Old 26 Oct 2005
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Thanks...

Well, part of the fascination for me is to do a connected route, I don't know why this is, but it just is. Whether I do part b-c, then a-b, and then c-d d, and so on, really doesn't matter to me as long as the final result is a connected route.

I seriously doubt that crossing Africa on a Vespa in 4 weeks would at all be possible, but then again, what do I know? This is why I am here, to get such input.

A friend of mine told me that Cape Town to Mombasa would take 6 weeks with the wind in my back, but that it could be done in 4. He also told me that in Northern Africa I should figure about 200 km a day, and in Sub-Saharan Africa I should figure 125-150 km a day. I thought both sounded little. Then once again, what do I know? For all I'd know it could be half that. I don't know how far it is from Cape Town to Mombasa... 7000 km or so? Anybody know? If this is the case, and one could only do 125-150 km a day, then it would take 7-8 weeks, which means I would only be able to travel half that distance in the time I have at hand. Any comments?

I would also like to comment, that as Far as I know, my friend has never riden in this part of Africa. Input from anybody who has would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 26 Oct 2005
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Hi there,

This plan sounds great! I have a little Honda C90 at the moment as I have had to sell my big bikes to save up for a house, which seems to be taking forever...

I am planning on taking lots of trips into the depths of Europe on my C90. As with your Vespa, they go on forever and are easy enough to fix - or at least bodge if necessary :-)

I think that one big issue you may have to consider is fuel use/storage. I don't know exactly what fuel tank a Vespa has, but my C90 only has a tiny 3.5 litre tank. This gives about 70 miles range which is fine here in the UK, but it may be an issue in Africa. You may want to look into fitting extra fuel tanks etc.
I'll try and find some links to tanks that can be added as extras.

I'd be interested in hearing about your future trips or plans - please keep posting to this board ;-)

Regards,
Simon

[This message has been edited by simondavis2002 (edited 26 October 2005).]
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Old 26 Oct 2005
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Hi Simon,

My Vespa has 7 or 8 liter fuel capacity. I would be bringing a Jerry can of some sort. I really don't want to get stuck because I made a wrong turn. As for your 90 cc, I'd say that with all the gear, water and fuel you "should" carry, Africa could be tough. The Vespa I would be riding would be a 200 cc, and I am concidering kitting it (but worried about reliability). I am very much interested in joining up with someone who would want to ride something similar.

As for bringing extra fuel and such, I am thinking about fitting two Givi boxes on the rear rack, one on top of the other. This will allow me to secure my luggage from theft, while at the same making access a snap. I would probably also concider a Givi side case mounted on my front leg shield luggage rack. In addition the scooter has a glove box behind the leg shield and another one in one of the side cowels. In total we are talking about 150 liters of storage. The foot board and center channel can be used for storage as well (for instance a fuel can), as can the back of the bench seat. If the scooter can handle the weight I could bring everything I own :d

I am also concidering making a practice run in Marocco, maybe even all the way down to Dakar.
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Old 26 Oct 2005
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For planning your route you could try using the 3 Michelin maps that cover the continent.

I covered around 200km per day on pistes, more on sealed roads, this was on a lightly loaded KTM 640 LC4. As I plan my next trip to Africa, I'm planning on an average of 200km per day regardless of terrain.

Be careful when estimating the times from point A to point B. 200km may not sound very much for travelling in Europe, but in Africa you could encounter roadblocks from all manner of authorities, relaxed service in roadside restaurants, washed out roads - the list goes on. Crossing a frontier can take half a day or longer. Also, machine problems and punctures may be more likely, as the ambient conditions can be harsh - the heat, dust, thorns from trees.

I don't want to put you off, but adopting a leisurely pace and schedule can help.

One other thing - does your Vespa have a two-stroke engine? If so is 2-stroke oil widely available for your planned route? In francophone NW Africa I would say yes - there's loads of Mobylette's around. Don't know for the east, central and south.

Hope this helps.
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Old 26 Oct 2005
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The scooter is a two stroke... The oil mixture is 2% and the fuel tank about 7-8 liters. I think the manual says it uses 0,2 liters of fuel for every 10 km, but I bet that it is more, probably more like 0,33. If we are talking about the shortest distance from Tangier to Dakar for instance (what is this, about 3000 kms?), I would have to fuel her up about 15 times and use about 2 liters of oil... I guess I could always carry all the oil I need for the trip.

I guess I would have to plan to go far with time to spare. If I am not held up and much goes as planned, I could carry on further. Plan a distance of lets say 3 weeks, but room for four.

This leads me to another question. How far in advance does one need to planshipping ones wheels home? Could I just arrive at Mombassa, or Dakat for that matter, and have it taken care of straight away, or would I have to wait? How long would I most likely have to wait, and how long would I risk having to wait?
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Old 27 Oct 2005
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On both my Africa trips I've just turned up at the shippers (Kamino in The Gambia), paid up and dropped my bike off, to be reunited with it a few days later.

If you're heading down to Dakar, I've also heard good reports about Air France cargo.

You could try reading The Adventure Motorcycling Handbook for more info on shipping, as well as having a good look round this site.

PS re: distance per day - it's not advisable to ride at night in Africa.

[This message has been edited by Ian (edited 26 October 2005).]
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Old 28 Oct 2005
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That's a great idea only I would recommend that you try to stay longer than just a few weeks at a time because it takes some getting used to the culture shock (at both ends). Everytime I entre a place like Africa it takes a while to get used to the chaos and it also takes a while to get used to the order back home. Also I think no-one can answer your question well about distances is because no-one actually knows. The last road sign I remember seeing in Marocco near a place called Bouizakarne showed St Louis as 2257kms to the south that took me a better of a week including Sahara crossing.
You can make a straight line guess from maps such as Michelin 741 (please someone correct me if I'm wrong with the map #) for north Africa, but that can be dangerous as 100kms might take you 1.5 hours or all day.
I say go for it, but I reckon you should think about a full-time assault. Transport back home or storage may not always be available.
If you do a trail run and want to ship out of Dakar as I did, try to buy a ticket with Brussels Airlines then you can get 1/2 price air freight with them. Air France can do it but very expensive. Lufthansa won't do it anymore. The other option is shipping it, only if you don't need the bike for up to 2-3 weeks.
BTW, Vespas have big street cred as far as I'm concerned. Class.
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Old 31 Oct 2005
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I think there's no problem for oil. In my moped, which is supossed to go with 4% 2 stroke oil per liter of petrole, I used from 2 to 8 or maybe 10%!
They add some more in Westren Africa "till it smokes" as they said, then it's good... no smoke, problem!
In Guinea, I'm sure I had some 4 stroke oil inside most of the time, black one (maybe second hand!), but still it was working! You'll just have to clean the inner engine more often of course, as it's nor burning properly. But I never had any problem with the engine.

Simon: I've meet some english guys in Burkina on honda mate80 (I think it's similar to C90) they were riding from london to GHANA, for petrol, they added a extra metal tank between theirs legs. I would say 10 liters. If you give mùe your e mail, I can send you a picture of their bikes ready to go!

vince

http://africanmoped.over-blog.com
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Old 31 Oct 2005
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Hi Vince,

Thanks for the info - please send pics to "simondavis_backupAThotmail.com" (change AT for @)

Thanks again & regards,
Simon
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