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Travellers' questions that don't fit anywhere else This is an opportunity to ask any question, and post any notice you wish that doesn't fit into one of the other sections.
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Old 15 Mar 2012
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So - travelling from London to Cape Town

Hey there guys

I'm planning a trip in circa 3 years from here in London to Cape Town and will be doing this on a bike (of the motor persuasion!).

What I want to know - is, well, rather bizarre!

I've done several trips in the past, although actually in a car but the whole route has been organised by someone else.

This one I will be planning on my own and, most likely, as it stands will be doing this on my own (although, 3 years is a long time!).

As I said, I'll be heading into Africa, probably through Turkey into Egypt and head into Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya etc etc etc - basically head south from there.

I don't want to just bash the miles out on the tarmac and would like to get off the black stuff and onto some trails - but what's the best way to find them?

Also, a second seemingly odd question when I'm in the middle of Kenya (or some other random African country), and need fuel - how the hell am I going to go about finding it?!?! Obviously, my bike will have a good sized tank, plus I'll carry a bit extra, but I doubt my Garmin will have all the fuel stations in it like it does for here in the UK!!

Cheers for the help guys

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Old 15 Mar 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMoose View Post
I don't want to just bash the miles out on the tarmac and would like to get off the black stuff and onto some trails - but what's the best way to find them?
That's the right spirit! There is a lot of tarmac in Africa and it's getting more every day.

This is where preparation comes in, if you are not prepared you will probably follow the black road south - as most others.
The Michelin maps are a good starting point but they don't show all the smaller roads, so often more detailed maps are needed.
If you have a good map-shop nearby visit it and see what they can offer. I've found that people that works in dedicated map shops quite often are very interested in what they are doing. For parts of Africa you can get old army maps but they are very old and even if I've used a lot of them I would say they are of limited use. French and German maps are often good.
You can also search the internet for blogs and other peoples routes. Tracks for Africa (a GPS-map) has a lot of the more popular offroad-routes, but it's coverage are best for southern parts of Africa.


Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMoose View Post
Also, a second seemingly odd question when I'm in the middle of Kenya (or some other random African country), and need fuel - how the hell am I going to go about finding it?!?!
It's not an odd question. Fuel and water are the two main factors when planning a route. I also think the lack of preparation for this is one of the reason why people follow the tarmac.
Long range (both fuel and water) is the key to go wherever you like.

Some pointers are:
  • The Mich maps are good at finding petrol along the bigger roads
  • T4A maps
  • Ask people (but don't rely to much on their answers)
  • A lot of villages have some liters of petrol for sale, but not all.
  • Petrol stations might run out of petrol but it will probably be both food and water available so you just have to wait...
  • Use a bike with good range.
  • Know your limitations (or be prepared to walk)
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Old 16 Mar 2012
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Thanks for the reply - sounds like it's all about preparation, preparation, preparation!!

I've got circa 3 years so I think there's enough time there
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Old 22 Mar 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMoose View Post
I don't want to just bash the miles out on the tarmac and would like to get off the black stuff and onto some trails - but what's the best way to find them?

Also, a second seemingly odd question when I'm in the middle of Kenya (or some other random African country), and need fuel - how the hell am I going to go about finding it?!?! Obviously, my bike will have a good sized tank, plus I'll carry a bit extra, but I doubt my Garmin will have all the fuel stations in it like it does for here in the UK!!
Nothing bizarre about these questions. Some of the best ones I've seen actually as they are both key points in finding the most interesting places in the world.

I cannot speak for Africa, but I would be surprised if it is much different than Central America and South America where I am traveling now. I ask other motorcycle travelers about interesting locations. I keep track of other travelers and share information back and forth as we come across it. I ask locals for a way to get where I am going that uses dirt roads (yes, this is frequently difficult when you don't speak the language, but it can be done). Use Google maps when you have internet access and take notes and take pictures of the screen with your camera. Use GPS maps, but many interesting roads will not be on there so don't rely on it too much. Get the best paper map you can find. Read online blogs of other travelers.

But most importantly, never miss an opportunity to ask the locals about interesting locations!

Paper maps. I always use the best one I can find. However, I did not bother to buy any before I left the USA and I do not regret that decision. It means I frequently do not have a good paper map and I am certain I've missed dirt roads because of it, but even the best paper maps give only a hint that a road might exist for many countries I've been to. I still find lots of interesting dirt roads.

Gasoline is all about preparation. I have a large tank to give me the maximum possible range. If I am headed in a direction where I know gas will be hard to find, I fill up at every possible opportunity until I'm within range of a city where I know gas can be found. But I have had to ask around and buy gas from helpful locals when I accidentally ran short. I really should carry a siphon to help out with this, but I've never gotten around to it.

I did not really plan out the trip or buy maps. But I prepared my bike and my gear as best I could to go wherever I want, then modified it while on the trip to make it better. Then I ask people along the way where the interesting places are and travel more or less at random. I've found this a fantastic way to travel.
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