Its always a refreshing change when you enter a new country and the fact that we are now heading south reenergises our determination and spirits. The scenery is relatively the same but gradually the green trees are replaced by cactus and red DUST, remindng us we are heading back to the desert! We don't anticipate the journey that lies ahead of us & the troubles we're to come across through the desert!
Rob & a little cheeky Malian girl
We rest in Bamako, where it turns out to be a haven for other motorcyclists and hence we now have doubled our convoy. Leopoldo, a spanish on R100GS BMW and Dereck, an Englishman on KTM640 conjure a great team of now 4. Whilst in Bamako, the boys decide to buy new dirt tyres aswell as Rob & I both manageing to get punctures, so it's out with the tyre levers to dedicate the day to tyre changing (I think it was a total of about 15 to 20 with pinched tyres and lifted patches)
trying to find the punctures
After some serious sweat & frustration, Rob realises that one of his prized tyre lever is missing!!!! he's utterly dissappointed and its nowhere to be found, fearing that someone has stolen it - Rob offers an award for its return......but no luck. All Rob wanted for xmas is his tyre lever back.
Cute girls following me around a local mosque
After a few days rest, we leave Bamako but within 5 mins both Leo & Dereck have troubles with their front wheel/steering. We get instant 'side of the road' mechanics to have a look assuming the tyres are not popped out of the bead. After some soap suds & readjusting, we head offroad to Djenne, meanadering through little gorgeous villages towering with the unique Mali mud mosques. Strangely, the KTM falls inferring there is still something wrong with the handlebars or front wheel - we think nothing of it, just telling him jokingly he's a bad rider!
Crossing parts of the Niger river to get to Tombouctou
Next day, its Xmas and it's been 300km offroad since Bamako. The tracks get quite sandy & dusty where we have to ride far apart for relief. We somehow get lost, proving impossible to find our way out as the locals point us in all sorts of directions. These places are obviously not use to foriengers but the children surround happily & we take photos of them. We finally all relieved to hit a red hard surfaced road! As we rest under a shady tree, Leo spots an unusal object sticking out of Derecks front tyre, he then casually sais 'Hey, Rob, I think we found your tyre lever!' and sure enough there was Rob's 300mm tyre lever sticking out on both end through Dereck's front tyre!!!! we can't believe it, Merry bloody Xmas
a 300mm tyre lever embedded into Dereck's KTM
Dereck take this extremely well with his dry english humour, we paid some local to get the tyre fixed in the nearest town with inner rubber linings and we place zip ties to provide extra support.
Tyre fixed by a local Africa
zip ties solution
That night we camp on a white claypan & have German ham for xmas dinner. We swap bikes to test ride on the flat claypan, I'm exhilarated by riding Rob's Africa Twin & Leo's R100GS BMW - blew my hair away!!
one of our camps
When we thought our troubles were over, we didn't realise that the KTM's tyres were just the beginning. We have now discovered water in the engine, producing milky liquid & we're in the middle of nowhere! No idea what the problem is, we drain the water from the radiator & constantly change the oil so the engine doesn't konk itself. As we ride down the road, the bike overheats..... we prevail slowly as we have to get it to the closest town.
Draining milky oil from the KTM
We make it to Douentza, where Dereck leave his bike and awaits spare parts from Germany whilst Rob, Leo & I ride to Tombouctou. 195kms of sandy corrugations & DUST DUST DUST but it's all worth it to get to the Niger river & the infamous Tombouctou!
heading to sandy Tombouctou
Surrounded completely, can you spot me?
Dereck decides to ride his bike slowly to Ouagadougu, Burkina Faso as this is the closest town the parts can sent to. So here we go, the harmattan blows over so its hard to see what lies ahead as we head to the dogon country. We agree that Rob leads, Leo & Dereck in the middle whilst I am tailend charlie as I am the only one who can pick up my own bike! The montainous Dogon country is spectacular but we find it hard to take it in as the roads are difficult to navigate, Dereck falls a few times. I round a corner to see the KTM down, Dereck too - fearing he is caught underneath it & his left pannier bent on an angle. I run up hoping everything is ok, Dereck is swearing obscenities! I now realised that he is okay but the fuel tap has snapped & petrol was spurting everywhere, so now useless to get off the bike, he now has his finger jammed in the fuel tap to stop the flow. We fill the flowing juice into jerry cans & patch up the broken tap. We're all exhausted & tired, trying to find a place to camp. An hour or two later, we very randomly ride into a barrage of tents, which turns out to be a running group from Europe, with an amazing one-legged motorbike mechanic - talk about travellers luck!
Then Leo discovers a loose drive shaft on his BMW, broken bearings & more troubles. After a day of grease & fending off local kids, we ride slowly to Yougana & spend News Years Eve with the spanish tradition of eating grapes on each gong & sleeping under a straw shed with the wind still blowing. The next day, we are distracted temporaily when we take a hike through the Dogon country & amazing ancient Tellem villages in the mountains.
So refreshed after our hike, we head towards Burkina Faso, Dereck's taking it easy & again I am riding last. 6km from Yougana, we come to a halt after Leo stops suddenly. He is obviously okay but something in his expression tells me its not all okay. He points to his drive shaft revealing a huge crack right through it, again our luck continues! We are going nowhere fast so set up camp for the night whilst Leo doubles up in search of a donkey & cart to take to the nearest village........
Broken swing arm on the BMW drive shaft!
local donkey & cart carrying the injured BMW in the middle of Mali
Thar she blows, the Harmattan over the dusty roads towards Ouagadougou. I'm handling the bike on an angle & squint my eyes to avoid getting sand in my vision. Its a long hard day of riding but we push ourselves to make the distance we planned. Thirsty, dirty and with a mouth full of sand, we arrive to Ouaga exhausted.
playing in mounds of cotton in Western Burkina Faso
Hay carrying cyclist on some remote dirt road
We chilled in relaxed Ouagadougou whilst waiting for the troubled bikes to arrive from Mali as Leo & Dereck arrive by public transport. We spend over a week ordering bread from the balcony, eating at a cheap local restaurant & drinking condensed milk coffees. After the bikes finally arrive, the convoy diminishes back to the original team of Rob & I as Leo & Dereck head to Lome, Togo to fix their bikes.
Cannes Sucre, fields of sugar cane near Banfora
Rob & I head to Boromo to spot elephants by the river but disappointedly so, no Dumbo sited, just their grassy remains.
elephant spotting in Boromo
We head further west to Banfora, where we board a sinking pirogue (buckets of waters scooped over the edge) on Lake Tengrela & spot hippos surprisingly close. We climb the Domes of Fabedougou (which are almost identical to the Bungle Bungles in Oz), see the pics of Sindou & swim in the nordic fresh Karfiguela waterfalls.
Lake Tegrela near Banfora
Hungry hungry hippos
Domes of Fabedougou
We decide to reunite with the boys at Mole National Park in Ghana when and if their bikes get fixed, so that's where we are heading.
We hike through Mole National Park with our guide PK, we quietly tip toe past an elephant to watch a herd of them bath in the waterhole. It's a little suspicious as it lifts it trunk to smell us as we are upwind. After awhile it doesn't seem to be bother & joins the rest of the elephants in the water. Meanwhile, another elephant nicknamed 'Action' is circling us, PK tells us to back off as we are in a slightly vunerable position. 'Action' gets a little closer, so PK throws a few sticks to deter it but again we are told to get further back. The boys then start to throw sticks too but the elephant keeps coming forward and then it starts to charge us...... PK nervously loads his rifle and BANG! The elephant lifts its tail, flaps his ears and runs off.
up close in Mole National Park
which one's Dumbo?
Our first siting of WILD elephants in northern Ghana.
Lucky for our guide, PK the elephant ran far away and we didn't get flattened! We walked back up the hill with jelly legs as it settles in what just happened to then find another elephant leaning against a tree, but don't worry this one's the harmless one nicknamed 'people's friend'
me, PK (our lifesaving guide), Rob, Leo and Dereck after our elephant charge (the friendly one in the background)
I awake early & decide to walk to spot some elephants from the viewing platform, as I talk to another traveller, 'people's friend sneaks right up behind me! I watch & marvel at this gigantic creature only just metres away eating the leaves from the tree beside us! After his leafy meals, you wouldn't believe it but the elephant wlks over & drinks from the nearby pool, something I didn't expect to see in Africa.
An elephant nicknamed 'people's friend' sneaks up on me in my pyjamas
We didn't believe it until we saw it!!!!!!!!
After an our amazing wildlife experience, sand, surf & coconuts here we come. We are desparate to get to the coast for a change in scenery & atmosphere & that's what we get. We head to Axim, Dixcove for a bit of circle work on the beach & Kakum National Park treetop canopy walk.
Mucking around in Lake Volta
The humid heat is starting to soar and its unbearable hot to stop riding and even worse at night with next to no breeze. We head to Wli waterfalls, the highest in West Africa and wow what a sight...surrounded by millions of bats nearby, the water crashes down (and it's the dry season), we then head into our next new country.
a paddle in Wli waterfalls, the highest in West Africa
Rob spotting wild elephants!
HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!
"The calendar is magnificent!"
"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"
We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!
Next HU Events
- UK Haggs Bank: Sep 19-21
- USA California: Sep 25-28
- Aus Queensland: Oct 3-6
- Aus Perth: Oct 10-12
- Germany Autumn: Oct 23-26
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- NEW! Aus NSW: Oct 31-Nov 2
- NEW! South Africa: Nov 13-16
- NEW! USA Virginia: Apr 9-12, 2015
- NEW! HUMM Morocco: May 13-16, 2015
Take 40% off Road Heroes Part 1 until October 31 only!
Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).
"Inspiring and hilarious!"
"I loved watching this DVD!"
"Lots of amazing stories and even more amazing photographs, it's great fun and very inspirational."
Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'HEROES' on your order when you checkout.
What others say about HU...
"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA
"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada
"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia
"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders
10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!
NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!
Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!
What turns you on to motorcycle travel?
Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!
New to Horizons Unlimited?
New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!
Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.Read more about Grant & Susan's story
Membership - help keep us going!
Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.
You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.
Books & DVDs
All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.
MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!
Story and photos copyright © All Rights Reserved.
Contact the author:
Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.
Hosted by: Horizons
Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!