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Photo by Igor Djokovic, camping above San Juan river, Arizona USA

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Igor Djokovic,
camping above San Juan river,
Arizona USA



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  #46  
Old 10 May 2023
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Nigeria to Cameroon border crossing (if you're here for information this is the bit you really need to see)

Having got to Calabar we had no idea where to go or how to find a way across the border. We Googled a number of things before Richard looked up the customs. We went to the customs HQ building and explained that we were trying to find a boat to Cameroon. The staff were very helpful and before long a number of people were on the case. A shipping agent was called, someone came up to meet us and took us to the company office. They said they had a boat leaving the next day which could take us and the bikes. Price was 350 000 Niara (about 450 Euros). They don't take card payments and ATM's only dispense 10 000 Niara at a time. It was a major struggle to find a way to pay. The bike loading is dependent on the tide (to get the gangway level) so they said come back at 7am for loading, boat leaves at 12pm gets to an anchor point for the night and enters port in daylight the next day. None of that happened as in reality the boat doesn't have a schedule, it just goes when a full cargo load has been achieved. Next day after much waiting around, we were told the boat wasn't going that day, try again the next day. During the day there was a guy sitting in a car outside a dock warehouse and I was told to go and see him. He said he was the deputy director of the Nigerian Secret Service (NSS). He asked which country I was from and when I said, UK, he said he was the equivalent of MI6. He said we'd have a chat the next day and I didn't foresee a problem. The main problem for us was that if the boat leaves on a Sunday, it gets in on a Monday to Tiko, Cameroon which is in the rebel held territory. The rebels have declared Monday a no travel day, anyone travelling on a Monday is a legitimate target. At this rate we'd have to ride in rebel territory on a Monday or find a hotel in Tiko.
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  #47  
Old 10 May 2023
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The next day we were down at the port for 7am. The bikes were loaded and we changed out of our riding kit. We spent some time hanging around and it became clear the boat wasn't going to leave at 12. The immigration officers hadn't turned up yet and people were milling about the dock waiting. The NSS man was sitting in his car again. Later we were called to immigration, it started by going into the darkened warehouse. Inside was a cage with a desk and a bench. NSS man sat there and proceeded to ask us questions about who, why, what, when about our trip to Nigeria. He had some incoherent rambling in amongst the questions. Then he asked who was sponsoring our trip. I assumed he meant commercial sponsors and we don't have any. We're just two guys who are self funding a trip through Africa so we said we didn't have sponsors. After some more rambling about the inequality of the treatment of Nigerians by their own government and the way Nigeria is portrayed badly by Western media, he declared we were state sponsored spies using motorcycle travel as a cover story. That's just nonsense and bizarre but very serious if he actually believes it. We were in a very perilous position, sitting in a cage in a darkened warehouse. We had entered at the Benin border, ridden the shortest route through Nigeria, using main roads, stopping at night in hotels and arrived at Calabar on the fourth night. How on earth could he think we were spies? I had considered hijacking, violent crime, kidnapping and all sorts of scenarios but it didn't occur to me that the biggest threat to our safety would be from state police with some fake spying charge. We may not be leaving Nigeria at all. You're certainly not welcome in Nigeria and NSS guy wonders why Nigeria gets a bad press. Anyway, with this threat hanging over us it was a nerve wracking time as there was still immigration to do. There various people said welcome before examining documents, fingerprinting and generally making us feel anything but welcome. Next was port health to see. Why when we are leaving the country but anyway, a guy in another office looked at our yellow fever cards and demanded payment for doing so. We explained that the NSS man told us not to pay anyone (the only sensible thing the NSS guy said). Heath guy got angry and said NSS guy didn't have authority to say that. We're in the middle of this rant, not exactly relaxed. Then it was the turn of security. He wanted all the bags opened and went through them all but at least he was cordial and friendly. We did eventually get on the boat and it left at 13:30.

It's an overnight trip on the boat, sailing down the river and out into the delta was interesting. As darkness fell we could see loads of rigs with their orange flames lighting the sky. The boat sailed up the river into Tiko the next morning. The scenery looked like something out of the film "African Queen". On arrival passports were collected and taken away for processing. We disembarked and went to the health hut for covid and yellow fever card inspection. Then to customs for baggage inspection, then back to the boat which is where the problems began. The dockers wouldn't unload the bikes unless we paid them. We asked how much and the boss man said 500 Euro to which there was much laughter amongst the workers. Problem is he wasn't joking and refused to unload the bikes unless we paid. 500 Euro is ridiculous as we had already paid for the bikes to be unloaded, it wasn't a separate charge but no pay, no bike. In the end we lost all the cash we had, about 50 Euro each, in extortion charges to get our bikes back. The actual unloading was impressive though, as the boat was much lower than the dock but a bunch of very strong men just picked them up and man handled them up some steps. Those bikes weigh about 250kg each.

Next was carnet stamping. The customs in the port directed us to another customs building outside the port. They said come back tomorrow afternoon which was really disappointing for us. We wanted to be on our way early next day. We asked if we could get it done in Douala but they said no. As we were leaving they stopped us and said they would call the boss and see if it could be done that afternoon. They called and 30 minutes later a guy came to stamp the carnets for us. We were glad to have it done. The customs guys were all friendly. They also advised us that we must not travel until Tuesday due to rebel activity and directed someone to take us to a hotel in town. Unfortunately the hotel is very run down, no flushing toilets, water by bucket and a stench of urine in the wet rooms. It was for one night and better than an encounter with armed rebels on the road. It did have an open air bar area. While enjoying a drink we met some very nice Tiko residents. They offered to help sort insurance the next morning for the bikes and sim cards for data to get us up and running on WhatsApp again.
Attached Thumbnails
Motorcycle Overland 2023 UK to South Africa. West Coast Route-20230507_071859.jpg  

Motorcycle Overland 2023 UK to South Africa. West Coast Route-20230507_072014.jpg  

Motorcycle Overland 2023 UK to South Africa. West Coast Route-20230508_101900-modified.jpg  

Motorcycle Overland 2023 UK to South Africa. West Coast Route-copied-data-2023-05-10  

Motorcycle Overland 2023 UK to South Africa. West Coast Route-20230507_072156.jpg  


Last edited by Posttree; 11 May 2023 at 09:13.
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  #48  
Old 10 May 2023
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The two guys we met in Tiko were so friendly and helpful. They drove us into town, took us to the sim card kiosk and made sure we were up and running with mobile data. Back at the hotel we bought some drinks and had a chat. They explained the history of the rebel held territory going back to the end of WW1 and the division of the country. The rebels are seeking independence for their two English speaking states from the majority French speaking 8 states but it's a bit more complex that that due to resources etc. Suffice to say that if you are overlanding, don't disregard the FCO red zones and don't travel on a Monday. Next morning Arnold, one of the guys we met the day before, turned up to show us the way to the insurance office. Insurance is a bit of an issue as for bikes it comes in a years package. Vignette is also required as part of the insurance purchase so it was expensive at 48000 CFA (about £63) but it also covers Congo as we added the international cover too. We reloaded the bikes to make space for a pillion on Richards bike and gave Arnold a lift to Douala. It was nice having a local with us, especially when stopped by a corrupt cop. He asked for all the documents, which we had but then just lingered and asked what we had for him. Arnold explained it was just corruption and give him some money to move on! We dropped Arnold at his requested place in Douala and went to our pre arranged accommodation. It was a huge relief to be across the Nigeria/ Cameroon border and in Douala.
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  #49  
Old 12 May 2023
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Just caught up to date. I thought you had gone quiet for a couple of weeks until it dawned on me that there were 4 pages, not just one! Duhhh! In mitigation I am trying to read this on a phone and going boss-eyed in the process.

Regarding the lost-panniers episode:

Firstly, what a nightmare! Well done for keeping the show on the road though, and especially for having the heart to press on.

Presumably they were the aluminium ones shown in some of the photos? Do you think the attachments failed? It sounds like you don’t suspect theft at one of the stops. Could they have suffered interference previously though, which might have left them insecure? And do your topboxes show any signs of tampering?

I’m guessing Richard must have been in front of you, or else he would have seen them fall.

Lots of lessons there for all of us. I hope it’s some kind of consolation that others might benefit hugely from your ghastly experience. I think it’s called taking one for the team.
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  #50  
Old 13 May 2023
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Yes, Chris, it is plausible that the panniers were tempered with although the remaining racks don't look damaged.

We're in Douala and will be for a while. Had new brake pads and fork seals sent out, but now we're waiting for the Congo visa. I'll update the blog again once we get moving. Expecting to be on the road again on Wednesday.

To all those reading, thanks for the support.

Sent from my SM-A137F using Tapatalk

Last edited by Posttree; 14 May 2023 at 21:57. Reason: Spelling
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  #51  
Old 13 May 2023
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Brother...reading every word and can't fathom the sense of dread you must have felt when you realized the panniers were MIA. I'll be doing the same trip solo in a few weeks and starting to doubt my judgement. I guess, however, if your dreams don't scare you a bit, maybe they're not big enough?
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  #52  
Old 14 May 2023
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Gordon: based on your experience so far are there any other visas which you would now recommend obtaining in London before starting? (In addition to Ghana and Nigeria).
I’m thinking in particular of:
- Guinea: Would it help one to avoid a visit to Conakry with the “immigration form”, (from what you say, it seems that might be desirable on several levels)? But then doesn’t one still have to go there come what may to get the Carnet stamped?
- Côte d’Ivoire: similarly, could having that visa in advance help one to give Conakry a miss?
- Cameroon: would having that enable you to by-pass Lagos?
- Congo: it sounds like getting the visa in Yaoundé or Douala involves either a long delay or a hefty “expedite” fee. Could that be avoided by getting it in advance?
- DRC: (as for Congo).

I am now planning to get my bike down to Casablanca in the next three or four weeks. I’m just waiting on a new passport (mine didn’t have enough blank pages left).
Then back home for a few weeks, three weeks holiday with ‘er indoors, and finally starting the main ride from Casablanca on the 14th or 15th of August. Solo (for a number of reasons). Nothing in my diary then until Christmas. I hope that will give me a decent margin for any delays.

Good luck, chin up and stay safe.

Chris.
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  #53  
Old 14 May 2023
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Canucklr: Good luck with your trip. It's not easy but hopefully some of the info on here will be useful. Let us know how you get on.
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  #54  
Old 14 May 2023
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Chris: Guinea visa can be done in Dakar and you have to go to Dakar to get your carnet stamped anyway.
It would be great if you could get a Cote d'ivoire visa beforehand. We went to Conakry to get ours but if you already have it you can just ride from border to border and don't need to go to Conakry to get the Guinea visa page put in your passport. You can then cross the country in less than 5 days on the entry paper. I'm not sure where you could get the Cote d'ivoire visa though as the embassy in Dakar won't issue it. Maybe try in Morocco?
We got the Cameroon visa in Abidjan but it took 8 days to process. I'd rather spend time in Abidjan than Lagos! Again, not sure where else you could get that but yes, you want to avoid Lagos if possible.
We haven't received our Congo visas yet which is why we're still in Douala.

Problem with getting lots of visas before leaving your home country is the expiry of the visas you have already obtained. If visa processing takes up to three weeks in London for a Ghana visa you can't afford to then send your passport to multiple different embassies after that without the first one you obtained expiring! Expediting our Ghana and Nigeria visas in London meant we spent about £750 on those two visas alone.

Good job on the passport, you'll need loads of blank pages!

Let us know if you need anything else.
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  #55  
Old 14 May 2023
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I posted this on a separate thread in case anybody wants to discuss it but for Africa overlanders it is relevant.

Many overlanders talk of buying Brown Card insurance when travelling in West Africa. This insurance is often sold at borders and the agents selling it say it is valid in all the ECOWAS countries. That means it pretty much covers you from Mauritania to Nigeria. I have bought it in the past but on speaking to real insurance agents, they tell me it is invalid. They tell me that the problem is that the Brown Card is not actually and insurance in its own right. It only extends the cover of an existing policy to other ECOWAS countries. If you're familiar with the old European system it is the equivalent of a Green Card, you still need to have an insurance policy on your vehicle in your home country.
For a Brown Card to be valid, you would have to have valid insurance on your vehicle in an ECOWAS country, then the Brown Card would extend your cover to other ECOWAS countries. Overlanders with vehicles which are not registered in an ECOWAS country are not likely to have a local insurance policy upon which Brown Card insurance could be added. A search of the official Brown Card insurance web sites seems to confirm this. Also, Brown Cards must be typed, not hand written. As I understand it now, if you buy hand written Brown Card insurance at a border you are effectively buying a piece of paper which the police will accept as insurance because they don't know what they are looking at but in the event of an accident, when the insurance is checked, it will be found to be fake. I'd like to know the experience of others with the Brown Card for overlanders.
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  #56  
Old 15 May 2023
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Whoa! That’s definitely valuable info.
My bike insurance has limited annual mileage (I mainly use my other bike). I was telling myself that didn’t matter because once I got to Africa my UK insurers would be off-risk, and I could even cancel the policy.
Clearly life is not that simple.
So it seems I will need:
- to get the mileage limit increased, and
- to take with me my UK insurance Certificate and Schedule (as well as an electronic copy and several hard copies).
Thanks for the additional crucial intel.
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  #57  
Old 15 May 2023
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One obvious question would be whether a Brown Card--the real thing, not the fake version--will extend your UK insurance, or do you actually need local insurance as is stated in the post above yours (to which a Brown Card can be added).

In other words, I can't see any reason to carry multiple copies of your UK insurance certificate....but this is all news to me. I've rented quite a few bikes in West Africa and all came with local insurance, some with Brown Cards coverage. I used only one to cross borders, and nobody cared in the slightest.
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  #58  
Old 15 May 2023
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Chris: The Brown card wouldn't extend UK insurance. It would extend a policy issued in an ECOWAS country to other ECOWAS countries.

Markharf: Yes, a rented bike would probably have local insurance in an ECOWS country, and so a Brown card would be able to extend that to other ECOWAS countries.

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  #59  
Old 15 May 2023
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Got it! (I think):
- get at least third party insurance in the first ECOWAS country. For me, that’s Senegal.
- either there, or in the next ECOWAS country (for me Guinea) get a Brown card to extend cover through all the Brown card participating countries (last one Nigeria).
- after Nigeria get at least third party insurance in the first CEMAC country (for me that’s Cameroon)
- either there or in the next CEMAC country (for me Gabon or Congo) get a Pink Card to extend cover through the Pink card participating countries (last one Congo).
- on entering DRC and onwards there seem to be no more similar systems, so it’s back to purchasing insurance country-by-country.

Phew! It ain’t half complicated.
No doubt expensive too, but I have long realised this project is not going to be cheap.
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  #60  
Old 15 May 2023
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Yes, it is complicated and expensive. I'd suggest getting a Brown card at the Senegal border. You'd need something to show if you get stopped by cops. Then, when you get to St Louis or Dakar, ask a real insurance agent if it's valid or not...

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