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Route Planning Where to go, when, what are the interesting places to see
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  #1  
Old 8 Jul 2013
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Question From Sierra Leone to France - Advice & suggestions welcome!

Hi everyone!
I am currently working in Sierra Leone and will be finishing my contract end of January 2014. I'd like to buy a bike, prep it, and take it back to France. I've got six months to go through planning and prepping.
I am eager for advice, suggestions, warnings, encouragements, whatever you have, I'll take it!

Here's the situation:

Me:
Male, 25, resourceful, a lot of experiences in Africa, been working there for a while and using motorcycles for commuting / short travels on bad roads and worse, BUT always 125cc. Good off-road experience on 4 wheels though. Mechanical skills are okay, I should have a lot of experienced help around me during preparation (yay!!) and possibly training / dress rehearsal for a week or so in SL.

The Road:
Still not sure. I'd be leaving beginning of February 2014 from Freetown, Sierra Leone, and would probably cross Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania to Reach Essaouira on the coast of Morocco, rest there for a few days, then continue to the south of France (All within a month? Is it possible?). I don't know much about these countries and their situation right now, if anybody has been there recently and / or can recommend itineraries, places or maybe a different route altogether, I am all ears.

The Bike:
I am still hesitating between buying and registering a bike in France and shipping it here, or buying one here and then importing it through customs when I arrive in France. What would be the best / easiest in your experience? I would like to avoid main roads and do a bit of desert if reasonable for a guy with my experience (is it?), so I am thinking XT660R, DR600, KLR600, XR650, NX650 or F800GS, packing as light as possible. I would actually like to work on the bike after I get home, maybe turn it into a scrambler or something like this
http://www.bikeexif.com/wp-content/u...onda-nx650.jpg
but that is another story

One more question:
I am a bit uncertain about travelling alone in tough places. I should be able to get some of my mates to join me for part of the trip, but that is hypothetical. Worst case scenario, does it seem reasonable to do that kind of trip solo solo?

Thank you for your help!
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  #2  
Old 9 Jul 2013
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I'm going the other way round, but this time with a small VW 4x4 van. I hope to arrive in Freetown around jan-feb 2014 and maybe also drive the van back to europe if I don't sell it. Your plan seems very reasonable, it's less than 10000 km and big parts will be on good asfalt as there is no alternative, so you shouldn't worry too much. It's also very possible on a 125cc, I also might end up on one if I sell the car.
If you click on my blog below you can read about my previous trip to west africa with the tenere.
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  #3  
Old 10 Jul 2013
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Thanks Tony! We should meet up on the road!
How much of the road would you say will be asphalt? I'd like to try to avoid main roads when possible. It seems looking at your blog that you were on dust or rocks most of the time with the ten...
Which bike would you recommend the most?
You're gonna love Sierra Leone, february is the perfect time to come down here.
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  #4  
Old 14 Jul 2013
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Well, the part from Nouakchott up to TanTan in Morocco is about 2000 km asfalt for which there is no alternative. For the rest you could improvise if you really want to do offroad. I'm coming down in November and will reach Bamako, Mali around mid december, then the plan is to go to Sierra Leone. Senegal is a no go for me as it's too hard with customs regulations. As for a bike I would recommend the xt, just because I love my tenere and she has never let me down.
Hope to meet up with you and have a
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  #5  
Old 15 Jul 2013
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Wow, that seems like a really great trip. What kind of difficulties did you have with Senegal customs? Aren't you worried about border crossings with Mali, I've heard they are quite strict because of abductions and such...
It seems a shame to cross the Sahara on a 2000 Km tar road, does anyone know of passable alternate tracks through the desert, maybe connecting some beautiful spots? I am no off-road beast, but in my experience it is off road that you find the most beautiful and secret places. Would it be reasonable to go on that kind of route solo?
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  #6  
Old 9 Aug 2013
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Good news everyone

Hi everyone!
Preparations are going forward, mostly gathering documentation at this stage.
One of my friends is getting pumped up to join me from Dakar to France. YAY! this would be awesome as it would allow us to take smaller tracks without a major breakdown meaning a 50Km walk to find help.
My mate is thinking about buying a bike in Dakar, prepping it quickly and bringing it back. Does that seem like a good plan? Has anyone ever done it before? Any good addresses or even someone interested to sell a bike there?

Last edited by McShizzle; 12 Aug 2013 at 14:01.
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  #7  
Old 10 Aug 2013
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Hi. I did a West Africa trip a couple of years ago. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Mali, Senegal, and Gambia. You can definitely do it alone - though I didn't. The worst roads I encountered were between Monrovia and Bo. After that, it was - fortunately or unfortunately - mostly tarmac or hardpacked dirt.

That said, this was a fun route, and I thought that Guinea in particular was lovely: Freetown to Conakry, up to Mali, over to Banjul, and then Dakar. You can continue on from there. All told, it took us about 3.5 weeks to do some 3,500km. But this was rushed - though we also did Northern Mali. Just don't go in rainy season like we did. It was a real pain to get pissed on EVERYDAY. I was on a 150cc. It does the trick. But seriously consider something bigger - if you can find it in Freetown. I looked, though not that hard, and couldn't. Because roads are so good, you're stuck going 80km/h and it gets tedious.

You can message me if you have any specific questions.

Good luck!

Dariusz
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  #8  
Old 15 Aug 2013
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Hey Dariusz,
Thanks for your reply!
I think I'll try to stay away from Mali this time. Could you recommend any particular places you visited? Did you try taking smaller roads to avoid tarmac? Did you camp or did you sleep into hotels? Would you say it would be easy to find quiet campsites between Freetown and Dakar?

I've abandoned the idea of finding a bike in Freetown, the best I could find was Chinese quality XT125. I am going to ship one directly from France in a container.
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  #9  
Old 19 Sep 2013
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Hello Mcshizzle, I could a offer a 87´transalp. I came done from Germany and the old lady did a good job on tarmac and also some gravel. If you are interested, please reply soon because I will be in freetown in one week from now.
Jan
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  #10  
Old 19 Sep 2013
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Hello Mcshizzle, I could a offer a 87´transalp. I came done from Germany and the old lady did a good job on tarmac and also some gravel. If you are interested, please reply soon because I will be in freetown in one week from now.
Jan
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  #11  
Old 22 Sep 2013
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We drove that same route this past spring, leaving from Freetown on about Jan. 20 and arriving in northern Germany on March 5.

Freetown to the turnoff to Conakry is not bad. The Salone side is good with few potholes, the Guinea side more potholes and LOTS of roadblocks, all looking for a "cadeau". Be patient and refuse to pay if possible (payment keeps them asking). They will need or want to stamp your lassez-passier at each checkpoint. We then turned towards Mamou and then Pita towards Senegal. Paved with potholes all the way to Pita. There is a road from Pita to Telemele (dirt) that is supposed to be scenic but it was clouded over when we had to take it but we took it anyways. It would probably be a beautiful drive otherwise. Telemele to Senegal is dirt no matter which way you go. Once in Senegal the road conditions improve dramatically.

We had no problems with any of the border crossings. The most difficult was Senegal to Mauritania and it was not too bad at Diama (Guinea to Senegal was a breeze). You will need a lassez-passier for Senegal and Guinea as well as a visa for Guinea and I'm told also Senegal now. There is a Guinea embassy and a Senegalese Consulate in Freetown. The Guinea Embassy is just off Wilkinson Rd. and the Senegalese Consulate is near PZ in Freetown (ask around till you find it, it's not easy to find).

You may need a Mauritanian visa which you can get in Dakar in two days (papers submitted one day and picked up the next).

You will want to have a fiche http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hub...che-form-63229 when traveling in Mauritania and Western Sahara. They WILL ask at EVERY police checkpoint. 25-30 copies should get you through all the checkpoints. Mauritania and Morocco police never asked for a "cadeau" the whole trip unlike the Guinea police who almost never failed to ask!!

We also drove through The Gambia. Plenty of police checkpoints there too. It seems a little "over the top" when they are within sight of each other and ask the same questions!!

Any questions ask!!

And a good decision mechanically to get a bike from Europe. Not sure how it will go with registering or temporary importation though.
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  #12  
Old 25 Sep 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cancraig View Post
Hello Mcshizzle, I could a offer a 87´transalp.
Hi Jan, thanks for the offer, I might have considered it if I did not already bought a KTM in France to ship it soon... Sorry! But the demand is high for a bike over 125cc here, you shouldn't have too much trouble selling it!

If you are in Freetown, call me on 079 250 225, I'd very much like to offer you a and talk about your trip! Or just pass by the workshop at the container terminal...


Cruiser guy: Thank you very very much for this valuable information.

I was planning on crossing to guinea a little higher near the Outamba Kilimi National Park to head straight into the Fouta Djalon by Kindia/Mamou/Pita but now I'm considering Kindia/Telimele/Pita... Do you have any info on the road from Kamakwie to Kindia and Pita to Mali (the town)?
There's also the border crossing between Guinea and Senegal, I can't find with certitude if there's a way between Mali and Kédougou without going through Koundara.

Did you get information on the roads before leaving like I'm trying to or did you decide on the spot from the information you got locally?
In Sierra Leone I've learned not to trust too much what local people say about a road being open/closed/practicable/completely destroyed...

I'm planning on avoiding Gambia altogether to simplify paperwork and also security reasons.
Did you ever have a feeling of insecurity during your trip? I'm talking theft, robbery, aggression, kidnapping, etc? Were people ever aggressive towards you or even just displeased to see you? I'm not worrying too much myself but the family could use some comforting, hehe.

Where did you stay at night? I'd like to spare the weight and expense of camping gear if there's nice and cheap accommodations every 20km all along the road...

Thanks again for your help!
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  #13  
Old 26 Sep 2013
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We did the drive from Kamakwie to OK park but not beyond, sorry. It's a standard bumpy dirt road once you leave Makeni. Easy to follow though. Accommodations in OK park are also fine, no tent needed.

As we went Pita to Telimele I have no info on the road beyond Pita. We ended up needing to go from Gaoual to Labe and then use the road from Labe to Kedougou in Senegal as the normal route was totally blocked by a rolled semi!

I checked and pored over maps and read the Rough Guide for West Africa for some info and then went for it. Locals generally don't know much beyond their surroundings. They simply never get out there.

Never had an issue feeling threatened or in danger. Lot's of requests for a "cadeau" from the Guinea road blocks though. No problem for us finding accommodations along the way. It really depends on your level of comfort you're after.
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  #14  
Old 26 Sep 2013
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So you guys managed to go from Labe to Kedougou without going through Koundara?
I have to say my main source of information besides the Lonely Planet is Google Maps right now... I'll make sure to invest in the Rough Guide to West Africa ASAP!
As for paper maps, which one would you recommend?
Do you have a blog or a journal for your trip? I'd be most interested to read it!
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  #15  
Old 26 Sep 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McShizzle View Post
So you guys managed to go from Labe to Kedougou without going through Koundara?
I took this route once on public transit, which turned out to mean a big, honking 10 wheel drive truck loaded with scores of local people and smuggled goods. Believe me, these trucks are a lot more picturesque when seen from your own private transport than they are to ride around on.

The intermediate town is Maliville, Guinea. The road between Maliville and Labe is good gravel, passing through lots of little villages. The road across the border to Kedougou is good in parts, not so good around the border. There were a couple of river fords with slow-moving water about 30 inches (.75 m) deep. The Guinea border was a bit of trouble, with angry, obnoxious men in uniform...but nothing totally insufferable in West African terms. The Senegal border was easy, but slow.

The trucks move at night, so I didn't really see very much of what we were passing through. I don't know whether there were alternate river crossings, or what conditions would be like during the rains, or whether there were confusing turns or intersections. I do know that a bike would have been far more fun, not to mention a lot faster. The truck took ten or twelve hours from Kedougou to Maliville. I stayed overnight there and took a sept-place to Labe and onward the next day.

Hope this is helpful.

Mark
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