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Old 11-27-2012, 10:27 PM   #256
SunnyJH
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Laurent

Hahaha - i really liked your story about the peugeot-taxi.
And the rest of the story as well - glad you finish this report, as I've been following it a long time.

Keep up the good work and thank you

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Old 11-29-2012, 10:38 AM   #257
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Fouta-Djalon

'nuff about the 4-wheelers. Back to the real stuff.



The road leads me north into West Africa biggest (only ?) mountains, the Fouta-Djalon. Of course it's nowhere close as awesome as the Ethiopian high plateau, but I'm not complaining. It's amazing how quickly the landscape changes with elevation at this latitude.



I can't believe I'm seeing some pine trees over here. It's lunch time so I manage to get myself a quick rice 'n beans, nothing fancy here, whatever the mamma on the road is cooking will do it. And a lukewarm coke, no power here.



Back on the crappy road, it doesn't take long until I take a left turn on a nice gravel road in open land.



With some patches of real forest.



That deteriorates in a pretty rough road not long after, I feel bad sorry about those poor guys driving it in a battered Peugeot (see previous post) at 20 km/h. Or on a moped. But it's perfect for me, the scenery is beautiful and I'm having a blast.



I'm looking for a place around Douki that can organize a trek in the area. There's absolutely no sign post on the main "road", but I know there's a touristy kind of camp around here. I have to ask around to find it; the thing is, all people come here as part of a tour, or with a taxi from the nearest town, and the drivers know the place, so there's no need for any signposting. That's a pretty neat place, the owner's a great guy, and he's built the bungalows according to the local style.



The overhanging thatched roof goes very low (the kid is only 5 or 6), so you have to literally crouch to get in.



And all you-can-eat tangerine trees! There isn't a lot of people here, just one Israeli who's been staying here for a while and been trekking around. I discuss my options and we decide with the owner and chief guide that I would go tomorrow on a 1-day trek down and up the cliff. That's the main attraction here, the cliff that reminds me a little of the Bandiagara cliff in Mali. Same-same but different, as the Indians would say.



The way down is on a nice path with great views down on the valley - although during the dry season it's always a bit dry.



We follow a couple of villagers returning to their home, the woman wearing a big bundle on her head, through some very slippery stones into a stream.



Her husband? he ain't carrying nothing, why the question ?



The valley floor is very lush, with waterfalls providing the water for irrigation.



The villages are a bit further away, but it's time to come back up. He was saying something about ladders ?



Ah, right. Just some long branches tied together and thrown into a narrow fault in the cliff. But that's the shortest way up and all the villagers climb up here.



We sweat a few liters going up (I mean, I sweat a lot), as it's still pretty hot out here. Nice walk altogether. I spend another day resting here and chatting with people - the Israeli's left but a couple of French girls have just arrived. And it's about time for me to check my options for reaching Dakar.
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:06 PM   #258
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Old 12-10-2012, 10:25 AM   #259
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Mountains in Guinea



I'm totally enjoying the mountains here in Guinea. It's beautiful, cool, and the people are great. I keep riding straight north toward Mali, not the country but a small town sitting in a remote corner of the mountains, close to the Sénégal border. The road leads first to Labé, the last sizeable town over here. Fill up with petrol, check my e-mail (not working), get some food and..



wait, is it what I think it is ?



yup, proper coffee, not Nescafé! I've to go all around Africa to find the 2nd country where they grow coffee and actually know how to brew it (the first being Ethiopia of course). Nice.



At last I also decide to swap the rear tyre for the knobby one I'm carrying on my back. I expect some hard off-roading ahead. As I'm as lazy as the next rider, I head across the street for the shop with the compressor and hand them my rear wheel and the tyre.



I'm always watching as they like it rough, and usually it goes fine.



Not this time, the guy rips off the valve taking out the inner tube. I knew it would happen one day, good thing I've got a spare.



What do you mean, it's worn out ? naah.



No more crappy tar.



Not much traffic either, hopefully, as the dust kills you.



There's even a grader at work, a bit of a luxury over here. I keep going up. We're not talking Ethiopia-like mountains here, Mali tops out at around 1400 m only. It sits almost on a ridge with nice lookouts. It supposed to have some good hiking so it must have a hotel of some sort.



The "roads" are very bad, and pretty steep too. First hotel is closed, second one too. Finally I find one at the top of the town, there's even a shower of some sort. With buckets, yeah, but a shower it is. And power from the solar panels. I decide to take my time visiting the place.



It's indeed a beautiful place, much dryer than the lowlands so the vegetation is very different.



Not much to buy from the market, some vegetables, few fruits. The locals seem to eat TONS of baguette - thank you Froggies for that, although the baker doesn't like to get up early, so the bread comes in the afternoon only.



The main (only) hang-out at night seems to be the barn transformed into a theater, showing Champion's League football (what else?). My home team is playing so I pay the $0.50 to get in and watch a game with the other locals.



The next morning the kids go to school, apparently it's a madrasa (quranic school) from the writing on their tablets. You know, like real tablets where you can scribble on, not the high-tech gadgetry Apple is making in China..



Meanwhile their fathers are building a new house. Speaking of old style...



An old Berliet, like the ones you see in French movies of the 60's.



And the quite popular and sturdy ZIL soviet truck.

I ask around about the road to Sénégal, the maps I have are confusing. There seem to be 2 ways to get down the escarpment, a direct, steep track that only 4x4s take and the main road making a long detour. The locals have different opinion on whether I should take the direct route or head back for an easier way. Of course they have no idea what is passable or not on such a bike. For me the decision is easy: I'll go for the direct, steep descent, it looks much more fun.

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Old 12-10-2012, 07:43 PM   #260
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Thanks for the great report, you clearly get so much closer to the people and places when you're going solo.
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Old 12-16-2012, 02:45 AM   #261
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Thanks for the great report, you clearly get so much closer to the people and places when you're going solo.
Yeah, I think that's one of the advantage of going solo. People communicate totally differently with a single person and with a group.
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Asianrider screwed with this post 12-16-2012 at 03:21 AM Reason: typo
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Old 12-16-2012, 05:43 AM   #262
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Downhill



I've decided for the rough track, but it doesn't look that long, although it's obviously not on my Michelin 741 West Africa map. I take off late in the morning on the double track the hotel manager has shown me.



It takes me through a beautiful landscape of red earth and green leaves.



I can imagine it must be even more impressive during the rainy season, when the green is much brighter. But then I wouldn't have made it here in the wet of course. I overtake a 4x4 loaded with passengers slowly making its way down the track. I like to ride in front of them, knowing that if something happens there will be somebody to give me a hand.



At one point the track crosses a village, which is closed of by a gate at both ends. I suspect this is so that the villagers can extract a fee from the passing vehicles. One advantage of showing up in a funny vehicle is that you often get a free ride. In this case the kids come running in excitement and usher me in. Then they run after me as if I were Justin Bieber visiting a teenager girl's school. I slow down for them to catch up with me and they open the exit door and wave me farewell with big smiles. Priceless.



After a few kms of skirting the edge of the cliff, the road starts to climb down. (Sorry for the change in the picture's colors, I've got 2 cameras and they render colors differently. These ones are more realistic)



Excellent ride, it couldn't be better really.



And then the track gets really rough. I need to careful calculate my line to avoid banging my bashplate on the big rocks, and usually there's only one good line no more than 2 tires wide that gets you safely through.



The double track really is a single track for all but 4x4s with high clearance.



Until of course, in a corner while looking for the ideal line I slow down too much, lose my balance and drop my bike. It's a fine balance between keeping enough speed for stability but not too much that you're scraping the bash plate. Ground clearance is key, but also good suspensions and the BMW's aren't the best, especially with a bit of weight.

I pick up my bike and stop for a few pics. By going solo the downside is, I don't get many shots of me riding. When it's technical you've got better things to take care of than take a picture of yourself.. so when I drop it first I snap a pic, I drink, rest a bit, etc..

I take my time so the 4x4 is catching up with me. Actually, first the passengers join mw, because the ride is so rough that they prefer to walk down while the Toyota is inching its way down. That's where the 4-wheelers win: they can go as slow as they want when it gets really rough, we don't have this option.



Finally after may more close calls and a lot of sweating I reach the bottom of the valley.



The track is much less bumpy, I can relax and enjoy it.



It soon turns into smooth laterite, and I find out I have a fifth gear. This is Africa at it's best, you move in 1 hour from very technical challenging stuff to high-speed double tracks, all in beautiful surroundings and not a vehicle to spoil your fun.



As I reach a river I see a some life: people come to wash their clothes (or themselves I presume).



I was expecting a border crossing at some point. Only when I see the rope in the middle of the village do I realize it's here. I stop and look around, but it's all thatched huts. A uniformed guy gets out of one of them and comes to me. He's a bit curious about what the heck am I doing here, so we chat a bit. I follow him to his hut and he quickly stamps me out. I enquire about the customs for the carnet, knowing well that there was probably nothing like this here. But the guy tell me no problem, but he needs a few minutes. While he walks away with my carnet in hand and look a place where they're cooking. I'm a bit hungry since I've left late in the morning and it' snow well past noon. I order a plate of rice and mutton, with a lukewarm coke. While I'm eating the border official comes back with my carnet stamped out, with a big smile and another "bon voyage".

Frankly, this ought to be the nicest border crossing in all Africa! But I'm only half done, the dreaded Senegalese border is "about 20 keys" away according to the official. Well rested and fed I get on the bike on the nice double track.



I get confused a bit as there are now several crossings, but there are also always somebody who can tell me the right way. The scenery changes radically as the forrest has been burnt down. The road is also pretty badly potholed so it needs a lot of attention when riding fast. Not the place where you want to break a rim.



I thought I was done with the technical riding, but there's another ridge to climb down, and this one is just as bad. I had caught up with a 4x4, and as I stop he also stops to let the passengers out. Again they will walk the rough part. I look at the line and need to move a few rocks to fill the larger holes where I would bottom out. The driver joins me and we work on the road together, exchanging thoughts about the quality of the road.

I go first and just 50 m down I drop it again. This time it falls down on the mirror and breaks it.. at last. I had imagine this would be one of the first thing to break in the trip, but it had survived the worst until my last rough ride of the whole trip! The driver is right behind me and jumps out to help me right my bike.



At the bottom of the track is the first Senegalese village, and the border. Now, Sénégal is a usually the first country in Africa that the overlanders reach when coming down the west coast, which gives them the first experience of dealing with corrupt border guards (Morocco and Mauritania are usually quite tame). The border between Mauritania and Sénégal at Rosso is famous for the chaos of fixers harassing you, the officials extracting bribes from you and the general nastiness of it. For me it would the last one when I exit Sénégal later on.

But here it's like another world. I go to the immigration, and the guys there make me step in front of the queue skipping the passengers of the 4x4 that was following me, and who've reached the village first. We chat a bit, they stamp me in and bonne arrivée! They ask for a cadeau, but I crack a joke and that's about it. In 5 minutes I'm done and on my way to the next sizable city, Kédougou, where I should visit the customs to get my carnet stamped.

The road to get there is quite decent and passable for all kind of cars. In fact it's a bit touristy as there are some villages that are worth visiting, according to a guidebook. I decide to carry on to the next town and do a bit of maintenance and possibly get a cold beer or two.. I pass twice in front of the customs building in Kédougou without seeing it. I manage to find the official who knows about Carnet. Or at least who's got the right stamp. I help him sort out which one to put where, and he then just wishes me a nice trip and I can go (note that I'd already secured a Yellow Card insurance for all of West Africa so I'm good in this side).

It's nothing like coming from Mauritania, where the same custom officials want a backshish to fill your papers, then to pay for a passe-avant, buy an over-priced insurance, and finally require you to go to Dakar to stamp your carnet...! so that's the proof that there's no law like this and that it's just a small gang of crooks who run the border there as they wish and take advantage of the gullible white people with pockets full of cash. In fact the money corrupts them.

Looking for accommodation, it's immediately obvious that I'm in a different country. There are a few high-end lodges caring for tourists coming here for the Niokolo-Koba park. Finally I haggle down a reasonable price for a room without bathroom, and I try to mangle with rich French tourists, while I feel a bit disconnected with their centers of interest.
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Old 12-17-2012, 07:47 AM   #263
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I was excited to read about the downhill bit!

How is your TT tank holding up?
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Old 12-17-2012, 08:13 AM   #264
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The 505

The 505 is amazing. Trash it in the dirt, then go 150kph on pavement and it rides like a Benz. The best suspension around. I beat them around West Africa, just great cars. Thieves love them, as do those who strip the lights, wheels, and windows. The 404 was a tough car as well.
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Old 12-19-2012, 10:41 AM   #265
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I was excited to read about the downhill bit!

How is your TT tank holding up?
The tank is strong and very robust, it's had more than its share of crashes and it's just scratched. I've had to redo some plastic bushings that sit around the fasteners, which is a bit annoying. Lately, the fuel pipes running to the main tank have started to leak: pretty bad quality, after just 2 years. For this you have to take the main tank out and this is a major PITA.
Another annoying thing: the lid is leaking when the bike is laying down.
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Old 12-19-2012, 12:28 PM   #266
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The tank is strong and very robust, it's had more than its share of crashes and it's just scratched. I've had to redo some plastic bushings that sit around the fasteners, which is a bit annoying. Lately, the fuel pipes running to the main tank have started to leak: pretty bad quality, after just 2 years. For this you have to take the main tank out and this is a major PITA.
Another annoying thing: the lid is leaking when the bike is laying down.
Thanks for the update...I have been happy with my tank. I took mine through Mongolia and Siberia last year and didn't have too many issues. Just curious because there are a few guys who have broken the tanks from too many falls.
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Old 12-19-2012, 04:06 PM   #267
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Bring it home

Laurent - I've been following your ride report for 2 fucking years!. Now bring it home! Don't top now!

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Old 12-20-2012, 08:18 AM   #268
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Ivory Coast

Laurent,

thank you for sharing your story about that formidable trip through Westafrica, especially throug the Ivory Coast. It makes me remember the time when I have been living there in the early 1980. I and my friend had both a Honda XL and travelled through the country everytime we could. With your report I can see how the country changed or not changed. Have a good time and be save.
Greetings from Germany.
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Old 01-04-2013, 11:34 PM   #269
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Thumb Gr8!!

Tx for posting and enjoy the ride.....
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Old 01-21-2013, 05:38 AM   #270
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Wish you well Mali

I wanted to post this because of the recent developments in Mali. Back then it had crossed my thoughts that I was lucky to be able to enjoy this great country and the wonderful hospitality of the Malians in peace and quietness, and I was enjoying the fact that because there was signs of unrest in the far north, the tourist scene had all but disappeared. Little did I know that it was so close to pack up, and with hindsight I'd have preferred to have to deal with the obnoxious tourists rather than them having to bear the brutality and ignorance of the Salafists. And now the war and the inevitable bitterness and revenge feelings.

Unfortunately it looks now like that this country is going to be riddled by war and violence for a long, long time.. goen are my dreams of crossing Algeria to Mali. There's hope though, as Ivory Coast has shown: after years of violence it looks like it's getting over and taking a fresh start (although their problems were internal, and could be dealt with internally, whereas the violence in Mali has been brought from abroad).



So long Mali and be safe.
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