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Old 02-11-2006, 05:23 AM   #1
cameron110 OP
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West Africa 2 Up (Friends, Wildlife and Coups)

Editing march 2009: I've got a bit of down time this month so old projects are getting dusted off. I never put the photos up for most of this thread and when ADVrider dumped all the uploaded photos this thread got extra boring. Well I'm back at it, we've got a new title (Thanks Gadget boy) and now I'm going through adding photos and some more of the story.

Or you can skip the story and just look at the photos here: cameron-bess.smugmug.com

This Ride report used to be "live" way back in 2006 I've left most of the original raw stuff but I'm also moving it all around for flow and adding lots of details that were left out.

Allright here we go, I'm on a french key board so please excuse any typing errors. This will be an on going thread whenever we get internet access here in west africa on our travels.



Bess and I flew out from JFK for three days of travel that would have us spending a few hours in downtown Madrid which is beautiful,


then a night in Dakar Senegal





In Dakar we picked up our reserved plane tickets to Niamey, Niger. A crazy taxi driver excepted, all went very smoothly with only homeland security lifting a few bottles of air conditioner compressor oil from our bags which we were bringing over for a friend, they did leave us a nice note though.



In Niamey we waltzed though customs with a smile and a wave to pass without being checked, ah the joys of knowing the local language; Once back in familiar Niamey and a little bit caught up on sleep I started in on getting the bike back up and running.



It had sat for six months untouched so we bought a new battery spooned on some new tires we brought over, flushed the carbs with some fresh gas and crossed our fingers.


Yup it's a Honda, it caught on the first try and settled smoothly down to idle in no time. 95 degree temps make warming up the bike a quick endeavor. For those of you who care it's a Honda Africa Twin 750 (RD04).

With the bike now running we left for lunch to a favorite spot hoping to catch Seyni, a good friend from our peace corps days who had no idea we were coming. Sure enough as we settled in on the bench to eat our rice and sauce he pulled up. He was surprised to say the least, it was great.



That's Bess, Rashida and Seyni (from the left) at the above mentioned lunch spot. Bess is with me, Rashida makes the best street food in Niger and Seyni and I used to work together when I was in Peace Corps.

The next day we rode the bike up to Hamdy to help teach a first aid class to the new Peace Corps trainees and give the bike a short, 60 km, test run. The class was fun and the bike ran great.



We got back to Niamey in the early afternoon and decided to head on to Dosso that afternoon. Dosso is where I used to live and is about 140 km to the west of Niamey. There we would visit friends:

Seyni and his family, here he is with three of his youngest, when this was taken he had two wives and 6 kids.



We also had the side-cases installed by a friend who runs an auto repair shop.



Dosso was great and the boxes are super sturdy. Now we are back in Niamey and working on visas for the rest of the trip which will see us crossing to Guinie through Mali and maybe Burkina Faso on the motorcycle at the end of the month.

here is the map we will be using, 1:4,000,000 scale so not much detail but what we've got and it should get the job done.



I'll try to get some photos up soon

Cheers for now
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cameron110 screwed with this post 03-19-2009 at 06:04 AM
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Old 02-11-2006, 06:13 AM   #2
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Old 02-11-2006, 06:15 AM   #3
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Old 02-11-2006, 06:39 AM   #4
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Wicked The Bike and Some Little Guys

Here is a picture me, the bike, and some of my friend Seyni's kids. The one in front was born during my first month of Peace Corps service. The one in back on the bike, in yellow, is known as Baba Zeeno which translates literally to 'old dad' and contextually kind of like 'junior'. We taught him to give people the finger while I was here with the Peace Corps. He used to flip everyone off all the time but he seems to have out grown it now, unless you piss him off.



We also had lunch with Seyni and his new Girlfriend Hadiza (Update as of 2009: she is now his 3rd wife and is going to have a kid this april)



Update april 2011: Seyni has passed away, he was an incredible father and a great man he worked with Peace Corps for over 20 years changing the lives of countless of he fellow Nigerien and scores of young Americans.
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Old 02-11-2006, 06:46 AM   #5
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Monkey Business

Ok, I'm starting to get this photo adding thing figured out. This one is Seyni's yougest daughter and his son's pet monkey...



Little Sis wasn't too happy about letting the monkey play with her hair once it started pulling.

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Old 02-11-2006, 06:58 AM   #6
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Good to find this, My wife still wants to do a Peace Corp hitch and I want her to try to go to a good place to ride. I will show her this!!
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Old 02-11-2006, 07:09 AM   #7
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Good to find this, My wife still wants to do a Peace Corp hitch and I want her to try to go to a good place to ride. I will show her this!!
Hang on to this and PM or e-mail me in April when I get home, I'm always glad to talk to people who are interested.
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Old 02-11-2006, 07:23 AM   #8
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The Guards



Only here would an invalid Lion cub and an emaciated dog be great guards for your bike.





We are back in Niamey and staying with a friend who works at the National Zoo. The lion cub, despite apperances is 5 months old but can't even stand up because of a major vitamin defficiancy in its diet. It is now starting to come around but is at my friend Kelleys house to be helped back to health. The dog doesn't have any excuse for being so skinny except that most mammals are emaciated here.



Well thats it for today more another day. Tondi (the lion) is tired...
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Old 02-21-2006, 06:47 AM   #9
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Back Again

Well, we have about a week left before we leave, the route plan is to go though Burkina then Mali on the way to Guinea. The last week has seen us back and forth between Dosso and Niamey to visit friends and finalize the preparations.





We also got a chance to head back out to the villages where we lived when we were here last. It was great to see old friends and to get out into the bush.



We visited Bess' village first since it is close to the road and we could leave the bike at the Gendearme's Post while we were gone.



We spent a few hours there and then decided to head on around noon.









It turned out to be a good thing we left early since the bike died just outside of town.


SO the bike just quit as we were pulling out of town. The voltage regulator has been overheating ever since I got the bike and even burned through its wires once and took out the rear brake resevoir as as well. So... I assumed the problem was electrical.



The bike would just turn over and over and never catch. So check the spark, in the bright sun it looks weak but it is sparking for sure on at least one plug per cylinder. not that, maybe fuel related the plugs were dry when the came out, even after turning the bike over for long enough to flood it. open the floats and gas comes out. Hmmmm.... now I'm getting frustrated and hot in the early afternoon sun. not having had lunch yet was certainly not helping at all. Bess headed back to town on foot to pick up some egg sandwiches and I started over from the beginning:

Spark yes,
turn it over and the plugs are dry,
check the floats.... Ah ha now there is no fuel draining even when the bike is turning over. Bess is back with the sandwiches so its time for lunch, check out how happy I look to have a broken bike on a 115 degree afternoon.
Now it's time to really get my hands dirty. off comes the fairings front and rear and the tank, heavy with 18 or so liters left, bust out the test light and sure enough the fuel pump is getting juice. take off the fuel line and see if the pump is creating any pressure, none that I can tell.... Damn the pump is way back behind the rear shock reservoir.



OK, I'm still not happy about this, but at least now I know the problem what next... there is no chance of a new pump here in Niger so this trip may be the end before it starts.

Think, there has got to be a fix. a couple of empty pickups have passed I could load it up in one and take it to the shop dosso where I know the mechanic but they would probably mess it up more that fix it.

Oh good lunch is here. sit down and relax, take a few photos for posterity.



Yes dear, I know I'm getting gas and grease on my sandwich, no I don't care, about the only thing that would taste good now is a cold beer anyhow.

The little bulb over my head has lit up. Food fixes everything especially when your as skinny as I am. I set the tank back in place and sure enough the fuel level was well above the floats since the tank was 3/4 full.

Time to tear out the offending pump while all the panels and tank are already off. It was a pain but came out with a little extra coercion in the form of a tire iron on the rubber mounts.


The offending part

I set the tank back on and direct fed a fuel line to the carbs. Time to pray for rain as they say.

YES its back and running like a champ. bundle it back up and get the hell back to my friends for a shower and a well deserved beer.



I was a bit happier about it than the kids who had been watching, for them the entertainment was about to leave.

On the way back to the house we stopped at the shop to see if there was some fuel pump from a car we could rig up so that the range was not cut in half by not being able to gravity feed the bottom half of the fuel tank.



sure enough there is a simmilar pump (also made by mitsubishi like the origional) that is slightly larger and 25,000 cfa (about 50 bucks) Ok now its realy time to go home. I want to figure this out soon so I can have the bike ready before dark to go to my village the next day. I was hell bent to get it fixed so the camera got dropped by the wayside so you'll have to use your imagination from here.

My mechanic friend said something about a "Vis Plat" that needed scraping in a pump he fixed one time. I have no idea what he is talking about since my french is pretty bad and Zarma (the local language I speak doesn't exactly have the vocabulary for modern mechanical conversations)

I got home and showered and tore into the pump. Sure enough there are some points that open and close to operate the diaphragm pump and they are charred as all get out.

File them down and run out side and take the tank off again (this time its full to the 24 liter capacity, damn it, that is heavy) and plug the little bugger in. Away it went pumping its little heart out.

Darkness is coming and with it hoards of malaria ridden mosquitoes

I try to race the setting sun to get it put back together so we can leave on time in the morning. Bad Idea, fatigue, frustration, darkness and mosquitoes do not a good work environment make. I gave it up and draped a sheet over it to keep the dust off in the night like a patient that has died on the surgical table.

Time for that way overdue beer. The real stress is over, the trip is still on, I just have to get up with the first prayer call at 5:30 am so we can get on the road to my village before the sun gets to hot because once we make it up 20 KM of horrible dirt road we have to walk another 3km through deep sand to get there. Not a fun prospect under the noon sun in 110 degree heat.


..... more to come later with pics I promise really....
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Old 02-21-2006, 07:23 AM   #10
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interesting part of the world, keep em coming.
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Old 02-21-2006, 11:16 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by cameron110
Ok, I'm starting to get this photo adding thing figured out. This one is Seyni's yougest daughter and his son's pet monkey...
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great picture, great thread.
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Old 02-21-2006, 12:04 PM   #12
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thanks for sharing! Very interesting report... keep it coming,

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Old 02-21-2006, 01:00 PM   #13
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So interesting pics you got so cool. And you guys are so brave bravoo
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Old 02-22-2006, 03:24 AM   #14
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I got up with the prayer call and it all went back together very smoothly now that I was well rested and it was still nice and cool, about 90 degrees at 6 am. The road up to my village was our first run up a bad dirt road two up and loaded.



I had finally gotten the rear suspension tightened up so it went pretty well. We lost a few fairing mounting screws and shook the battery ground loose enough to keep the bike from starting later that night. All in all though it was not bad and I'm getting more and more comfortable in the deep soft sand on that big beast

We pulled up to a road side village where we would have to leave the latterite (gravel and sand, slightly improved road) and head 4 km out into the bush. We decided to leave "Farkay Bambatta" (huge donkey) in a friends school house for the weekend since it would cause quite a stir to show up on it.



We walked out to my old village, stopped though a seasonal salt mining camp to visit a freind and his family. They dig up salt rich dirt and leach the minerals out of it then form the paste into big cylanders. Each one takes about a week to make and they sell for 1000 cfa (about 2 bucks)





The we passed through the we season vegetable gardens



Here is one of the seasonal wells, the water is about 2 meters down this time of year. At the peak of the dry season the water table is more like 10 meters so the only place is to get water is in the 2 cement wells in the village.



Here is one of the cement wells on the edge of the village



Once we got to the village the day was really starting to heat up so it was time for some tea in the shade



Since I left the volunteer who came after me helped the women form a Co-op and buy a diesel powered grain grinder. Before they had the machine all the millet and corn had to either be pounded by hand or taken to the next village about 3 km away.



We gave the kid who ran the machine an extra set of our ear plugs because that thing was LOUD and he was in there for hours every day.

Here are a few more random shots from the village:





When it came time to leave, they wouldn't let us walk so the hitched up the ox cart and off we went.
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Old 02-22-2006, 02:09 PM   #15
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Outstanding start

Take care and keep them coming.
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