An Aussie 990 in Africa

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by anydavenow, Oct 20, 2018.

  1. anydavenow

    anydavenow Long timer

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    A break from regular programming, using a question from @Endurofreak as a springboard to do a little retrospective on the bike, its preparation and performance on the trip. This won't be of interest to everyone, so I'm going to post it as a follow-up on my preparation thread rather than in the ride report itself.

    In the next post I'll return to the travel story as I head for Dakar via Lac Rose, the traditional finish line of the original Paris-Dakar Rally.

    In my self-assessment, I'll be covering:
    • Bike choice, including personal factors, pros and cons.
    • Preparation recap.
    • Major issues and annoyances.
    • General learnings on what worked and what didn't.
    • What I'd have done differently.

    The post can be viewed here on my pre-trip preparation thread.
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  2. anydavenow

    anydavenow Long timer

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    Thank you all for the supportive comments. They certainly fuel me to keep writing. Fuel I'll need—still a way to go!
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  3. mrsdnf

    mrsdnf Long timer

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    Just caught up on your last few posts Dave. Again terrific reading. The videos give a different perspective to the pictures. Riding on the wrong side of the road would do my head in.
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  4. anydavenow

    anydavenow Long timer

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    Down to Dakar

    With a few mild, sunny days standing between us and the expiry of our temporary vehicle import permits (TIPs) and being in a place more accommodating to the whims of Western visitors there was an opportunity to slide into the comfort of being a relaxed, oblivious tourist rather than the constantly vigilant and tenacious traveller I'd become.

    There was time for sightseeing and places of interest. I also had friends with an interest in seeing these sights and places making it all a lot more fun. Being in a self-sufficient group made it easier to brush off the over-eager "guides", hawkers and touts which inevitably appear wherever tourists do, vying intently for a wayward Euro or two.

    An exploration of the town of St Louis took us to fascinating fish markets, sleepy Rastafarian bars and even a sprawling, oversubscribed cemetery where—just as we entered to find an elderly man carefully tending a tiny child's grave—we were chased away angrily by a group of ample and not unintimidating
    women.

    In an old part of town packed with crumbling colonial buildings, restaurants, bars and curio sellers we met some French humanitarians in their seventies haggling loudly with a man in a flowing white kaftan over the price of an antique sabre. We chatted to the odd, extravagant couple who were probably Jacques and Pierre (though I forget their actual names) as they unloaded their best travel tips all the while waving away street urchins begging for "one milk!" with the familiarity of an Australian stockman waving away flies.

    J & P insisted that we visit the Casamance region as during their junket they had met a bus-load of young French nurses and they were certain we'd be very interested in meeting them, too.

    Leaving St Louis and bidding farewell to the oasis of Zebrabar our explorations took us south to Lac Rose on a speed-bump infested road—some Senegalese town planner's overzealous experiment in road safety which saw Filippo's little Honda catch a decent amount of air on a number of unexpected occasions.

    At Lac Rose we found another ex-pat-owned patch of paradise where we camped beside the swimming pool, ate like kings and drank like fish while chatting to the haphazard cast of guests which included a group of four high-achieving British girls based in Dakar for diplomatic work, a salty journalist of questionable moral character who travelled the world while writing articles in the journals of the PVC pipe industry and even a group of fellow overland bikers: a couple, Roberto and Sabrina, he on an old Africa Twin and she on a Tenere (both in the mint condition all Italian ADV bikes seem to be) and Irish "Johnny Nomad" on his DRZ 400 which he would be riding down to Cape Town and back to Europe along the east of the African continent.

    Lac Rose itself is a fascinating scene, with dark, red water where you see glistening, strong bodies toiling in the water to carry salt up from the lake bed and collect it in little wooden boats. The lake shores are lined with piles—almost dunes—of salt, each one owned by a small cooperative of salt-collectors stockpiling it for sale.

    Further south and a couple of days later we reached the fringes of Dakar—a mysterious, enchanted African city so famous in our motorcycling circles for the rally it once hosted, but yet so completely unknown to most of us. I found it complex, culturally rich and grappling with the African realities of poverty and chaos but it also had an air of sophistication, pride, intelligence and even a bit of that oh-so-French arrogance—truly the Paris of Africa.

    Unlike in the sometimes-seedy tourist areas in Dakar you are less of a novelty, many locals not wanting to stoop to the level of giving you attention which would somehow imply their inferiority. I found people to have confidence and independence in Dakar but they were still overwhelmingly respectful, friendly and genuine in their warmth.

    I'd earmarked a guest house posted on another Australian's ride report (and verified in the iOverlander app) and the boys agreed that we should give it a go. Down a sandy lane in Patte d'Oie we found a wonderful haven through a small, gated doorway in an otherwise inconspicuous, white wall.

    The guest house was co-owned by a French couple and their lifelong friend, a Dakar local who was a maternal force of nature and not to be messed with. The guests were a mix of tourists, aid workers and professionals starting sabbaticals and it struck me what a difference language makes in our travel choices. Dakar has much to offer, and is probably considered as common as Bali to the French, but to us English-speakers it seems completely out of reach.

    Matron was insistent that we could not leave our bikes outside in the street as she didn't want the trouble if they got stolen, so we set off to find somewhere to park. Valerio had the bright idea that we might be able to find a pharmacy and ask the security guards to watch over them overnight. Every pharmacy in Dakar has a permanent security guard in a little hut out front (as do many other businesses)—and after asking a couple we found one who agreed to safeguard our girls for a small fee for the night. We manhandled them up onto a narrow stretch of pavement and set off in search of some local cuisine, hoping they'd still be there in the morning.

    Even in those few hours in Dakar I felt immediately at home there. The culture was conservative but welcoming. People seemed respectful and well-behaved despite their economic challenges, and there was hope. Much of that was likely invested in the possibility of escaping to Europe one day, but it seems that at least the pride of being Senegalese would remain for those who departed.

    My hope was that the opportunities could emerge here, and that Dakar could build itself into a thriving, cosmopolitan city—perhaps one day less the Paris and more the Singapore of Africa.

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    Target Practice

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    New Company Branding

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    Baobabs - Stopping off to see some of the trees famous in this region

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    Le Calao du Lac Rose

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    Couple of Douches

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    Salty Shack

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    Salt Miners

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    Everything in moderation

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    Finish Line - This was the finish line of the original Dakar

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    Curious Curio Sellers

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    Exploring

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    Italian Tenere

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    Italy Twin

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    Espace Thialy in Dakar

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    Home Sweet Home

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    Best Burgers in Dakar - We went twice... maybe thrice.
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  5. Reminds me of a sign I saw in Hong Kong.
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  6. anydavenow

    anydavenow Long timer

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    I always use the formal method.
  7. Bongo Fury

    Bongo Fury n00b

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    Enjoying you writing and photos.
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  8. anydavenow

    anydavenow Long timer

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    Lost and Found

    In Dakar I had a few administrative errands to run. Most of these had me waiting in long, haphazard queues for a stereotypically Ray-banned, sometimes uniformed and always self-aggrandising African Man of Moderate Importance to go through a showy, convoluted process of blessing me with a stamp here or a photocopied permit there.

    Heading to the corporate, commercial city centre, I found a modest cluster of steel and concrete high-rises with valet's in the town square fussing over weary, black and poorly parked luxury cars. I went in search of the Cameroonian embassy to procure a visa while Valerio sought out a barber to tame his remaining hair.

    It turned out that I'd need to wait a week for the visa to be issued which wasn't ideal. I was mindful that the odd delays here and there to date were starting to add up to a risk of me not getting to Nigeria by my allotted entry date. Nigerian immigration policy is very strict and visas can only be issued in one's country of residence. If the dossier of supporting documents, photographs and bank account details results in you being granted a visa you have three months from the date of issue to present at a border. Those three months were dwindling rather faster than I'd anticipated.

    Leaving the embassy a little unsatisfied I went to find Valerio and Filippo at a previously agreed meeting spot near the barber shop but my search wasn't immediately successful. A friendly (pushy) cab driver on his smoke break caught the whiff of a quick buck and offered his help. Trying to brush him off I stumbled through a explanation that I was fine and was just looking for my Italian friends. He caught the Italian part and indicated confidently that "oui, oui" he knew who I was talking about and where they had gone.

    A wild goose chase ensured on foot in and around the CBD of Dakar with various urgent enquiries shouted across streets about "les Italiens". After about twenty minutes of traipsing around behind the guy we arrived at a construction site which he was certain was the last known location of my not-so-long lost friends. We were a good four blocks from where we'd started.

    I was told to wait outside as the cabbie entered to make enquiries. After a few minutes and some more urgent shouts from within, my saviour emerged (much to my surprise) with two Italians. These, however, were not mine. They were construction workers who had been summoned to be reunited with the Australian friend they didn't know they had.

    We eventually got it across to the leader of the search party that although he had in fact procured a pair of Italians it was not the pair I was after. Forlorn and frustrated he accepted the disappointing result and took me back to where we'd started—naturally demanding a fee in compensation for the significant investment of time he had made in trying to assist me (but not receiving one).

    Shortly after, the correct Italians appeared at the designated spot none the wiser about my exciting adventure to meet their fellow countrymen. Comparing outcomes from our respective missions we decided that a) I should also get a haircut and b) due to my visa being a week away we should take a side trip down the coast to Saly—a well-regarded tourist spot with a "piña coladas on the beach" kind of vibe (I'd had it recommended to me by Chris the GS rider I'd met way back in Morocco on my first night in Tangier).

    I was starting to get quite nervous about reaching Nigeria in time with only 33 days left to get there and who knew what in between. If I didn't make it, I'd have very little else to do but abandon the trip. Going around Nigeria was a non-option, and re-applying for a visa on the road was even less of one. The issue was out of my hands for the moment and so it was time to not make hay while the sun shone.

    Before we made for Saly we ticked a few Dakar todos off the list. First, my overdue haircut which was administered by a towering, Schwarzeneggerly Brazilian covered in gold chains and tattoos, the lower half of his face concealed by a black bandanna. Surprisingly, he had a touch so caring and gentle that it almost made me blush.

    Once he'd "réparé le problème" my travel buddies and I paid a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Île de Gorée, an island outpost of early European settlement about two kilometres off the main port of Dakar. Over the centuries it's fallen variously under the control of the Portuguese, Dutch, British, French, the British again and finally back to the French in the 500 years leading up to Senegalese independence.

    Gorée has a significant slave trade history but also served as a staging port for commercial shipping and a cannon post during the colonial years. As with St Louis the island plays host to the insane, disorganised reality of African past and present. It feels as though every aspect of humanity and civilisation is on display there at once—and certainly not in a Utopian sense.

    Although it is a hopeless place with people an animals scratching out a living amongst the crumbling relics of colonisation and beside the jarring relative wealth of middle-class tourists it has that strange, mystical attraction that so many of these so truly African places do. This isn't the Africa of tribes, jungles and pith-hat colonists. This is the Africa of today, having no time to wallow in the past or frolic in dreams of the future but simply having to thrash tirelessly onward through the mess of the present.

    —⤫—​

    That evening we returned our bikes to the care of our Malian pharmacy guard—a man so sweet and gentle that I was certain he would be much more likely to help any potential thieves in their progress rather than hinder them. On the walk back to Espace Thialy we stopped at a Lebanese-run chicken shop to overindulge in an excellent meal cooked by a competent chef and served by a very surly waitress.

    As the chef char-grilled our chicken on a hardwood fire in the corner the restaurant owner chatted to us about our where-froms and where-tos, pleased to hear about our enjoyment of Dakar, which he loved, but concerned about my plans to visit Nigeria. He had lived there for ten years and wasn't a fan. In fact, he insisted that if I was going to cross the country I'd definitely need to arrange a police escort for the entirety of the trip—it was the only way to do it safely.

    Despite niggling thoughts of missing my deadline to reach the border, fears that I'd be too terrified to cross it and significant digestive discomfort due to too much Lebanese chicken I still slept like the trunk of a dead Baobab that night.

    —⤫—​

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    CBD bound

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    The conductor

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    Street market

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    A bike I met

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    On the tourist ferry to Gorée

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    Dakar port

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    Arriving at Gorée

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    Preserved church

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    Pondering

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    More pondering

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    Young love

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    The Recalcitrant

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    Overtouristed

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    Overindulged
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  9. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

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    Good to see the story continued!
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  10. MotoSly

    MotoSly Adventurer

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    this is all Brilliant!!! really enjoying it so far!
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  11. steved57

    steved57 Long timer Supporter

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    Hell yeah - please keep it coming - am loving the writing and pic's
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  12. webnetxpress

    webnetxpress DakarEnduro

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    Ha, we just missed each other. I departed Dakar on Thursday in route to Pretoria, SA...

    If you have days/time to fill, first go see Madou at Mad Bikes to get any repairs sorted.
    For an afternoon day trip, go to Ngor Island. There is a nice italian restaurant on it that you can easily kill the afternoon at.
    If you are going to Saly, I recommend stopping for lunch at Popenguine. The nicest coast/beach in all of Senegal. Go to the restaurant Eco Cotier and get spoiled. Saly is nice, it is just bigger, more tourists, more spots. Popenguine is the hidden gem with only maybe 2 air bnb's and 2 restaurants on a pristine cove shoreline and maybe you'll see 30 other people, tops. It is the spot that most expats in Dakar head to on the weekends to get away.

    Good luck!
  13. simondippenhall

    simondippenhall Simondippenhall

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    Webnetexpress. Without spoiling the narrative, I hope, Dave is recounting a trip made last year....
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  14. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

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    Dave, thanks for a great verbal mental visualizing description of an amazing adventure.
    looking forward to its continuation.
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  15. anydavenow

    anydavenow Long timer

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    Thanks as always for the positive comments, all!
    I'm actually home in Sydney already, writing this retrospectively. Madou is a legend and he'll be featuring in the next episode (as will some of the other places you mention).

    Are you ovelanding to Pretoria or flying?
  16. webnetxpress

    webnetxpress DakarEnduro

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    Damn, didn't realize this wasn't real time. my bad!
    I flew to Joburg.
    Just took delivery of the 2021 KTM 500EXC yesterday. And my Ninja ZX14...
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  17. anydavenow

    anydavenow Long timer

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    Nice. You're going to need a bigger forum signature!
  18. Red liner

    Red liner Been here awhile

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    Hey keep going with the log
  19. anydavenow

    anydavenow Long timer

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    Next post is in the works! ;-)