Motorcycle Dairies Togo
Edition Fuel motorcycle Togo, West Africa
In this weeks edition of Motorcycle Dairies we head over to West Africa. The off road motorcycle adventure starts in the small country called Togo. Here two friends we battle the elements in search for real adventure. For the most part they ride off road trough jungle single tracks, riverbeds, up and over mountain tops.
Togo is just a short flight away but the contrast between Europe could not be bigger. Within this time I flew over one of the greatest desserts in the world, the Sahara deserts this is the place where legends are born and my obsession with off road motorcycle adventure began. Just some 40 years ago my dad crossed that immense sea of sand solo and unsupported on a Yamaha xt500. Without Gps and only the most basic of equipment, those where the time of real adventure!
While sitting in this comfortable chair I look down upon this immense emptiness of the Sahara desert. The idea that I fly over the same place my dad crossed so many years ago only fuels my desire to push my limits in the journeys that I set out upon. In that adventurous spirit, we dive deep into motorcycle Dairy edition TOGO, West Africa.
Touching down on the African soul it immediately feels liberating! You feel free from the minute you step out of the plane. Free, free from the rules of Europe, the norm that most people live in, the European mindset they fade all away. Here things work differently! People are open, friendly always! And for the rules, if they do exist they are taken with a grain of salt, you do as you please. After getting picked up by Daryl (My companion for this trip) I get a nice introduction to the Togolese way. While waiting at a red light I am staring at people on the motorcycles and I lock eyes with a guy that looks straight back he does not show any emotion what so ever. After some time staring at each other and just before the light turns green he cracks the biggest smile.
With the spirits high, Daryl and I go over the plan for the coming days. This includes making some last adjustments to the bikes and fitting the generously supplied motorcycle clothing from FUEL motorcycles, All in all, I would be busy for 2 days until we could depart on our off road motorcycle adventure.
“To explore is to see”
The essence of this off road motorcycle adventure is, to travel the region with an explorer’s state of mind. Travel how they used to do it back in the old days. Riding by compass heading and pure instinct instead of blindly following a GPS. This will force us to travel off the beaten track and marked out paths, this way we get to experience all that Togo has to offer. Little by little, the country opens itself up but only by those who know how to question it, observe it, and feel it !!
Hitting the gas,
After a little logistical problem with the “RALLY RAID” hydration pack, we leave Lome just a bit later than planned. (this little problem would come to haunt me later)
Heading out of Lome we hit the first dirty tracks, I say dirty because it had rained the days before and the roads were full of mud. The otherwise nice reddish soil had turned it big mud pools which made for a very fun first couple of km’s. Just around halfway through the day we take is a first roadside rest stop. Just a quick check and a fag stop for the guys, for me it is time to whip out the camera and shoot the first images of the trip. Just when we are discussing the route we notice the front tire of Daryl’s Africa twin is losing air. With 36 degrees and little to no shade, it is hard work to change it but in the end, we had to switch the inner tube altogether. The heat and humidity prevent the tire patches from setting. We waited at least 10 minutes before putting the inner tube back but no luck, the glue wouldn’t stick. In the third attempt, we take out the spare tube and put this inside.
With the tire Full of air and the lungs full of tar, we continue on our route north. We navigate our way through the southwestern part of Togo and handrail the Ghanian border. By doing so, the route takes us over the Chaîne du Togo mountain range. They are comprised of many lush green mountain peaks with some peaks reaching up to 960 meters. Trough these mountains many dirt tracks will lead us further north. On the second night, the little logistical problem would come back to haunt me. This night would be a bush camp on one of the green mountain peaks that Togo is known for.
Before we venture into the bush we head into a small village to get some vital supply’s, the shopping list includes; Pasta and peppers, tomatoes, garlic and of course beers, lots of beers. With the groceries packed and 3 liters of beer in the care of Daryl, we head out to find a suitable place to make camp for the night. At this time the light is fading the sun is down and the only good light source is Daryl’s headlights of the Africa twin. Almost 20 years old but way ahead of its time. The Africa twin was and still is one great bike. Those headlights are something else aswell they illuminate the whole trail and then some. After some 20 kilometers from the village, we find a spot with a lot of potentials. It’s a coffee plantation and the trees are a bit further apart just enough so we could fix our hammocks in between. That night chef Daryl treats us to “Pasta ell Busso” as he called it.
“Pasta ell Busso” is made from local ingredients and only the freshest produce. The only thing we forgot in that village just hours ago was to buy water for the night and the next day. This would be my problem for the night as well with a liter each of beer in our system we turn into our hammocks. For me, the night would be one mixed with allot of running to trees. The logistical problem we had days before eventually caught up with me. We forgot one of the lines for the hydration pack, Daryl being the nice guy that he is said that I could take his hydration pack. The only thing he forgot to mention was that the hydration pack was filled with tap water form Daryl’s home faucet. For me as a Dutch guy and being used to the cleanest water in the world. My stomach didn’t deal al to well with the Togolese tap water. After a short night and a nice lactating morning coffee, we head out of the bush camp and we hit the dirt trails again.
It is one of the best feelings to leave camp and venture into the unknown! Not knowing what the day would bring and what routes we would encounter.
We continue our path North and visit one of the biggest waterfalls of western Africa. Cascade Yikpaf located in the Plateaux region is close to the big city of Kpalime and a must when visiting this region. To get to the cascade you have to do a steep climb up. For this climb its best to have good footwear, for me I had to choose between a pair of slippers or my Sidi Crossfire 2 boots.
After an hour hike, you are rewarded to one massive sight of nature’s raw beauty. The Cascade Yikpaf stand 80 meters tall, it’s water just free falls straight down. It was particularly difficult to get the whole thing on a picture with my widest lens being a 24mm, The cascade is just that massive. We dive into the water and cool off from the hike. We drink some beers, crack some jokes before heading down the mountain. That night we stayed in a small hostel near the cascade. The guide’s wife that brought us to the cascade made dinner. Yet again the guide brought us some more beers. Before our plates were empty, we all were pretty much drunk and falling asleep. We called it a night pretty early and turn in for a well-needed rest.
The next day would mark our fourth day out on the trails and every one of us was loving it. But for Daryl, unfortunately, it was almost time to go back to depart because the support vehicle for Pure adventure tours would arrive into the port of Lome. We spend one more night drinking beers and talking shit before he heads back towards the capital. I on the other hand, would continue this off road motorcycle adventure. The route North is still long but however i would do it solo from here on out.
Riding solo is very liberating, you chose your path stop and go as you please. But like anything there is a downside as well. If and when it goes wrong there’s no one to get you out of the shit. That day I take it easy. Trying not to push my limited of my non existing riding skills. The following day everything is back to normal the speed is up and the smile on my face couldn’t be wider. Now I am getting the most fun out of this old XR400R. Along there route there are many small bridges just steep enough to make some air with the old XR. It is crazy to think this bike can take all that abuse. I am probably 90 kg alone, add another 25 kg of luggage and camera gear and this old dirt bike is heavily overloaded. The only mods that I did to it are to strengthen the subframe and add a KTM 640 luggage rack.
I hit the most Northern part of this off road motorcycle adventure. This place is also the most beautiful place of the whole of Togo, for me at least. The Savanes region is filled with deep feshfesh tracks that lead almost endlessly through the terrain. Most tracks are perfect to open the throttle wide open. This all mixed with some single tracks that lead you to very challenging hill climbs,I love that area! One of those hills climbs i would be stuck on for 2 hours in the midday sun. But by pushing trough even without making any progress I eventually make it to the top. That feeling of overcoming something you thought was impossible before is addictive.
You want to push your boundaries constantly always looking for that next challenge.
Day 8, marks for me the day I would have to turn my compass 180 degrees.
Heading directly south and most of all trying to take a different route than I had taken before. This day was so fast that I did around 350 km of full off road riding, only to stop to drink and eat a little snack here and there. With the most technical trails located in the south here in the north the speeds are up and the fun factor as well. Within 4 days I would have to be back in the south because my plane would take-of that day. With little time to spare, I had to resort to spending one afternoon on the paved highway just to make enough time. It was a necessary evil, I needed a little wiggling room if something would turn sideways. The last couple of days are spent bush camping in one of the most amazing places i have ever being. Being able to camp there for a night under a blanket of stars, just amazing. I close my eyes every night and rise only when the sun is starting to hit the ground. Living life to the fullest!!
All good things come to a end! So did this trip, with half a day to spare I arrive in Lome the capital of Togo. This day is spent organizing my gear and taking a well-needed nap on the beach.
That evening Daryl comes to pick me up, he drives me to the airport. On the way there we make a little stop at his house to drink some beers and say our goodbye’s. Within an hour or two I am back at the airport waiting for my flight back to -2 degrees wheater of the Netherlands 😉
All in all, it was an amazing trip! Form Hillclimb to river crossings and jungle single tracks, the country of Togo is small but damm it has so much to offer! I know ill be back soon !!!
To see al the images from this trip hit the link below.
portfolio Togo Fuel motorcycle