Announcement: I’m Driving a Scooter to Cape Town

Since arriving in Africa, I’ve dreamed of having just a little bit more freedom.  Teased by moto rides in Guinea and Sierra Leone, the desire to get a feel for the open road, to travel on my own clock, and to truly be free to my own devices has been festering stronger and stronger.  And as of today, I’m pleased to announce that it’s all about to go down.  I’m going to drive a scooter from Bamako, Mali to Cape Town, South Africa.

I want to introduce you to my scooter, Anne Murray (Yes, I really named her that).

Africa Scooter Jaykata

Really?

Yes, really.  To be honest, I have been craving the freedom of my own vehicle since realizing the challenges of West African public transport.  Moreover, I’ve realized that although taking public transport has given me a nice bit of interaction with the locals I’m also missing out on a lot as well.  I think I underestimated the lack of tourism infrastructure for non-rich travellers in Africa.  Everyone is on a tour or has their own vehicle.  Because I’m tied to public transport, I haven’t been able to stop along the road to take pictures, drive off route to special sights, and most of all I haven’t been able to travel when I wanted to travel.

How Did this Come About?

Like all my crazy ideas, I had this idea in the shower.  Before even completely drying off I had shot out an email to HostelWorld.com seeing if they wanted to team up with me on this, and really how could they not?  Thus, I am very gracious in thanking HostelWorld.com for helping to sponsor this incredible journey.  It’s obviously going to have some serious challenges, in fact just getting the thing licensed has been a challenge, but it will certainly also result in a plethora of stories.

Scooter in Africa

Why a Scooter? Are you Mad?

To answer your question in brief, yes I am mad. But moreover, there are a number of reasons why I’m doing this on a scooter and not in a 4×4 or even on a bigger bike.  I’ve listed them for you here:

  • Cost: I can’t afford a car, are you crazy?  And I doubt Toyota is willing to give me one either.  The scooter that I bought, which might be graciously described as “cheap Chinese engineering”, was only $800.
  • Adventure: How many people ride 4x4s around Africa? Lots.  How many ride around shitty Chinese-made scooters? That’s right, just me.  I like the idea that I’m doing something that few others have attempted.
  • Simplicity: I haven’t driven a motorbike since I was in high school, and I can’t be bothered spending weeks struggling to get back on the saddle.  This bike is simple.  It’s like a super powered bicycle.
  • Safety: Although you might be thinking it to be unsafe motoring along slowly on African highways, I think it would be even less safe if you gave me the power behind a massive bike.  The fact that I can’t go TOO fast on this thing is probably a good thing.  I’m told this bike can go 80-90km/h, but most say it’s best driven around 60km/h.
  • Environment: This bike does about 100 miles to the gallon which means I will hardly burn any fuel.  My impact on the environment will be minimal.
  • Humour: I’d be lying if I wasn’t doing this in part for the humour factor.  Watching a grown man drive a moped across the hard roads of Western Africa?  Can’t you just see a dude with everything he owns on the back of his bike rolling into Lagos? That’s funny! I can almost see the scene from Dumb and Dumber when Harry rocks up with the scooter that he’s traded for, that’s gold.
bike route through africa

Click to Enlarge my Planned Route

Logistics? How are you doing this?

  • Distance: I honestly have no idea how many clicks this will be in total, but I’m going to guess about 15,000 when all is said and done.  When I put it in to google maps roughly it comes out at 12,000, but I’m sure with a bunch of detours it will be well over 15,000.
  • Countries: Due to the bike, and a couple other factors, I’ve altered my Africa route slightly.  I’ll be heading from here in Mali to Burkina Faso, then comes Ghana, Benin, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, possible Sao Tome & Principe, Congo, DRC, Angola, Namibia, and ending in South Africa.
  • Roads: To be honest, I’m not really sure how it’s going to go.  Lots of people have warned me that the roads through part of the journey are going to be pretty difficult on the scooter.  I fully expect to drop the bike a couple dozen times. However, I think I am up for the challenge.
  • Time: My original plan had me arriving in Cape Town about July.  That itinerary has held pretty strong to this point so I’m hoping that will still be the case.  I guess only time will tell.

How can we Follow?

The beauty of this trip is that there are going to be a tonne of different ways to follow along.  Both myself and HostelWorld.com will be pumping out content from the trip on the various social media networks.  Below are some of the best ways to follow:

  • YouTube: My travel channel on YouTube is very intensive.  I basically film a segment of my life each and every day.  There will be plenty of riding shots as I’ve set up a couple GoPro mounts on the bike and also have a head cam.  I’m also working on setting up a helmet mic so you can hear me swearing at traffic on the road as well.
  • Instagram: I’m in the process of unlocking my iPhone, and when I do so there will be plenty of instant photos of Anne Murray and I on the road and in cool places.
  • Twitter: Those of you who follow me already know that I’m very active on twitter. It’s the best place to get realtime updates.  For updates specific to the scooter rally follow the hashtag #ScooterRally
  • Facebook: Who doesn’t love facebook?  Follow both myself and HostelWorld.com for updates
  • Right here: Of course, there will be plenty of stories to come right here on the blog.  However, as you know, this site is always a couple weeks behind where I actually am in the world.

Let the adventure begin

I am heading off tomorrow.  So be prepared for some great adventure footage from the road!



Author: Brendan van Son

Author: Brendan van Son is a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. He has visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than he has the desire to count. Check out his profile on . for a little bit more about him.

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36 Comments

    • Thanks Cole… Something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, so I’m obviously stoked!

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    • Yes. I. Am. :D

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  1. Sounds like a new reality show. How to survive West Africa… on a SCOOTER!
    I’d tune-in each week to see it but then Mom always says I’m ‘special’ *laugh*
    Bon Voyage – can’t wait to read the upcoming posts.

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  2. Soundssss awesome!! :) I’m flying to Ghana in March… Hope to see you and your wee scooter!

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    • Sweet!!! I’m not sure I’ll still be there in March but if I am, shoot me a message!

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  3. Brendan, this may just be the coolest travel idea I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve always dreamed of cruising across some place like Africa os Asia on a motorcycle, and even contemplated taking a scooter on a small road trip. But across Africa?! You’re freakin’ bonkers mate…and that is a good thing!

    In May I will be bicycling across the USA but I’ll be following your every move through Africa on that dinky scooter. And if I was there, I would totally be the Lloyd to your Harry hahahaha.

    Can’t wait to see this adventure unfold, live gnarly my friend!

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    • Thanks Ryan… it’s going to be crazy for sure! I’ve only gotten 800km in and people I meet are already like “you’ve driven that thing all the way from Bamako???” haha. I can’t wait to see their faces when I tell them that when I arrive in Namibia haha.

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  4. Best of luck in your adventure!! Can’t wait to see the footage!

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    • Thanks Michelle, it’s been fun already!

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  5. Super cool! I didn’t have much experience with this type of bike until we went to the Philippines, where it’s the only kind of “scooter” you can get. I rode either proper motorcycles or fully automatic scooters for years, but never one of these semi-autos (they essentially don’t sell them in the states). Overall they are really nice, plenty of power and it’s nice being able to choose your gear for more challenging rides. The only tips I can give you (and you probably already know this) is that you’ll end up wanting a more aggressive tire as the roads get worse, and if your bike jerks a lot when you shift (even after you feel like you’re good enough that it shouldn’t) then you might need some clutch work. Other than that I can’t say much. Good luck, and have fun! Also, I like the gold rims, very stylish!

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    • Tony, yeah… I was on some really sandy roads on my first day and I was REALLY unstable… I got squirrely a bunch of times and have no idea how I didn’t fall at least twice. I’m going to buy some really good tires in Bobo, so hopefully that helps. It’s been crazy, but it’s fun. I really want to bring something like this back to North America, it’s so efficient!

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  6. Good luck on the ped ! You have inspired me to travel in africa more and more. I was In morocco in may/june and just missed you and I set off to Mali next week on the dakar challenge with team rubbish racing. The whole just missing you things is ok as I get the full benefit of your write ups, pictures and the ‘on the ground’ info which is very current. Cheers mate and good luck on the cheap chinnky ped.

    P.S. Check all nuts and blots are tightened daily. They have a tendency to shake to bits.

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    • Thanks Ferdinand… the beauty of it here is there are mechanics everywhere and they do the check ups pretty quickly and cheaply so I rarely have to do it myself haha.

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  7. Sounds like quite the adventure! Roads get dicey after Gabon, and don’t improve until Namibia or Zambia, depending on your route. Best of luck.

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    • Yeah… I’ve had my fun with these bad roads already… it’s going to be interesting for sure haha

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  8. I don’t think I’ve missed many of your posts since you arrived in Africa, but I will be even more riveted now! This is an absolutely brilliant idea. Now this really IS adventure travel.

    The thing also is that this would be a cool idea almost anywhere (except where it’s too cold maybe!) because you do miss so much using any other mode of transport.

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    • Thanks for the support Linda. Hopefully the scooter thing makes for some good stories and not disastrous ones.

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  9. Leave out Equatorial Guinea – you won’t get a visa!

    My friend managed to get an Angolan visa from the consulate in Accra – contact me if you want to know how.

    I live in Cape Town and have been up and down your planned route 3 times, on a bike and in a Land Rover.

    Good luck with your adventure.

    Remember to ask questions on the HUBB (horizons unlimited).

    Couch surfing should be your new best friend.

    D

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    • Hi Dave,
      Yeah, just came to that conclusion the other day about E.G.
      I’m going to shoot you an email about the Angolan visa and a couple other things.
      Have been in contact on HUBB, get bit of resource!
      Cheers,
      B.

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    • Thanks budday!

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    • Thanks Will!

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  10. Hi Brendan! Super jealous of your adventure. Will be following closely. If you’re passing through Johannesburg when you’re in SA let me know!

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    • Don’t worry, I’m pretty loud about where I’m going generally. Haha, I will let you… and the world know for sure! Cheers!

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  11. Hi,

    your blog and movies kept me up all night! I really love it!

    I am leaving for a 13 weeks trip to West Africa in 5 weeks. My initial plan was to get around with public transport. But after reading your adventures with your scooter I think I will do the same! I will buy a scooter in Accra and sell it in Dakar. Especially in countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone with an almost nonexistent infrastructure a scooter bets any other transport! Also the in the wet season 2 wheels can be more advantageous then 4 wheels on the muddy roads

    I am wondering how a solved your fuel problems you were talking about in a video? Did you get a canister or are you still have to stop every 140k to fuel up?

    Cheers from Germany

    Jens

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    • Hey Jens,

      Cool that you’re going to follow in the footsteps :D
      Actually, it might be hard to find a scooter in Accra. They don’t really drive them there. However, if you go across to Togo, or wait until Burkina-Faso you’ll have no problem getting them.
      About the fuel, yeah I did just buy a 5 litre jerry can. It let’s me drive the scooter about 300km or so which is great. The truth is, you shouldn’t need it too much since there are loads of villages selling fuel up there. The only thing is that it’ll give you more piece of mind that you won’t run out.

      Have fun!

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  12. Shit, up to now I haven´t realized that scooters are hard to find in Accra. Thanks for the advice!
    I will do Ghana, Togo and Benin first, but with my girlfriend. I think it wouldn´t be really comfortable to ride around with 2 persons plus 30-40 kg of luggage.
    My next country after Ghana will be Cote D’Ivoire. How are your experiences with motorbikes in Abidjan? The problem is that I don´t speak any French at all. So getting informations and buying a bike will be easier in Ghana.
    Btw what engine does your scooter have? 50 or 125 ccm?

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    • Honestly, the best place to buy is Burkina Faso. Everywhere else they ride motorcycles. My scooter is actually 110cc haha

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      • I wasn´t planning on going to Burkina Faso :-/ Motorcylces are more expensive then scooters or why did you go for a scooter? Probably there are cheap Chinese motorcyles around as well.

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        • You can get a cheap motorcycle too. They’re about $1,200 as opposed to the $800 I paid for my scooter

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  13. Cheers for the great informations! Probably I will go for the luxus version ;-)

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  14. Hi Brendan,

    Impressive! A fabulous idea.

    I just discovered your blog and will surely spend quite some times reading it.
    I love West Africa (and Africa) and am heading next summer to Congo (Brazzaville) and at the end of the year to Benin. You made me curious about Sierra Leone, I have to have a better look at this country. You are not the first one who wrote about it and recommended it.

    One question: how difficult was it to cross borders from one country to the other with the scooter? Did you need a lot of administration (like a Carnet de Passage for a car)?

    Cheers
    Gilles

    Post a Reply
    • Hey Gilles,

      Was really easy actually. I usually just had to get a temporary import for some countries which was like $10. But really, I had no problems.

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