The Africa Scooter Rally: I Made the Halfway Mark

You know, it’s funny.  I remember leaving the coast of Ghana, and heading for Togo, thinking to myself how the trip had been too easy thus far.  I had these grand dreams of writing an adventure novel about my scooter trip from Mali to South Africa.  However, nothing really exciting was happening.  Sure, I was having great travel experiences.  I was cashing elephants across savannahs, I was paddling among hippos on shallow lakes, and I was cruising through tiny villages off the beaten path.

The problem is that great stories are more than just a beautiful adventure.  Great stories have quicksand, dragons, and a princess.  Great have trials, tribulation, adversity, achievement and a moral.

As stupid as it seems now, when I was leaving Ghana I was a little bit depressed.  You see, sometimes you have a vision of the way an adventure is going to play out.  You think of the struggles you’ll have and how brave you’ll look when you overcome them.  You imagine meeting interesting characters, being chased by pirates, saving a kitten from a burning building and sweeping a beautiful vixen off her feet and riding into the sunset.  But at the end of the day, life doesn’t play out like the stories.  Life doesn’t let you pick and choose when you’ll struggle and when you’ll soar; and as I sit here in Yaounde, Cameroon – the defacto halfway point of my African scooter rally – that truth has never felt so clear.

Scooter Rally

After leaving Ghana, I got my wish.  Over the past month or two I’ve been battered, bruised and challenged in ways I never imagined I would.  I was hit with malaria in Togo, nearly hit by hundreds of cars in Nigeria, and then I did hit the pavement in Cameroon.  The moto crash in Cameroon wore on me much more than I expected it would.  Beyond the physical wounds I felt weak and demoralized.  A good part of me wanted to find out that Anne Murray was toast and that I’d have to finish my journey with public transport.  Another part of me wanted to find out I was toast and that I’d have to return home.

 Scooter Rally

However, a week of recovery and soul-searching has brought me to a much stronger place than I have ever been in my life.  I am ready to attack this world with the strength I know I have left, and I’m going to finish this great journey with a smile on my face.  I know now, more than ever, what is really important to me in this world.  I feel like that knowledge has given me an edge to push forward.  And that’s exactly what I’m about to do.

In case you’re curious, here are some stats from the trip to the half way point:

  • Kilometers Driven: 7,281
  • Countries: 7
  • Times I’ve dropped Anne Murray: 5
  • Times I’ve crashed into Taxis: 1
  • Money spent on repairs for Anne Murray total since leaving Bamako: $50
  • Total spent on fuel: Around $250
  • Random people that have caught a lift on Anne Murray: 4
  • Flat tires: 5
  • Times I fixed the fixed the flat tire myself: 0
  • Things stolen from Anne Murray: 1 tire pump, 2 wrenches, 3 bungee cords, and a partridge in a pair tree.
  • Words completed in the novel thus far: 18,083
  • Total days since leaving Bamako: 97
  • Days until estimated arrival: 97
  • Estimated distance left in KM: 8,000

 Scooter Rally

Let’s Get it!!!

As I might have mentioned, I’m fired up.  I’m excited again.  And, I have no idea where I’m going next.

The truth is that I have always wanted to visit Gabon.  However, they have made their visa process so difficult that it’s basically impossible to do within the timeframe I have available.  Thus, I had planned on skipping Gabon and going around it through the Congo.  But, after some soul-searching and encouragement from a Dutch couple I met overlanding down here, I’m going to head to the border and see if I can sweet talk my way into getting a visa there.  If not, I’ll be punished with 4 days hard driving through the jungle to Congo.  Either way, it’ll be an adventure.

I hope you’re enjoying my African adventures.  The truth is that this continent can wear on you.  There are days you just want to quit.  But then you have these moments in which your life feels so special, that the experience feels so valuable.

The first half of this trip was divided into two different tales: ease and trials.  I’m really hoping that this section will go smoothly. But if bumps arise in the road, Anne and I both are ready to take them on.


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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20 Comments

  1. It’s been a pleasure following along Brendan. I would never try something like this myself, but it sure has been fun reading about it. When the book comes out, I’ll be first in line to buy it!

    Safe Travels!

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for following along Erik! I’m glad I can be some entertainment :D. As for the book, I need to finish this trip, finish the Manuscript and then find an agent. I’d love for it to be out by Christmas… but a lot of things have to go write first for that to happen!

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  2. Woo halfway point! I love how you initially thought your story wasn’t that impressive because it didn’t have science fiction elements or vixens to rescue. Dude, you are motor biking across the African continent on a vehicle you’ve named after a Canadian pop star. You are a character in a novel.

    Post a Reply
    • Hahhahaha. Yes, I know Jackie. And I think I was exaggerating a bit in the article. The first half just went so smooth that I was worried there wouldn’t be that dramatic element that my story needed. I was worried that the novel was going to be all “and I made it here easier than I thought.” haha. I’m glad there have been some trials now, but I’m ready for things to get easy again.

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  3. I love when you talked about how having one vision for your adventure but having to deal with the one life hands you instead. It’s so true that we can’t know where we will triumph and where we will founder, but I guess that’s what makes it and adventure, right?

    Post a Reply
    • Exactly Steph, it’s something I’ve always had to deal with myself. I have a fantasy-novel mind and sometimes that’s hard when you live in a reality-show world. I guess that’s part-in-parcel why I do these crazy adventures in the first place, right?

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  4. Hiya, it’s always a good time reading you and following your thoughts.
    Maybe meeting more people on the way could help as looking from here, seems like you’re a bit alone most of the time. Take care and I’m sure the second part of the trip, as you’re hald way, will show you a different view of Africa!
    Take care, ET

    Post a Reply
    • Very true ET… just not a lot of travellers down here, and it’s a bit hard to meet locals in Africa for a variety of reasons. I’m starting to run into some overlanders now and once I hit the touristy regions of Southern Africa it should be better as well! Thanks for reading :D

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  5. That’s another dream adventure of mine you are living! Got the adventures for your book or not, I’m sure this is just as great as it should be! And when you think of it enough, you’ll find you have what you need for the book, just write it in a more dramatic way and it will work out :D
    Good luck and you have one promised buyer of your book already :)

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  6. Congrats Brendan! Very excited for you and can hardly wait to see if you get that visa or have to head to/through the Congo. Either way we, your readers, are in for a helluv an adventure with you.

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  7. Amazing! I just came across your blog recently, and I love what you’re doing. You don’t find many travel bloggers these days going to West Africa, let alone travelling the continent by scooter. Looking forward to reading more of your adventures!

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for checking out the site Sam – it defintiely feels like I’m all alone out here sometimes too haha

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  8. Hi Brendan, we wish you good luck and all the best for the second part of your Africa tour. Albert + Anke (the german couple from Miramar in Limbe)

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks! It was nice meeting you, and I hope you’re well!

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  9. I love your blog and i’m glad I came across it. It’s so cool that you are embarking on your African adventure on a scooter. I only wish to be able to do such one day! I plan on going for a month long trip to Africa (three countries) and I am excited!

    Way to go Brendan!!

    Post a Reply
    • Sweet Burkie, I hope you enjoy Africa when you get here. It really is a life-changing place!!

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  10. Great Blog,
    I have been an avid reader of your adventures for awhile now. I know that in my travels funds were at times an issue, perhaps because I took to much of a tourist route but I noticed that you mentioned that your room in Ghana was around $9 dollars a night. I’m sure your readers aren’t interested in a financial report but I was just curious for possible future reference, have you found it to be pretty inexpensive so far?

    Much Success on your book, I’ll be in line to get my copy!

    Post a Reply
    • Hi CJ, Thanks for checking in, and great comment about the budget! I should definitely post a budget report for Africa thus far! I’ll work on something for the next week or so. Africa is what you want, in terms of budget. You can live like an average local on $15-20 a day if you don’t mind missing modern comforts like flushing toilets. However, if can also be really expensive if you want a fancy room and meal every day. I’ve managed to find myself a middle ground. I spend about $45-50 dollars a day and I rarely miss out on anything because of costs. Anyways, as I said, I’ll post a financial report in the next couple weeks for everyone. Cheers again for the comment!

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