If there’s one sound I remember from my travels in Southeast Asia, it’s the motorcycles. The insistent motorized whine of these two-wheeled bikes is audible everywhere you turn, from Hanoi to Bangkok. Today’s photo, taken by Flickr user halvora, is a great visual reminder of one of the most iconic images of Southeast Asia. Taken in Bangkok, the black and white image, dashed road lanes and cluster of helmeted bikers form an interesting pattern and a great reminder of this most familiar of symbols.
I’ve always been intrigued by Burkina Faso. I know very little about this West African nation and that only increases the allure. It also helps that it has a cool name and its capital, Ouagadougou, has probably the coolest city name ever! While my travels have focused on North Africa and the Horn of Africa, I plan to explore West Africa one day and Burkina Faso is high on my list.
This video by Tony, who writes the great Africa Full Circle blog, gives a sneak peak of the street scene in Ouagadougou. He mounted a camera to his helmet and sped around town on his motorcycle, then added a chilled out soundtrack to the video. Tony says that the roads are much nicer than they used to be with many having been paved in the past year.
Tony has plenty more videos from his world travels on his many blogs. Be sure to check them out!
Thomas Tomczyk is serious about motorcycles. He’s done three motorcycle trips across India, from the steamy southern tip all the way up to the frozen highlands of Ladakh. Now he’s starting his childhood dream–an epic trip 12,500 miles (20,000 km) across Africa.
His zigzag tour will take in 22 African nations including South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, the Saharawi Republic, and Morocco. . .
. . .before he ends up skinny, exhausted, and happy at my house in Spain, where my wife will fatten him up with her excellent paella.
Full disclosure: Thomas is a friend of mine. We covered the massive Hindu pilgrimage of Kumbh Mela together in 2001 and barely managed not to get trampled to death by hordes of naked holy men. But even if I didn’t know him, this trip is so thoroughly cool I would have reported on it anyway.
Thomas isn’t just going on vacation; he’ll be visiting innovative grassroots projects that are making life better for the average African. Through his website Africa Heart Beat he’ll be telling us about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, such as creating a job center for landmine victims in Mozambique, an AIDS theater group in Botswana, and a Muslim-Christian vocational center in Mali that’s bringing the two communities together.
“The idea of crossing Africa came to me when I was 10,” Thomas says.”A large map of the world hung above my bed in a small Warsaw apartment. I would study the geography of each continent, its road and railroad network. The most prominent continent would be Africa, placed in the middle of the map, right above where my head would rest on the pillow. The idea stayed in my mind for years. I would eventually learn to ride motorcycles in India and cover the Horn of Africa for publications in Poland and US. In January 2009 my grandmother passed away and I decided it was time to do the trek I’ve been thinking about for so long. Traveling for travel’s sake was past me, and I decided I needed to find a purpose as I travel, something that would give meaning to the journey and benefit others.”
While 20,000 km is a long way to ride, he’s done it before in India. His longest journey there was 20,000 km on a 1950s technology 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet. I’ve ridden that bike and it’s a monster– heavy and tough enough for the task. This time he’ll be probably picking up a KTM 640 LC Adventure, a lighter but rugged off-road bike from a dealer in South Africa when he flies there Thanksgiving Day.
He’ll be crossing some very remote areas but will keep in touch as much as possible with an array of communications equipment. There will be regular updates on his blog, Facebook page, and YouTube channel. On the day after Thanksgiving, when Thomas is safely in Johannesburg and on the first day of his eight-month journey I’ll be writing about some of the gear he’s bringing along and share some advice he has for covering your own journeys as you do them.
Know of a project Thomas should cover? Tell us about it in the comments section!
The guys over at Urban Daddy have been on a roll lately, unearthing some pretty cool packaged tours. First there was Urbane Nomads’ dive trip to the Great Wall of China. Now they’ve found an organized luxury tour of Morocco, by motorcycle.
Hispania Tours offers a 15-day tour through Morocco that features 13 days of riding on BMW motorcycles. The route starts and ends in Malaga, Spain, and includes stops in Marrakech, High Atlas, Fez, Erg Chebbi, and Merzouga in Morocco. At close to €4000, it’s not cheap. But for the price, you’ll get a guide who’ll lead your group of up to 8 riders along the route, a chase van that will take care of any breakdowns and transport your luggage from place to place, accommodations in 3- and 4-star hotels, breakfasts and dinners, all ferry tolls, insurance, and a camel ride at Merzouga.
The company also runs tours through Spain and Portugal, which range from €2000 to €3000 per person. Self-guided tours that include just hotel and motorcycle start at €1300 and motorcycle rentals only start at €75 per day. Pillions (riders who sit behind the motorcycle driver on the same bike) pay about 1/4 of the full rate and according to the website, routes can be tailored according to experience level.
Anna’s earlier post today about the ban of cyclos, the three wheeled transportation so popular in Vietnam, highlights on an important change taking place in Vietnamese society. Yes, many tourists and visitors enjoy cyclo rides from time to time (I know I’ve taken a few), but this ban will do wonders for the traffic situation in Saigon.
Traffic, you see, is a little difficult in Saigon, largely in part due to the number of motorbikes and poor signaling. The sheer volume of motorbikes in the city is staggering; transferring into the city from Ho Chi Minh airport, I was baffled by the number on the street. So with fewer cyclos taking up precious vehicle space, hopefully traffic can streamline itself into a more efficient pattern.
I took the following video in the middle of a weekday, so traffic is light. During weekends, rush hour or holidays, the number of motorbikes is absurd.