We’ve got wheels!

With Christoph finished as a Peace Corps volunteer, Guida back in village, and the project just a few weeks away, we finally bought our motorcycles for this journey.  We couldn’t decide between cheap commonly-availabe Chinese/Indian bikes, or sturdier Japanese enduro rigs.

Cheap Local Bikes:

PROS – cheap, any mechanic can fix ’em, parts are everywhere, unintimidating

CONS- breakdowns, less agile in rough terrain, slower speeds over long distances

Japanese Enduro Bikes:

PROS- tough, go-anywhere, carry everything easily

CONS- noisy, intimidating, expensive, difficult to repair in the bush

In the end, we went with the latter.  The decision really came down to choosing the bikes that can get us to the most interesting places.  We’d hate to be stuck somewhere because the bikes can’t handle the terrain, so we’re going with the big rigs.  For more info about the Serows, check out this excellent online resource:

www.XT225.com – we’ll be counting on these folks for advice if we have trouble with the motos.

I (Christoph)  explored the motorcycle market last week in Accra.  Having read about and cogitated motos for the last year, I knew I was looking for something like the Yamaha Serow (pictured above).  Well, I found a half dozen of them in the used moto market.  As I stood on a street corner, salesmen rolled up with one Serow after the next, revving their engines to convince me they’d found my perfect ride.  In the end, I found two bikes that purred just right.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture, so just imagine the moto above with a few scratches and a nice layer of dust.

They’re identical Yamaha Serows from the mid 1990’s.  With 225cc engines, they’re really peppy, yet still light enough to lift into a truck or boat or whatnot.  Interestingly, the name Serow refers to a small agile Himalayan goat.  Although we’ll be a long way from the snows of East Asia, small and agile is just our style.  Unlike a mountain goat, these Serows have lots of moving parts, so we stocked up on replacement pieces, and hopefully we won’t have to use them.

Having found the bikes and achieved a complex bank transfer to get the cash, we became the proud owners of two Serows, one white/green and one white/purple.  Real cute.  Tough cute.  Now, all we had to do was get two unregistered uninsured used motorcycles through three countries in one day.  With the help of a friend from the Benin National Cycling Team, we loaded them into a truck from Accra to the Togo border.  There, we hired some “businessmen” to skirt around the border through the bushes, avoiding the hastle of Ghanaian customs.  With sunset approaching, we rode through Togo to the next border.  We’d expected problems from the Togolese border officials, but they just asked us to pay a $2 unregistered bike fee, and we were on our way.  We crossed into Benin as it got dark, and got in line to register the bikes in their new home.  This process proved to be an exercise in patience and assertive bribery.  3 hours and a dozen 10,000 CFA bills later (under the table), we zipped away with our official documents in the bag.

Now, we’ve left the bikes in Cotonou with a friend who’s going to tune them up in preparation for the journey.  We’ll be getting racks welded on to carry our equipment, spare fuel, water, etc.

Guida is back in village, helping with a research project about the Fulani’s use of cattle corridors and their relationships with sedentary farmers.  Christoph has flown to Switzerland to spend holidays with the family, recharge the psychological battery, and get ready to launch into the Pulaku Project full-time!

We’re gettin’ real close.

Happy new year to you all, and get ready to Pulaku with us!

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3 Responses to “We’ve got wheels!”

  1. Shari Crist says:

    Best of luck on your journey.
    Jess and I look forward to following you on your advenutres!
    Shari Crist
    Jessica Bruce

  2. Geoff says:

    Check your HU message. Have fun, I rode through that part of the world on an XT600. An XT is a good bike and suited to the terrain.

  3. Stuart (Reggie) Martindale says:

    Hi Guys,

    good luck with your project and enjoy the Serows. i’ve got over 100,000 miles of Serow riding under my belt and appreciate them for what they are, a Swiss Army Knife of bikes!