As so often happens, on the flight home from the latest adventure, our thoughts have already turned to the next one. In January 2017, flying home from my motorcycle trip, which went from Italy to Bangkok, I thought about the continents I had visited and in which of these I still hadn’t seen as much as I wanted to see. That was when I decided that my next trip would be in Africa, a continent that, with the exception of a few excursions in Maghreb, I had been putting off for years.

I had one month to prepare all of my documents, visas, contacts and then off I went on my African Adventure!
On the first part of the journey, from Alexandria in Egypt to Livingstone in Zambia, 2 more friends joined me with their motorcycles, Maurizio Limonta and Luigi Amigoni, with whom I had already travelled with in the past.
We shipped our motorcycles by sea and we flew over to catch up with them in Alexandria. Getting the motorcycles through customs was not easy; it took 15 days because someone had added “Not valid in Egypt” to the Italian Carnet de Passages, which was false. This text did not appear on similar documents issued by other European countries, which meant that we ended up taking a long “vacation” in Alexandria to deal with paperwork, signatures and counter-signatures!

After crossing Egypt quickly, with obligatory stops at the Pyramids of Giza, the Valley of the Kings at Luxor and the Temples of Abu Simbel, even though we had already seen them in the past, we entered into the Sudan. In recent years, travelling in Sudan has become quick and easy. Several daily ferries cross Lake Nasser and in a few hours they carry you to within 50 km of Wadi Halfa. From the small village just past the border, to the capital Khartoum, the 500 km crossing of the magnificent Nubian Desert begins. The road is perfectly paved, and there is no traffic. Passing from the flat, desert landscape to the verdant plateaus of Ethiopia is a shock to the system. In less than one day of travel, we went from torrid heat to a cool climate. Once past Addis Abeba, the capital of Ethiopia, we reached the southern part of the country, where we headed for the Omo River, home to several tribes, including the Mursi, who are famous for their lip plates.
A stretch of road north of Kenya, passing through Moyale, took us into Uganda, where we rode into the forests to see the mountain gorillas. The last specimens in the world that are not in captivity live in Uganda and Rwanda.
I addition to Rwanda, we travelled through Burundi and Tanzania to get to Malawi. In Monkey Bay, we were guests in a mission for a few days where we were able to meet people who have dedicated their entire existence to helping the locals – a truly moving experience. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa.

We entered into Zambia and went to Livingstone where we saw the incredible Victoria Falls. This was where, as planned, I said goodbye to my travelling companions, Maurizio and Luigi. They headed south, while I took the road to Zimbabwe and Mozambique. See you again in Italy!
Once I entered Zimbabwe, where there is no official currency, I had a great deal of difficulty getting petrol, which was almost impossible to find, except on the black market. Plus, a small problem with the accelerator pump resulted in me getting stuck for a few days while I waited for the part to be shipped from Italy with DHL. In a top case full of spare parts, it was the only one I didn’t have. Bringing the right spare parts with you, without bringing an entire dismantled motorcycle, is a guessing game!
A few days of rest on the Indian Ocean and then I headed for Swaziland and then Lesotho, an off-road paradise. There are very few paved roads, and you are always riding at altitudes of between 1000 and 3000 metres in lunar landscapes.
Crossing South Africa all the way to Cape Town marked the end of the first part of my journey. In this modern city, the southern-most city in Africa, I took the time to do some maintenance and to change my tyres, in light of the probable poor road conditions I would encounter while driving back up the continent on the west.

In tourist-heavy Botswana and Namibia, I went to see local tribes (the Bushmen and the Himba) and I went to a few nature parks. Once I entered Angola, the hardest part of the journey began. Between the Congo and Gabon, the roads were flooded with water and mud because of the rainy season. In Cameroon, I rode through rainstorms almost every day. I took an old rust bucket to get to Nigeria… for 12 hours. The land borders between the two countries had security issues. The roads and traffic in Nigeria were amongst the worse I have ever seen (only India and Pakistan could give them a run for their money).
A few days rest in Benin was useful to get visas for Ghana, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, which I travelled through in a couple of weeks.
Travelling to Dakar in Senegal, arriving from the South, was very moving. In the past, I had arrived from the North, but this time, I travelled that road in reverse, crossing the deserts in Mauritania and the Western Sahara. Once I reached Morocco, where I had lived for some time, I felt like I was home. A ferry from Tangier to Genoa brought me back to Italy, which I had left 7 months earlier.
Looking back, it hardly seems real…

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THE PROTAGONIST

Franco Ballatore

Born in Cuneo, in 1966, he has spent his career in Enduro and Moto Rally and has been traveling the world for over thirty years. In 2011 he left the job he had been doing for 25 years, to dedicate himself totally to this passion. To date, he has visited 128 countries in the world and completed several transcontinental crossings on motorcycles, among the latest adventures:

– 2012/2013; from New York to Buenos Aires, 30.000 km in 6 months.
– 2013/2014; circumnavigation of South America, 30.000 km in 6 months.
– 2016; all European capitals, 35.000 km in 7 months.
– 2017; from Italy to Bangkok (Thailand), 18.000 km in 3 months.
– 2018/2019; circumnavigation of Africa, through 36 States, 40.000 km in 7 months.
– 2019; Israel, Palestine and Jordan, 7.000 km in 2 months.

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