Now that you may have bought a car, it is time for some preparations. The distance to The Gambia is about 6000 to 7000 km’s (depending where you are in Europe) and your car is likely to meet some extreme conditions on the way. If you bought a car with a well documented maintenance history then things will be a little bit easier. If maintenance history of your car is not available, then check the timing belt interval. If in any doubt, replace the timing belt first! Some cars have a distribution chain that doesn’t need maintenance which is a good selling point in Africa. Cars often lack maintenance before they are put on sale. Check oil, filters and the condition of the tyres. Last but not least, as I do speak from experience, check the cooling system for worn out hoses and proper functioning of the cooling fan.
As the car will endure rough terrain and hot temperatures. Small defects could cause huge problems on the way. Warning! If your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, it’s as good as lost (including your luggage). Cost for car recovery and repair are very expensive (if possible at all). An abandoned car in the desert is likely to be ransacked overnight!
Be well informed
Apart from reading this series of articles, it is recommended that you read about the countries you are going to visit. I will elaborate further about specific country information on Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia later on. For now, I would like to recommend the book ‘Sahara Overland’ (isbn 1-873756-26-7) written by Chris Scott. He is a real authority on travelling (bike and car) across the Sahara. The book is a bible for overlanders. Chris Scott also moderates an active forum with lots of up to date information. You can find it by clicking the following link:
Tip! It is of the upmost importance that you check the forum on a regular basis before leaving in order to assess the security situation¹ at present in the region . Also, border procedures and visa procedures are subjected to change and could have great impact on successfully completing the trip. This site will update frequently. Be sure to check regularly before you drive a car overland to West-Africa.
¹ In parts of Mauritanië, more inlands, AQIM (Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb) is active. The Dutch Department of Foreign Affairs therefor issued a negative travel advice. Since 2009, nine incidents along the Atlantic Route have been documented.
To be continued…