Every year arround middle of January the Rally Budapest to Bamako takes place. This rally is the poor mans amateur version of the Dakar Rally, and in many ways similar to how the Dakar was in its early days. “Budapest to Bamako” follows much of the same route as the original Daker, in the same ammount of time (only it is actually longer than the original as it ends in Bissau). It doesn’t go as fast as in the Dakar of course as this is more about the adventure than the sport. In adition, the Budapest To Bamako ialso has a humanitarian aspect to it, where it attempts to raise money for various projects in Africa..
Participating in something like this is extraordinarily spectacular in itself, hundreds has done it before us.. What does set us appart is our choce in wheels, namaely classic Vespa scooters. And, the fact that we will do this unassisted with no support vehicle. Between the three of us we will carry more than 200 kg of bare essentials (half a scooter in spare parts, 60 liters of spare fuel, 20 liters of two stroke oil, tons of tools, basic camping gear, enough medical equipment to open up a small clinic, and only one change of clothing).
Getting all the way to Guinea Bissau in two weeks on a Vespa is theoretically possible, but in practice? Well that is what wy are about to find out. A part of us wants to put ourselves to the test. 18 months of planning and preparations is just about to be put to the test, as is our physique, our phsycie, and our scooters – this is going to be really tough. Another part of us wants to show that three ordinary guys, with the aid of any kind of vehicle, can do something as exiting as this.But most of all, we love Vespas, we love to see the world from the scooter saddle, and Sahara is just waiting for us to roll all over it.
Getting to Guinea Bissau is in itself not a big problem, not even with a scooter. But add to that the immense time restraints, and a few really challenging offroad detours, that is a different matter alltogether.
The Vespas we will be usingare virtually identical to the ones that were used in the 1940′s. Based on the same technologies, It is still notoriously un
reliable, underpowered, has short range, has poor handling, and are not suitable for neither heavy loads or really bad roads. With so much distance to be covered, in such short time, so far away from any source of help or rescue, we need to be self reliable in every way. There will be no time to wait for shipment of parts or assistance. Any thechnical or medical related problem that occurs, we will need to be able t sort out ourselves or forfeit.
Fuel availability will at times be extremely carce, and with our scooters having such short range, we need to carry 20 liters of spare fuel each. As for two stroke oil, well that will be even more difficult to find. In addition to fuel and all the oil we will need for the entire trip, we will need to bring our own camping gear, lots of medical equipment, tons of spares, lots of tools… there will only be room for one change of clothin (we hope we will be able to wash frequently). Our scooters will hva an aditional 70kg each. That is like having a passenger that refuses to lean into turns, get off when you fall over or get stuck in sand, or when you need to get the scooter onto its center stand. The added sweight will add to even worse reliability, handling and performance.
The days in Northern Africa are short, especially in the winter. Riding at night there is not like riding at night in Europe. With only ten inch wheels and unpredictable roads, wit giant potholes, unpredictable curves, wandering camels and live stock, approaching vehicles without lights… it is something we really dread. Even if we twist ththrottle so far that the rubber comes off the handle bar, and ride continuously from sunrise, stopping only for fuel and drink, themargins for arriving at our destination while there is still light is quite small, On a good day we will average 45/kmh, on a bad day maybe only half of this. Having ridden in Africa previously, he knows that even under the best of conditions, with efficiency being at its best, it is improbable that one will average any higher than 55 km/h at the most.
The Vespas dosn’t belong in Sahara. It is guaranteed that they will se their share of problem. The riders will be knackered from having to ride 500 km/day, two weeks straight, on top of an Italian shopping trolley.
We are going to love i