4,000 Miles, Seven Countries: An African Adventure on Two Wheels

The tour went through Senegal, where cyclists rode a dirt track toward the capital, Dakar.CreditCreditDaniel Rodrigues for The New York Times

A 10-week cycling trip from Morocco to Ghana takes riders on a rough ribbon of road through West Africa, a region better known for strife than tourism.

 

By Patrick Scott

The whirring bikes streaked over the rough ribbon of asphalt through the Sahara in Mauritania, and the intensity of the landscape shifted.

Miles of flat, desolate sand stretched to the horizon in all directions, dissolving into an immense dome of pale blue.

The sun in the cloudless sky was so searing it had bleached the bones of a camel protruding from the sand.

A headwind, relentless and gusting, drained legs and thrashed the robe of a tribesman striding along on the roadside.

Then there were the tractor-trailers. Every 10 minutes or so, an oncoming rig appeared in the distance, gathering sheets of swirling sand in its wake. With only two tight lanes, the best recourse was to grip your handlebars and duck as the truck roared by, its vortex jerking the front of your bike and sandblasting every piece of uncovered skin.

In the fast-growing category of adventure cycling vacations, it’s safe to say that this one — West Africa en Vélo, TDA Global Cycling’s first expedition through West Africa — was on the extreme end. Not just for the duration — nearly 4,000 miles through seven countries and one disputed territory over 10 weeks, averaging about 70 miles a day — but for the location. The region has been more associated with civil war, disease and extremists than bucket-list challenges. But as political and economic stability has increased in recent years, so has the number of foreign tourists.

The idea was to cycle and camp from Casablanca to Cape Coast in Ghana, through the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, the desert in Western Sahara and Mauritania, and rolling farmland, tropical forests or palm-fringed shores in Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Ghana.

 

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