Adventurers Wanted - The Togo Duet Ready to Face a Real Adventure!

As part of our Adventurers Wanted campaign, launched in April this year, we asked the adventure junkies out there to submit a proposal for an epic trip they were planning. In return, we promised to fuel their dreams with financial support and a range of products to keep them safe, in style. We have now selected the two adventures that made us want to #LeaveTheMainRoad with them! Below, we speak with Helge And Daryl, two fearless adventurers ready to explore the deep African country of TOGO.

First, we've talked with Helge, read below.

How did the idea for the trip come about?

After my last failed attempt to travel Togo I knew I had to redeem myself. I knew there where a lot more secrets to be discovered in that country. When my brother (RientsTeernstra) tagged me in the message from Fuel, I jumped at the opportunity! 

I got to work to make a plan and messaged my buddy Daryl, he lives and rides in Togo. He loved the plan, he always makes time to go ride!

Why Togo? 

Togo is one of those country’s where the people are still open, they live at a different pace. We in the west are becoming more closed, we are always in a rush to get everywhere and nowhere. The people of Togo welcome travelers like no other before you know it you are visiting al types of cultural highlights. For those fond of traveling off the beaten track, Togo is a rewarding destination. Its is rich in a great diversity of landscapes ranges from lakes and palm-fringed beaches along the Atlantic coastline to the rolling forested hills in the center it’s an excellent playground for motorcycle adventures 

Can you explain a little about the area’s social and historical context?

Like many other countries in West Africa. Togo was home to kingdoms and empires that lasted and flourished for hundreds of years until the Europeans started to fight against the African kings for control over the region. In the end, France, Germany, and Portugal all controlled the area that is now called Togo. in the 15th century, Togo was part of those dark pages of the history books that were the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Togo is located on the so-called gold coast and was one of the slave-trading outposts of those times. From the moment Europeans started to buy slaves in west Africa, it was Africans against Africans. The one tribe would abduct people from their lands and sell them off into slavery. Fueled by money and weapons the one tribe became more powerful than the other and would dominate the countryside. There are still many different sites where you can see that people tried to hide from those slavers.

Tell us about you like a pair of friends. How did you meet? What are your backgrounds/what do you all do/where did you grow up?

Before my solo trip through Africa, I did not know Daryl. When I was heading south towards Cape Town I realized that I would need a carnet de passage for some countries. At the moment I was traveling to other countries in West-Africa. I found the only KTM dealership of west Africa called Togo Toni. I asked if I could send my carnet to them so I could pick it up on my way south, they agreed. That is when I met Daryl, I have to say along the trip trough Africa he was one of the friendliest guys I have met, a real positive character!

Before I went on my trip through Africa I worked in a construction company. Even before that job, I was part of the Dutch Royal Marines. I think there I got to know myself and what I am capable of. I like to challenge myself but now I do it in my free time. 

I grew up in Best a small village in the south of Holland. From an early age, I was always out on adventures. Late at night we ould sneak into construction sights and explore the area, stuff like that, anything that was not allowed we loved to explore

What does riding mean to you?

For me riding is freedom.  When you put that helmet on, slip into those gloves, start the engine and kick it in gear everything fades away. From that moment it is you the bike and the road. Just a month ago my motorcycle was badly damaged in an accident (not my fault). From that moment I could not ride for a week. For me this is like torture, it starts to itch already after 2 days straight without riding a motorcycle. The best places that I like to ride are on mountain passes with nice blacktop asphalt or in those remote area’s as we will find in Togo.

What landscapes are you most excited to experience on your route?

For me, it is the Terre de Barre or otherwise known as Ouatchi Plateau. I like it because of its reddish leached soil which is rich in iron. Also, the climate is nice very dry and warm in the day and it cools off in the night time. 

Tell us about the bikes you have chosen to ride and why.

For me, it will be the old school xr400r (with a few mods).

It is a well-proven motorcycle over the years, I would even go as far as to say it is the AK under the motorcycles. The XR is very simple in design. It is still carbureted everything is easy to fix. There are no metals like aluminum on the frame so if something breaks you can pretty much weld it any were on earth. But still, in the original condition, it is not suited for a trip like this. Normally it comes with a 12L tank. This was the first thing I changed when I bought it. I took a 22-liter safari tank that is normally used on an xr600r and adopted to my xr400r. With that, I could get a range of about 250 km depending on the road conditions of course. Next was how to put your luggage on a dirt bike. This we overcome by strengthening the subframe and customizing a luggage rack of a KTM 640 adventure to fit the XR400R. I am a firm believer of Less is More but for an adventure like this, you do need some gear. In total, I think I have around 50 liters of luggage space.

Do you anticipate any particular challenges or potential problems en route?

Yes, one challenge that we will encounter will be in the first leg of the trip From Lome we head north along the border of Ghana. This area is called the Togo Mountains they are not like the alps in Europe. They aren’t that high but they are covered in the thick green forest and allot of single track for us to explore. We will be riding in November. In Togo, this is the start of the dry season. The temperature will be high around 32 degrees throughout the day. Heatstroke is always something to look out for on any adventure trip. 

For me adapting to the climate will be especially short I have one day after arriving to get used to +-25 degrees of difference in temperature. For the rest, only time will tell if men and machines can take this adventure on. But still, it wouldn’t be an adventure without some challenges that we would have to overcome. 

What is it about adventure rides like this that you love? 

First and foremost it is the area that you travel in. The people and the landscape that you encounter make an adventure like this special. But a big factor is aswell to leave your familiar surroundings and venture into the unknown. When you are traveling like this every day you see something new. Every morning you wake up you only know the general direction you are headed in but what lays on your path that day is all a mystery. One day you Fck up and you have to get yourself out of the shit. Another day you find yourself drinking beers and wine in front of one of the most magical landscapes that you have overseen.  

I think all in all I love the mystery about it that you are never sure about what will happen or where you will end up. It all depends on you and your mindset on how it will crash or flow. 

What is the sleeping/food/drink situation on the route? 

For sleeping we don’t take a tent because most of the time in November it will be dry so to keep our travel kit as light as possible we will sleep in hammocks (with mosquito nets of course) we prefer to be out in the bush under the wide-open sky. 

"no roof but the heavens "  

 Robert Edison Fulton, Jr.

For food, we will eat anything that the mamas have made that day. We will keep a 2 days ration of emergency food with us just in case. For liquids on a good day, we will average about a liter of beer a day and 2 liters of water as a minimum. The beers and or wine only when we are lucky but water is vital! You have to drink small portions throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated In those climates. 

Now some words of Daryl

Why Togo?

Togo, because it is a perfect country for offroad trips with bikes due to its amazing variety of landscapes (Coast, Mountains, Rain forest and Savanna). And a part of my origins come from Togo.

Can you explain a little about the area’s social and historical context?

- Togo is bounded in the north to Burkina Faso, East to Benin and West to Ghana. Its landmass is about 56,000 square kilometers, with 600 kilometers in length and about 70 kilometers at its widest point. Its population is about 8 million people and has a big variety of tribes and languages. The most Dominant are EWE‘s. The official language is spoken in school and everyday life in French.

Togo and Ghana were one country under German colonialism until the end of World War 1 and got split by French(Togo) and British(Ghana) governments. Togo claimed its independence in the 1970s and since then is governed by the Gnassinge family.

Tell us about you like a pair of friends. How did you meet? What are your backgrounds/what do you all do/where did you grow up?

- We met in Togo while Helge was doing an Africa Trip and came across our KTM dealership for some work on his bike. Our friendship started there and the love of riding and adventure brought us together.

I was born in Germany in 1989 from a German mother and a Togolese father. At the age of 10, my parents decided to live with me in Togo until I finished school at the age of 18 to continue studies in Germany. After a formation in the hotel sector at age 23 I decided to go back to Togo to fully live my passion for mechanics and motorcycles. Since then I work at a KTM and Truck dealership and I participate at the national motocross championship (3*times Togo Champ) , Enduro championship (5*consecutiv Champ) and West African Motocross Championship (2* consecutive Champ). We now also started an Adventure Tours company to travel across the country with enduro bikes.

What does riding mean to you?

 Riding means everything to me and is a huge part of why I decided to go back to Togo to fulfill my passion for motorcycles.

What landscapes are you most excited to experience on your route?

 The landscapes that excite me the most are the lost and remote areas where nature is almost untouched by human activity.

Tell us about the bikes you have chosen to ride and why.

 I choose the Africa Twin RD04 because I remember seeing this bike in old magazines or the Dakar Rallye in the '90s. Since then I loved that bike and now it has even become a collector since then. My luck was to find this bike abandoned at the local harbor where I bought it right away.

Do you anticipate any particular challenges or potential problems en route?

 The Main Challenge of this trip will be to get to many remote areas where there is mostly no accessible route or any Infrastructure. It will be only us and our bikes trough rough and hard terrain.

The biggest problem will be fuel supply and the risk of getting stuck with bikes in some areas. But that's exactly the type of challenge and adventure we are looking forward to.

What is it about adventure rides like this that you love? 

- The feeling of freedom you get when it is only you and your bike against nature, the unforgettable memories an adventure like that brings along and the amazing landscapes that make you reflect about yourself and life itself.

What is the sleeping/food/drink situation on the route? 

- We must adapt to local food in each area and cook food with vegetables and meat which we find on our way. Sleeping under the stars with our camping material and trying to not get eaten by bugs or mosquitos. We need to carry enough drinking water with us because of the unfiltered water we can only get in some remote areas.