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The Budapest Bamako Rally – A Memorable Journey

July 23, 2019 Destination ASEAN No Comments Email Email

An overland journey is the kind of trip that shapes you as a person. The untouched wilderness, the beautiful scenery, and the sound of your car’s engine – it seems like an adventurer’s dream. 

And it truly is. While going on an overland trip alone might seem like something you would do, this doesn’t mean you should dismiss an organized overland trip. 

That’s because an organized trip comes with other advantages – such as convenience and safety. These are of great importance, especially when it comes to less known places in Western Africa. This is, in fact, what the Budapest Bamako Rally is about – exploring the unseen part of Africa. 

The adventure starts in Budapest, and, typically finishes in Africa – Bamako, Mali. And while it is called a rally, it is not necessarily one, not in the traditional sense of the word, at the very least. Hence, it’s not a race competition, but, in fact, it’s an overland adventure. Over the last few years, the finish line of the race had been changed, due to security concerns. 

The Challenges of an Overland Rally

The itinerary for 2018 entailed the following places: the Atlas Mountains and deserts of Morocco, the Sahara Desert of Mauritania, the savannas of Senegal, and the lush forests and winding rivers of The Gambia. 

Aside from the challenges posed by the road and weather conditions, there are other challenges that come your way when visiting Africa, as well. For example, the participants of the 2018 rally had to complete 4 border crossings. And since the bureaucracy in these countries includes a lot of steps, accomplishing this was a victory in itself. 

Of course, getting the required visas for the countries mentioned was the first step. Nevertheless, when reaching the border crossings, ralliers realized that the local processes varied by the place. 

For example, when one enters Morocco, they have to fill two different forms – a personal form, and another one for the vehicle. In addition, the custom form designated for the car has three copies. You can fill it at the time of the border crossing or, in advance, online.

When entering Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia, you are expected to fill similar forms in, with some differences between them. Remember that, even if at first, it all seems really complicated, you’ll get the hang of it. Plus, there are self-appointed helpers at each border crossing, who can assist you for a small fee. But it’s best to agree on those fees in advance.

Getting Ready for the Adventure

In order to enjoy the most out of your adventure, being prepared really pays off. Before considering a similar trip, note that the preparation process takes a lot of time and effort. Prepping all the necessary paperwork, the insurance documents, the visas, vaccinations takes a lot of time. Preparing the vehicle can take months and thousands of Dollars, depending on the category you entered. 

In 2018, the organizers handled the Gambian visa. Obtaining the Mauritanian visa was an entirely different experience. As soon as participants entered the country, they were sent to the overnight camp – which was a wild camping located between sand dunes. It was on that spot that the Mauritian authorities set up visa issuing tents entailing ID photo taking, visa printing facilities and an Internet connection. 

And while this made the border-crossing quite easy, there were some costs involved. Aside from this, accessing all the other countries was fairly easy.

As mentioned above, preparing your vehicle for the overland journey is critical. For example, we equipped the car with BFG all-terrain tires, Front-Runner expedition roof-rack, raised air intake, TJM shock absorbers and springs, and a drawer system for being better organized inside the vehicle. Of course, the modifications and upgrades should depend on the rally category you choose, since there are four individual categories. 

Four Different Categories: Which Suits You Best?

Every person has a range of expectations when they embark on an overland adventure. Depending on your expectations, you can choose the rally category that suits you best. For example, the Tour category is targeted for people whose cars aren’t suitable for driving difficult off-road stages. In a way, we could say that the Tour rally is an extensive, 5,000-mile organized road trip. 

In the meantime, the 4×4 Tour and Race is an entirely different story. The itinerary is much more challenging, as the stages you should follow are quite demanding. This is why you are requested to come prepared. For example, the list of necessary items for the 4×4 Tour and Race in 2018 included the following: fire extinguisher, GPS, traction mats, shovel, basic vehicle repair tools, 2 reflective safety triangles, 4-wheel drive, amongst others. 

Moving on, the Spirit category encourages participants to enter the rally with less potent cars. In order to get the picture, you should note that, in previous years, there was a team that participated in the rally with a Trabant – a fairly unknown East German car brand that produced automobiles out of cardboard. 

As for the Race category, it entails distinct navigational tasks that ought to be completed by the participants. 

Why Should You Consider Doing the Budapest Bamako Rally?

If you are attracted by the raw, untarnished African scenery, then this rally should definitely appeal to you.

On top of the incredible scenery that you might not discover on your own, you get to know people with similar interests and mindsets. 

At the same time, after the rally ends, you have the option of going back home independently, which gives you utter and complete freedom. So, if your schedule allows it, and you don’t have to return to your home country right away, you can transform it into a longer overland adventure. 

Does this seem like something you could do? Are you up for the challenge? While an overland rally isn’t a conventional vacation, you’ll certainly feel energized and exhilarated after such an adventure. This is guaranteed. 

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