Lope to Oyem

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 We left Lope Hotel  just after 9am, after  a leisurely stroll next to the river , a clean up and breakfast. 

We had made a late change of plan, and decided rather than to go to Libreville for the night, we would push on north to Oyem, in order to save time. Traveling to Libreville would have meant an extra 340 km or so of round trip, and we just did not have the time due to our Nigerian visa that expires on 22nd June which meant that we had to travel non stop all the way. There were only two problems with the new plan, however, one being that we needed to fill up with diesel  somewhere other than Lope, where there was none, and the other was that we needed to find somewhere or someone who was prepared to swap US$ for the local CFAs currency . Gabon  accepted Euros universally, but only the bigger centres changed dollars.

 

We were advised by Ida that we could get diesel at the town  of Ndjoli, and hopefully we could also change dollars there. Ndjoli was on the road to Libreville, but only meant a backtracking of 70km .

We headed west on a steadily deteriorating road,  again meeting  the 2 Overland trucks driven by Matt and Stephen on the way. They were also headed north, and were hoping to find a shortcut through the forest to cut off the loop to Ndjoli.

This road was clearly used  used by a procession of logging trucks, carrying massive logs from unseen places deep in the forest. Although it was sad to think of the deforestation, at least we were glad to see that there were no Chinese apparently involved. Their presence in the rest of Africa south of Gabon was increasingly disconcerting, as they seemed to be helping themselves to Africa’s raw materials, with little or no concern   for the consequences.

 One of the hundreds of trucks carrying logs. All we can hope for is that they replant ,as it seems the rainforests are under serious threat.

We eventually hit the main tarred road heading south west to Libreville, and north to Oyem   and the Cameroun border beyond. We turned west to Ndjoli, and  were dismayed as the tarred road quickly became  a  bone jarring potholed mass . We slowly crawled into the noisy busy Ndjoli, and managed to find a local Lebanense businessman (don’t ask what business!!) who exchanged some currency for us. We then filled up with diesel, bought some takeaway chicken and pork (they said it was pork) for lunch, and headed back east along the same road we had just driven , for 70km, before heading north to Oyem.

 

One thing that we did not notice up until now and only read about, was the eating and selling of “bushmeat” The local tradition of eating wild animals, and we mean anything from Chimps to Gorilla to Crocodiles, is  real conservation problem and is still practiced widely despite it being outlawed by most governments. It was truly horrible to see how the villagers display for sale  the carcasses of monkeys, pieces of meat that could be gorilla as it looked big enough, civets, snakes and any kind of wild animals.

The road   improved markedly once we had backtracked past our original turnoff to Lope, and we made increasingly good time as we headed northwards. At the village Lalara we passed the 2 Overland trucks again, who had successfully negotiated a shortcut through the forest. Shortly after we reached the Equator, and stopped for a photo session, before moving from “winter” to “summer”.

 YEAAAAAAAAH we made it !!!!!!!!!!!

During our enforced stay in Brazzaville, we had spent some time putting our CVs on the internet, and applying for various jobs scattered around the world. We thought we might make up the hole in our budget by working for a year, and then finishing our travels down the east coast of Africa a year later than planned.

 

One of the jobs Stewart had applied for was teaching English in Germany, and much to our surprise, we had received an email back, requesting a telephonic interview. We had arranged for the call to be made at  4.30pm that afternoon, and so were now driving northwards at breakneck speed in search of cell phone reception.. We eventually found reception in the village of Mitzig, and sat waiting for the call. When it had not come through by 5pm, we tried to call Germany, but had to be satisfied with leaving a message on an answering machine.

 

We then drove the last stretch into Oyem, arriving just as it was getting dark, and beginning to rain. The rain put paid to our thoughts of camping, and we instead booked into Hotel M’Vet Palace.  After the rain stopped, we took a drive into the town, and found an internet café to send out a few emails. We then had a late supper back at the restaurant, Stewart managing to get a meal of fish and rice, with mustard sauce despite thinking he ordered chicken curry and rice! Our French clealy needs some more work.

 

 We had driven  585 km that day  in 9 hours, the first  140kms from Lope to the main road  having taken 3 ½ hours.  We decided to leave early the next morning to drive all the way to Limbe, a distance of just over 700km. We hoped the border crossing would be smooth, and roads even smoother.