The Journey

Stats and Helpful Info

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The following are some stats as well as some info that might be helpful to future travelers:

 

(Please note that the prices are relevant at the time that we traveled and should therefore be adjusted. The cost of the accommodation does not include some “freebies” like staying at friends or bushcamping, and the amount reflected is per couple per night)

 

Country :                  Angola

 

Dates:                        6th May to 22nd May 2008

 

Exchange rate:       R1 = 7.5 Kwanzas

 

Number of Nights: 16

 

Distance traveled:  2 493 km

 

Average distance per day:  156km

 

Cost of Diesel:        R4.35 per litre (no jokes!!)

 

Average fuel consumption:   7.2km/litre

 

Diesel used:  346litres

 

Worst Road/s:   Moimba to Pediva (Average speed 19 kms per hour)

 

Best Road/s:           Leba Pass and the road from Namibe to Lubango

                                    From Benguela to Luanda

                                    AND THAT IS IT !!!

 

Favourite new destination:  Benguela

 

Average cost of accommodation:  R958 for room only !!!!

 

Number of Bushcamps:   10 !!!

 

Cheapest Acommodation:   Camping  Flamingo Lodge R310 per site per night

 

Most enjoyable:      First Bushcamp

 

Average cost per day:  R618

Matadi and Stan's Health

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We finally made the border crossing in a record time of 1hr45min, and entered the DRC at Matadi with trepidation. Other than slow motion officials, we had no problems at the border with the officials. Great was our surprise to see the amazing Congo river and low and behold……for the first time since before Angola, a huge BRIDGE !!!!,  and an amazing one to boot.

 PLEASE can someone teach the Angolans to do this

The most amazing thing was that we both felt completely at ease and relaxed for the first time in a while. We realized that we were never really at ease in Angola (I think due to the bad roads and never knowing whether you will get to your destination) and here, the last place we expected to feel good in, we felt at home! We quickly changed a few dollars to DRC Francs, and off we went after filling up Stan only to realize pretty soon that something is seriously wrong with Stan.

 Welcome to DRC!How is it possible he is still going and Stan not?

Somehow we learned to adopt the attitude that we are imagining things if it could be bad, as what can be a worse nightmare than your car breaking down in the middle of nowhere in a country that you only heard bad things about. But as Joleen said, we live on an Ubuntu continent and once again the angel of mercy smiled upon us. We had turned around by now, but 22kms short of Matadi, Stan finally refused to even move as there were neither gears nor a clutch. Needless to say, we got a bit concerned but the angels were there and I flagged down the first car that I saw. Mercifully the driver could understand a bit of English and he made a call. He then, in sign language, explained that we should just wait and gave Stew the number that he phoned. After about 1 hr we weren’t sure whether we got it right and Stew phoned the number only to be told by “Henri” that the car is on its way.

 All the broken partsThe conventMother                                                                                                                                                                                             Superior

We could not believe our eyes when a carload full of guys arrived, jumped out of the car, got the tools out and started inspecting Stan. The language is a problem but we finally agreed that Stan needed to be towed to Matadi, the nearest town. At that stage we had no idea what was happening, but as we had no choice, went with them. They towed us to a place that looked like a hostel and still we had no idea where we were and what was happening. Turned out that this place was a convent and they were prepared to put us up for US$20 per night in a tiny little room with a single bed, which at that stage felt like a palace.   We met   a large group of fellow travelers at the Convent, on their way down to SA from Ghana, and we were able to swap a few notes before they left the next morning.

 A cleaner stan at the workshop ..well have to keep busy whilst waiting for 3 days !!!

The guys then promptly started taking Stan apart and all we could do was to stand and watch as communication is non existent. After at least 5 hours, in the dark, they decided to call it a day and with a smile indicated that they will be back in the morning. We were once again blown away by the openhearted kindness shown by these people. They had no idea who we are, they do not even know if we have any money, they cannot understand our language, but yet they slogged away till dark to try and get to the problem on the car. Just blows your mind.

 

We were so sad to hear on the same day about the recent horrible attacks on foreigners and refugees in SA. How sad is that, we have only experienced kindness everywhere and then we hear about the bad way our countrymen treat strangers.

 Kingsley Wannabe!!!!!  The new look Stew YEAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

The next morning they found the problem once everything was taken apart and it turned out that the part would have to be ordered from Kinshasa. The whole process thus far has been based on trust , so we handed over the dollars and now we are waiting to see what will happen. We do know it sounds crazy, but in a situation like this, there is nothing else to do. Thank you to all of you for all the sms’s the messages and invitation to stay with you if we have to go back. We were once again reminded that we have the best friends and family in the whole wide world and there are no words to convey how much we miss and love you all.

 It is now Saturday afternoon 5.30 and unfortunately NO NEWS ! Watch this space

 

From Matadi to Kinshasa

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As you will notice, our site was not updated for a while and this was due partly to non availability of connections and partly to the fact that we had a hard time surviving. But, at the end, we are well and ready for the next chapter.

Stan was partly (at the time we thought fully) fixed on Monday afternoon. At that stage we realized that we cannot continue on our planned route as it included a portion of Angola (Cabinda) situated in the middle of DRC and our Angolan visas expired. We therefore had no option but to travel to Kinshasa, take the ferry to Brazzaville Congo and then on to Gabon from there. What complicated matters even further is that our Congo visas also expired soon so we had 3 days to get out of Congo.

A typical truck transport for humans and whatever fits!! All along the way we saw lots of burnt out trucks, had no idea why, now we know!!

Once again the women do all the hard work the men

                                                                                                                                                                                use bicycles!!!
 

We were told that the trip to Kinshasa will take 4 hrs at the most so we were under the mistaken impression that we will easily make it before sunset. No so, at 6 we have been driving for 4hrs30min and were nowhere near Kinshasa. We therefore had to find a place to stay for the night ASAP. We found a “hotel” which was nothing more than a mosquito infected, urine smelling hole, but at least it had a double bed( Yeah!! after spending 4 nights on the floor in the convent with a snoring/coughing nun right next door and only a cardboard wall in between) Unfortunately this village was not on the garmin nor on the map so I do not know the name.

Early morning market along the wayIt looks great onthe pic!!! Note the smal door

We left at sunrise the next morning and just as well as it took another 2hrs 30 min to Kinshasa. This capital city of DRC is a madhouse, the 3rd biggest city in Africa with 6 million inhabitants and in fact only place for about 3 mill. Nevertheless we still noticed the friendly spirits of the people and were helped on our way to the ferry by a very helpful garage owner who gave us a map of the city. The garmin was absolutely useless here as was our guidebook as it seems that whoever loaded the info has never set foot in DRC, so not much help.

DRC Hairdo!!! No idea what this is but it is everywhere and seem to be very popular food

We rushed to the “Beach” the area where we had to board the ferry as we have been warned that the ferries are very irregular so we wanted to get as much info as possible due to our expiring visas. Got there and discovered after a lot of sign language and shouting that the next ferry left at 2 O’Clock that same day ! We quickly got the tickets, bloody expensive at US$ 60, but beggars can’t be choosers. The next 4 hours were hard as we sat I the blazing sun, in temp of 40 degrees with me nursing a hectic migraine and with hawkers harassing you every 2 seconds selling everything from water to plastic chairs.

The officials were for some reason not too pleased to have us there and it was hard to establish exactly where and when to go, but at 1.15 we decided to push through the gate despite verbal abuse, a lot of shouting and finger pointing and finally got onto the ferry. Not a moment too soon as what followed was complete mayhem. The whole population of Kinshasa as well as all their possessions including their furniture stormed to the ferry whilst the workers started loading uncountable bags of foodstuff, sugar, flour etc at the same time. Absolute mayhem!!! Fun to watch from the top as we made sure to get outside as soon as possible due to the heat. After at least 1hr45min the last truck was pushed on with the last 1000 bags of foodstuff and we were off !!

This was goodbye to DRC and hectic madness of Kinshasa. Despite setbacks and a few unpleasant experiences, we enjoyed this friendly, disorganized country. The people were so good to us and we do hope that they will be able to sort out their problems as it has so much potential.

Just as a warning, we discovered later that we truly have guardian angels as the road from Matadi to Kinshasa is considered extremely dangerous due to highjackings as well as robbing and shooting in as late as August last year ! It seems that our case is one of “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” but we are still not sure whether it is better or worse to know about all the dangers. As we since tried to keep up with info on safety but if you listen to the advice, there is in fact nowhere you can travel

Brazzaville - From rags to Richness

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We saw the skyline of Brazzaville, the stepsister of Kinshasa, from the ferry and felt very exited to start the next leg of our trip. If we thought the embarking of the ferry was chaotic, the disembarkation was nothing short of sheer hell. It was absolutely impossible to move and what made matters worse was that most of the ground section was loaded with at least 100 bicycle type carriages carrying hoards of disabled people suffering from polio on their way to the market in Brazzaville. It was close to impossible to get past them with their loads and the heat including the fact that they unfortunately had no control of their bladders made matters worse.

 Highly illegal pics taken on the Ferry!!!! Some of the madness

Again much shouting, swinging of arms and sign language took place simultaneously and before we knew, our passports were grabbed and the guy marched off with them !!! Needless to say, it was a bit unnerving as we had no idea where to go or what was happening (time to learn French I would say!!!) After the payment of many more dollars for what we do not know, we finally could leave the cesspool of urine, spit and foul smelling rubbish and make our way into Beautiful Brazzaville.

 Casino Supermarket ...Bliss!!

At this point it is important to note that the Congolese are the best dressers we have ever seen. The people dressed well in DRC, specially the ladies with their African dresses, but NOTHING can compete with the style of the Congolese. The men are mostly dressed in smart suits smelling fresh of aftershave and the ladies are so proud and stately in their outfits included headgear or beaded and complicated hairstyles. How they manage this in the heat and dust, I have no idea as we permanently felt like paupers in their presence! This is in stark contrast with all the rubbish and dirt noticeable everywhere.

 Smart Lady Shady Avenues

Despite a bad start, we both instantaneously fell in love with Brazzaville. It is a stunning city, peaceful with tree line avenues and cafes as well as the best supermarket we have seen since Windhoek! The next step was to find a place for the night and as the one place we wanted to stay was full, the other one we could find had ridiculous price tags and offered nothing to justify it, we decided to blow the budget, use our credit card and checked in to a “African standard 4 star hotel” The price tag was I think what you would pay in The Nellie for a night but the standard equal to an SA 2 star, but what the hell it was utter luxury……..

  1. A proper toilet with a seat and a flush that worked and did not reek of urine
  2. A hot shower (well tepid) the first since Namibia
  3. A proper bed with clean sheets and no sleeping on the floor
  4. Clean towels
  5. Great food

 Luxury!!! Sports cafe Brazza styleChurch

In hindsight it was the best decision we made even though I could not really enjoy it due to the migraine taking its toll, but I slept like a baby waking up the next morning totally refreshed.We were ready to face the next part of the journey, or so we thought. Maybe we should have taken more deep breaths before we left!!

Brazzaville to Ponte Noir (or NOT?)

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TWENTY or so pairs of eyes peered   constantly into the interior of the car, as we sat locked inside, desperately holding on to our sanity. The darkness was filled with the sounds of unintelligible lingo, made more   sinister by the fact that we could not always see who was talking, and to whom. Clouds of mosquitoes filled what parts of the air was not filled by the smoke of the Ninja’s fire.

 

Let’s start at the beginning shall we?

All clean and fresh, well fed and ready for the next leg of the journey, we left  Brazzaville just after noon, with some longwinded directions of how to get on to the correct road from the hotel manager, whom again assured us the road, but for “a few potholes’, was a good one.

We managed to maneuver   our way through the 1000s of green and white taxis, and around most of the potholes in the 20 km and one hour it took to clear Brazzaville. At times the Congo River was on our left as we drove, with some magnificent rapids    kept the sightseeing element alive. But we were more delighted to see a magnificent new tarred road stretching into the distance.

 

Stanruza responded well to the civilized roads, and we made good time for about 100km, when, just short of the village of  Kinkala, the road turned first to a dirt one, and then quickly petered out into a disturbingly muddy bushtrack.

At the next fork in the road (with not a signpost in sight, of course) we took the right fork, confident we were on the right track. Our confidence seemed to be rewarded when stretches of old tarred road appeared.  The only worry was that the Garmin was indicating we had left the “main” road.

 Some of the roadsWhere we got atuck

As we entered a small village, built around the remains of an old railway siding, we realized that talk of the rebel Ninjas in the area had not been in jest. Our car was surrounded by people, some carrying handguns, and some very obviously under the influence of mind-altering substances. We made a quick getaway down the nearest track, our mindsets suitably altered.

 

After 20 minutes or so, with the track deteriorating further, we realized that we must turn back, run the gauntlet of the Ninja village once more, and return to take the other fork in the track. We had heard of the Ninjas in the area, who were the remnants of a rebel force that had only given up fighting against the current government less than 2 years ago. They remained heavily armed, however, and the government largely left them to their own devices.

 Our "Lost " path, should have atayed here

Having retraced our steps, including  an unsuitably high speed transit through the Ninja village, we were once more heading west along a track that consisted of stretches of compacted mud, interspersed by  small bridge crossings of rivers that reduced the compact mud to a morass of churned up  mess. What made this even worse was that huge trucks had ploughed   a route through the mud, leaving  a high middle section  between the wheels. The trucks’ wheelbase was wider than a normal car, so we were forced to travel these sections with one wheel on the middle island, and the other following the truck’s tire tracks, which were often 50-70 cm below.

 the jungle that surrounded usStan is Stuck and........broken!!!

In the gathering dusk, and with no village in sight, we resigned ourselves to a bushcamp, but decided to press on as far as possible before the light failed. At about the time a bushcamp became inevitable, we approached another morass of a bridge crossing. Through a combination of tiredness, even worse mud than usual and gathering gloom, Stan ended up stuck fast on the middle island. A local, quickly follows by 2 others, appeared out of nowhere, and helped us begin   digging Stan out of the thick, gluey mud. The mud was full of matted vegetation and branches, placed there by previous victims,  which made the task even harder to dig Stan out. 

 Our fellow overnighters

Darkness descended like it only can in the tropics – one minute it is light, and the next, blackness closes in. Stan inched forward through the mud, but then, at the crucial minute when he threatened to pull free, the gearbox   gave a mighty crack, and Stan was left  gearless.

 

With the 3 local villagers still in attendance, we had no option but to settle in for the night. Two of the locals indicated they would stay with us for the night, whilst the 3rd left after we donated him a torch. Although we could not be sure of the locals’ intentions, they seemed quite friendly, and settled down on Stan’s bonnet   to see the night out.

 

The quietening night sounds were shattered as a huge truck pulled up behind us, and a mass of bodies surrounded our car. The locals filled them in with the chain of events, and the truck driver, with the help of Stan’s winch, ordered his men to dig/push Stan out of the hole, and onto the side of the track. After a few hours of mudcovered, backbreaking exertion, Stan stood on the side of the track, whilst the truck sped off.

 

Unbeknownst to us at the time, another truck full of Ninjas had pulled up behind us whilst being dug out, and as soon as the road was clear, promptly got stuck in the same hole Stan had just been dug out of. This ancient truck was packed with 20-30 people, and, it seemed, all their worldly possessions. We were soon accosted by the mob, and what followed was a standoff of bluff and double bluff, broken by “gifts” to them of food, drink and cigarettes. We retreated to the interior of the car, as the original 2 villagers took their places back on the bonnet and settled down for the night.

 Our "help" arranbed by the SA Embassy!!!

Faced with such inactivity, the Ninja group gradually curled up against the car, and slept , whilst  we miraculously found we had cell phone reception, and promptly  “phoned home”. Thanks to Rudolf, and others who sent us their protection, we managed to contact the SA Embassy in Brazzaville, who promised to send us help first thing in the morning. We also got hold of the Honorary British Consul, but the less said about them the better, they were worse than useless. Thanks also to Captain Mike, in Kinshasa, in charge of the SA Defense force contingent in DRC. Although powerless himself to assist, he also contact the Brazzaville Embassy, and constantly phoned us through the night   to see that we were okay. As  did Rudolf.

 

 Ruds, you are a star, our rock of sanity and normality in our time of need (WOW, did you ever think that we would need you so much, for these reasons!). Thank you for all you did, and for all you and Chrizel do to allow us to follow our dreams. .

 

We somehow made it through that night, and in the morning the Ninja truck finally dug itself out, and went off on its way. Another  car had also stayed with us through the night, (who was protecting whom?), but left in the morning.

 

Alone in the bush, it was strangely calming to sit and wait for   the promised help. But as time passed, and no help arrived, calls to the SA Embassy were met with platitudes and little else. We were told a truck was arriving any minute,  from  Mindouli, a town  30km beyond where we were stuck, which would tow us back to Brazzaville. The “any minute”   lasted until 12 noon, when our hopes leapt with the sound of a truck approaching. As it rounded the corner, however, our hopes were dashed, as it was the same ancient “Ninja” truck that had kept us company all night in the mud.  Our hopelessness took a turn for the worse, when the truck stopped, and told us it had been hired by the SA Embassy, at our cost, to tow us to a nearby village, so at least we could be safe!!

 

At that moment a fleet of 2 trucks and a 4x4 appeared, and a gentleman whom we later got to know as Ayman, intervened. The truck driver insisted on getting paid an exorbitant amount, and with his Ninja gang to back him up we had no choice but to pay, despite his services no longer being needed, as Ayman agreed to assist us in getting back to Brazzaville.

 

We were then towed back to Kinkala behind one of Ayman’s trucks, a journey that in any other circumstances would have been the scariest ride of our lives!

 Stan in his favourite position, it seemsCongo Stan

At Kinkala, a local Samaritan found us a place to freshen up and change clothes. Ayman’s mechanic then managed to find a few gears for STAN, and so we were able to limp back to Brazzaville under our own steam, following Ayman all the way.

 

Brazzaville the second time

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Ayman had arranged for us to stay at a local hotel owned by someone in his family (as he spoke no English, and us no French, communication was very difficult), at the time any place would seem like a palace, but at daylight we realized that it was one of Brazzaville’s notorious “Love Hotels” It seems that the well to do Congo gentlemen frequent these hotels during the day (Lunch here is from 12.30 to 3 ) to court the ladies that they are not married to!! Hence there is no breakfast and are no patrons in the evenings!! I realized this pretty soon as the gentleman I thought was just being nice to a tourist, turned out to have different intentions! Thank goodness for cellphones as I could contact Stew who rushed back by taxi to fetch me.

Tip no 100 if you plan to travel here …PLEASE make sure you speak French. Most of the negative things that happened to us here is due to our own stupidity and the fact that we cannot speak French. For example:

WE WANTED:

  1. To take Stan to an official garage and have him fixed properly once and for all
  2. Buy proper official Landrover parts for Stan
  3. To extend our visa for Congo (now expired) at the official Home affairs office in Brazzaville

WE GOT:

  1. Taken to another backyard mechanic and could not get the message through
  2. Had no choice but to spend thousands of Dollars to buy unofficial parts being sold as official parts at 2x the price.
  3. Been taken to a backyard office where the “official” took our passports and loads of money impressing upon me how bad I am for being here and not speaking French

Backyard workshop AGAIN! Our trip thus far

                                                                                                                                                                                         Our family in Brazzaville !!!!
 

So here we were……..minus $2500, with a car still broken after being fixed for 3 days, minus passports and nowhere to stay……BUT as always in Africa, there are angels around and this time in the guise of Olivier and Catherine of Hotel – Restaurant Hippocampe. We have had many angels along the way, but these people are truly sent from a special planet. They have been absolutely amazing, we were towed here by request as we saw the place on our previous visit and they were full. They were full again, but kindly offered for us to pitch camp in their parking lot and provided us with a free shower.They have taken us under their wing since and even gave us a room for free, helped us with EVERYTHING from getting parts for Stan, allowing us free access to the internet, making a room available for me to do healing etc etc. We will never have words to thank them, their kindness, support and nurturing truly saved our souls as well as our belief in Africa and its people. So to fellow travelers, even if you were not planning to go via Brazzaville, do yourself a favour and come here, stay at Hippocampe tel 0242 668 6068, across the road from Radio Congo and next to the local MTN office, truly an oasis worth every cent they charge.

Our Haven and the ANGEL family of Hippocampe, Olivier, Catherine and kids

We are still here as the parts are now being flown in from SA with the help of friendly MTN staff working here as well as the quick help of Susan at A&G, Ruds (again) and Mark who drove to fetch and deliver. Thanks so much guys.

Steve and Jen with a puppy they rescuedMark cleaning the pool at the US Embassy

Well, as it seems that Brazzaville became our unofficial home for the time being, we settled in here and made great friends with the guys from Around the world by car , 2 mad American guys, Steve and Mark as well as Jen who joined them in Libreville. They are traveling around the world ..by car and are on their way down south to SA. They have been in Congo for 7 WEEKS!!! Not by choice, but because they are trying desperately to get a visa for Angola to continue their trip…..and we thought we had it bad!! Well, as we were all a bit stressed out, they used their contacts at the US Embassy (Hopefully the SA Embassy will read this!!!!) and we went for a swim as well as a movie at their cultural centre,,,,,,,,Yeah for the US!!! In return, I gave massages and did some healing sessions to reduce the stress.

The "Healing " room Maybe cleaning Stan will change his health?Father and son SA Friends !!!

                                                                                                                                                                       Another attorney lost in Africa!!!

We are all hoping to get going by Friday, so send us good vibes and watch this space!It is Friday and we are still here! Maybe tomorrow ...that is life in Africa!

Hippocampe and the Good Samaritans

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You better believe it.........we are still here. We tried to stay calm, we tried to be holistic about the whole situation, we tried to stay posotive BUT.......it is hard and we are GATVOL. It seems Stan fell in love with either the Congo or alternatively his parking spot at the Hippocampe as he refuses to be fixed. The saga continues! As soon as the mechanic fixed the one problem with the part kindly brought form SA , another thing broke and so here we are. Bigger problem this time as we had to wait for 3 days for the machanic to find the part as he firmly believed that it is readily available in Brazza, needless to say IT WAS NOT!! And here is when the amazing wilingness to help stepped in.

Our American friends Steve, Mark and Jen promptly asked a contact of theirs in Kinshasa to help us, Bob , we have never met you, but thank you for trying for days to locate the part, then stepped in Lester and Flip both South Africans staying at the Hippocampe and working in Congo. They tried to pull out al the stops to try and hunt down the mysterious piece of whatever it is as well as contacting fellow South Africans. Thank you so much. They went even further and invited us to spend Lesters birthday on sunday with them. We went on a boat trip to Stanleys Pool, certainly the best way to spend a Sunday in Brazza. We went on an hour long boatride on a Mokorro with an enjin and got to know the mighty Congo even better. It ws a lovely , relaxing trip to an Island in the river. Once again an amazing tourist opportunity not utilised at all. We unfortunately had no idea what to expect but were pleasantly surprised when we realised that there were little huts where you can relax and even a restaurant!

Scenes from the Congo River

Brazza Skyline

Scenes from the Island

Stew with our "Skipper" For any future visitors, maybe if more people do this trip, they will finally realise that it might be a good idea to do something for tourism. Take the boat from the Restaurant at the "Yacht club"  called MAMA WATI (the river goddess) at a cost of 60 000 CFA the price is a bit steep, but you can fill it with at least 6 people and share the cost.The boat trip lasts about 1 Hour and you have a great view of daily life on the Congo river. From the busy harbour to slow village life.

Well at the Hippocampe the kindness of Olivier and Catherine continue and they took pity on another fellow South Africa, Chris who is traveling from Pretoria to Madrid on his BMW bike!! Great guy and so nice to chat to fellow travellers. Unfortunately it seems that all fellow travelers eventuallt leave Brazzaville but we stay behind. We were hoping to catch up with Chris, but at the rate we are traveling, he will be home and we will still be waiting!!!

Lester, Flip and Chris All SA kindhearted saints! We decided Olivier should wear a halo!

In the meantime we are still stuck here with permanent power failures, NO FUEL!!!!! believe it in an oil producing country so now not even the taxi's can drive so we sre truly STUCK! Well we are still full of admiration for the way the Hippocampe family manage to continue to smile, to be kind and to cook and serve the most amazing food whilst there is also a no gas available for cooking!!! Well done guys and THANK YOU for all the suppport here as well as from all our friends in SA and all over.

 

MESSAGE MESSAGE Ally and Rob, we lost your mail ad and cannot pick it up on the site..PLEASE mail to info@rootsinafrica.co.za as we would LOVE to talk to you

Brazzaville : The final Goodbye

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We have been absent for a while and believe us, not due to anything but panic stations! We have learnt a few lessons in the time we were here……Africa teaches you not to make plans, and if you do, make sure you have at least 4 more back-up plans and be prepared to deviate from those at least a dozen times. We also realized that we have changed from tourists to true travelers. A 3 days break for a traveler is heaven, 4 days are nice and 5 days break is pushing it….needless to say, 20 DAYS make you feel like a caged animal !! We know the wait sounds OK to most of you, but once you are addicted to the road, the different smells, the smiles, the constant moving, the friendly faces and the continuous changing vistas of Africa, staying put in one place, even a place as nice as Hippocampe, drives you to either drink, drugs or insanity (and we are sure you all agree we are not insane…….yet!!)

 We finally managed to get the much awaited part for Stan flown in courtesy of Glen Page but much to our disappointment, once the part was fitted, Stan still refused to work!! Words to describe the despair we felt do not exist and after a huge amount of tears (Annaliese) and a few loud screams (Stewart) we sat down to replan and reconsider. We eventually came up with plan B,C and D. Our last hope was that the “mechanic” who worked on it finally decided that it is possible that he put the one part in back to front!!! However it was tool late to check and alas, we had to spend another sleepless night.

  The "workshop"Flip trying hard to make a mechanic of Stew!!

Well, we live in Africa and we have to make do what we have. We had the mechanic and that was it, so it just had to work. Lone behold…….he DID fit the part back to front!! The moment that we realized the gears finally worked must have been one of the most joyous on the trip. The whole Hipocampe celebrated with us when Stan finally started. Not sure of they were glad to see us go or glad that Stan was fixed!!

 The Team Mr Mechanic centre front  The Congo air team, David, Glynis and                                                                                                                                         Glen     next to Stew .Check out Stews new girlfriend!!

Before we carry on, we have a million thank you’s to say. For those of you not in Brazzaville, we do apologise as it might bore you, but the following people changed our lives with their help and kindness:

  1. Olivier and Catherine of the Hippocampe: We do not have words to thank you for your limitless generosity and we can only hope that you will be blessed in a big way.
  2. Lester and Philip of Nokia/Siemens, you guys have been a mountain of support, assistance and good company. You managed to keep our spirits up in the worst moments and we will be eternally grateful for all you did.Lester thank you also for posting Tin Tin to Ruds, you are a star.
  3. Aneez of MTN , thank you so much for bringing such a heavy package all the way from JHb to Brazzaville, we do appreciate it very much.
  4. Mark thank you so much for driving all over Josie to fetch and deliver parts at the drop of a hat. As always you are a true friend and a huge support for us in difficult times.
  5. Andre and Herman, whom we have never met, thank you so much for going the extra mile and making sure all we needed arrived in Brazzaville in record time. You guys put DHL to shame.
  6. David and Glynis (our fellow Capetonians) we are so glad we met you and thank you so much for all the strings you pulled as well as your company when needed most. We do hope we will meet again soon and wish you well in wherever life leads you.
  7. Joyce, Jordan, Tony and Darell (The American crew!!!) thank you for taking us under your wings and making our time at Hippocampe such fun. We are SOOOOOOOOOOOO sorry we did not make Ram Dam to dance with you, but age and lack of sleep caught up with us, so please forgive us. We truly hope to meet you all again and Joyce, thank you for being a pillar of strength when I needed it most, the angels will always be with me, and I pray with you.
  8. All our friends and family all over your constant support and messages made the 20 days of waiting so much easier. To those of you that put up with my down moods, you are the greatest. Thank you very much.

 The American group               Local Soccer team, I think they enjoyed to bo                                                                                                                                                                                        photographed more than winning the cup!

 

Despite the best efforts of the American crew to keep us out till all hours, we managed to get to bed at about 12 and left Sunday morning at 6.30. Wow , what a feeling to be moving again….first time in a moving Stan in 16 days!!! We were both very apprehensive as there seem to a lot of weird noises, but we drove for 11 hours just to make sure we are out of tne Congo, almost our nemesis!

Stats and Helpful Info

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The following are some stats as well as some info that might be helpful to future travelers:

 

(Please note that the prices are relevant at the time that we traveled and should therefore be adjusted. The cost of the accommodation does not include some “freebies” like staying at friends or bushcamping, and the amount reflected is per couple per night)

 

Country :                  Congo (Due to hold ups and car problems these stats were difficult to calculate)

 

Dates:                        27th May till 15th June 2008

 

Exchange rate:       R1 = 50 CFA (Known as Cifas)

 

Number of Nights:19

 

Distance traveled:  712 kms

 

Average distance per day:39,6km

 

Cost of Diesel:        R8 per litre

 

Average fuel consumption:7,2 kms per litre

 

Diesel used:                        99 litres

 

Worst Road/s:         From Kinkala to Mindouli (No question the WORST yet ever!! DO NOT GO THERE)

 

Best Road/s:           Brazzaville to Oyo

 

Favourite new destination:Brazzaville

 

Average cost of accommodation: R545

 

Number of Bushcamps:   One

 

Cheapest Acommodation: Hotel Byblos (do not stay there though unless you want to be picked up!)

 

Most enjoyable:                  Hippocampe

Stats and Helpful Info

in

The following are some stats as well as some info that might be helpful to future travelers:

 

(Please note that the prices are relevant at the time that we traveled and should therefore be adjusted. The cost of the accommodation does not include some “freebies” like staying at friends or bushcamping, and the amount reflected is per couple per night)

 

Country :                              DRC

 

Dates:                                    22nd  May to 26th May 2008

 

Exchange rate:                   R1 = 70 DRC francs

 

Number of Nights:                         5

 

Distance traveled:              441 kms

 

Average distance per day:88,2 kms

 

Cost of Diesel:                    R10 per litre

 

Average fuel consumption:9,2kms per litre

 

Diesel used:                                    48 litres

 

Worst Road/s:                     None, just the Drivers!                     

 

Best Road/s:                       All (Though warning that the road between Matadi and Kinshasa is unsafe due to highjackings and  recent muggings as late as March 2008)

 

Favourite new destination: Matadi

 

Average cost of accommodation: R144 per night

 

Number of Bushcamps:               “Camping” at Convent for US$ 20 per night

 

Cheapest Acommodation:          Unknown mosquito hotel 130 kms W of Kinshasa at R120 ! BUT you do not want to stay there

Most enjoyable:                              Leaving Kinshasa

From the border to Lope

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After 11 hours on the road, we had yet to reach any form of border post, and were looking around for a place to bushcamp when, around a corner, we spotted a few buildings behind a boom across the track. The boom was securely padlocked, but a smiling gendarme unlocked it, and allowed us through into Gabon  - and onto a tarred road! Where we were met by a friendly  border official, The local Gendarme!

Not wanting to push on in the gathering gloom, we asked the gendarme if he minded if we set up camp  next to his office and house, to which he gladly agreed.   We set up camp, under the watchful gaze of the gendarme and his live-in girlfriend, Miriam.  We had read that the Gabonese really enjoyed their beer, and so Stewart exchanged an ice cold Ngok beer from Brazzaville for a Gabonese equivalent, and we showed off all  Stan’s modcons to him and Miriam, who were mighty impressed.  We even lent him a power point to charge his cell phone overnight. He made good use of it and eventually brought 3 batteries to charge.

 Smart Miriam and Gendarme  Lots of Pygmy ancestors for sure!

After a supper under the stars, we crawled into our rooftop tent, and were fast asleep by 9pm.

The next morning, after a cup of coffee(Annaliese) and tea (Stewart),  we packed up Stan and had our next visit from the couple. As Miriam refused to have her picture taken the night before(she wanted to get dressed smartly as she is from Brazzaville) we took some pictures and she was off to work. We donated a South African bandana SA flag replica to the much delighted gendarme and headed west on the tar road. We immediately noticed that, although the locals we passed on the roadside were not as well dressed as the Congo locals, they were smiling and friendly, waving vigorously with both hands as we roared past, reveling in the good going.

 Local Shopkeeper   Every town has a roundabout with some figure/statue, this is in                                                                                                                                                     Lastourville

Our first stop was Leconi, where our few words of French, learnt during our stay in Congo, were much appreciated by the Customs and Immigration officials, and we sailed through with no problems.

The vegetation changed from savannah to the most unbelievable OMG jungle……as Stewart said, we expected to see Tarzan any minute! It was the most unbelievable feeling to drive through this tropical fairyland. What made the journey even more surreal was that we hardly saw people, which we suppose is understandable as the total population of Gabon is only 1,42 million of which 500 000 live in the capital, Libreville. Compare this to Brazzaville’s 1,3 million people just in one city and 7 million in Kinshasa!! Go Gabon!!

 The amazing jungle Typical street scene

From then on we traveled steadily westwards to Moanda, and onwards to Franceville, through beautiful virgin tropical jungle, interspersed  with small villages and smiling locals. In general though the villages were all closed up and the only sign of life was the washing on the line. Finally it seems that we reached a country where both the males and the females seem to share the workload. Only thing though , is that once again it seem to be only the females that do the carrying of heavy stuff. Here they do it on their backs, there is a strap around their head which is attached to a big basket hanging behind their back loaded with anything from wood to Cassava. We eventually called them the turtle people because it was mostly old ladies who due to all the years of carrying, couldn’t walk up straight anymore.

  The "turtle" ladiesChecking routes with Stephen

 We reached Franceville in good time, where we bumped into 2 overland trucks that had left Hippocampe  a few days before  us, on their way to Ghana. After a brief reunion and note swapping, we enjoyed a late breakfast of takeaway  baguette, filled with the most delicious combination of mince, chickpeas and mysterious local relishes. At the equivalent of R12 each, it was DELICIOUS.

We also bumped into another acquaintance whom we met in Brazzaville (are we becoming locals by any chance) who is the director of some Wildlife conservation project funded by the US. He gave us some good tips about Gabon as he has been living thee for a number of years.

After the luxury of tar the road changed to good dirt road cutting deep through the jungle, so going was easy until we got to a split in the road with no indication of which way Lope was. Out of the blue, a bakkie arrived and out got JC (!!!!!) FROM THE FREE STATE how is that for luck ? He has been in Gabon for 2 years and gladly showed us the way. Just as we started to relax and singing the praises of Gabon’s amazing roads…….the road deteriorated fast and Stan had to be put through his paces by 2 drivers still not sure he has fully recoverd.

 JC who appeared from nowhere!Trying to "pay it forward" after all the help

                                                                                                                                                                                we got

It seems that this stretch will henceforth be known as the “Social road” as we also bumped into Michael O’Sullivan from Ireland/ US on his way from Spain to Cape Town on his bike!! We had a great chat, swapping stories about the route and the African nations right there in the middle of the road. We parted ways, Michael concerned about the soft sand in Congo and us concerned about the worst road in Africa waiting for us between Cameroon and Nigeria.

 The Lope hotel and IdaAfrican legacy!!

We bumped along and reached Lope in the gathering dusk, found the Lope Hotel and nearly fainted when we saw the place. WOW WOW, someone finally woke up and realized the potential of LOCATION! The hotel consists of chalets right on the river (most importantly FACING the river) surrounded by stunning gardens, a deck and dining room with a view of the river. This was the first time since Namibia that we found a place that utilizes its potential. Needless to say, it came with an absurd price tag, but we decided to take the plunge and stay there. Only problem was ……there is no hot water and the pool has no water, but hey, it looks great and was the fanciest place we have seen in a long time, so who complains! What made it even nicer was that Ida, the receptionist could speak perfect English. We had a good supper, a good clean up, treated all the insect bites that is the legacy of Africa and has now become  nightly ritual and passed out. PLEASE do not believe anyone that tell you it is possible to prevent getting bitten ….It is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE  as you WILL get bitten no matter what and your legs WILL look like you have measles/small pocks/sores etc.

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.

From the border to Limbe

 

We were adamant to stick to our plan to get to Limbe by sunset, so as soon as we could, we got moving.  Unfortunately the plan didn’t quite work out as, we reached to border at 7 o’clock, only to be told it didn’t open until 8, However, the crossing was very quick once the officials had turned up.

 

 From the moment you enter Cameroon, you notice the laid back atmosphere. Even right at the border, the officials were having their breakfast of tinned sardines and fu fu and in between mouthfuls of this, the forms were filled in and we were told about how great a country Cameroon is. Another thing that is immediately noticeable is the fact that Congo was Toyota country (as we sadly discovered!) Gabon Mitsubishi country and Cameroon motorbike country. From the moment you cross the border , you are surrounded by them and as we discovered later, they are a huge source of income for the owners as they are mostly used as taxis.

 

Cameroon got its name from the Portuguese, who were only here for a short while but named it “Camaroes” the word for prawns, due to the abundance thereof. The Germans occupied it at some stage, then the British and then the French.  What makes the country even more interesting is that it is clearly divided into a Francophone and an Anglophone section, The Anglophones being the minority as well as the opposition in politics. Needless to say, the area we were off to, Limbe, is a coastal town and in the Anglophone area. We felt the after 4 weeks of French speaking countries, we just needed a few days of being able to communicate with the locals.

 Still trying to "pay it forward" made the journey a lot longer though!Local lady

Turned out our idea of getting to Limbe was a bit crazy, as we traveled for 14 hours and only got to our destination at 8.30 that night…..NOT a good idea, but the roads in Cameroon are brilliant, tar all the way. What makes the journey so long is the fact that you get stopped about every hour or less by police roadblocks, and toll roads,  a great irritation as you cannot always see them and here they adopted the Nigerian practice of placing a strip of wood with very sharp nails across the tar to make sure you stop. Once again the fact that we cannot speak French helped a lot as they all eventually give up asking for bribes as we just play dumb. Also we think all the stickers on the car helps, as they all think we are on some official mission.

The fact that Cameroon has 16 million people is immediately noticeable as there are a lot more villages compared to Gabon. The dress code is not nearly as smart as in the Congo and like in Gabon, both the males and females seem to be working in the fields. They farm with Cassava, bananas, plantains, dates, tomatoes and mangoes. Also noticeable is their pride in their “Lions” the soccer team famous for being the first African team to reach the quarter finals of World cup soccer. There are statues of a lion everywhere as well as billboards featuring the players.

 The ever popular LIONWe are friends!!!

It was easy going until we got to  Yaounde!  OMG what a mad crazy place. We had to change money as we could not find anywhere in Gabon to change our dollars for CFS’s, but this turned out to be a nightmare task. First problem was that nobody wanted to change money and to get around to find out where to go, Stewart had to dodge “starlet” taxis by the hundreds, people crossing the road as if they are on a Sunday stroll in the park, hundreds of vendors, trucks, cars, pushcarts and dogs all camping out in the main streets. We finally managed to get to “Score” the only directions to follow being pointing of fingers in the general direction and shouting Score, Score! Turned out to be a supermarket that arranged for mysterious moneychangers whom you had to meet in the ally to change your dollars on the blackmarket. We had no choice and gladly accepted the rate Isaac gave us.

 Crazy Yaounde "Tits bar" and Starlet Taxis The Blues Brothers traveled far!!

We filled up with petrol and got the hell out of there only to reach Douala, the next big city , even more congested and chaotic.. By this stage the rain started and in addition to the madness of the streets, we now had mud pools as well as darkness that set in. It took us 2 hours to get through the city by which time it was pitch dark. As I cannot see in the dark (old age does that to you ) poor Stewart had to do all the driving despite having driven most of the time to get here. We got lost, got stopped again and again by the now notorious police blocks and by eventually driving right behind a police car, finally made Limbe at 8 O’Clock promising ourselves NEVER to do this again! The end was not in sight yet, as we drove around for 30 minutes to try and find accommodation. By chance we stumbled upon the Botanical garden which is the place we were in fact looking for as most travelers stay in the “guesthouse” here. We were told we are too late, but after explaining that we came all the way from Gabon, the guards took pity on us and took us to the delightful Julia who runs the accommodation side.

 

We had no idea what the place looked like, had a quick meal and passed out on top of the sheets from pure exhaustion.

Limbe and surrounds

               

Limbe Botancal Gardens Guesthouse  in the light of day proved to be run down, dirty and a close cousin to the cramped quarters we had experienced in Matadi, despite the fact that it was situated on the beach..

We decided to pack up and explore the town for alternative accommodation, but not before finding out that the town of Boue, ½ an hours’ drive away, had a Nigerian Consulate who might be persuaded to extend our visas, which would allow us to catch our breath before heading to Nigeria.

 Tropical plants spill right into the oceanBoue the German influence

At Boue we managed to obtain new visas – at twice the cost of the original ones, and experienced for the first time the polite requests for money as a thank you present, with absolutely no attempt to disguise the request for a bribe. We managed to depart with most of our money intact, and on the way out of town also sourced a local MTN sim card. We bumped into a local called Hansel, his German name linking him to the past of the area, when it was a German colony. This is also noticeable in the local architecture. Hansel, a qualified Zoologist, gave up a full time job in teaching at Varsity and is now in charge of teaching 100s of peasant farmers new farming techniques. He was a typical example of the ever friendly Cameroonians who is always ready for a chat and swapping stories. We both felt that this is a charity worth supporting as he is desperately looking for funding, unfortunately we lost his details so if you read this Hansel, please contact us.

 HanselPark hotel MiramarRare glimpse of Mount                                                                                                                                                                 Cameroon, an active volcano and the highest peak in West Africa

We later returned to Limbe and booked into Park Hotel Mirimar, consisting of a restaurant and a series of chalets right on the seafront – and with its own swimming pool! Wow, what more do you want, even if it takes time to get used to the sand and rocks being black from the nearby Mount Cameroun, still an active volcano. Very reasonable, and with hot water and cold beers, we decided to stay here for the weekend, to prepare for the last of the bad roads heading into Nigeria.

 The Drills, only 3000 left in the wild worldwideBoth his parents were killed by poachers and he is now being                                                                                                                                                                     bottle fed by the keepers

 

The big boss of the Gorilla group and Stew helping to feed the animals!

We visited the Wildlife Sanctuary, where we saw gorillas, chimpanzees, and other local endangered types of monkeys, included the odd looking Drill and mandrills.  We met Chris and  Megan, volunteer workers in the Sanctuary, and Stewart later  joined them and a few locals, including one called Bama, for a drink at a local hangout on the beach. Bama is very proud of the similarity between his name and the US candidate and to celebrate this, he promptly offered to purchase Stan when we finished our trip!! Might just take him up on that.

Black sand beachesPicture time

Being English speaking, Limbe was instantly one of our favourite new destinations, especially once we’d found a reliable and reasonable internet café that stayed open until 10pm. The place is like a little separate “colony” even down to the British style plugs and proper loafs of bread, the first we have seen since Luanda.There is a strong Christian influence in the whole area, with every 3rd building being a church of some sort, with fantastic names such as  “The Deeper Life Church”  and “The True and only Church of God”!!

THIS is for my grandchildren to show them how we did washing in my day!!!!Limbe harbour

 We spent time swimming in the pool, and Stewart was delighted to find the tv had Supersport, and managed to watch some rugby. Annaliese decided to “do” her hair, which she did very successfully – that is if you live in Benoni!!, So, if you notice a complete bottle blond anywhere, in fact we do not think there is any trace of colour left in her hair,.,,,,,you know who it is.!!!! Stewart is fast becoming a star motor mechanic and traced the reason why the fan system was not working, to a burnt out fuse.

Cameroonians just LOVE having their pictures taken and “official “ photographers are everywhere, specially at the beaches where they have permanent requests for pictures whilst the locals pose on horses, doing push ups etc.

 Some examples of local food, mashed cocaplant and fresh fish

We also drove up the coast to “Mile 11” beach – so named as it is 11 miles out of town, where we spent some time lazing by the beach and watching the locals running up and down, exercising and stretching, and swimming in the sea.

 

Staying at the same hotel we bumped into David and Megan, who were taking a break from doing some volunteer work in an area just outside Limbe. It was  good to meet and speak to other  people experiencing Africa, specially as David was the first Mormon we have ever met and as he quickly pointes out, Annaliese is the first Afrikaner he has ever met!  

 Our first Mormon friend, David and WendyBrave Wendy and Rob who gave us loads of info

Whilst still at Miramar, we noticed a mud spattered Landcruiser  in the carpark, and upon closer inspection, tracked down Rob and Wendy, 2 fellow explorers who were traveling around Africa in the opposite direction to ourselves. It was great to compare notes, and to exchange information on routes and places to go.Even more so as they were the first couple we met who did exactly what we did, down to giving up jobs and selling houses. They had driven for a day and a half down from the Nigerian border, a distance of 300km or so, and told us tales of  muddy roads that were depressingly familiar. We had been warned this section of the road would be tough, and it seemed it would be so as 65km took them 13 hours! So unfortunately it turns out that the stories we heard about the worst road in Africa is true! The overnight torrential rainfall did nothing to lift our spirits, but spending time with Rob and Wendy soon did. We had a lazy Sunday lunch of seafood on the beachfront, and spent Sunday comparing cars and notes in anticipation of leaving on Monday when we sadly have to say goodbye to stunning fellow travelers as well as a lovely, quaint Limbe.

 

 

 

Limbe to Mamfe, well nearly

We left Limbe after a great breakfast with our newly made friends Wendy and Rob who were off to Yaounde and on to Gabon. After another sleepless night due to the knowledge of what lay ahead, we both felt it is time for us to tackle what we have been told is the worst road in Africa.

The road started off fine and we were driving along in high spirits listening to our newly acquired Cameroonian music CD. We had to stop at Kumba to ensure we have cell phone reception for Stews telephonic interview for one of the teaching jobs we applied for. So needless to say, the nerves at this stage were relatively stretched beyond what they should be. We stopped at a local pub/restaurant for a cool drink and just because we were there, they decided to play their music as loud as possible! We could not exactly tell them that it was the last thing we wanted as the telephone connections were usually bad and it is no fun if you cannot hear what questions are being asked!! But hey, this is typical of Cameroonian hospitality, so Stew had to sweat it out in a hot car with all the windows closed!!

Waiting for the call!!!!

For Anna maria NOTE.... just a BIDI but cannot guarantee it will stay like that !!!

We were on our way after the call came through at the arranged time. The plan was to reach Mamfe that evening to ensure that we can leave for the border and the bad road at the crack of dawn the next morning. As the road steadily started to get worse, I checked the map and saw that we made a note at one place to turn LEFT, but we could not remember why the note was made…..next lesson…NEVER trust a local that does not drive for directions!! As the local guy told us to turn RIGHT instead, we believed him that that was the way to Mamfe, and drove straight into a very BAD road with fading light! LAST thing we needed before we even hit the worst road the next day. The mud was very bad, thick like clay and mixed with loads of water from the rain that day, made driving a bit of a nightmare. The worst happened and we slipped completely off the road and got badly stuck. Thankfully some locals arrived pretty soon and after trying the winch with no success, they got us out when it was already dark. They told us that there was no way we can continue as it got only worse further on and suggested we turn around and go back to Nguti some 30 kms back as there is a “great hotel” where we can stay.

  Getting used to what lies aheadStuck in the dark thank g for locals !

Well, we have been in a lot of places, the worst being the mosquito hell hole in DRC, but this one came a close second. No water, no electricity, smelly bedding but hey, it was a place to sleep!!! Not much of the sleeping happened though as we now had some idea of what awaited us the next day. At least the manager of the establishment promised to find us a reliable driver the next day. We had been warned not to try and negotiate the road on our own as there is no way we will get through. At this stage we due to what we just experienced, we believed it and had no desire to play tough!! One thing we are VERY sure of though is that NEVER again will we pay someone in SA to go on a "4x4 course/track" No more for at least 10 years!!!

Pics taking too ong to load, will update them if we find a better connection