RoC, part 1
Day 1: ~ 40 minutes after leaving Kinshasa, we dock in Brazzaville. We are concerned that to get onto the dock, our vehicle must pass under a walkway which is too low. Through charades we understand that the 3rd pontoon will be disconnected and go to a different spot. But 1st they must take all the cargo from “our” barge. The navvies get to work – though here it seems to be more of a team effort here rather than individuals carrying great loads. The barge is cleared and the engines started ready to take our vehicles to the landing place. But wait. Problem. The captain has disappeared, off to do some shopping. So we wait. Eventually the captain returns and we go to the vehicle landing area.
The offloading is a little risky, but achieved without mishap. Ray driving; Avril wants him to watch and take instructions from her, the official in charge wants to give directions.
Then Fany has arranged for a senior official to assist here. So Ange fills in some of the paper work and gets our passports stamped. The customs chief is not to be seen, but eventually this resolves itself (he is fascinated to see a tourist) and the carnet is stamped. Ange then takes us to the Hippocamp so we get there quickly.
The Hippocamp is a hotel in Brazzaville where Olivier allows overlanders to camp for free. He also provides ablutions. Wonderful.
They have a great Vietnamese restaurant and by chance, Saturday night is buffet night. Yummy.
We are greatly relieved to finally be out of the DRC and on our way again. But, maybe we also need to learn to be a little more patient as wellS 040 16’ 39.9’’ E 0150 16’ 64.7’’
General: the GMAIL aspect of the blog does not seem to be working that well for folks..
We suggest that you write to either Avril’s or Ray’s private email address
Christo Potgieter said to Ray on the phone that we would not enjoy our time in DRC. And, as a summary, he is probably right.
Our entry was stressful due to the bad roads. Made worse by the expectations created by our various maps that we would have good roads. We had a few very bad experiences in Kinshasa. The police tried to extract funds from us all the time – our vehicle is very obvious.
We had them drag money from our hands, we were confronted by thugs in the street, Ray’s mobile phone was ripped from his hands (got it back), every time we went out we were continually hassled, surrounded by people all demanding “give me money” or such, when in our vehicle people would angrily shout at you from a passing bus or the “footpath”. We did not really like what seemed to be an underlying atmosphere of violence/aggression. Just the way people got so angry with traffic etc, we found quite intimidating. We were advised not to carry a camera as it allows a charge of being a spy to be brought. We were advised not to walk by the Congo river as the police were arresting people on the pretext they are spy’s – all to extract funds.
To counter balance this, we had the chaps who assisted us all the way on Day 1, through the mud bogs etc. Bruno was very helpful. M. Michel at the garage was just fantastic and could not have assisted us any more or been any more generous. After our accident, Alain & the people in the other car, the police and Albert from Helios towers were very considerate & helpful. The folks at Chantilly were always ready to help and chat. Mary at the mission station quickly became a friend and helped us with translation and expert guidance.
So, we are a bit betwixt and between on DRC. Maybe with time we will sort it out in our minds. But, almost every person we spoke to would prefer not to be in the DRC – and that must say something.
DRC, part 3
Day 13: we again lazed around the hotel & pool. We had hoped that we would be able to get the vehicle today, but that was not to be. We checked into a different hotel (the Sultani), very close to the garage and a more reasonable cost. The manager, Mohamed, made sure we were given a suite. The room, restaurant, bar etc are more modern and nicer than the Grand hotel. Also, the staff makes an effort. A big rap for this hotel (it had been booked out until yesterday)
We experienced the frustration of not being able to communicate with people to arrange even the most basic matters (i.e. to arrange a car to take us to the new hotel). This reminds us of how hard it must be for the new arrivals in Australia and how we should look after them.
At the end of the day, Ray went to the garage. All the panel beating has been done and windows, doors and draws operate as they should. So it appears we only need to paint job – but M. Michel seems to think the weather is against us (not sure why?).
So Avril is remaining stoic and calm and Ray is getting stressed. Such is life!
Day 14: following the initiative Koos Moorcroft, we met with Teon Delopor of G4S this morning. They are a global security firm. They may be able to assist, but it is really nice to know some one in town. Thanks to Koos.
Ray went to the panel garage this morning and they said the vehicle should be ready today; rain and 3rd party painter being OK. We the went for a walk back to the protestant mission and took Mary to lunch. Checked on the ferry for tomorrow (all is supposed to be OK, but we have heard that before). Then did a bit of chocolate shopping.Otherwise a lazy day.
Ray went to collect the vehicle at 17:00, agh they exclaimed we said 18:00. The paining needs to be done. Now even a handyman as useless as Ray knows that it takes more than one hour to paint, buff and dry. So that sinking feeling. After waiting for an hour, talk turned to “tomorrow”. Ray decided that maybe the nice guy approach was not going so well. Time to roll out Mr not so nice guy. Some histrionics followed. A promise that the painting would be done in the evening and the vehicle ready by 06:00.
Ray returned to the hotel feeling a bit like Sisyphus, continually pushing a stone up a hill only to have it roll down, necessitating the need to start rolling the stone up the hill again.
Day 15: not so bright eyed, Ray returned to the garage at 06:00, having been promised that it would open at 05:30 and the vehicle would be painted and ready to go. Mmm, the garage actually opens at 07:00 & Ray returns then. No, the painter was sick, or traffic or such. But there are now 3 painters on the job. Vehicle is promised for 10:00. Back to the garage, actually, 3 hours was not enough. They need 3 hours more. Ray decides to wait at the garage to ensure work keeps going. 13:00 becomes 15:00 becomes 17:00 and finally at 17:30 we have the vehicle.
The issue is that we have arranged the ferry for the morning, so this needs to be undone. But, as per the previous discussion, we worry that the port chief will say we are unreliable or have an arrogance attack and we will yet again be stuck, waiting for the ferry. Stress!!
The hotel continues to be great, air conditioning, sports TV (for Avril) and internet fill in the time.
Back to the Protestant mission, where we are welcomed like old friends.
Day 16: the rain pelted down all night and for the 1st time Ray needed to pack the tent down in the rain. So, DRC had a final piece of delay for us. It rained hard all morning. We were meant to meet our facilitator at 09:00, but keen to be on the way, we were there at 08:30. However, due to the rain the facilitator was late and only arrived at 11:00.
Then, into the port. Up to see the port chief, Ray had a suitable lost/forlorn look on his face and was very subservient. Today, we are successful, we can get on the barge. Downstairs to change the money (~ US$ 156) in to CFA. An immigration bloke comes up to personally do the passports (Ray paid $5, but at this time who cares!) and the carnet is stamped post haste. Then they buy a passenger ticket for Avril. All done in less than 10 min. For others who have French the facilitator was Oscar: + 243 9999 56771. The 2nd facilitator (Fany: +234 818946454) shows up when the paper work is done. But, he still has a role to play.
Then we wait for the barge to arrive from Brazzaville, which it does at ~ 13:00. The Ferry is really 3 pontoon barges strapped together. After the offloading, the vehicles go on 1st. so we are on the barge at ~ 14:00. Then the cargo is loaded. This seems to be reminiscent of the 18th century. It is all done by human, physical labour. They carry enormous loads on their backs. Most of the cargo is for small traders who carry stuff between Brazzaville and Kinshasa and reverse. One chap had a sister in Australia and he takes an interest in ensuring we are not too badly hassled. He said that it is a good living, they can make US$ 100 in 4 days.
The variety of stuff in incredible, eggs, chickens, food, soap, potato chips, great amounts of different plastic goods (chairs, basins etc), beer, furniture etc.
It is piled high with much at a dangerous angle. Ray plays landcruiser police man, ensuring that cargo is not piled against the vehicle. Avril takes a position sitting on the roof rack and enjoying her favourite pastime, people watching. She is the centre of attention for ALL the men.At 15:30, the vessel finally sets off. We are relieved to say the least.
In mid stream we officially leave