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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Cameroon, part 2 & Gabon, part 1

Cameroon, part 2

Day 5: we get to sleep in!  we then spent the morning & some of the afternoon on the vehicle. Cleaning the inside of the accommodation module, changing a water filter, cleaning the cabin etc.

After the cleaning we drove to Bastos, the embassy area to have a look around and a bite to eat.

In the evening we took Fr Patrick & S. Susan to a Cameroonian fish restaurant. The fish (Sole & what looked like Sea Bass) is BBQ over coals. We also had some cassava, chick peas and beans. Washed down with soft drink for some and beer for Ray. You eat with your hands, so before and after the meal they bring a bucked and pail and you pour water over your hands to clean them. It was very yummy.

Day 6: the spare parts arrived from Doula overnight, so Ray took the car to the Toyota dealership for the clutch to be repaired. This is not a cheap exersize!!

Avril took the opportunity for a relaxed sleep in.

As we were sans transport (note how we are learning so much French!), we spent the day at the mission catching up on administrative chores, doing some skype, emails (the mission has internet to the rooms. It is not all that reliable, but it is better than nothing) etc.

Day 7: we went for a walk and bought some breakfast from a street stall. Then Ray went a picked up the car. After a quick visit to an ATM, we were on our way to Gabon. It was a very slow trip out of town – in common with most African cities there are street markets along the main road into town.

We passed through the Cameroon side officials with no problems. No one asked for a bribe.

Gabon, part 1

Day 1: like the Cameroon side, the Gabon side officials were pleasant and no one asked for a bribe. The immigration office is at Bitam ~ 30 km from the border.

By time we checked through immigration it was getting late. We travelled along the road for a bit, then reminded ourselves that we needed to find some where to stop for the night.

At one of the many police points we asked if we could camp beside their check point. No worries. We meet the village chief, make gifts to the kids and some of the adults and generally make friends. We are fortunate that the village chief respects our privacy and ensures folks keep a distance.

The drive is mainly forest. Apparently Yaounde is drier and meant to be “savannah”, but we did not notice a great difference. It all looks tropical to us.

Avril still driving. ~ 340 km. 6 hours (including the border crossings). N 010 56’ 09.8’’  E 0110 35’ 12.6’’

Day 2: we were woken by the unmistakable sound of a car screeching and of broken glass. A car had decided to go through the road block and collected one of the witches hats. As we were not in a rush, we took time over breakfast and packing. A very heavy mist had descended and the canvas was very wet. We know that will mean a struggle to erect the canvas tonight.

The road was tar for the 1st ~ 250 km. Such a great change to the past few weeks. We have the opportunity to enjoy the drive, the lush rain forest and the villages.  We put 180 l diesel in the tanks for < $1.00/l! We also took the opportunity to buy some fresh fruit & vegetables. We have learnt to buy when you see it, but only enough for one or maximum two days. With the heat, fresh produce quickly goes off.

The country side is reasonably hilly and we descend from > 600m to < 170m. This means a lot of turns in the road, which are generally cambred the wrong way! When we get manage to get a glimpse of the distant view, it is spectacular.

Again our maps let us down, the turn off onto the N3 was out by ~ 10 km, which makes Ray stress tremendously. The final ~ 150 km was on dirt, but the surface was reasonable.

We arrived at the village of Lope at 15:00 and went through the motions of finding a place to stay and organising the next day. We decided to camp in the grounds of the Motel Embeyi and get the use of a shower and absolutions. We have a nice position with pleasant views across the rolling green hills. The country side is grass lands in places, we are not sure if this is due to human activity or natural.

Cost of entrance to the National Park is high, it looks better to take an organised drive – which we really do not like.

It is nice to arrive early and settle down

Avril driving. 404 km. 7.5 hours. S 000 06’ 28.1’’  E 0110 36’ 38.0’’

Day 3: having decided on an afternoon dive, we slept in. Then we did some chores. In breaking news, Ray finally worked out the problem with the accommodation electrics. The earth was attached to the front passenger side tool box. This was the tool box that was wrecked in the accident in DRC. The connection must have held for a time and then gave in. So, with the earth reconnected, batteries can be charged and we can relax.

We filled the water tank, made some custard & jelly, cut up the biggest pineapple we have ever bought (very sweet too) etc. We had a look at the town of Lope which took ~ 10 minutes etc. At the end we were drenched with sweat – it is hot & humid.

We set off four our game drive at ~ 16:00. The drive was very average. We saw some (forest) elephant, buffalo and black monkeys. Ray took the Santos spotlight and commissioned it in anger. However, after 1 hour we did not see even 1 pair of eyes.

After managing to buy some potatoes, we had a nice stew for dinner. We then chatted to some folks in the bar to get up to date information.

Day 4:  we had been told that the road for the next 200km was bad, and could take up to 6 hours. So we set off at 07:15, prepared for the worst. As is our habit for bad roads, the rain belted down – it was very dark and we needed the head lights to proceed. However the road was not as bad as we expected and we were became complacent. At a difficult bog spot we felt that horrible slide – the one you get in mud when you have absolutely no control. We slid into the side of a very deep road edge – up to the top of the tray. Luckily, almost immediately a car came in the opposite direction. They managed to get through the bog and tow us out backwards, we were in 4 WD and did NOT burn the clutch!! In the process we commissioned the inflatable Israeli mats. They warned us there was a very bad bog ~ 10 min further on. We approached this with care. There was a semi trailer bogged in the middle of the road (in ~ 1 m of mud), but we managed to drive around the edge and get through. We felt a bit sorry for the driver and left him with drinks and some food. At the next village there were a number of trucks waiting. We showed them a picture of the bogged truck which they appreciated.

Apart from the one difficult stretch, the drive was very nice, mostly stunning rain forest but towards the end it opened out a bit and we had some magnificent vistas across deep and spectacular valleys.

We got to Franceville ~ 15:30 and after some confusion managed to camp at the Hotel Masuku. Ray had to wash the car. It seems to get very dirty in mud and dust. Then he had a swim. Followed by pre-dinner drinks, over looking some Franceville valleys. All very nice.

374 km. 8.25 hours. S 010 37’ 56.8’’  E 0130 35’ 37.4’’

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