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Sunday, 11 December 2011

Gabon, part 3 & Cameroon, part 3

Gabon, part 3
Day 13:  a slow day. We did some chores then went to an internet cafe for a bit. Then we went for a walk to the commercial centre of Libreville. After trying 3 banks, we finally found an ATM that would work, then we had a bite of lunch and walked back to the mission. Mad dogs & Englishmen etc.

We were impressed with Libreville; the government area is similar to Canberra (but with straightish roads), grand buildings etc. The Cornish is clean and there are even some public rubbish tins. We witnessed traffic actually stop for an ambulance. The commercial centre had nice cafes etc.

We read for the late afternoon and then had a bite of dinner and went to a local bar for a beer. The owner entertained us and insisted on providing a round as a gesture of welcome. Interestingly he did not drink himself.

It rained last night causing considerable stress to Avril re washing. But fortunately today, there was no rain so every thing dried; tent and washing.

Day 14:  there was a massive thunderstorm overnight, but the rain eased to drizzle and as we moved further inland and north sunshine appeared. We are promised no rain tonight. How long until we complain about heat & dust????

After refuelling we were on our way, basically over the same terrain we had travelled previously. In both RoC and Gabon there has been “bush meat” for sale along the roads. Todays selection included a tortoise, antelope, small porcupine (a favourite we are told) and monkey. Later in the day Ray bought some chicken from a road side stall and checked that it was in fact chicken.

A major hazard for drivers are the land slides from very steep cutting onto the road. In places these have been removed, however they cause a heart palpitation when a big forest truck is thundering straight at you and you are going to meet at the landslip.

Another hazard of driving in Gabon are the timber trucks. These are massive and carry anything from one log (you can imagine the diameter of such a huge tree) to 5 or 6 tree trunks. Over 100 trucks must have passed us today. There is a lot of forest here, but at the rate we have seen trees going out one wonders how long it will last. We were assured that in fact they have very sustainable models here.

We thought it educational to give an example of the issues we face with maps. In looking at todays route the Reise Know How may showed 210 km for the Bifour to Mitzic section. The official Gabon map showed 250 km and the Garmap GPS showed 231 km. Reise had no tar, Gabon official had ~ 80 km tar. In fact the whole section was tar (some places very badly deteriorated). The next section had 17 km difference in 118 km. Neither showed tar and in fact the whole section was tar. Hence we made good progress despite a massive traffic jam leaving Libreville.

We are camped at the Catholic Mission at Oyem overlooking the town. As in Australia, the Catholics seem to have somehow managed to get the better real estate.

Avril driving. 500 km. 9 hours. N 010 35’ 45.6’’  E 0110 34’ 50.4’’

Day 15: after filling up and finding some cans of Diet Coke and Cameroon beer (Cans are hard to find) we were on our way. An easy days drive along the main road to the border. We stopped at the village we had stayed at on the way south to hand out some gifts. The border crossing was easy both out of Gabon and into Cameroon. We were asked for Insurance, which you may need to have, but the Victorian annual registration paper seemed to satisfy them. 

Gabon summary: we really liked Gabon. It is just a pity we were there in the rainy season. However, it seems they really only get 2 or 3 months dry a year anyway. The people were very friendly and welcoming, always ready with a smile and a wave. There were no security issues and at no time did we feel any sense of hostility. When we got into any trouble, people were always ready to assist. Of all the Francophone countries we have visited, in Gabon more people tried a little English and tried to communicate.

With one exception, the officials we met did not ask for money or bribes and were generally no hassle.

After we worked it out, there were ATMs where needed. The street food seemed to be a little better than elsewhere e.g. you could get salad or a variety of vegetables or meat in your baguette.

The roads were a mixture of good highway and dirt road, but with some horror stretches to keep you alert. It will be some time before this is OK, but they are working on it.

Clearly the turtle nesting was a great highlight. We would go back again just to see this.

Cameroon, part 3

Day 8: After crossing the border, we decided to go to the beach resort of Kribi rather than straight to Yaounde. No need to spend the weekend in a big city.

The road from Ebolawa to Kirbi is “good” i.e. we got through. It is dirt and ~ 170 km took 4 hours. We noticed along this route that the locals were not friendly, no waves or smiles. We wondered if this was due to the fact all the churches were Presbyterian?

We checked into the Tara Plage hotel, a regular stop on the overlander route and set up camp under some palm trees 10 m from the sea. When we arrived, Avril decided on clothes washing and Ray decided on a swim in the warm Atlantic Ocean. The shower is OK, no hot water (which we are used to by now) and no rose to spread the spray, but plenty of pressure for the stream that comes out. In common with almost every dunny north of RSA there is no seat, so you need to use paper to decorate the porcelain prior to taking up the throne.

There are a number of other overlanders here all going north to south. There is a South African doctor (motor) biking and a couple of Czech chaps travelling in what would pass for a 1950’s Hilman Minx, but a communist (1968) era Skoda, complete with crank handle. When we arrived they were working on the engine after taking it out completely earlier in the day. A much simpler set up than us!! The fact that they have gotten this far in an ancient, overloaded, 2 wheel drive is encouraging!

We ate fresh fish in the restaurant with other travellers, swapping stories. 

Ray driving (though the vertigo is not completely gone). 378 km.  8 hours. N 020 54’ 20.6’’  E 0090 54’ 06.9’’

Day 9: as you can imagine, we were up very late and lazed around the beach, swimming & sun baking (it IS the dry season here!) until early afternoon. The hotel is in a small bay that would make a good scene for a post card; lined with white sand and greenery/palms. AND, there is no litter. The hotel rakes the beach in the morning.

Today we used the last of the meat from RSA. A milestone. We are unsure what we will do for meat from now on, though the expat supermarkets do have a frozen food section.

We went into Kribi for a look and to buy some fruit & veg. The local mode of transport/taxi is a motor bike. This was Avrils first trip on a bike. She was squashed between the rider and Ray. She attempted to maintain appropriate personal space, but this was countered by the need for the rider to have her up close and personal. A fair compromise was reached.

In town it was decided that Ray should have a hair cut. The omens were not good, the first chair he sat on collapsed! The cut was done with blunt kitchen scissors. The hairdresser attempted to use the 1960s/1970s technique of a layer cut and move the scissors up and down in a dragging motion. After a certain period Avril jumped up and instructed, that was enough. At this point vanity takes over. All the blasé non concern evaporates into a sudden bout of stress about how the coiffeur will look. It seems to have resulted in a stepped appearance with big ledges where Rays hair has been cut and alternating sections that have not been cut. Mind you get what you pay for, in this case ~ $1!

After dinner we had a few drinks, swapped more stories and way points etc. Got to bed at midnight.

Day 10: our Czech friends, Michael & Andre, decided to spend an extra day here so we could eat some fish together. After a late rising, Ray headed off to Kribi on a shopping expedition in the Skoda. This vehicle needs to be cranked in the morning, but it is simpler to push start it when in town, so we were always on the look out for a down hill slope. After a breakfast of baguette with eggs bought of one of the many wayside stalls, we purchased fresh baguettes, fruit & veg, ice cream etc it was off to the fresh fish market.

The market is under cover and has a very good variety of fresh fish, prawns, lobsters etc. the trading is done fairly quietly (for Africa) on a one – on – one basis. We decided on a barracouta. After a little haggling we bought a 2.5 kg fish for ~ $ 10. It then cost $ 2 for another person to scale and fillet the fish. Michael & Andre decided to also bring the tail home as bait for an unsuccessful fishing program.

The afternoon was on the beach. Ray studiously ignoring the young girls who came and sat near him, then waving furiously to Avril in the sea so they knew that madam was around.

We used the last of the RSA charcoal for the BBQ. Andre then prepared a delicious fish dinner, grilled over the coals and accompanied by salad, a mustard/onion relish (he picked up the recipe in Senegal) and garlic bread. All with beer and finished off with some ice cream purchased earlier in the day.

A wonderful evening and fellowship.

As we are stationary, we have used the solar panels to keep the accommodation battery charge up for the last couple of days. The sun is quite intense, and the only drain on the batteries is the fridge. The panels seem to be able to keep up with the fridge load, which is pleasing.

Day 11: after getting up late, we waved good bye to Henry (RSA motorbiker) and our Czech friends. Then an easy drive to Yaounde and the Catholic mission. This area of Yaounde had no power or water when we arrived.

Avril driving. 278 km.  4 hours. N 030 50’ 24.9’’ E 0110 30’ 28.8’’

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