Recorded on December 27th, 2014
The drive from Abuja to the coastal town of Calabar, saw 33 check points/road blocks, in which I had to stop 30 times. The first 258km took 8 hours, on good freeway. Tedious to say the least, but security obviously a major problem with many bombings, ahead of February’s elections.
The next 600 km’s , on awful roads, saw a further 34 checks/blocks, and took 14 hours. Military points, army and police, stationed at towns, and 100 metres apart, with the addition of vehicle inspection officers, all who stop, looking for bribes.
The traffic police at city junctions, in African cities, are like epeleptics, with hatrs and whistles. They cause more congestion, and totally ignore the taxis and trucks driving on the wrong sides of the roads.
I have come to the conclusion that traffic police are to motorists, as Catholic priests are to choir boys. There for one reason only.
Once near cities, the continuous requests for dash , coke money, beer money from the police. At no stage in any country so far, has an army officer asked for a bribe….the police, 9/10. All sadly are disappointed, as the only gift given, was a stale Chelsea bun, which had the icing licked off of it by Laica (dog), and even she wouldn’t eat it. The officer stood and ate it in front of us…if only he knew….sweet justice.
150 km’s outside of Calabar, a decidedly obnoxious police commander told me that I would remain overnight, if no bribe was forthcoming. After reading my book for 30 minutes, I was instructed to join him in the shade, so we could discuss further. I sat down , removed my shoes, put my foot on the chair beside him, and asked if he minded if I trimmed my toenails. This got the required…No no..You must go…Yevvo (white man). A great new ploy.
Calabar, is almost a shanty town, very spread out, but was only a stop over for visas.
Recorded on December 27th, 2014
Having acquired the much elusive Angolan visa (30 days, instead of the 5 day transit visa that I applied for), a quick relatively slow going route from Libreville to Dolisie was expected. Good roads from Libreville to Mouila, Overnighted,and started out at day-break.
Rough road, under construction, to Ndende, the last village in Gabon, before the border with RC.
Welcome to hell. I had read earlier reports, that RC (Rep of Congo) , only has three roads tarred, Dolisie to Pointe Noire, Kinkala to Brazza, and Brazza up north (the route, most over landers use from Gabon, and the presidents home). Wanting to be different, and sticking to my guns, of seeing remote areas, I pursued to use the ’ Piste horreur, part 1’
After 6, yes six formalities, entering RC, (most accommodating), I hit the road, literally. Road, does not do justice, to this sea of pot-holes, mostly 3-6 ft. deep, filled to the brim with water, the rest of the road, was a sea of mud. Oh bliss. Anything and everything, that wasn’t bolted down, flew around the Landy, as I crawled along at 12kmph, for the next 160kms.
The most concerning point, was when water lapped through the sill of the open driver’s window, onto my legs. Quite suddenly you become very religious, and pray, to every known god, that you’ll make it through this muddy hell-hole.
Gruelling, in a word.
Several route guides ( had explicitly said ‘not to be used in wet weather ) described the last 2 hours into Dolisie, as ‘welcomed tarmac. Oh really, try 150m’s, entering the town, with two gigantic potholes.
Well, having a decent nights rest, albeit physically aching I departed at dawn, for the ‘much improved road’ to Brazza. Ha ha ha, how gullible one can be. 386km’s to go, on a secondary road beside a super freeway, under Chinese construction, that you can’t use, as of yet. Instead, I have to use a sand/mud/rock service road, running parallel to it. Torture!
12 hours later, I reach a military control, masses of traffic, but I’m waived to the front. After formalities completed, with a bunch of drunken oafs, who record my Morrocan visa, insread of the RC one, an Ak47 clad soldier, begs for a lift to Brazza. Having seen the conditions, I oblige, as taxis, would never make it on these roads.
Lighting one of my cigarettes, without a word, he demands 5 kms later, to stop, as he has to deliver something to his ‘Chef’ (Chief in French). 10 minutes later he gets back in Landy, sticks Ak47, in my chest and demands Cfa 50 000, for the escort to Brazza. All done in local language and poor French, but I get the message. Tired, physically bashed and beaten, I throw him out the landy. I’m in no mood for any ridiculous demands, a bullet at this stage, would almost be welcomed.
The ‘Chef’ then appears, and I explain, that if they don’t move from vehicle, I’ll hit the ‘SOS’ button on my sat-phone. This does the trick, and I rejoice, as I crawl onwards to Brazza.
An hour later, I come upon, a trail of queued trucks. Being impatient, I drive about 5kms along the outside of the queue, before I’m stopped. Walking another 1.5-2km’s I find a sea of mud, probably 1km sq., with dozens of trucks bogged in the 3-4ft clay mud. No-one speaks English, and despite a lot of the drivers saying I’ll make it, I decide, to sleep on it. Its pitch black, mozzie heaven, and very noisy, with many engines screaming, as they try to get out, this continues all night and all unsuccessful.
After a very uncomfortable 4 hours sleep, I awake at 5 am, to take Laica for a swim in the mud. Poor dog, she’s been thrown from pillar to post for last 24 hours. Making sure that she’s muddy enough, I put her in Landy, and then walk my intended route. Swim, is more like it.
One trainer lost, one flip-flop lost, but if I’m careful there’s a 30pct chance of making it. Ignoring the container truck tracks, all about 4-5 ft. deep, and blocked, I wind a route around them, and 500m later have accomplished the impossible, well for the trucks at least, as they’ve been here for almost a week.
Locals are overjoyed, as I can now tow 5 ex-Chinese Toyota cars out, that are bogged, and totally blocking any passable route. 3 hours later, I’ve towed them all out, and fortunately created some sort of track, for the trucks to use. Out the several hundred people, 3 thank me, none of the delivery drivers of the cars, they just whizz off into the distance. Later I see them stuck again, but in much lighter mud, and just wave as I pass, ignoring their distressed pleas. They’ll get out, but would have been much quicker if they’d thanked ‘Le Blanc’ this morning.
Arrive in Brazza, battered, hungry, and thirsty…… (I’d given my last water to local police 24 hours earlier, as they had run out, and I knew they wouldn’t get any in the foreseeable future. Was a costly error. Relieved, I take a 4 day break, as it’s the weekend, need urgent repairs to steering, which now, is beyond a joke.
29 hours for the expected 10 hour drive
Part to 2 of ‘Piste horreur’ starts in a few days. 170kms, of mountainous, mud/rock tracks ‘not to be attempted in rainy season’…. (it’s been pouring for days now…although a short dry season…I’m told) will be my next challenge. No rush, 4 days expected for this leg into DRC, then onwards to Angola.
Recorded on December 27th, 2014
No visa, no foil.
Entering Gabon, I was amazed at the fantastic reception at the border, considering I was entering without the required visa. The officials, were fantastic, and directed me to the first town, Bitam, where I could acquire such a costly visa. Well, the rudest human being (a lady) admonished me for next speaking fluent French. After much grovelling, she stamped my passport, and told me I had 3 Months to traverse Gabon…Result..Usd 100 saved.
A nights rest in Oyem, another top contender, for shit-hole of 2014, fried chicken and bloody rice again for dinner. Why is the food so crap, when the ingredients are in every village?
Whilst waiting for check-in, (nothing is efficient) I happened upon a TV, showcasing West Africa’s chefs, similar to Master Chef, called Star Chef. Mesmerised, I sat and watched the whole programme. It should have been called ‘Special Needs Chef’.
Possibly the most unappetising food was presented to a panel of judges, who oohed and aahed. One dessert was meant to have a brush stroke of chocolate on the plate, but it appeared as if a rather incontinent Alsatian had squatted over the plate. This definitely answered a lot of my daily thoughts, as the only food on offer outside of beach resorts, is fried chicken with either boiled rice or plantain…how bloody imaginative.
Thinking I would refuel the following morning, I popped into the local petrol station, amazed that no-one else was refuelling on a Saturday morning. Ah, stupid white man, fuel (pronounced ‘foil’, by my chicken n rice mates), is only available in Libreville, some 600km’s further. With 40 litres left, this would have been a concern, had I not drove into a tailback of 3kms, due to a landslide. After much berating from all the local taxi-drivers, due to the fact that I wouldn’t drive through 4 foot of clay mud, (‘you have land rover, it can go anywhere’….s0rry Mr C+R, I also have a brain, that tells me it’s a defender, not a Sherman) We then resumed our trip after a mere 3 hour wait for a grader, which I had to donate diesel to, as there was no ‘foil’. Without a word of thanks, they all raced off, leaving me to limp 200 kms into Ndjole, where fortunately foil was in abundance.
On to Lamberene, to visit the fantastic Albert Schweitzer museum, where he spent majority of his life, creating a hospital, and a thriving community. The hospital is still very much in operation, although it has expanded considerably over the years, and in itself, is a memorial to the inspiring man who dedicated his life to humanity. A truly worthy Nobel peace prize winner.
Wonderful roads, in the majority of this very lush country, with constant rain, due to it’s position on the equator, which I crossed, but wasn’t prepared to get soaked, so you’ll just have to trust me on that.