Gabon
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Camp and day’s information: Wednesday, 18th June 2003

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Gabon
Bushcamp in No-man's-land

N02° 08.001'
E11° 25.129'

30512

297

13937 Warm Cereal. Bread, cheese, tomato. Rice, sardines

We left the mission by about 09h00, after having a heated debate with Suzanne about the others having to pay for parking their vehicles, as well as using the room.  We got our way in the end!  We stopped off at Supermarche Tigre and bought some dry dog food, along with a few tins of sardines for our dinner.  It took ages to get out of Yaounde, but the road towards Ebolowa and beyond was very good, so we enjoyed some music, punctuated by a number of police stops, where we always switch off the computer and pause any music that is playing.

We had to cross a fairly wide river and of course the government ferry was broken, but one of the locals had a few small wooden ferries which could apparently take loads up to 5,000kg.  I told them Nyathi weighed 6,000kg, so we couldn't use their ferry.  A good thing really as the figure he had dreamt up was 20,000 CFA per vehicle ($40)!  Daylight robbery.  Alongside was a big ferry which the road construction company used, but it was not for public use.  However, after a discussion and some negotiating we agreed with the foreman Daniel, at the site that we could transport all three vehicles across for 15,000 CFA ($30).  So we all went on, along with a big truck and the crossing took a matter of minutes.

The road on the other side was immaculate and in fact was still having lines painted etc.  We arrived at immigration on the Cameroon side, only to discover that we had bypassed customs altogether and had to go back.  The immigration guy was very pleasant and said we should leave our passports with him to process while we went back to customs.  Customs were hidden up a side road, which we had no chance of spotting unless someone has pointed directly there.  The officials were super-efficient and friendly and we were on our way back to immigration in 15 minutes.  When we went back to collect the passports which weren't actually stamped yet - they wanted money, which we made it very clear we weren't going to pay. Eventually, the official handed the passports back to us, still unstamped.  As we were leaving the head honcho called Michael and said he would stamp them, which he duly did.  Then we drove on and crossed the border into Gabon via a bridge over a beautiful forest-edged river.  The customs post was at Meyo Kye and the guy there wanted 5,000 CFA per passport for entry.  Pat promptly said no way and if necessary we'd camp the night there!  He is getting into the swing of things now...

Then when the guys all wandered across to do some more paperwork checking, the customs guy came over to me and said he's have to inspect the vehicle.  I told him he'd have to wait for my husband.  Luckily Michael wasn't finished by the time he wanted to leave, so he got on his scooter and left!  It was already dark by the time we left the border and they told us we would still have to have passport formalities and stamps in Bitam 20 kms away.

We decided to look for a bushcamp before then and Michael and I found a great spot which was a disused quarry in amongst the jungle.  We never dreamed we'd find such a level, secluded place to camp along such a narrow road fenced in by jungle.  We had a delicious dinner, sat, relaxed and chatted...

 

Camp and day’s information: Thursday, 19th June 2003

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Gabon
Bushcamp

N 00° 07.419'
E11° 53.762'
30842 330 14267 Hot and humid! Cereal. Bread, tomato, cheese. Tortilla, soya mince, guacamole

We got to Bitam quite early and found the immigration office on the main road.  The official was not particularly friendly and told us we needed to go and make photocopies of our passports and then come back.  Glen and I left the others at the office and we went down to the market to buy fruit and vegetables and other supplies for supper.  The market was very pleasant and the produce average priced.  I stood on a local guy's foot by mistake and when I siad sorry he had a go at me (in a drunken slur) that I needed to pay him to have his foot made better blah, blah, blah...  When we got back to the others we discovered the official has asked for 5000CFA ($10) per passport as an entrance tax!  The guys successfully avoided the issue and as a last ditch effort (after he'd stamped the passports and given them back) he asked Pat for 5000CFA for everyone, but of course the answer was still no!

We had a pleasant day's travelling on good roads (Togo and I took the chance to have a nap en route), they even have signs to say there is roadside parking ahead.  We stopped for a relaxing lunch and pulled out the awning to hide from the heat.  Glen made a big bowl of guacamole in preparation for supper and we had baguettes with 'real cheese' from Simon, which were delicious.

We found another secluded campsite along a forest track far away from the main road.  The road hadn't been used for ages, so we set up camp in the track in the middle of the forest in amongst the 'biting grass' (which cuts you really easily and then stings like mad afterwards) and we had the company of a very large black and yellow spider, from which we maintained a healthy distance!

I made up some soya chilli con carne and we sat down to a delicious Mexican meal!  We set up our forest cinema again and Michael, Glen, Simon and I watched a couple of 'Men Behaving Badly' series accompanied by the noises of the forest, while Togo collapsed...

 

Camp and day’s information: Friday, 20th June 2003

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Gabon
Reserve de Lope

S0° 06.737'
E11° 36.076'
30957 115 14382 Warm Cereal. Danish pastry. Baguette.

Flies, flies, flies!  Not a very restful wake-up this morning.  I got up early to sort out Togo's food and have a pee and was vaguely conscious of feeling quite itchy when I slipped back into bed.  Then Michael got up, along with the others and I could hear them clapping.  I soon realised it was their vain attempt at keeping the flies at bay.  They were the horrible little bee-like ones which draw a speck of blood and give a very irritating bite.  They were quite literally swarming around us.  It was the first time I was happy to stand in the vehicle diesel fumes while the cars were warming up, because the flies disliked the smell more than I disliked them!  Togo had hidden deep within the 'biting grass' to avoid their irritation and wasn't very keen to come out when we were ready to go.  We drove off without her and parked out of site, hoping she would follow.  She didn't, but as soon as we whistled for her she came hurtling around the corner.

At Booue we had to go to the 'brigade de gendarmerie' within the main part of town, where they (slowly, but pleasantly) did some more paperwork checking and wrote down all our details.  They gave us vague directions where to go and told us we had to cross a river just past Booue.  It was a bit tricky finding our way there, but we got there in the end.  The ferry was sitting unused on the river, but soon the operators arrived and told us we had to pay 20 litres of diesel before the ferry could take us across.  I negotiated down to ten litres and they were happy with that.  Simon got down a jerry can from his roof and he, Michael and Pat went down with it to the ferry.  Michael and Simon left Pat with the guy, as they had to come and drive the vehicles on, while I did some filming and very annoyingly, Pat turned away from the guy and he put the full 20 litres in!

After the river, we drove along the most amazing stretch of road so far.  It wound through untouched tropical forest, which was absolutely breathtaking.  Our journey was made more interesting by the elephant dung en route and then I spotted some spoor near some very fresh dung!  We could see where the elephants had crashed through the almost impenetrable jungle and gone down the steep slope down into the forest valley, but other than that there was no sign of them.  It was very exciting to think they were wandering about nearby.

We stopped for a swim in a river and Michael gave Togo a bit of a bath.  The flies were still with us, which made the stop a lot less pleasant that it would have been otherwise.  We were all wandering about with towels over our heads, waving our arms frantically.  I looked like a beekeeper with my thin sarong wrapped entirely over my head and neck and tucked into my long-sleeved top - I am avoiding bites at all costs as the swelling and itchiness is driving me crazy!!!

Despite appearances I am guiding Michael and Nyathi over a rickety bridge, not pulling rude signs...

At Kazamabika we stopped at a shop to buy some bread and some local guy sitting having tea outside said he wanted to see our papers.  Pat asked him for ID and he sent for another policeman, so we duly showed our papers.  He told us we had to check in again with them before we left the Reserve de Lope (unlikely!).  They really know how to make tourism a hassle!  We went up to the Hotel de Lope which was absolutely lovely.  It was set in the most beautiful, riverside surroundings and had a well-maintained golf course attached.  The prices for the rooms weren't bad at $60 a night, but sadly, a bit beyond our budget.  The manager, Christian was very helpful and suggested we go to the chief of the Lope Brigade and ask permission to camp next to the river, which is what we did.

Sadly, they wouldn't allow us to camp next to the river, but instead offered us a room with a shower for 15,000CFA ($30) and that we could camp within their grounds, which were right next to the reserve entrance (and apparently frequented by buffalo at night).  Pat did a whole lot of clothes washing and Michael did ours, which was great and we all had refreshing showers.  I was so mad - because I ripped a giant hole in my favourite trousers, exposing my left butt cheek.  I was not impressed at all, the only good thing was that I had easier access to my itchy bites to have a good scratch!  We had a nice relaxing evening with a few visitors, including some of the conservation students, who told us quite a bit about the reserve and said we should ask Augustin, 'le chef' if we could go in with the Brigade in the morning as that would be a cheaper option...

 

Camp and day’s information: Saturday, 21st June 2003

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Gabon
Reserve de Lope

S0° 06.737'
E11° 36.076'
30957 0 14382 Warm Oats porridge.  Cous cous and corned beef.  Spaghetti and soya bolognese.

We had a good night's sleep and didn't see any buffalo in the small hours of the morning.  I went with Pat to chat to Augustin, but to no avail.  He told us the reserve is privatised and all trips to the park are managed by Hotel Lope.  He said that if we didn't want to pay Hotel Lope prices we apparently had to have permission from Ecofac in Libreville to go in with the Brigade and that it would supposedly be free!  Never mind, we thought we'd ask Christian at Hotel Lope what they might charge.  Sadly, the guide told us it cost $15,000 a person, which we felt was too expensive.

So we spent the day doing all sorts of things around the vehicles and camp.  Before I forget, Nyathi's Land-Rover friends have a name: we've christened Glen and Pat's Cadbury (fruit and nut - we've yet to decide who is who) and Simon's is called Jenny.  Glen and Simon worked on Cadbury's handbrake, Pat cleaned Cadbury and Jenny's windscreens and Michael downloaded all our emails using the satellite phone.  I spent quite some time sewing a patch onto my torn trousers.  Luckily Simon had some khaki material which he gave me, so they don't look too bad.  Glen and I also mended Pat's torn shirt.  I did an 2invisible mend2 underneath and Glen did a really garish patch which we stuck on top with double sided tape, just to see Pat's face!  I also copied over the field notes from my old bird reference book into the one Charmaine gave us.  Michael and I took Togo for a walk/run down into the reserve to try and tire her out before night time.  It is more like bushveld savannah here than forest...

Liliane joined us for supper and we had a great time chatting to each other, especially as she helped me with some of my French grammar!  Michael was busy trying to help one of the students with a software problem, so he was gone for quite a while.  Glen and I eventually went to go and look for him (with our big torch, just in case the buffalos made an appearance).  He hadn't had too much luck as it was a mapping programme where they were trying to plot the coordinates to track the movements of drills within the reserve and the operating system was all in German!

 

Camp and day’s information: Sunday, 22nd June 2003

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Gabon
Bushcamp just past Ndjole

S00° 09.006'
E10° 41.744'
31111 154 14536 Hot with 91% humidity! Oats porridge. Bread and peanut butter

We had quite a busy morning.  I (Michael) copied across a whole load of GPS coordinates and Sandy made porridge and packed away the kitchen etc.  Liliane came to say goodbye and Sandy settled our accommodation bill with her.  Then we headed off toward Libreville...

Nyathi earned the name "bitch" today!  We had only travelled about 15km when we heard a grinding noise, so we stopped to investigate.  Glen and I  discovered that the diff pinion on Axle 3 was a rattling good fit... We tried removing the propshaft and tightening the pinion nut, but it was still wobbling around. So we spent a happy hour or so putting in the spare diff.  I silently blessed the hours of work Ivor had put into installing the locker into the spare diff before we departed on the trip.

We all washed up and got on the road, but not for long...  Less than 5km along there was a loud hissing and sure enough - we had a puncture!  We could see Pat rolling his eyes as they caught up to us.  Amazingly, another enormous (3/4" x 5"!) bolt lying in the road, had been forced right through the tread of the tyre - just like the one in Nigeria! I don't know if these BFG Mud Terrain tyres have a tread pattern that is especially susceptible to picking up bolts, or if we have just been incredibly unlucky to have had two in just a few thousand kilometres.

 

 So Simon and I changed the tyre, we washed up and hit the road again, but not for long...

The grinding noise was back again within another few kilometres.  Sandy drove along while I ran alongside to try and diagnose the problem, then Glen jumped out to have a listen too.  Sandy drove with Simon for a while, while Glen jumped in with me so we could both have a good listen while we drove along for a bit. The noise was intermittent but we eventually traced it to the rear-facing output shaft of the 6x6 transfer unit. We removed the #3 propshaft, which isolated the problem, and headed for Libreville, knowing that we would have open up the box when we got there...

We had no further mechanical hassles on the way to Libreville - just the obligatory police stops and one who asked for 2,000CFA to register each passport and of course the answer was a persistent, but polite no!  We got to see a beautiful sunset today, but as we were a bit pressed for time, we didn't get to have any sundowners...

We stopped in Ndjole to buy some meat for Togo and get some veggies etc. and by then, it was already getting dark.  We managed to find another excellent camping place out of sight of the road, but we were all pretty exhausted so we just ate some bread for supper, though Sandy decided she'd rather just fall into bed - (but then it took her an age to get to sleep).

 

Camp and day’s information: Monday, 23rd June 2003

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Gabon
Libreville - Maison Emilie de Villeneuve Les Soeurs Bleues

N00° 24.386'
E09° 26.925'
31320 209 14745 32°C 63% humidity Baguette.

We set off at 06h40for Libreville.  We didn't bother with breakfast as we wanted to get on the road.  We passed a number of checkpoints without any problems, some of them even just waved us through after asking if we were tourists.  We bought some bread and stopped en route to have a quick bite.  We passed the equator today, although the signs they had indicating the line of latitude were inaccurate according to our GPS!  We saw more evidence of heavy logging on the road, which makes our blood boil every time...

We stopped in to suss out the Catholic Mission en route into the city and that is where we stayed.  (The lonely Planet Book calls it 'La Maison Emilie de Villeneuve Les Soeurs Bleues', but they are actually 'Les Soeurs de l'Immaculee Conception - the blue sisters simply refers to the old blue habit they used to wear).  I spoke to the sister and asked if it was at all possible to stay in our tents and just use the shower and toilet facilities.  They were ever so helpful and said we could do that and pay 2,000CFA per person instead of the 6,500CFA per person per room.  I stayed behind to register and be shown the showers etc. while the guys went off to the Congolese embassy to try and sort out visas.  I had a very relaxing afternoon.  Sister Madeleine was ever so pleasant and showed me the showers and toilets and offered us the use of the fridge to keep things cold.  Togo attracted the usual friendly hellos too.  Then I spent the afternoon catching up on journal entries, playing with Togo and I had a nice cold shower!

The guys were successful at the Congolese embassy and the visas were only 35,000CFA ($70) as opposed to the 70,000CFA they wanted in Cameroon!  We got the forms for the Angolan visas and we can get them tomorrow for 60,000CFA each (ouch!).

Glen and Michael dismantled the 6x6 transfer box, and discovered that there had been very little oil in it, and what oil there was had been contaminated. Both output bearings (front and rear) were bad - the rear one had collapsed and dropped a few rollers... Fortunately, that seems to be the extent of the problem. Off to find bearings tomorrow!

We went for a very delicious, but extravagant meal at a restaurant Pat had found during the day.  We had salad and homous for starters, then Michael and I had steaks in a green pepper sauce which were tender and tasty!

 

Camp and day’s information: Tuesday, 24th June 2003

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Gabon
Libreville - Maison Emilie de Villeneuve

N00° 24.386'
E09° 26.925'
31320 0 14745 Hot with some rain Porridge.  Soya mince cottage pie

Today wasn't a great one because Jenny (Simon's Land-Rover) was broken into while they were parked behind the bank.  He and Pat had gone into town to take in the Angolan visa applications and get money from the bank.  They broke the quarter light, opened the back door, forced the lock on the cubby box and stole his digital camera, mobile phone and walkie talkie radio.  Although it was damn annoying, we were quite fortunate because they didn't take any of the vehicle papers and carnets, which were lying there and they also left his GPS...

Michael and Glen worked on the vehicle in the morning and I passed the odd spanner as required.  In the afternoon I went with Simon to the police station to make a declaration and try and get some form of confirmation in writing so that he can claim against his travel insurance.  The police ranged from rude and vaguely interested to quite helpful.  After making a full declaration (all in my best French) and handing it to a totally disinterested policeman filling out loads of handwritten reports in a big, A3-size book, we were told that if we wanted to make an attestation of exactly what was stolen (hadn't I just done that???) we had to go to a different police station, which nobody was capable of showing me on the map.  Luckily someone at the helpful end of the scale offered to go with us if we dropped him back again, so off we went...

He took us directly to the chief of police at the other station who, after some discussion, wrote down an account of what was stolen and signed, dated and stamped it.  He did offer to us that if we paid for some fuel for a taxi, his guys could ride around the city in the taxi and try to find the thief.  Having been robbed once already today, we decided it wasn't the best use of money, nor the police resources!

Pat and Simon collected the Angolan visas later in the afternoon and Michael and Glen went off in search of parts, sadly with no success, so we are going to have to get Foley to send them out for us.  Of course that's going to take some time, which Pat is not going to be happy about at all!

Pat and Glen went out to the internet cafe and Simon stayed behind with us and had 'gourmet' cottage pie, the cheese on top was 'grilled' by Michael using his oxy-acetylene torch!

 

Camp and day’s information: Wednesday, 25th June 2003

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Gabon
Libreville - Maison Emilie de Villeneuve

N00° 24.386'
E09° 26.925'
31320 0 14745 32°C 57% humidity Baguette.

Michael left early this morning to email Foley about the parts and to locate the local DHL office.  I did some washing of clothes and Togo, while the others went off to the internet cafe for a bit.  Simon wasn't feeling very well so he slept for most of the day.

Michael came back from the internet cafe, but hadn't yet had a response from Foley's.  He spoke to Stuart and Peter Foley a number times on the sat phone to sort out the parts and it looks like it'll be Monday soonest.  So now we know the timing, we can have a relaxed schedule, do some work on the vehicle, read books, wash Togo etc...

I had an entertaining chat with Soeur Anna (petit - because she is so small, but I get the idea, also feisty).  She was telling me all about the the snakes and even crocodiles which they have had as visitors from the local 'pool' (cess - no doubt).  She is Spanish and talks very quickly, with a tricky accent, so I find it quite difficult to understand everything she says.

I cut Glen's hair for him and he said he wanted something daring.  Originally he wanted me to close shave his whole head but then he decided something along these lines would be better...

We went out for dinner to a little local place just outside the gate of the mission.  The service was in true African style and the food was tasty and plentiful.  I'm sure we'll go back again, despite seeing two rats scuttling about at the end of our meal.  Togo thoroughly enjoyed the bones and vegetables that were leftover too!

 

Camp and day’s information: Thursday, 26th June 2003

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Gabon
Libreville - Maison Emilie de Villeneuve

N00° 24.386'
E09° 26.925'
31320 0 14745 32°C 62% humidity Pineapple. Soya mice, tortilla wrap, guacamole

Michael and I filled up all the water bottles with filtered water and I scrubbed the outsides of them too, along with the jerry cans.  By then I was into full cleaning mode and scrubbed down the hand-washing bowls, which are now unrecognisable as they are white instead of a dull, grey, brown!  I also made some jelly for dessert, cleaned out the cabin area, which was all dusty from the roads and generally worked up a sweat - rewarding myself with a warm shower!

Michael gave Togo a wash and then repaired the punctures on all three tyres.  He was tempted to get some local guys to do it, but decided it was better to know what had been done and then if anything does go wrong, he knows why.  He worked solidly the whole day and he was aching by the end of it, besides Togo trying to help out by lifting and carrying things from here to there...  

Glen and Simon went out into town in the late afternoon and Pat kept pretty much to himself.  We had 'Mexican' again tonight, which was great, except the guacamole had gone a bit 'fizzy'!  Pat was not in a happy mood and went to bed without dinner, despite my trying to entice him.

 

Camp and day’s information: Friday, 27th June 2003

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Gabon
Libreville - Maison Emilie de Villeneuve

N00° 24.386'
E09° 26.925'
31320 0 14745 Very hot and humid Omelette, sweet hot chocolate. Baguette, jelly. Avo salad, meat, chips.

Michael had a well deserved rest and relaxed and read books all day today.  I went with Glen and Simon for breakfast at the local cafe and then we wandered down to the internet cafe.  It was very frustrating as the connection was so slow and I only managed to send four emails in 1 hour, plus do a little bit of searching.  On the way back I got a DVD (Courage under Fire). 

The others went into town for the evening, but Michael and I just wandered up to the local cafe and had a delicious avocado salad and meat and chips.  We had a great chat to Joy and are now feeling really excited about getting to SA and then we spoke to Ivor about potential plans to meet up.  We waited for the others to get back before we started the DVD, as it had English subtitles, but, annoyingly, only for half the movie!  I persevered, as did Simon and we stopped a couple of times for me to give a quick translation/update.  It was a late night for us travellers...23h45!

 

Camp and day’s information: Saturday, 28th June 2003

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Gabon
Libreville - Maison Emilie de Villeneuve

N00° 24.386'
E09° 26.925'
31320 0 14745 31°C 67% humidity Pain au chocolat. Baguette, cheese, ham, tomato.  Crepes, hamburger

Simon and Glen played some chess to while away the hours...

   

I went with Sister Rose and Sister Pierrette into town today.  I tagged along while they did some errands and it was really interesting to drive around and see the town.  We stopped off at the 'Centre d'Artisanal' to have a look at some of the arts and crafts, but we didn't buy anything.  Then we went to look for some dye for my shorts and top which got all discoloured while soaking in the laundry bucket, but the shop we needed was closed for stock take.  There were loads of military around because the president was due to leave his palace so there were armed personnel at every street corner and a heavy concentration outside the presidential palace.  Speaking of which, what an absolute waste!  The place is enormous, takes up a full block and is currently undergoing very expensive renovation.  It's good to know they are spending their money on things that are important!?

Then we went off to M'Bolo, which is a shopping precinct pretty much like you'd expect in Europe or SA.  There was a massive hypermarket, which I intend to visit again before we leave to stock up.  I bought some pain au chocolate for myself and the two sisters and also some fresh smoked ham and edam cheese for lunch later...  When we got back I went inside with the sisters and we shared cold, juice ('sirop de bisouse' - which is made with the flower of a local plant and is delicious) and 'pain au chocolat'.  Togo must have known I'd arrived back as she came looking for me...

Michael had gone into town with Glen and Simon and Pat were giving Jenny a good clean out.  When Glen got back he and I went up to the local market to buy fresh baguettes and some tomatoes and then we all had a delicious lunch, followed with cool jelly...

We went into town for the evening at a nice little sidewalk restaurant called Buddah Bar.  I had really tasty savoury crepes and the others had hamburgers.  Then we all indulged in crepes for dessert too.  Afterwards we went upstairs and played pool, which we were initially told was free and then when it came time to leave they tried to charge us 1,500CFA per game,  I explained that it wasn't made clear and we weren't going to, nor ale to pay the additional 9,000CFA and they conceded saying next time we should pay...

 

Camp and day’s information: Sunday, 29th June 2003

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Gabon
Libreville - Maison Emilie de Villeneuve

N00° 24.386'
E09° 26.925'
31320 0 14745 Cool to start, progressively warmer and humid Baguette. Coconut.

I was up at 06h00 (not very enthusiastically).  I had a quick shower and Simon and I headed off for 'l'eglise Saint Michel'.  The church was very beautiful.  All the pillars are carved from wood and depict various stories from the bible.  The facade of the church is also decorated with colourful mosaic, which is very eye-catching.  We sat on the very left in the back pew, although there were about ten rows of low, wooden benches on the patio behind us.  The church was pretty soon full and there were people standing at the back.  It was a traditional African service, with Marimbas and other musical instruments.  The choir wore red and white robes and some of the women had white pom-poms which they shook rhythmically.  It was very interesting and at least I could understand a proportion of the service as it was in French.  In true African style the speakers were at full blast and distorting accordingly when the soloist sang and the preacher bellowed.  It was an enjoyable 1hr45min!

We walked back to the mission via the market, stopping to get baguettes and avocados. Everyone was up when we got back, but they'd had muesli, so Simon and I ate the bread.  I went and chatted to Sisters Madeleine, Rose and Pierrette.  Rose chopped open a coconut for me and gave me the juice to drink and then gave me the flesh to go and share with the others.

Sadly, Simon found out at the internet cafe that Nicole's dad passed away this morning.  We told him we were happy to stay and wait for him if he wanted to fly home and Glen offered to drive Jenny if needs be.  It must be hard being so far away.  We leant him the sat phone to call Nicole and she has told him he mustn't go back and that she is coming to meet him in Windhoek!  The others went out to eat, but Michael and I stayed behind and had a romantic dinner for two...

 

Camp and day’s information: Monday, 30th June 2003

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Gabon
Libreville - Maison Emilie de Villeneuve

N00° 24.386'
E09° 26.925'
31320 0 14745   Hamburger and chips. Croque madame. Avocado salad

Michael and I spent the entire day in town today.  Our first stop was the DHL office.  We discovered the part had already arrived, but were going through customs clearance and we were told to come back in a couple of hours.  So we went to CK2 (a type of departmental store which stocks all sorts of things, excluding food) to look for dye for my shorts and shirt, silicone and some other odds and sods.  We went back to DHL, only to be told to come back at 15h00.  So went in search of new slops for Michael and also to the Score supermarket, which had Frangelica!  We stopped in the internet cafe for a while and then grabbed a bite to eat and read some Newsweeks.  When we got back to DHL it was still a case of 'hurry up and wait', plus they charged us about $35 for clearance and taxes (thankfully Foley had the presence of mind to put 'appropriate' values on the goods).  We went to the post office for Pat and stopped off at the cinema to see what was showing and if it was in French with subtitles or vice-versa.  I had an obligatory ice-cream at Parad'ice so we could use their facilities (Michael has been suffering from 'spuitpoep' and desperately needed to use their toilet)!  We had a quick wander around M'bolo hypermarket and then headed home...

We got a very warm welcome from everyone and they were pleased we managed to get the parts.  Glen had spent a lot of the day preparing the bits and pieces for Michael for the job tomorrow.  We all went up to the local cafe for dinner and went to bed, pretty tired from a busy day and in readiness for tomorrow's work...

Camp and day’s information: Tuesday, 1st July 2003

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Gabon
Libreville - Maison Emilie de Villeneuve

N00° 24.386'
E09° 26.925'
31320 0 14745 Rainy to start, but very hot and humid later Hotdog. Pineapple. Calamari salad. Pizza

I was up before 07h00 and Michael followed swiftly afterwards.  I swept out the tent, took off the sheets and covers etc.  It is disgusting to see how much fine debris finds its way onto the mattress under the cover!  Then I started dyeing my shorts and shirt and preparing all the stuff for washing.  Michael and Glen worked on Nyathi and Simon got going with his brake pipe on Jenny. 

I spent the entire morning doing heavy laundry - bedding, towels, jeans and loads of clothes.  By the end of it my arms were aching and couldn't wring anymore and my hands looked like shrivelled pink prunes, despite wearing rubber gloves.  The most annoying thing was that the dyeing didn't work - so all that effort for nothing damn it!

Michael and Glen took Nyathi for a test drive and all looks well...  We are planning to leave as early tomorrow as possible to head down for Congo Brazzaville.  I asked Soeur Marie-France if they had a piece of wood for Simon's window (as frustratingly the one which was DHLed wasn't correct), they had the perfect thing and even had a saw to cut it down to size.  Simon ands I went off to M'Bolo to do a 'food kitty' shop.  Each if us put in 10,000CFA and that is used to buy communal food for the trip while we travel together.  By the time we got back it was past 19h00 and Michael was still busy packing away.  Glen and Pat went off to the internet cafe while we packed the majority of stuff away and generally tidied up.

Michael, Simon and I met the others at a restaurant within the harbour and we sat at a table which was on a jetty over the sea.  We had a great sociable evening and the food was delicious.

Camp and day’s information: Wednesday, 2nd July 2003

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Gabon
Bushcamp about 40km from Lope

S00° 04.251'
E11° 18.093'
31638 318 15063 Hot and humid all day Hotdog. Pineapple.

 The sisters invited us to join them for breakfast which was wonderful.  I felt honoured to be asked and they put on a delicious spread including omelette and cold meat.  Soeurs Anna (petit) and Rose took us to see their chapel.  It was surprising to see something so tranquil and beautiful hidden in behind the main buildings.  I also went to look at their school, which is run enthusiastically by Soeur Anna.  Michael packed away the rest of our stuff and wrote the website disk so we could send it off to Andrew.  Glen and Pat went down to the boxing ring for their nine o'clock appointment.  It was really sad to say goodbye to all the sisters as I had made good friends with them and enjoyed chatting to them, not to mention improving my French!

We got on our way at 10h00 when Glen and Pat got back from the bank.  Annoyingly Nyathi got a puncture in one of the tyres Michael and Glen repaired.  We are not exactly sure why and he will investigate later...and of course we could see Pat was not impressed and he made a point of asking if the  replacement tyre was a repaired one.  Then later on we thought we heard a strange noise - our hearts sank as we thought about what Pat would say - stupid really, as there is not a lot we could do about it.  Turns out it was a false alarm.

We were number three in the convoy today and we kept well back to avoid the dust as much as possible.  The others waited for us all to catch up every now and again.  We caught up with Simon at one stage as he had a puncture and Jenny's shocks were looking a little beaten.

Glen and Pat found a nice campsite in a disused quarry.  We could hear loads of monkeys screaming and it was quite funny at one stage because I'd gone up for a closer listen to the forest and Togo followed me.  All of a sudden Togo froze and looked really startled, staring intently at the the forest and then a heard a very loud cracking noise - well I ran back toward camp pretty smartly, with Togo hot-footing it behind me!  After further investigation (by Michael, with me a distance away) it turns out it was monkeys swinging about in the canopy.

I made a quick hot dinner for Simon, Michael and I (as Pat and Glen opted for bread as they were feeling lazy).  I didn't sleep well at all - had weird dreams (thank you Larium) and just couldn't settle.

 

Camp and day’s information: Thursday, 3rd July 2003

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Gabon
Bushcamp about 100km before Franceville

S01° 16.745
E13° 01.385
31975 337 15400 Hot and dusty! Hotdog. Pineapple. Bully beef, tomato, baked beans, biscuits

We were up fairly early and left camp by 07h30, pushed on by the flies which were numerous and incredibly annoying!  Togo couldn't even eat her breakfast in peace as the flies were irritating her so much.  Only when I took the photo of Nyathi leaving the camp did I see that we didn't have one of the spare wheel covers, which Michael told me had disappeared at the mission - how annoying - along with Pat's camera and I later discovered, my very very useful tray (piggy-wiggy, moo-cow, baa-lamb, cock-a-doodle-doo).

We had a long day's travelling today, but the scenery was beautiful as usual.

The road beyond Latsourville was extremely eroded and required concentrated driving.  Togo was remarkably good and provided entertainment for Michael and I while we were waiting for the others to catch up.  She was lying in the roadside sand trying to catch ants.  When she succeeded she didn't like the tickly feeling and screwed up her face!

We battled to find a campsite, but I spotted a side road behind us going up a little hill and we were able to camp in the road, with the grass and bits of forest on either side.  We had a cold dinner, all a little tired to cook on gas! 

Camp and day’s information: Friday, 4th July 2003

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Gabon
Bushcamp just before Lekoni

S01° 33.945
E14° 10.676
32183 208 15608 Hot and humid all day Muesli. Baguette, ham, cheese. Sweet potato, beans, cheese

I was awake before 06h00, to see Togo curled up on one of the comfy blue chairs.  Unfortunately as soon as she heard me open the door, she was awake, so I lost my photo opportunity!  She joined me for my 'walk with nature' and ran around getting rid of all her pent-up energy.  Michael and I both had a quick bush-bath and were set and ready before too many of the flies woke up.  Glen noticed that their roof rack was the cause of the door not opening and shutting properly, so we took two of their full jerry cans in Nyathi to take off some of the strain.

It was very misty this morning, which gives a wonderful eerie feeling to the forest.

We saw more bush meat for sale today - including duiker, pangolin, monkey and drill thigh!  It is really annoying because there is no need for them to kill wild animals as there is plenty for them to eat and the the goats are certainly fat enough!  I do find it really interesting though, how each house has a big 45 gallon drum sitting outside with a plan of wood on top to sell their wares - whether it be pineapples, plantains, or paw paws through to some old wellies!

The road got better and before too long we were on tar.  We still had to keep a watchful eye out for potholes.  We got the carnets stamped in Franceville, along with the passports - although the chief did want to know exactly which countries we had been to before Gabon, Simon and I felt like giving him the long list of all the countries we'd all ever been to!

Glen and Pat had their broken roof-rack strengthened which took a good couple of hours, so Simon and I went in search of the meat market to get some bones for Togo!  Then I made baguettes for everyone so we could get on the road.  We set up camp in the bushveld just before Lekoni - it is great to be in the bush again!  Michael, Pat and Glen built a fire and then they put the potatoes in foil to cook.  Then they spent the evening pottering about with Jenny and Glen tried his hand at some brazing, with support from Simon and Michael...

I spent the majority of the evening doing journal entries and making a tasty dinner for Togo which she wolfed down.

 

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