Sunday, March 24, 2019

Matombi Beach, Congo to Cabinda, Angola, March 23, 2019

I fell asleep by 8 pm but was awoken at 10 by howling winds.  I quickly put on my fly just before it started to rain.  Again, the lightning show was crazy - I think because the days are so hot and the nights cool off there's a huge temperature change so lots of storms.  The inside of my tent only got a little wet because of human error:  I've managed to properly close three of the four roof vents and will work on getting the fourth one closed too but not tonight because I've upgraded!  Yee ha!

We stopped in Pointe Noire for three hours and I spent the first one in a nice patisserie having a deliciously fresh petit pain au chocolat and an Americano.  From there, I went to Cathedral Saint Pierre which according to some yip yo on trip advisor is magnificent.  Well, I wouldn't agree but like I've said before, my bar is really low these days.  The outside-

The inside-

And the grotto-

They must get big crowds because there are lots of tile covered pews outside.  Our next stop was at the recently opened Africa Space Museum which contains many tribal masks-

And carvings-

Voodoo statues-

And amulets-

There were also some great paintings including Hope of a Nation-

MamĂĄ Africa-

Abandonned Culture-

Traffic Jam-

And a metal sculpture called Dancer in Sweat-

Later, we headed south to Cabinda, Angola where the ROC/Angola crossing was simple enough:  we needed photocopies of our Congo visa before leaving then photocopies of our Angola visa to enter.  We made it to the Catholic Mission in Cabinda where Father Futi met us and happily allowed us to stay.  Not me!  I'm in an awesome nearby hotel for the next two nights because the DRC border is closed Sundays so we can't cross tomorrow.  Darn 😜!  

Friday, March 22, 2019

Dolisie to Matombi Beach, Republic of Congo, March 21-22, 2019

Yesterday we were to meet at the truck at 9 am to pay our $150 US for a double entry Angolan visa that will last 30 days.  Visa fees are determined reciprocally so thanks Canada!  Once all the money was collected, Short Brian and Ella went into the embassy to pay but were told they wouldn't accept American dollars.  Yesterday they would.  I'm telling you - this is the kind of shit we deal with regularly.  When they got to the bank, it was closing for their usual two hour lunch so they were told to come back at 3.  Guess what?  The embassy closed at 3!  But, they went to the bank a little earlier, got the money exchanged and arrived at the embassy about 2:57!  We were all waiting and finally we were allowed inside.  They called us in individually, photocopied our passport bio page, made us sign a document and by 4:00, we were ready to go.  But wait!  Why would we drive only an hour and a half before we'd have to set up camp?  Let's stay the night!  AWESOME!  I rushed back to my hotel, got the same room and lay in the cool, cool air conditionning.  

Today, we had an 8 am departure for a 182 km drive to-

the beach.  

Along the way:  hauling goats-

pigs and logs-
We drove through hilly jungle-

There are numerous wrecks along the way that have been there forever-

We stopped for lunch in Pointe Noire - skewers with 4 chunks of grilled chicken cost 50 cents!  A beautiful, still warm bread roll is 20 cents!  I love street food.  

There's a gorge near Diosso which is apparently Congo's Grand Canyon.  My bar is set lower than the ground my feet walk on, so I wasn't expecting much but it was pretty nice-

We have found a nice wild camp, right on the ocean.  I'm  hoping for a cool, rain free night.  We're making our way to the Democratic Republic of Congo tomorrow.  Maybe some day it will cool off?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Dolisie, Republic of Congo, March 20, 2019

I had a great sleep and wandered to the truck at 9 to meet the group to get our information together for the Angolan visa.  To start, we needed two passport pictures, a copy of our passport, a copy of our yellow fever vaccination and our passport.  Ella and Short Brian took that in and we waited.  I got a SIM card because the wifi in the hotel is shit, at least with my IPad.  Michelle was kind enough to let me use her phone to get my card because the one I have borrowed was dead.  

She too got bit up pretty badly the other night in Gabon-

Luckily my bites have pretty much disappeared.

The next step to getting the visa was to fill out a three page form.  What a crock!  They gave us one copy and it was up to us to make enough for our group.  Assholes!  The photocopy machines here are from the 1970s so it took about an hour and a half to get the copies made.  Once the forms were filled in, Ella and Short Brian went in again.  Now supposedly we'll pay $1580 US in the morning and then get our visas.  How ass backwards is all that?  Oh well, I've got plans to spend the day in my room so I don't really care!

I've been looking for a flight home the past month or so and prices just keep going up and up.  I can't book yet because we can't be sure when we'll get to Luanda.  I'm hoping I can fly home on the 29th and it will take 2 days but flights on the 30th, at least with WestJet, are already sold out from Toronto to Saskatoon so time will tell.  I may never get home!

We're off to Pointe Noire tomorrow afternoon to camp on the beach for a couple of nights, presuming we get our passports back!

Quarry to Dolisie, Republic of Congo, March 19, 2019

What a night!  The lightning show was fantastic and lasted most of the night.  The rain didn't come until 3 am but then continued until it was time to get up at 6:30 to make breakfast.  The floor of my tent was pretty much soaked because the sides leak and the roof drips!  I am glad to have a washcloth along that I use to wipe it up and wring the water out the door.  I wasn't the most unlucky though- Richard was up in the night digging a trench so the water could bypass his tent and run down the hill. The wind flattened Clarissa's tent so she spent some of the night in the truck.  Just about everyone was pretty much soaked.  By 7 it was only slightly drizzling so we made breakfast and then headed for Dolisie-

The road continued to be shit and the wet clay is slippery.  Our speed averages about 12 km/h-

but the scenery is nice-

Once in Dolisie, I visited the Angolan Embassy, only to learn they closed in 10 minutes and the boss had already left for the day.  We were instructed to return tomorrow.  Then April and I set off hotel shopping.  The first two we checked only had one and zero rooms respectively available.  There was another place across the road but for some stupid reason we didn't check it out.  We went down the road to a couple more expensive places and even with all of April's wheeling and dealing, we couldn't get them to budge on the prices.  So, as a last resort, we went back to the third place, the place we should have checked out and voila, that's where we are staying, all except five of us who chose to upgrade - me included!

The day was hot and humid and the poor group had to wait a couple of hours for everything to get sorted.  A lot of beer was drank and personalities clashed a bit.  Then, to top it all off, it started pouring again.  Thank God is all I can say that we are not camping.  Norm, Terry and Short Brian were having such a good time they couldn't remember where they were staying so paid big money to get 'guides' to bring them the few hundred yards home!  Everyone in towns like this know who we are and where we're staying.  The orange bubble is hard to miss!  We found a man grilling chicken on skewers so went inside the "restaurant" to wait.  The tin roofed room was filled with smoke from the grill.  Terry and I were sitting on plastic lawn chairs because the wooden bench was wet.  All of a sudden I heard a crack and down I went.  A leg snapped off my chair!  It was pretty funny - the last time I did that, I weighed 200 pounds and was 9 months pregnant with Jane!  They quickly brought over another chair and stacked up three for Terry.  Fifteen minutes or so later, there was another snap, but he was quick enough to catch himself!  Two chairs in one sitting!  

Tomorrow we'll visit the embassy and hopefully get our applications in.  I'm going to love every minute of my 16 degree air conditionned room!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Bushcamp to Quarry, Republic of Congo, March 18, 2019

Quite a crowd gathered as we had breakfast and packed up-

We ignore them for the most part but will often offer our leftovers.  They usually only want them if it's rsomething they recognize.  Usually everything is too foreign to them.  Once I gave a young man some chicken stew which he tasted but promptly spit it out!  Itwasn't that bad, really.  Not like the mystery meat we had the other night. It was supposedly chicken but if that was chicken then I'm the next Queen of England!  The fat was weird, the texture was weird even though it was white meat and each piece was shaped the same with a weird bone in it. The only thing chickeney about it was the skin so what was it?  Not pork - we haven't seen a pig for days, not fish,... So crocodile?  We are near rivers or was it human?  Ha!  Those eating it around me didn't even finish it and I don't think anyone had seconds.  It was too weird.  

Anyway, our day included a large detour around an apparently shit road.  The scenery was nice-

but the road was rough and never ending and it was smoking hot.  It was slow going.  We started meeting people who were giving us a sign of crossed arms in front of their faces which means closed road and soon we saw what they meant.  There were 3 logging trucks bogged down-

and had been for three days. Luckily the tow truck and digger had arrived.

The bucket went over the load-

to hold the logs-

while the tow truck pulled.  The first truck came out no problem-

but the second truck started going over.  Luckily the bucket driver quickly adjusted and saved a catastrophe.  

We carried on to a 'town' where they supposedly had a hotel. They did but only one room so we set up in a quarry.  I like quarries because the ground is hard and gravelly and if it rains, we're usually okay. I'm on cook group, possibly my last one depending how many hotels we stay in along the way.  We are having omelettes and pancakes!  Not sure how that will go but we will see. It Is pretty slim pickings for fresh vegetables, in fact we have seen absolutely none today.  The only shop we vsiited only had eggs, hence lthe omelettes!  Hoping for a dry night too.  We're off to Dolisie in the morning to try and get our Angola visas.  

Bushcamp Gabon to Bushcamp Congo, March 17, 2019

There was no rain in the night but there were many weird little insects that bit the shit out of us.  You couldn't see them but they left red spots, like polka dots that became white and very itchy.  Lying planet warned about them but...  I have hundreds on my arms-

and I'm trying not to scratch but it is difficult.

Naked man was back and Don gave him a pair of pink pants.  He put them on but who knows for how long, I mean, even Don didn't want them!  We also gave him some dry baguettes and jam.  He's mentally challenged  so....

Driving along, the scenery changed from jungle to-

The border crossing-

was very simple and remote.  We had to visit four different buildings but upon presenting our passenger lists, we were waved through.  The last building was a bar that was just hopping:  music playing and people dancing.  Now that's how all borders should be!  It reminded me of Mexico.

We kept driving slowly on gravel looking for a bushcamp but there was no place to stop.  The grass grows tall right to the edges of the road and there are few villages.  Everyone seems super friendly and the kids holler asking for balloons.  I think other trucks have  been here before.  Eventually we found a building with a mowed? front area and that's where we set up.  I'm wearing pants and a coat plus covered in Deet to prevent more bites.  I don't have my fly on and have a bet with Brad for a Coke that it won't rain.  Once again, hoping for a good sleep!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Ntoum to Bushcamp south of Lambréné, Gabon, March 16, 2019

We left Ntoum heading south towards the Republic of Congo border.  It was a 245 km day-

through a lot of rain and of course nothing but jungle-

Our one and only stop was in Lambréné to visit the museum and former hospital of Albert Schweitzer-

who was born in Alsace/Lorraine in 1875, got his doctorate in philosophy, then another doctorate in theology and finally a degree in medicine.  He must have fallen in love with Gabon because he spent 14 different periods of time here.  He built a hospital, a refuge for lepers and won the Nobel Peace Prize with Albert Einstein in 1952 for their opposition to the atomic bomb.

The museum is his former home including his wife's bedroom-

He played the organ professionally and performed over 450 concerts-

Many countries honoured him with stamps including France-


São Tomé and Príncipe-

And Gabon-

Looking at the stamps reminded me of my stamp collection.  I haven't looked at it for years but I'm going to get it out when I get home!

Huan, Lutz and Martina enjoyed the museum too-

After, we toured his former hospital that just closed in 1981-

The wards-

The dentist chair, complete with a foot pump that ran the drill-

The birthing room with stirrups and forceps-

The pharmacy-

And the operating room-

I really enjoyed the hospital and admire Schweitzer for all the work he did while in Gabon.

We're camped on a roadside parking area with a waterfall, well, it's sort of a waterfall, where we're going to have bucket showers. They're the best becasue you dump a full pail of water all over yourself and it's nice and so cool.   Tomorrow we'll hopefully cross into the Republic of Congo!  

Friday, March 15, 2019

Libreville, Gabon, March 15, 2019

I had a really good sleep in spite of the weirdness of the place.  We were on the road by 7:30 to make the 9:30 ferry that doesn't run on Fridays anyway.  We got to the marina without incident and after numerous discussions with conservationists, boat drivers and security guards, I chose not to go to Pongara National Park.  According to the conservationist, we wouldn't see any large turtles, just nests and eggs.  We might see a baby turtle if we were lucky.  We would get there on high tide but would have to walk 10-12 km along mangroves to get to the boat because of low tide.  WTF I thought.  I'm not doing that so April and I went exploring Libreville.  We stopped at a local supermarket and met the owner, a man from Montreal who has been living in Libreville for 30 years but is heading back to Canada next month for good.  We took a taxi to Casino, a gigantic "normal' grocery store and I wandered around in heaven for an hour!  I found some coffee that I think should be awesome so I'm looking forward to tomorrow morning to try it.  From the mall, we went to the National Museum of Art and Traditions and had a great tour in English.  Pictures aren't allowed but April talked the guide into letting us take a few.

Masks are work during celebrations.  Men belong to secret societies and wear masks and costumes anonymously.  That's why the eyes are just slits - so one can't be recognized.  Most masks appear to be modelled after white people, especially the noses which are more pointed-

I want to make this for Halloween some year-

Relics are in the bottom part of recipients.  People used to keep them in their homes and pray through the dead person's bones to the spirits.  They are very interesting:  lots of feathers and monkey skulls-

This mask is made from a gorilla's skull-

This hygiene notice was in the bathroom:  " In this disgusting place, as useful as your table, keep it equally clean like your plate!"

We met back at the truck at 4 pm and headed towards Lambrene.  We're camping behind a motel and I've set my tent up underneath an awning so I hope to stay dry if the rain comes!  Looking forward to moving on tomorrow.  

Bushcamp to Libreville, Gabon, March 14, 2019

I got wet again!  It seems that is my new 'normal' and I don't like it! so I have to learn how to set up my tent properly!  It was drizzling when we got up so we just packed up and headed for Libreville.  Apparently there's a national park there that has nesting turtles.  I don't think in March, but whatever.  That's where we are going and I'm looking forward to upgrading to a nice hotel!

Along the way, we passed the equator again-

You would think the road to the capital would be great, but..... TIA.  There are many pothole spots-

that make going very slow.  Logging is a major industry so we see many trucks loaded with huge logs-

Once in Libreville, I checked out a seminary to see if we could camp there - it's Lent and so the directeur did not want to mix the outside world with the ......  other world.   Nearby was a hotel that only had 4 rooms - we need at least 10.  They at least suggested another place - a meditation centre that had a lovely grassed area but unfortunately a retreat was starting and they had no room for us.  We then headed down to the centre and I looked for at least 30 minutes for an apparent hotel on that is not where it's marked on the map.  How frustrating!  Nearby were 2 hotels that had enough rooms but were quadruple the price we pay so we headed out of town, looking for a hotel in the dark.  That's not easy because they don't have huge neon lit signs like at home.  Eventually we found a place and after negotiating with two very uninterested young men - the soccer game and their phones were much more interesting than April and me, we had 6 rooms.  We drew names out of the hat and some got rooms for 4, others for 2, some had to sleep on their mattresses on the floor, some had bathrooms, others AC and yet others camped.  I lucked out and got a bed with Hills.  One of our rooms was snatched out from under us while we were negotiating by a man who rented it for 'un repos' which is for sex and for only 1.5 hours!  When he came out of the room, he was very nice looking and well dressed, as was the woman with him.  I've never stayed at a hotel like that before-

Tomorrow we're leaving at 7:30 for the ferry to the national park.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Lope National Park to Bushcamp, Gabon, March 12 - 13, 2019

I spent yesterday enjoying the soft bed in my room and looking at the view.  Others walked into town for lunch and then went on a 2 hour drive to see.... forest elephants from quite a distance, monkeys and water buffaloes.  I had a scramble game against myself:  left played right and left won!  The hotel charges deluxe prices but does not provide deluxe service:  the power is only on from 6 pm to 7 am, there is no daily room cleaning, there was only a little toilet paper on the roll with no extra and the light was burned out in the bathroom.  All for $111 U.S./night!  Oh well, the view was great and the AC worked perfectly, once the power came on.

This morning we had an 8 am departure and it took 7 long hours to drive 100 km on rough road.  It was a hot, humid, sunny day and we pulled into a Bushcamp early so Will and others could change the front tires.  We're in a very private spot, but unfortunately very small flies that look like flea beetles have invaded.  

Along the way-

The only elephant I saw-

The long and winding road-

This town truly lives up to its name-

Tomorrow we're off to Lambere for a day or two, making our way south towards Congo.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Lopé National Park, March 11, 2019

We left our bushcamp for Lopé National Park which was only 35 km way-

We arrived in LopĂ©, a very small town with surprisingly a few hotels to choose from.  I decided to upgrade, really upgrade.  The view from my room-

The pool-

The Ogowe River flows right by-

We planned to go on a 2 hour jeep safari, leaving at 4 pm and tomorrow to go gorilla trekking but decided to cancel the gorilla trekking - we won't see any anyway and do the 2 hour drive tomorrow.  We were waiting anyway for the jeep to get back from picking up VIP passengers who had just arrived by a VIP train.  They pulled up in two vehicles and there were more armed policemen than white European politicians.  Whoever they were and whatever they were doing here is a mystery.  Eventually we got a ride into the village of Lome which is 2 miles away and bought supper - Pringles, chocolate cookies, Orangina and Coke Zero.  The meals at the hotel are expensive and not so good.  I'm looking forward to kicking some ass in Scrabble tonight, air conditionning and a soft bed.  

Matombi Beach, Congo to Cabinda, Angola, March 23, 2019

I fell asleep by 8 pm but was awoken at 10 by howling winds.  I quickly put on my fly just before it started to rain.  Again, the lightning ...