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-

Liberia-

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 booking.com 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.  

Monday, March 11, 2019

On our way to Lope National Park, March 10, 2019

It rained about 5 hours in the night and the water came into my tent through the ground sheet.  I kept my sleeping bag and sheet on my narrow Thermarest so stayed relatively dry, however not everyone failed so well and the 'kitchen' was a sloppy sticky mess-

Our shoes were caked with clay so a few of us walked to the highway to clean up the best  we could.  The rest just piled on the truck???  Today was a drive day as we headed south to Lope National Park.  We had good highway until it was time to turn and then it was 100 km of rough bump  Leanne and Ryan got out at the intersection because he needs a visa for Congo and therefore had to go to Libreville.  That's where I'd have preferred to go too instead of into the hot sticky jungle where there is fuck all to see.  

The only marker indicating the equator was on the other side of the road so we almost missed it.  It looks like it's had an accident-

The terrain is rolling hills and we have been along a river for a lot of the day

We had a hitchhiker for awhile-

What great camouflage-

We ended up stopping early and set up on a beautiful lookout to a river which reminded me of Jane's place-

 I'm on cook group so we are relying on whatever's under the floorboards.

Tomorrow we will make it to Lope.  

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Finally to Gabon, March 9, 2019

Today is my Dad's 89th birthday!  Happy Birthday Dad!

We were up bright and early and got to the border before customs even opened.  That was okay because we went for a stroll in the market and had a great avocado, tomato, onion and boiled egg salad-

Also in the market was a tailor with political dresses for sale.  Notice the detail around the neck-

Vehicles are second rate so they are always broke down.  This public bus had to be pushed for quite aways-

I was riding shotgun and what a bad day to pick.  We must have had to stop at a dozen checks-

Some were as close as 200 meters apart!  Talk about job creation!  I had to get out and talk at all of them so am exhausted!  Leaving Cameroun and entering Gabon was easy enough - show your passport, fill out this form, add these papers, get this stamped, and on and on.  We weren't asked for bribese at all, except two cops asked if we had any condoms!

Along the way, I'm not sure what these women were celebrating-

We are still driving through miles and miles of jungle but today was 100% on pavement so that makes it easier.  I hope we make Lope National Park tomorrow!

Almost to Gabon, March 8, 2019

We had a leisurely start - 9 am, except we needed insurance and it took way too long.  We were on the road by 10:30, except we turned right instead of left so spent a good thirty minutes driving around Sangmelina!  Sometimes maps.me doesn't quite work right, hey Brian!

Along the way, many homes have graves in their front yards-

Because it's National Women's Day, there are many celebrations.  Women are partying and dressed in clothes made from material witih Paul Biya-
Cameroun's president-

We voted to have lunch in a town along the way, rather than make tuna wraps for the umpteenth time. We parked in a busy town in the most perfect spot:  restaurants with chicken and rice, grilled meat, beer and dancing as well as Coke Zero!  How lucky is that?  Often we have to walk a block or two to sometimes find nothing!  We passed through numerous police stations - I don't think we would want to drive over this-

Last night was Nico and Andi's  birthday party.  It looks like they had fun-
We're camping in a field next to the highway but luckily it's not busy and once it's dark, it will be pretty quiet.  We're only 15 Kim from the Gabon border so we should make it tomorrow!


Friday, March 8, 2019

Still, still on the road, March 7, 2019

My neighbor, not mentioning any names but it starts with an L and ends with a Z, was up at 4:30, rustling around even though breakfast wasn't until 6:30.  When we are sleeping so close to each other, we hear any little noise another makes and unfortunately last night we had no choice for close living.so I was up for the day at that ungodly hour.  Our goal today was to cross the river at Aboulou even though we had been told numerous times there was no bridge.  We drove 20 km south to the river through sad looking villages-

on goat trails that got narrower-

and narrower-
 
The truck barely fit.  Unfortunately we found the locals were right, there was no bridge-

We walked down, looked, and Richard and Brad rented a pirogue-

to go across putting the oar into the stream to gauge its depth.  
Men fill boats with sand and pile it on the banks.  It's not to make a nice beach for swimming but is used in the construction of homes-

Unfortunately, the bank was too steep and too muddy so we sadly turned around and headed for Sangmelina-

We breezed through the two police checks that caused us such grief yesterday, in fact we didn't even have to stop.  They waved and wished us "Bonne route!"  Assholes!

We passed some lovely daffodil looking type flowers-

and came across a man selling an I don't know what.  It was some kind of bushmeat that looked like a cross between a kangaroo and a rabbit but it was a blue bellied dyker which is a Pygmy antelope.  Needless to say we didn't need meat that bad-
 
At the entrance to Sangmelina, we were stopped by the transport police and informed that we did not have insurance for Cameroun.  Oh, oh, I thought, here's another scam!  Eventually I read the form and he was right.  He wanted us to hop on a motorbike, go buy the insurance and come back to get the truck but we persuaded him to let us go to the hotel, (yes we get to sleep in a bed tonight!) and we promised to buy the insurance before we left.  Finally he agreed and we were on our way.

April and I negotiated nice rooms for the group, well actually, April did the work and I translated.  She is relentless and the absolute master at getting what she wants.  

I'm in a private room, with air conditionning and hoping for a great sleep!  Tomorrow, maybe, we will cross into Gabon!  

Still On The Road, March 6, 2019

We left our bushcamp at 7:30, hoping to make the Gabon border at Aboulou. We crossed a few narrow bridges and at one, we were met by a mob of men.  They seemed drunk and were demanding money to cross their bridge.  A few had machetes that they were waving around, not in a menacing way but as if they were talking with their hands.  Richard and I were negotiating with them and I kept asking them to stop yelling.  They would look at me sheepishly and try - it's hard because they just yell all the time.  One man grabbed another's arm and took the machete out of his hand and tossed it to the ground.  Eventually we gave them a large bag of half rotten sweet potatoes - (not sure why anyone buys them, they're terrible) and then a few cans of pilchers.  They're canned fish, sort of like sardines.  They didn't seem happy with that so all of a sudden everyone came out of the truck and it seemed that our height and numbers persuaded them to get the hell out of the way.  We also had to stop at a couple of check points but usually they just wave us through although one woman did ask if we were travelling with any wild meat.  Gross!  About 3, we came to a stop where the cop must have been bored to death because he made us get out of the truck, line up and show him our passports.  He said he had to write the information down in his notebook, even though we gave him a passenger list.  He found the writing too tedious after the first person, I guess 21 passengers was way too daunting for one day!  He then just browsed our passports, checking out the different visas we have, then got tired with it completely and announced we had to go to"the brigade" which was the police station, a few kilometers away.  We followed him there and then the fun began.  Because I'm riding shotgun today, am a woman and can speak French, it was my job to do the talking.  After a bit of stumbling and saying a whole lot of nothing, he announced that it would cost us each 3000 CFA ($7) for 'registration".  I told the group and a couple came unglued.  They recognized the bribe that I did not!  So, we talked, he talked, I talked, he talked, explaining a bunch of crap about needing money etc.  We said we weren't paying, that we wanted to see his receipt book and now could we go please?  Their tactics are to delay you as long as possible so you become impatient, just give in and pay.  That wasn't going to happen with our group.  He then asked to see everyone's yellow fever certificates but couldn't really read.  He declared that Clarissa didn't have hers - he was looking at her typhoid information.  He said April's was expired until I explained that they are now good for life.  He kept saying "permettez-moi" ... to talk but what he said was all a bunch of b.s.  He called in another "cop" who looked through our passports then stared at the blank pages, rocked back and forth and fidgeted.  He probably wasn't even a cop!  Then Richard pulled the trump card.  He had the business card of the head ambassador for Cameroon in Calabar, Nigeria who had told him if we had any trouble with the police, to give him a call!  Richard did just that and soon the ambassador was speaking to the cop who was lying to him, telling him our visas were no longer good!  Then he must have been told to get things sorted because he kept saying there were no worries here, no problems, blah, blah.  After the call to the ambassador, the cops had their own little chat; we figured they had to figure out how to save face without looking like thieving assholes.  After a few minutes, they announced that I would be translating for Will, who as the owner of the company had to answer questions while others searched the truck.  Search the truck I said!  They gave me a dirty look and carried on.  We went into the office and sat with this seriously dumb man who kept staring out the window, checking on the search progress and thinking of the most tedious, repetitive things to ask.  The first thing he did was pick his nose - he shoved his finger practically up to the first knuckle and twisted and turned it in there!  Then he continually snorted and when we were almost through, he started cleaning his ears with q-tips!  He asked us such stupid questions, it was obvious he was just putting in time.  He wanted to know what we were doing in Nigeria - tourists.  Where were we from?  How many of us were there?   How many men?  How many women?  Where had we come from?  Where were we going?  Before each question he would pause, think and then ask something more stupid than the last question.  He had such dim eyes- oh so dumb but at least he was wearing a uniform!.  Finally, his buddies came in to the office and we were finished.  I kept asking if we could go and reaching for the passports because I was getting really impatient.  That's not a good thing because they want you to get angry and then they just keep you longer until you finally pay.  The last thing he asked was if I had a 'cadeau' for him!  After all that!  I said no, but did he have a 'cadeau ' for me?  He pulled out a warthog tooth and explained it could be worn as a necklace.  I couldn't imagine he was going to give it to me - he probably wanted me to pay for it but I stood up, gathered our passports and walked out.  Two and a half hours wasted!  I was so angry.  Will laughed and said one time he waited 6 days before they were released, without paying too!  We carried on and it started to get dark.  There were no suitable bushcamps in sight so we ended up pulling off the side of the road in a small clearing.  We set up our tents practically on top of each other and tried to get cell service to cancel our Gabon hotel bookings we need to cross the border.  Apparently immigration even phones the hotels to make sure you have a reservation.  We walked along the road hoping for a hill but the only thing registering was a Gabon company so I knew my card wouldn't work with that.  Will even went up onto the roof of the truck but no luck.  If I didn't cancel one room by midnight, I would lose 80 Euro!  Anyway, by 9 or so, everyone was in their tents when a group of men showed up on motorcycles.  Richard talked with them for a long time and then they left.  I'm hoping for a great sleep without further interruptions in the quiet dark and that all these people who have been telling us there isn't a bridge at this crossing are wrong!  

Thursday, March 7, 2019

On the Road Again! March 5, 2019

We left Dja National Park and drove all day through the jungle.  Along the way, we pass villages every few kilometers and most are the same.  The roofs are thatched, or if they're a little richer, they'll be tinned.  There are kids everywhere.  The women are baby factories and have a child every year.  They wear clothes that are often filthy and filled with holes.  Cameroon has been the most unfriendly country we've been to.  Lots of people are holding out their hands asking for money.  They yell and holler at us but not in such a friendly welcoming way as in Nigeria.  I don't really like it here-

The jungle is never ending-

The trees are very tall and form a canopy-

Random areas have cut trees that are burned.  I don't know if they have aspirations to plant cassava or if the area has been logged because we meet lots of logging trucks taking huge logs out of the forest-

The roads are red and narrow, snaking through the jungle-

Sometimes we come across a slight problem like this that is easily fixed with a saw-

Police checks are lumber strewn across the road with nails sticking through so you have to stop if you want to save your tires-

We are bushcamping in an awesome quarry that is flat and quiet.  We will be continuing south tomorrow, trying to reach the Gabon border.



Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Dja National Park, March 4, 2019

I was on cook group last night: in the dark, my torch's battery was dead, the lights in our kitchen don't work because the truck batteries are dead and we arrived at 6:20 so supper wasn't ready until after 8. Afterwards, I still had to set up my tent but that was okay because I went to bed at a normal time so had a long and restful sleep.  Today we left camp at 8:30 to go on a forest / Pygmy village walk.  Lying Planet talks about possibly seeing elephants, monkeys, lots of birds and maybe even gorillas, but all I saw was a few butterflies-

Spider webs-

Spiders-

Tree tomatoes-

Termites-

Edible mushrooms-

And an unidentifiable thing-

Roots-

We walked 22 km and it just about killed me.  Lucky it was overcast and we were well protected in the shade of the jungle-

At one point in the trail, we walked on ants and they covered our shoes and bit us like crazy.  Everyone was slapping and pinching them off.  They were terrible and hurt like hell.  Coming back, we ran through that spot and only got a few.  

We had to cross a river via ferry-

Then we stopped at a Pygmy village of the Baka tribe.  I thought they were midgets, but everyone here looked "normal".  The guide said that because of evolution and villagers marrying them, they look the same as us.  I wouldn't want to live in their village-

We got back to camp by 4 pm after a long, sweaty day and met Lucas from Beaver Mines, Alberta.  He doesn't know Dean but knows other people in Pincher whom I know.  He's working on a biology PhD from Stanford and has been here 2 years researching.  He goes back to California on Friday to write a big exam.  While here he's seen a leopard, many gorillas, 40 different species of birds, jungle buffalo, dyker, forest elephants, lots of squirrels, butterflies, primates and real Pygmies.  He does his research 30 km inside at the Biosphere.  I guess that's where we needed to go but the infrastructure doesn't exist and so it's very difficult.  Even the village where we camped had filthy, poor bathrooms - it was better to go outside.  Luckily we have our own shower tent.  UNESCO wants to desensitize Dja National Park and Lucas of course says that would be disastrous.  He's right but if no one comes it is a waste of money, especially when a man was caught with 60 pair of elephant tusks and the local Genral let him off.  People here are fighting a losing battle.  They will have to do what they did in Rwanda.  They developed a huge tourism project where tourists pay $1000 to walk in the jungle, often after an hour or two van ride, to see a family of gorillas.  They have soldiers following the families to keep them safe - poachers are shot on sight.  The soldiers keep in raidio contact with the guides so they know where to lead the tourists.  Villagers are also are given a share of the money so they realize the gorillas are worth more alive than dead,  They've seen an increase in the gorilla population, communities are richer, people are employed and everyone is happy.  I gues poaching won't truly end  until the Asians realize the innards and powders made from the animal parts really doesn't do any good!  
I'm exhausted so hope I sleep well.  

Yaounde to Dja National Park, March 2-3, 2019

Nico is 3 today!  How time flies-

One of these years I'll be home for a piece of cake!

We had a truck clean after breakfast, something that was long overdue.  Our last real one was the end of November in Mauritania.  We had one at Murder Beach in Sierra Leone but that one was without water - hard to clean without that!  I hope we will be on pavement for awhile so we can keep things nice.  After the truck clean, I was hot and sweating so I spent the rest of the day in my air conditionned room.  That was awesome!  I'm not sure what's happened to the ceiling in the bathroom but this is pretty normal for Africa-

I luckily found more sesame balls too-

At 9:30 pm, Kanadia played to a sold out crowd at the O2 in Oxford.  They were launching their new album so we watched it on Facrbook.  I think Will might have been almost as nervous as James!  They sound really good and have done a great job of the songs so I hope they make it big some day.

Today we are off to Dja National Park, south of Yaounde.  I've enjoyed the conveniences of the city, it's the closest we've had to my "normal" in a long time.  

            

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Yaounde, Cameroun, March 1, 2019

Will and I (chief interpreter) headed for the DRC embassy and got everything submitted easily.  We should have our visas by 3 pm tomorrow which seems strange to me because it's Saturday.  I'm not complaining, it's just rare.  After, we went to Equitorial GuinĂ©e but had no luck.  The country has only recently opened to tourists - we would be the first overland truck in but they assured us that requirements such as the complicated letter of invitation will change in the near future.  That doesn't of course help us but future groups may get in.  The Americans don't need visas so they will have the option of flying in if they wish to tick off the country.

After, we went looking for a good coffee.  I had the name of a place from a local woman but out cabbie took us to a different one that was super expensive: $7 for a cup of coffee, $3.50 for a pain au chocolat and $7 for one Mille Feuilles!  The best thing about it was we were very close to an artisan market.  People are so funny.  They have no idea where we have been and what we are used to.  The woman at the restaurant suggested we take a cab because walking is "dangerous".  I asked for clarification and she said we would be hassled and possibly pick pocketed.  What's new I thought and the walk turned out to be uneventful.  I'm looking for a beaded mask and didn't find one but bought 2 wooden statues that are beaded.  The larger one has shells on top of its head in a basket.  Of course I didn't take pictures of what I bought and they are now wrapped up but I did take pictures of other interesting pieces-

A beaded statue and lamp-

A metal sculpture-

More beads-

Our taxi on the way home was a wreck-

I went to the supermarket, got my toes shellacked for $16 and stopped in a funeral shop.  The wooden coffins come from Canada and cost $3000.  Women are buried in white gowns that look like wedding dresses.  I asked the woman if I died right now, if I'd be buried in a dress like this-

She replied that no, they also had some older styles that would be more suitable for me.  Thanks I thought!

Near the hotel is a 24 hour bakery complete with chocolate shoes-

We ate supper at a Vietnamese restaurant- I had spicy squid that came with julienned carrots and green pepper.  I was disappointed but the Orangina was awesome!

Tomorrow we have a truck clean after breakfast and then it will be a day of enjoying the air conditionning in my room!  

Bagangte to Yaounde, Cameroon, February 28, 2019

The road was shitty for awhile then straightened out enough to get us to Yaounde by mid afternoon.  We travelled 245 km-

Along the way a lot of the land is tilled and appears ready for planting-

As we got further south, we were back in forest and there was little farming-

Our main goal in Yaounde is to get DRC and Equitorial GuinĂ©e visas.  We stopped at the DRC Embassy on our way into town to pick up forms.  It sounds like it's easy and only costs $130 US compared to $250 In Accra!  I'm glad we waited.  EQ is another matter.  We need individual letters of invitation from the EQ Minister of Foreign Affairs which could possibly be arranged through our individual embassies.  Ya right!  The truck though can get in no problem.   We will visit again tomorrow for more information.  

The campsite is on a hill in the middle of the city but you'd never know you were in a busy, noisy place.  It's run by Madame Suzanne, a female, black Hitler.  Even though the yard is huge, there's a crazy who lives nearby so we have to scrunch our tents together.  I dragged my tent around to a few places because I don't want to hear anyone breathing, snoring or rustling at 5 am when we don't have to get up!  MME laughed when I told her that and showed me a place where I'd be by myself except I was near the dogs who bark often and at strangers in the night.  No thanks.  She also has a 5 bed dorm and 2 private rooms which we drew for but I lost.  In her 100 year old house, the upstairs bathroom cannot be used at night and you can only pee in it in the day.  Showers are available from 6 am to 6 pm only.  We can use her water for cooking but not cleaning- that costs 50 cents a pail.  The outside toilet, which is for we campers, has no toilet seat - that's pretty common, no light and definitely no toilet paper.  I'm camping tonight and then hopefully moving into a hotel for a couple of nights.

A few of us went to a Turkish restaurant for supper and they almost had everything listed on the menu! The ATM I used dispensed as much money as I wanted - some we have used give out $46/time.  I also got a receipt!  

A new girl, Ella, originally from MontrĂ©al, has joined us for a month and Richard is back from some crazy escapades in the west of the country.  Ryan has missed numerous flights so is with us now into Angola which is great because he and Leanne are really enjoying each other's company. 

I'm hoping for a rain free night and am looking forward to seeing more of Yaounde tomorow.

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 ...