Left Franceville,Gabon,but not before a grumpy police woman stopped us at a checkpoint,asking questions, wanting all our details, and some,which held us up somewhat michael got fed up after requests for vests, red triangles etc and isisted she do the same to all cars passing so she let us go.
We visited the supermarche before we left and had been quite horrified (and amused) to see a giant rat run from one stack of shelves to the next! fresh meat – he will be on the rack smoked before too long!!
Stopped at the spectacular red canyon at Lekoni ,sadly huge black clouds were looming and it was quite hazy,so the photo’s don’t do it justice,but we had lunch anyway, admiring the view, just as we set off for the Congo border,the heavens opened and we crossed over in torrential rain.
Immediately onto the sandy tracks,we’d heard about and although quite deep in parts, we managed ok without getting stuck, we had lowered the tyre pressures,just to help things a little,but we did have a full 120 litre tank of water and fuel on board,so the old beast coped pretty well,all things considered.
The scenery here was not what we were expecting and a complete contrast from Gabon,just miles of savannah,nothing here except the occasional little village, consisting of small tin huts and genuinely friendly,smiley people ,with a few pigs and goats on their land. We had been expecting it to be more jungly.
We wild camped once more in beautiful,peaceful surroundings,but as always,just when you think you are miles from anywhere,somebody pops up out of nowhere although they don’t seem to mind too much and usually stop for a chat of sorts!(no cars along these tracks though, just the odd motorbike)
The radiator has sprung another leak next rows up above last repairs and we drove another 200 miles to Brazzaville,topping up the radiator every 30 miles or so (luckily we had the huge tank of spare water on board or else we’d have been in big trouble)
Breathed a sigh of relief when we reached Brazzaville,We have to tackle the Angolan visa problem and may have to DHL our passports back to the UK in the hopes they can issue a visa,either way ,having hoped we could get through the Congo’s pronto,it seems we might be here for some time…..watch this space. Currently camping in Hotel Hippocampe car park ! This is a hotel which is run by Olivier and his wife who once did a lot of travelling by bicycle and provides free camping showers etc as a result. A complete oasis in the Congo and extremely generous of them . Excellent Vietnamese/ asian food as well.
Have met some other overlanders here, Luke and Shell who are touring Africa as part of a belated honeymoon,also having visa problems, so we are not alone. As is the way with these things we had been stalking their website and vice versa and had exchanged e mails info en route so nice to meet in the flesh.
Time has moved on now and we are still in Brazzaville,in the Angolan embassy trying desperately to get visa’s,the lady dealing with such matters has not arrived for work yet ,so we have been waiting for approx 2 hours (which is why I’m doing a bit of blogging and slowly going mad!)
We must continue to be very patient otherwise we wont get anywhere. It’s all very complicated as our Congo and DRC visas run out at the w/e,so these too will have to be extended and if this isn’t bad enough,we are also waiting for a new radiator for the Blue beast and may have to cross the mighty Congo by ferry to Kinshasa to get it fitted….oh joy,this crossing is notoriously bad ( Understatement) for aggravation,bribes and generally only sailing when the captain feels like it !! i.e you have paid him what he wants.
On a brighter note we had a delicious Indian meal the other night that would have put The Spice Bazaar to shame and watched England beat Ukraine 1-0 at the same time! They love football here and many of them support English teams,it all seemed rather surreal though, to be happening whilst in The Congo.
Having failed to get our Angolan visa’s in Brazzaville, we have continued on to Kinshasa in DRC crossing the mighty Congo by another ferry at Luozi about 150 k east of Kinshasa as the 3 of us have decided that’s the best route especially as the others have their Angolan visas ( via UK) and it places them within easy reach of Angolan border.
Found a nice hotel in middle of nowhere – nothing marked on T4A – excellent Franglais by Michael ( he says) resulted in camping for all 3 plus surprisingly the best loo’s so far in Africa the girls said. Strange place Africa.
The next day we travelled 88 miles in approx 8 hrs, 40 of which were in first hour so very slow. Road conditions very hard, huge gully’s, generally washed out and extremely lumpy, we used 1st&2nd low ratio gears for about half the distance, as there was 3 of us it was fun to compare notes seeing what car handled which obstacle the easiest and seeing wheels waving in the air etc. Trickier for us with radiator problem.
Also another traveller,(on a bike) we had met at Brazzaville, who had got fed up with trying to get visas for DRC and Angola had decided to try his luck and just go for it – we met him at Congo/DRC border being deported after a night in jail. Problem was that immigration officers were then concerned about some mass violation so we suffered lots of checks etc afterwards as a result.
Had one idiot who demanded$10 each for a copy of a form and our passports who was flummoxed when we all produced copies and offered to fill in the form again. His boss realised the scam had failed but he still kept trying for his money – idiot – we all walked out
Reached Luozi in the evening and camped at another catholic mission,in fact right next to a shed full of goats who coughed badly all night, then up at 6:00 am for the ferry.It only takes two vehicles at a time,but what seems like masses of foot passengers,having waited in line since 7:00 am we finally got on at around 11:00am
The next 50kms after the ferry were again unbearably slow ,especially as we had to keep topping up the radiator several times in first few miles as leaks had got worse. Michael decided it was time for drastic measures as we were miles from kinshasa ( 250k) and salvation, so he attacked the radiator with a pair of pliers crimping off poor sections and the result (as it transpired) was perfect not a drop leaked all the way to Kinshasa. The landrover gods were on our side!! The road was dreadful once again,we also had a university student sitting in the back seat on top of all our boxes,which added to the fun and games.
It actually took us 3 days to get to Kinshasa which is only a mile across the Congo from where we started. Having parted with the others at the Luozi ferry we were on our own and found the appalling reputation of the DRC to be completely unwarranted, Police were friendly and waved us through most checks, there was one half hearted attempt to request a hi vis vest but that was it. Most other countries we have been through have been far more hassle.
We had one run in with a tourism official who after being stopped by immigration – again – tried to get Michael to pay a special tax to visit Kinshasa. He was told to bugger off and Michael said he was to call his Chef if he wanted but that he was leaving and that was the end of that. It seems to us the previous scams now don’t work as the use of mobiles means the previous isolation and the authority obtained by that has gone. Only the idiots now persist in trying.
Kinshasa also not like its painted in the lonely planet guide description which is totally unrealistic, not the worlds most attractive city but no worse than many African cities and arguably better than some. Expensive yes with everything imported and only a few hotels but plenty (well enough) restaurants including an Italian one called Limoncello which would not be out of place anywhere in Europe. Watched the England/ Italy game here, in the lions den so to speak with the inevitable disastrous result.
Sorted out DRC visa, tried again at Angolan Embassy for transit visa which they offer at all Embassy’s but again were told no!!. Angolan catch 22 – offer a visa (which they acknowledge is useless) in that you can not travel from Europe in the 60 days allowed, also an alternative transit visa which is not issued at all if requested?? So applications gone off by DHL back to London. Fingers crossed.
We’ve found the proper Landrover Garage here which has a good reputation and certainly seemed to know their stuff,which will give our resident bush mechanic (Michael) a well earned rest. Getting the head checked after last head gasket failure in case it has warped, new radiator, fitting proper bolts to calliper so that it stops dropping off and a few other bits of repair which are needed after 13000miles of very hard/ bad roads.
Something tells me we could be here a while so sitting back to wait!! Obviously not best position in what is arguably the least desirable city in Africa in least desirable country but we have no choice.