Left Yaounde and headed for Gabon border,drove 200 miles on a good tarmac road, although at times it poured with rain, along the way many people were selling bushmeat on the roadside,mainly consisting of large rodents,and hornbills, lots of roadblocks too but nothing serious, when we finally crossed into Gabon almost immediately you felt as if you were in France. Neat little villages with trimmed verges for miles rather strangely and generally very well kept, all much like a theme park as at the verge edge the rainforest began. Its very odd given the untamed nature of the country as a whole it’s virtually all jungle and with a tiny population of just over a million. We even saw a guy up a ladder clipping back ferns of a roadside cutting which would make suburban gardens in UK look scruffy in comparison. Once more the people were friendly and smiled and waved, it was getting late and we were exhausted so we checked into a small hotel,as they didn’t seem to understand the concept of “camping” so we had to take a room,but as it turned out to be full of mosquito’s and had no running water,we would have been much better off in our tent.
Set off from Bitam early, driving nearly another 200 miles to Reserve de Lope- a national park.on the way we crossed the equator, it was a beautiful drive,much of it along the banks of the River Ogooue which is huge and very fast flowing.
The drive to the park was mainly rainforest to start with and then you popped out into savannah – very odd and it is claimed unique, but very attractive with hills and forested valleys.corrugations a plenty,so shaken to pieces once more and then had a minor incident involving The Blue beast,a pick up laden with bananas a ditch and 2 drivers who both thought they were on the right side of the road , I’ll say no more!
We hadn’t gone much further when the brakes failed on the Blue beast,so we slowly,with handbrake acting as the brakes made it to a wild camping spot outside Lope national park. Bolts had come out of rear calliper -strangely extremely difficult to undo when you have to, this then swung round shearing brake pipe. Again found local mechanic who after much searching found 2 bolts and we managed to reform brake pipe. While this was going on Emma was watching an elephant in bush next door
Took a tour around the park – the savannah bit, saw forest buffalo, elephants and sitatunga (antelope). The tour finish at a high point where you looked over rainforest to the south which extends to Congo border to south and beyond –a huge area with no roads or people.
Whilst in Gabon, we have spent a couple of nights camping at Catholic missions, one night in the grounds of a Health clinic,and wild camping on the beach.
Had a great time on the beach at Mayumba in the south of Gabon,although it wasn’t quite the palm fringed,whale spouting ,turtle spotting place we’d been led to believe and the waves were so large and of the“ I’m going to dump you” variety, that it wasn’t easy to have a relaxing swim,but we did have a big fire on the beach one night and Michael and Brett decided we should go exploring further along the coastline,which was going nicely until we nearly got stuck in very soft sandy tracks and had to turn back,it was also getting unbearably hot,so not the best idea really.
Continued our journey from Mayumba to Lebamba and finally arrived here in Franceville absolutely exhausted after a very long few days of dusty ,hilly and winding roads through jungle with no real means of communication(Emily-sat-nav has totally lost the plot) and not much in the way of washing facilities, although we have Michael’s makeshift shower arrangement we can’t afford to use too much water,plus all the insects like to feed on you at dusk,
We kept seeing army ants in black lines crossing the track, Brett got out to photograph them – we stayed in the car, he had no shoes on and the scout ants to the side of main column immediately attacked – giving rise to a hopping, slapping retreat !
We spent one funny night in the tiny village of Mouela where the local people kindly let us spend the night on their land as it was getting dark and we were tired with driving through endless miles of rainforest on some fairly dodgy roads ,they seemed to find us most entertaining as we heated up our last tin of Heinz baked beans on the stove and set up the roof tent,in fact I think the entire village had surrounded us by nightfall,never had there been such excitement on a Sunday evening,especially when Michael produced a can of chilled beer for the Chief and a coke for his wife !! We left at dawn the next morning just as the crowds had started to appear for a second viewing !
Had an encounter with an extremely stupid Inspector Clouseau policeman as we passed through one small town which involved him checking our papers – all OK then he proceeded to ask the most stupid questions for an hour!! –
Are you married? – Yes Emma is my wife. Is Emma married? – yes to me obviously. Etc etc
What is your name? – Rutter -what is your fathers name – Well Rutter as well surprise surprise
This is a big problem tres difficile etc – Michael – No its not actually we have been through loads of checks – response – Ohh!
Aha you say you are friends but one of you lives in SA the other in England – this is impossible!! Michael – no we met on the road in Gambia -response – Ohh!
Needless to say when we arrived at this reasonably smart hotel,caked in several days worth of filth,I’m sure reception wanted to shout they were full, however they kindly let us have a room with a shower which took 3 goes to get rid of the orange and I’m not proud of the state of their towels. They also have the pleasure of our best dirty clothes in their laundry and not of the kind they are used to I’m afraid ! (it cost’s a bomb to do laundry at hotels here, Michael is getting very cross with me and say’s I’m shirking my responsibilities……… I reply, I know !!)
Starting to feel quite human again having been treated to a lovely meal (Antelope for Michael and fish for me) last night by a nice man called Pascalle and an English couple who live and work in Gabon,this was followed by a good sleep in a proper bed…….soooo nice !!
Need to catch up today on emails,skyping girls and yes we might even attempt to get up some photo’s, we have literally hundreds,but uploading them takes forever and we shall be moving on in the morning,so all will depend on the connection and our I.T . skills !
Next stop will be Brazzaville,then tackling the Congo’s(sandy tracks I believe) we also have the joy of getting our Angolan visa’s,which they are not currently happy to issue, it’s a complete nightmare ,especially as we only want a transit for 5 days and not a tourist one, the plan is to arrive at the border and plead, some overlanders who are in Brazzaville right now have said the uk Angolan embassy okayed it when they sent their details home,but Brazzaville still wont budge,so we could be in for some fun once more. (will keep you posted) also will probably be out of range whilst dealing with the Congo’s for the next few days,but will contact family asap.