13th May: Today we drove into the Congos... It seems to have lived up to expectations, in part at least, some of it was our
fault. The roads are mainly dirt tracks thus far. After leaving the Gabon customs it took nearly two hours before we reached
the Congolese immigration. Once there we spent half an hour waiting for the relevant "official" villager, and when he did arrive he wanted us to pay 5000Cfa per person. We refused to pay and eventually he let us go, but not before he asked us for a lift into town, cheeky bugger. So we continued on with an armed escort in tow.
One hour further down the road we hit the police check, more time wasted as the incompetent official took down each persons details. Once finished there we moved on, and five minutes down the road came to the customs check. A further thirty minutes and 2000Cfa wasted. With all the admin sorted we continued rolling on thinking, 'yes! we're on our way!' but nooo, five minutes down the road we come across a tiny 1 metre wide stream with a crappy plank bridge! I am so sick of bridges!
Ben attempted to go around the bridge and through the water, and unfortunately got trapped and bogged down. So with the bridge being our only option we started focusing on the solution. Pat crossed easily and attempted to tow Ben out, he wasn't able to, we needed trouble, and it was on its way across. We quickly reconstructed the bridge using ratchets and slabs of wood, and the truck crossed easily. With the sun dipping rapidly on the horizon we were moving quickly. We hitched Bens Land Rover (dubbed the Colonel) onto the truck and he was quickly plowed out. Finally, properly on our way now we drove at speed. But as fate would have it this Congolese road wasn't finished with us. It still had one more obstacle, and it came in the form of an encounter between trouble and a pickup coming from the opposite direction.
The pickup attempted to pull over but the road wasn't wide enough, so when Kees tried to pass he nearly made it but his back end caught the pickup and dragged all the way down the side of the car, denting it nicely. When it happened we were right behind Kees and I thought we were going to have to stop. But Kees had other plans, once passed he put foot and barreled off down the road. There was no way we were being left behind so we quickly pursued them. As we pulled off the men in the pickup came charging out of the vehicle and tried unsuccessfully to pull us over.
Fortunately we were twenty minutes away from the nearest town. So for those twenty minutes we were moving at breakneck speeds, in the dark, on dust roads in the Congos. When we hit the town we made a b-line for the police station. Once there we swerved off the road, pulled in behind the police station and killed our lights. In almost total darkness we waited. Unfortuantely we were just waiting for the inevitable. I swear the clicks and beeps of the African bush telegraph were practically audible, I say this because after a mere five minutes wait the pickups lights found us.
We were caught. There were some very steamy moments. The guys were pissed and insisted that we pay them 1000 Euros for repairs. The rest of us weren't getting involved in Kees's snot en trane this time, so we all went about setting up camp while he negotiated his way out. 1 hour and a box of cigarrettes later and he'd dropped the amount from 1000 Euros to 80 Euros; six 50 cent flashlights; and a bottle of cheap knock-off cologne. Done deal...I'm still anticipating being murdered in my sleep.
14th May: We survived the evening, and can look forward to another day of "slightly" optimistic travel planning. Todays
target - Brazzaville. We drove hard but, when a storm hit us in the late hours of the afternoon we knew we had to start
looking into accomodation. We were just outside a town aptly named NGO, so we decided to stop. Besides an
extravagantly priced hotel there was only one other option - a hotel that was very obviously closed, and completely
waterlogged. Fortunately the owner lived round back, and with a bit of smooth talking we came right. He even gave us use
of his bathrooms. I'm sleeping in what appears to be an old dining hall...creepy...
15th May: Drove into Brazzaville today. It's quite small. Once there we went staright to the Angolan embassy to sort out the
visas. Apparently they don't carry the necessary sticker, so instead offered to write a letter for us to take to the embassy in
Matadi. We pick up the letter tomorrow and then hopefully from there climb straight onto the ferry.
With the aid of a local policeman finding a place to stay was easy. We ended up pulling into a brilliant spot called
"L'Hippocampe". The owner Olivier treated us like royalty. There was no place to pitch tents, no problem, he reserved what
appeared to be the smoking lounge and we camped out there. It was great! We had fans, couches, a fish tank and a pool
table. The place is a hotel, but most of their profits seem to come from the on premises Chinese hotel whose food is
amazing. Olivier is also in the habit of slashing our bills in half.
16th May: Ben collected the letter today and went to the docks to see if we could organise a ferry. Apparently they weren't
running today, bugger... Another totally relaxing day at L'Hippocampe.
17th May: Ferry still not running. Another day in Brazzaville. It was Maggies birthday and the restaurant was having a buffet!
Hell Yeh!! So to celebrate we decided that the best thing was for all of us to partake of the great grub. I was totally stuffed afterwards.
18th May: We all left early and headed for the docks. We weren't going to be denied passage today! On arrival at the docks
gates we were stopped by the docks gate officials and informed that we had to pay a gate charge before entry! The charge
(apparently) was 10000 Congolese Francs per car and 20000 for the truck. We outright refused to pay and stated our case,
but they were adamant we weren't being allowed entry. So we blocked the gate and refused to budge. Chaos broke out,
vehicles and people were beginning to que up behind us, arguments and physical abuse was thrown around willy nilly. We
argued for an hour until the ferry chief arrived on sight and we dragged him into the fray. After a further twenty minutes of
heated debate, in which he agreed with the gate guard, we broke him, we totally destroyed the bastard with our irrefutable
logic and passionate fire. He was a smudgy puddle of a man by the time we were finished with him, and in his state of
absolute horror and dejection he let us in for 20000 Franks.
We drove in and sat. After an hour I suddenly became exhausted. I was getting hot and cold shivers and struggling to keep
my eyes open. By about 10am we still hadn't left, So Pat, Sarah and I went on a breakfast run. I realized the error of my
way when half way there I felt the bottom drop out of my digestive world (again!damnit!) Anyway, holding onto my last
semblances of dignity I explained my situation to a coffee shop manager and she pointed me in the direction of a
"receptacle". God I wish I could veer away from toilet humour but according to the Lonely Planet its going to be about 90%
of my trip - so get used to it!
Eventually we returned to the docks just to learn that the ferry wasn't going anywhere today. Back to L'Hippocampe where
we brought lunch. I ate lightly and slept for the rest of the day.
19th May: we tried the ferry again. Still no luck. I'm feeling a bit better now, but have developed a red spotty rash all over my
body. The one plausible conclusion we came to was that I was suffering from Scarlet fever - GREAT!!