Day 74… Wednesday 14th June
Early start today due to the Gabon/Republic of Congo border crossing and uncertainties with delays. We knew the road before and after the border crossing was in bad condition therefore anticipated a long day. It was an incredibly long day (15 hours on the go). Turned up at the last town Ndende police station to get our passports stamped out of Gabon and were re-directed to another building 5 minutes down the road. The police officer asked a local kid to go with us to show the way and we dropped her back at the police station. Sat in the waiting area of the correct building listening to a heated argument in the office. Once that ended, the grumpy immigration officer took our passports and carnet and signed them in his office with the door closed. I could feel the anger still oozing out of him when he returned them to us. Back at the car, there was a chap who asked for a lift to the Congo border where his wife worked. He was also called Allen but spells it Alaen. Another opportunity to practise my French on another Manchester City fan. The drive to the Congo border was 3 hours on a single dirt track with very bad sections and bumpy potholes. The motto of the day was ‘lentement’ (slowly) which was very funny as these potholes are horrendous and even going slowly, you feel every bump. Alaen was great company and offered to drive to the boarder. He knew the road well as he crosses it often due to work and knew the officers at the police check points. The Congo border was easy and involved 4 separate buildings:
Building 1 – passport and visa check in
Building 2 – passport check in (we were introduced to Alaen’s wife Sylvie who was the police officer signing us in)
Building 3 – passport stamp in
Building 4 – carnet stamp in and vehicle check
Alaen was travelling on to Pointe Noire and as we were heading in the same direction, we continued the journey together after Sylvie had cooked us a delicious lunch of fish stew, casava bread and papaya. Alaen very kindly drove Greta for the rest of the day (7 hours) to Dolicie. Very bad road conditions and passed a couple of trucks stuck in the mud. We made it though! The last 40km was a newer section of road and parts were still under construction. It had got dark by 6.20pm so the remaining 4.5 hour journey time was at night. A new experience for us as night driving had been deliberately avoided up until now. A couple of police check points slowed us down. Alaen recommended a hotel in Dolicie and we arrived there at 10.45pm absolutely exhausted from our longest day on the road having set off at 7.20am.
While we had the shock absorbers replaced the other day on reflection I should have got the leaf springs done also. They are now completely worn out and sagging down, meaning a much harder drive especially on the potholed dirt roads. Tricky part is finding somewhere that can do it quickly and cheaply. They may have to wait until we reach Angola. New or used, at this point I don’t care.
I was very grateful for Alaen doing the driving. I had to put my faith in him but he said he drives it a few times a month and knows the road very well, which paid off. If Alaen was not with us and I were driving we would have camped by the road side, but instead he got us all the way through to Dolisie even in the dark.
And because it was getting late I did get annoyed at the last checkpoint just before Dolisie, where at 10pm the Police officer wanted to take our documents over to his hut, inspect them, and ring his boss. All was fine in the end but when one of the other officers started jabbering on about something and wasting our time at which point I gave up and stomped off back to the car. I think they realised that by that point in the day I had enough and wanted to head off.