Travel Through The Central African Republic on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Central African Republic on a Harley (5/12/00 - 16/12/00)
Distance 1571 km (209454 km to 211025 km)

This is part of the Seventh section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  Democratic Republic Of Congo
 

  5/12/00 Unfortunately our arrival in the C.A.R. held no better news with officialdom. Arriving at 5 pm we were still with the Gendarmerie at 8 pm when they finally stopped for the evening holding our passports for the morning. During the three hours we were verbally abused and on two occasions had rifles threaten us. The rifles were loaded in our presence for extra effect and on one occasion we were given an ultimatum of 1,2,3, where they threatened to fire. All to intimidate us to pay charges where there was no directive available for us to read from Bangui (the capital) nor a receipt to be issued. In short, extortion. This was carried out mainly by the military officer. We pitched our tent and slept in the police grounds to await tomorrow's events.

6/12/00 It was a different story this morning. The army problem man of last night was nowhere to beUnloading on the other bank seen and the Gendarmes were at pains to inform us that they were educated and the military was not. That they did not have a problem with us and completed the formalities including a receipt for the $US 22.00 we paid for the motorcycle and us to enter the country. Donuts and coffee were included in the deal to ensure no hard feelings. We had indicated last night that we would report the incident at the capital and this morning I wrote my diary in full view leading them to assume this may be the report. Petrol now comes, since May, via Cameroon by road and not river barge from Brazzaville since the Congo war stopped that supply. There was only 20 litres in Zemio and we had to buy 13 of them to get to Bangassou, $US 50.00, like gold, but having spent four days waiting in Congo we wanted adequate petrol. The road generally excellent, the worst here about the best in Congo, a lot of wooden bridges, some collapsing, or burnt, one beam broke under the weight of the motorcycle but luckily the two either side were solid and we drove out. Most were excellent as was the barge river crossing. We stopped for lunch in a small village asking for water and to use their fire for cooking.Stuck in the mud It turned out to be a small coffee stall using locally grown coffee. They had no change to our small money so we gave them a tea towel in payment for the coffees. Overnighted at the mission in Rafai, the first white people we have seen in three weeks, very friendly warm reception and a bed in the guest quarters, but the best was the food. We had both lost considerable weight in Congo. Difficult conditions for riding plus the lack of easily obtainable protein foods and a bout or two of diarrhoea each. Salad, soup, tasty tender meat and rice but cooked to our tastes was a great welcoming food for hungry travellers.

7/12/00 We had intended to leave for Bangassou this morning but couldn't. Flushing toilet, mirror, shower and a bed, not having had all in the one place for three weeks together with good food prevented us mentally from leaving. We checked to make sure we weren't overstaying our welcome before commencing work on the motorcycle. The speedometer driver broke yesterday, probably a rock, we fixed it along with the neutralBuying most of the petrol in town light not earthing, cleaned air filter of mainly grass seeds, carburettor of dirt and sludge, bent back into near order pannier brackets and tightened loose nuts and bolts. Not exactly a rest day but a load off the mind for motorcycle maintenance.

8/12/00 We left early, jointly with a mission vehicle to make the ferry crossing out of town. The head Franciscan monk was taking another monk to Bangui. They soon left us behind on the reasonably good dirt where we covered 300 km for the day seeing two 4x4's and one moving truck (four roadside trucks being repaired), quite a busy road. Bangassou is a dying town, no longer on any route anywhere. Petrol cheaper and a better exchange rate, and more available, $US 60.00 for 24 litres. Although the rain forest is mostly still alongside the road, there has been a little local clearing and we are seeing the occasional animal like duiker (deer), squirrel and a genet. The fact that dead monkeys are for sale to the almost non existent traffic means that the forests are being cleared of animals even if the forests themselves remain. Camped again in a village,Waterfall along the roadside more worldly here with clay brick houses with more than one room on occasions. The varieties of foods also increasing with western produce as we head further west.

9/12/00 African to the T as we arrived in Bambari the monopoly on petrol and currency exchange saw the price increase the more they realized we needed it. Up from 2 to 3 dollars a litre. We left town with just enough petrol to get to Grimari, where on arrival no-one would change US dollars. The local Catholic mission our only option provided us willingly with enough petrol to Bangui, at Bangui prices, $US 1.00 a litre, and accepted US money at Bangui exchange rates, put us up for the night and fed us dinner and breakfast. Naturally we were generous in a donation to the mission, them having assisted us out of a difficult situation. Another 300 km today.

10/12/00 Asphalt, sweet asphalt after 120 km of the last piste. We were welcomed for morning tea of baguettes and French cheese by a French water drilling teamOverloaded, but moving truck, first in a long while in Sibut. They are working here providing wells for villages, paid for by the French government, as the current government in C.A.R. seems only to be providing for itself. The country going backwards rapidly, like most of the African countries we have visited. Quite a depressing feeling and one that may partially excuse the "grab everything while there is something to grab" mentality of the people. The asphalt excellent and 12 km from Bangui our first unavoidable police check in the 1000 km of C.A.R. Here we finally had our passports stamped as entering the country, polite and no payment asked or given. Bangui for the night in the main travellers camp ground where about one traveller a month passes through, yes we are here alone.

11/12/00 Nothing happening countrywide today, a national strike. Seems no public servants, police, army, teachers have been paid in about 17 months. No wages for any government employees for almost a year and a half. No wonder there is corruption and poverty. No-one is game to venture outside to conduct business for fear of violence from the protesters. We stayed in, cleaned mud and dust from some gear and managed to borrow Rafai Mission, friendly and welcoming, first westerners in two weeks the owners lap top to get some typing done.

12/12/00 Chad visas issued on the spot $US 22.00 but our Cameroon ones don't start till the 25th of December, and the embassy here wouldn't change them without issuing new ones, for the usual fee. We opted to buy a similarly inked pen to that originally used on the visas and adjust the dates ourselves as we would like to enter Cameroon about the 16th of December. Cut a piece of car tyre to use as a front engine mount support (the old one was broken) and prepared to carry a car battery in the top pannier box as there are no small batteries in town. Internet just starting and expensive but competition has appeared. Updated the web page and sent emails.

13/12/00 Changing US dollars to CFA's at the banks here is expensive. Buy 890, sell 970, almost 10% difference. Much changing is done within the expat community at the casino or as in our case by the well drillers we met in Sibut. NeedingOverloaded car, note people hanging on the outside and travelling in the trunk to change more we approached an American expat who organized it for us. Seems the banks have an overpriced monopoly so no-one uses them. We are staying near Kilometre 5, a large market of anything you could imagine, welding, boot repair, (which we used), timber, food, including dried caterpillars, monkeys, rodents and pangolin. While in a share taxi on the strip from the city to Kilometre 5, all traffic suddenly stopped, stones were being thrown at moving vehicles and riot police arrived. We couldn't understand what was happening but were pleased our driver reversed quickly and circumvented the problem.

14/12/00 Everything is clean and ready for tomorrow's dust, but at least we will start feeling clean. Have been enjoying expensive French pastries cooked by Lebanese. Plastification has arrived in Bangui with plastic bags littering the streets. Rebuilding after the civil war, three years ago, occurring. Western produce available at a price and local produce very cheap. Not a country or city to relax in as a tourist but not too bad to recover after Congo.

15/12/00 Heading for Cameroon, decided not to take the boat to Congo Brazzaville as the road north from there in the wet season is described as horrendous. Instead we hope to have Christmas on the Cameroon coast. 460 km to Bouar, 340 good sealed and 120 OK, piste. The wet season over for about six weeks and with most of C.A.R.'s supplies coming by truck over this road it is already beginning to powder, but the sharp edges of the potholes have been rounded. Where there is traffic in this part of the world there are police making problems to receive bribes. We drove through a couple of stops but those with weapons we usually stop at. Not speaking French a bonus. They usually require the motorcycle documents, inspect them and ask us to come to the office. We ask, problem? Oh no they say, we say good, quickly snatch back the documents, which are photocopies on green paper anyway, and leave, so far without problems. Forgot to mention, yesterday we had our first puncture in the Dunlop's in Africa. Pulled the nail, used a tubeless plug and bicycle pump.

16/12/00 150 km of bad dirt to the border travelling slowly. Through the five official stops, each requesting money but fobbed them off with "Bangui say no pay" they are trying to stop corruption.
 

Move with us to Cameroon
 

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