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  #31  
Old 4 Dec 2011
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Drills in Afi























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  #32  
Old 5 Dec 2011
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Fantastic pictures and writing. I've just got back from Morocco and would love to have continued as you are.
Happy trails.
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  #33  
Old 5 Dec 2011
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Smile Thank you Ionut and Ana

Thanks for sharing these great pics and stories with us! Grant and I went through Africa a few years ago, took a few pics but were constrained by the fact it was before digital cameras and we had a limited budget for film. Looking at your pics makes me really want to go back again.
Please keep them coming!
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  #34  
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Amazing photos,and a truly great write up too. Excellent. Thanks for sharing!
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  #35  
Old 17 Dec 2011
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Ekok - Mamfe: Abandon all hope ye who enter (Dan

Our coworkers from the Afi camp didn't keep their promise to hold us hostages to the project. We secretly wished that somehow we could linger longer, in spite of the pricey Cameroon, Congo and DRC visas already in our passports. But our time to move on had come. And we have been dreaming of Cameroon - nicknamed "miniature Africa" - for a long time. The 9th of October presidential elections had passed peacefully, instead of turning into a bloody conflict, as predicted by the foreign news agencies. Paul Biya had paid for 7 more years of direct acces to Cameroon's wealth and power with a few campaign t-shirts and some bags of cash.
We had taken the visa in Abuja: 1 photo, application form and 50000 CFA. Gas is aprox. 595 CFA/l.
9th of November, last days of rainy season. We zoom from Afi to Ikom, where we fill up for the last time with the dirt-cheap Nigerian petrol and call home. 20 km farther we cross the border from Mfum to Ekok, where the Cameroonian customs officer has some troubles figuring out that our visas are still valid. A few hours and 7000 CFA later we have a Laissez passer for 14 days and we start rolling - late as hell - on the dreaded Ekok - Mamfe road, possibly the most difficult of its kind in all of Africa.

A Nightmare Begins


We are fierce and climb steeper and steeper hills of unsealed mud that has petrified under the scorching sun. Where pools of water linger, the laterite sinks our tires into a sticky swamp of hell. The Chinese are working at this road and they say in 2 years the legendary over-lander's nightmare will be buried under smooth tarmac. For now, the beast is alive and is claiming all our mental and physical energy. Ana walks the toughest parts. It's all challenging, but we are coping well.





Romanians say that "one must not celebrate before the race is over". At a crossing, through a crater the size of a lorry, I feel the clutch on fire and my rear wheel just dead. I'm stuck, I have no clutch and people come running. I know I don't have a spare clutch, nightmare begins. As it turns out, we are on a plantation, where a 10 houses community has set camp to profit from the traffic to Nigeria. We carry alu-boxes, dry sacks and our frozen souls under a palm shed, then we push the bike uphill. A woman fetches us water to shower and plant on Ana's lap a 7 months baby who makes a wee. At might we drop exhausted and in a state of disbelief on our punctured mattresses. In the morning we begin the damage control operation: we have some food (oats, tea, 2 cans, 1 soup) and 4000 CFA (6 Euro). We buy garri, sweet potatoes, Magi, sugar, bananas and oranges and we sent scooter-taxis to Ekok to charge a borrowed SIM. After 4 weeks of conservation work in Nigeria, there we were, living among poachers, smelling the daily catch of bush meat (porcupine, monitor lizard, tortoise) in the villagers' pots and listening how illegal loggers cut rare trees, then ship them to Nigeria on floats during the night. We have to renounce all privacy, constantly scrutinized and hassled by curious passengers, dozens of truck drivers and mechanic wannabes. Kids begged for any plastic spoon and old sock we dared to use. By the third day we were forced to buy at inflated prices the oranges and potatoes that villagers had picked from the floor behind their house. By night, drunken people debating loudly our situation kept us awake, with alarming key words like moto, rich, money, Abuja, kidnapping. When we barely managed to close an eye, the goats and roosters would begin a delirious routine, feeding our paranoia. Every day we felt more tired and hopeless. We missed our scheduled live TED conference, but we somehow managed to contact our Abuja friends and our families. Harry bought a replacement clutch, FedEx-ed it to Abuja, from where it would be trucked to Ikom, then carried over the border by a taxi.


It was the 5th day in Nsanaragati when saw the first white faces. Another overlander's vehicle had gotten stuck in the pothole that had claimed our Tenere. Jacques, Delphine, Lea (4,5 yrs) and Elisa (3 yrs) had left Toulouse for a year long African adventure by Land Rover Defender. It was Elisa's b-day, Lea had a fever, but all they said was: "rescue team is here". We took their generous offer to be towed to Bamenda and after 30 minutes of packing, we were attempting something we'd only seen at Dakar.


© Delphine
Lea is resting with high fever while Gillian is watching.


The shed where we lived for 5 days. © Delphine

The impossible becomes possible on the infernal 10 km to Eyumojok. No image can begin to describe what is like to actually be doing what we did, but that's all we have to remind us of this improbable experience.



© Delphine


© Delphine


© Delphine


© Delphine

One day the Chinese machines will burry the Ekok-Mamfe legend under tarmac.








Resting on some cocoa bags with a high fever from exhaustion. In the background, the car we later helped out of the mud.


The epic day ended with Elisa blowing her 3 candles at the bivouac. © Delphine






Campbells … in Africa


© Delphine




We wash our vehicles.

The road to Bamenda took us another two days, because the good tar is alternating with unsealed patches.






© Delphine
Brilliant camping spot, in the middle of the primary forest. Rain comes over indeed, but we medicate with Pastis and hot dogs.













In Bamenda we camp at Foyer Eglise Presbiteriene and spend our time doing laundry, shopping for necessities, finding a shoe guy to sew our disintegrating slippers and emailing home.


African plums


Concha, a protein powerhouse served for breakfast in the north-west











The other overlanders we had met en route are already in Congo and informed us that DRC and Angola visas are impossible to get now, because of the upcoming Congolese elections that are expected to become violent in the buildup. They got stuck in Pointe Noire and had to ship their vehicles (2 cars + 2 bikes) to Namibia and fly via JoBurg. A very scary and expensive option, we are hoping that as we already got our DRC visa we might get lucky with Angola as well in Matadi, if we can reach it before our Congo and DRC visas expire. In the meantime, our clutch arrived in Abuja and will be shipped to Yaounde where we will pick it up next week from the UPS office. With days to spare, we decide to take a joyride on the famous Ring Road in our french friends Landie.
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  #36  
Old 17 Dec 2011
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Ring Road

The 370 km Ring Road is the most famous piste in Cameroon, crossing a very diverse ethnographic area, home to many of the 280 distinct tribes in the country. We stock on food for the 3-4 days offroading: potatoes, vegs, grasshoppers, fruits.


Yam mountains in Bamenda market










First day: we drive on the piste to Bafut, where we opt out of visiting the local chief compound, because of the tourist tax worthy of a major european museum.


Veggies and grasshopper salad for lunch.


Lea practices for Dakar




We Falls




© Delphine
One has to earn the perfect camping spot. So after a dignified struggle up on a hill covered in wild flowers and thyme and after some intense machete-gardening, we pitch our tent by a pepper tree and a guava. We would wake up with the most incredible view.


Morning grooming. © Delphine






The locals are herders and they look rather north-african. Mohammed and his sons pay us a pleasant visit in the morning.


The countryside is so beautiful that it's soothing to our recent memories of Nsanaragati.


Lake Bamendjing, that famously has a gas pouch on the bottom.


© Delphine


© Delphine
The second day the track becomes almost unpassable at times, with huge holes and ravines that run through the middle of the road. Jacques graciously allows me to drive for the first half of the day and even if it's a tough job, I am having a lot of fun doing it.












© Delphine
In the evening we camp on the edge of a mountain. We start roasting our sweet potatoes and the excellent beef we got from a butcher in a village. We are soon surrounded by a large muslim family, complete with the two wives and many kids. They give us some space to eat or dinner though, only to visit us again the next morning.




The third day we get going quite late, having to struggle with a leaking differential. The road feels smoother and it twists and turns among logged hills, rice paddies and tea plantations.


The green curvy landscape reminds us of our homeland mountains in summer.


© Delphine


We have lunch in Nkambe: rice, beef stew, chicken, boiled plantain and ero


With our now impeccable sense of finding the right place, we pitch our tent in another super place. On the edge of a eucalyptus forest, with a breathtaking view of the surroundings: villages are dotting green mountains and we see cattle returning home and sun setting down in an explosion of colors.


© Delphine


At over 2300m, the air is fresh and cold. A warm shower, a fire, a Bordeaux and a plate of cabbage with beef - cooked with local ingredients - complete a memorable day.
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  #37  
Old 17 Dec 2011
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How We Couldn't Fix The Bike

After 4 zen days, we're back in Bamenda and back to our troubled reality. We organize transportation to the capital Yaounde, where we are expecting the clutch. Our only option is to take the night bus, so we bargain hard for the 30 Euro ride. The vehicle was stolen from the EU aids bulk and is barely recognizable under the load of yams and live pigs. A woman stuffs her chicken under my bike, and with only 2 bottles of water, some ground nuts and what we are wearing, we hop on at midnight, only to descend at 6.30 the next morning. It was impossible to close an eye, but somehow someone manages to steal our mobile during the night. On arrival we ignore the rude hasslers in the bus station, push the bike uphill to a Total and hitch a taxi ride to the meeting with the Vidals.




We apply for the Gabon visa (photo, form, 50,000 CFA, 48 hrs) and we set camp on the lawn of the unfriendly presbyterian center, the cheapest accommodation in Yaounde.


The huge water towers are local landmarks. Nearby, flourishing commerce: call booths and candy stalls.


There's plenty of french boulangeries in Yde, so we feast on buttery viennoiserie.




In the afternoon it's barbecue time: fresh mackerel and tilapia brought in from Douala and served with plantain chips and pepper sauce.


Yummy

The clutch arrives


2 weeks after the bike broke down, we manage to collect our precious parcel.


We are high with joy. Finally we will fix our bike and get going.


Suddenly, my brain freezes over. The clutch discs don't fit! Even though Harry has explained to wemoto.com that we only have one chance to make it, they just sent us the wrong parts. We hit a new dead end.


Later, we would learn that the parts were for the old Tenere.


We pull the cover over our sick bike and we hop again on the Vidal bus. Our fiends suggested we should wait with them in Limbe, which is closer to the entry port for another parcel. This time Harry orders the second clutch from off-the-road.de, who will ship by DHL in about 5 days to Douala.


On the road again, we sample some banana leaf wrapped manioc.




And spicy fish stew.


Missing Nigeria.


Coke reigns supreme here.


But is still cheaper than water.


The green gold of Cameroon is constantly being lorried out and illegally shipped from Douala to every corner of the planet.


A vision of Mt. Cameroon. The lava giant rises above the ocean at 4090m.


We camp in the parking of Seme Hotel, on Mile 11 beach, where the girls' grandfather is expected to visit with a bag full of french gourmet foods.


Everyday we lunch on bushmeat in Batoke village: gazelle, wild rabbit, with manioc and corn on a cob.




Lea


Elisa


In Limbe we feast on fresh fish in the traditional port. Mt. Cameroon lures us again to climb it, and we decide to go for it during the next 2 days.




After the 1999 eruption, a cloud of volcanic ash changed forever the Limbe beach: now black sand is washed ashore by the warm calm waters of the ocean.


ITW was here!


To be continued.
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  #38  
Old 17 Dec 2011
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On Top of Mt. Cameroon

To Dr. Anghelescu (Med Sport Clinic), who helped me to walk again and to our friends Andreea Popa & Dumitru Buda.


We start our ascent in Buea, the hub for guide and porter hiring, where we stock on supplies and food. We will follow the shortest, steepest way up, the Race Track. This is the path taken during the annual race to the top, that famously logged in a stupendous 4 hrs. record! The route will take us through 4 distinct geo-climateric zones: tropical rain forest, savannah, alpine and finally steppe.


The 2 of us plus Delphine, Jacques, Edmond the guide and porters Mahindi, Jonas & Ibrahim start the climb at 10.30 in the morning.


We climb the first 500 m through plantain farms. When we finally entered the forest, the air is cooler and there are beautiful tropical flowers and birds.


We take our first break at 1500 m in the 100 yrs. old Hut 1. Our lunch: sardines and bread.


Hours later we are climbing the steepest part: the path is covered in high savannah grasses and in petrified lava.


At New Hut (1800 m).


Stunning scenery. Perfect clouds are tumbling down into the abyss.




Jacques & Delphine


A little after 6 p.m. we hit our target. We reach Hut 2 (2800 m) where the cold wind blows us into the shack. We gather around a steaming pot of Indomie and spaghetti, then we cuddle in or sleeping bags and tent.


At 4.30 we have to wake up, eat our disgusting chocolate sandwich and blindly follow Edmond towards the summit. Only me, Ana and Jacques chose to continue, and we are rewarded with the most amazing sunrise of our lives. The day slowly opens into an explosion of new colors and the birds offer an exclusive concert of delicate music.


Strange trees covered in moss appear from the ghostly layer of fog.


At Hut 3, at 3800 m above the sea level. Unfortunately Ana was forced to forfeit the ascent here, because of an acute headache.


Me and Jacques climb the final 300 m through a weirdly lunar landscape and breathing becomes more difficult with every step we take.


The Earth curvature is clearly visible from the top.


ITW is on the summit!

P.S. The Race Track is a difficult choice. We carried for days our wounds: solar burns, bunions, blisters, cuts and swollen nails. A longer - 3 or 4 days track may be a wiser option, but we are pround and happy to have conquered another dream.
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  #39  
Old 17 Dec 2011
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Some very amazing photographs, you have a real skill with the camera. So the new Tenere, are you happy with iiit??

It looks back-heavy with all that gear plus the clutch failure with under 40,000kms seems a little early...

Safe riding and we hope you're back on the road quickly.

Thanks for sharing!!
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  #40  
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  #41  
Old 18 Dec 2011
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Totally cool trip, writing and photos - thanks for sharing.

Safe travels.
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  #42  
Old 21 Dec 2011
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The Second Clutch Arrives. Will It Fit?

Thanks all!!!

I'm happy with the bike but the heavy load makes all fun to go away. The early clutch failure is part overloaded bike, part my mistake (by following the small tracks of chinese scooters = like riding w. the rear brake on). Overall is a good lowbuget allrounder.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TurboCharger View Post
Some very amazing photographs, you have a real skill with the camera. So the new Tenere, are you happy with iiit??

It looks back-heavy with all that gear plus the clutch failure with under 40,000kms seems a little early...

Safe riding and we hope you're back on the road quickly.

Thanks for sharing!!
CAMEROON 30/11 - 01/12


The day after we had climbed Mt. Cameroon we felt exhausted in every aspect. Black nails, bleeding toes, sun burns, herpes. As if the long horizontal journey we set out to complete was not enough, we had added to it a long vertical journey. We logged online to check out the status for our delivery, made some calls to DHL Douala and then the customs in the airport to finally clear confusion - as DHL had registered 2 different parcels with the same tracking no. and we were told ours had been delivered to Oslo, Norway. Our parcel was indeed in Douala so we had to organize our trip from Mile 11 to the airport as fast as possible. Luckily a Cameroonian lady stopped by, curious to know about the strangers who were camping in the parking and eager to have some company while waiting for the husband. It proved that the man was attending a meeting nearby and that they lived in Douala, so we asked if they could give us a lift. It was a lovely "hitchhiking" experience, followed by a taxi ride to the miserable place that is DHL customs office, a place of corruption and deceit. We left that place with a lot less money in our pockets ("taxes and duties"), but with our parcel in hand.
Inside the taxi, I torn the paperbox apart: it was the right clutch! We were saved!
We asked the driver to take us to the bus station, we got tickets for the next bus to Yaounde and spend the 2 hours to departure munching on brochettes, fried plantain and fruits.


In the background: us, shabby backpackers in Africa, but with a hope to become overlanders again.




Of course none of the clocks in the station or inside the buses didn't work properly. We have the feeling of being outside any known time or space.


Two parcels: one shipped by FedEx + UPS from the UK, one shipped by DHL from Germany, 3 weeks, plenty of white hairs, a lot of cash and 3 small bags of Haribo bears = new clutch


Deja vu: the second attempt to fix the clutch; this time the place is empty of people, we are alone in a Moebius-like space, with all our hopes and dreams at stake once again


Once again we spread onto the cover all our belongings


A tasty breakfast to fuel our efforts




I manage to get my work done fairly quickly. The hundreds of kilometers of being towed on sloppy roads took a heavy toll on the brake pads, so I have to change those aswell.

It is hard to put into words how we felt when I turned the key in and the engine came back to life. When we knew we were free again to pursue our journey, our dream. We deeply thank our parents, who supported us, Harry, who almost single handily saved us, the Vidals, for offering us a hand and their lovely company during a difficult time of despair and uncertainties.


Even if it's not always hot and sunny in Africa, we are reminded by many improbable Christmas decorations that the winter holidays frenzy is approaching.


The authentic genius loci can only be found again in a delicious plate of beef suya and grilled plantain.


Sun is shining and we are enjoying our last Cameroonian meal. The customs officers didn't even realize our Laissez-Passer was long overdue. Is this a sign that our troubles are over?
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  #43  
Old 7 Jan 2012
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Lost

GABON 01/12 - 06/12

Happy Anniversary, Romania! We celebrated the National Day with the chilled and rather hip looking border officers who welcomed us to Gabon, and handed the first professionally printed immigration forms in Africa. It was the first sign that this 9th African country we were entering was different. We had gotten the visa rather effortlessly in Yaounde (50,000 CFA), after trying in vain in Lome, Togo and in Abuja, Nigeria. From the border there was perfectly smooth tarmac, the kind of track designed for a petrol-head. Twists and hairpins, rapidly alternating at sometimes adrenaline pumping incline, spectacular luck jungle, 100% pleasure for hundreds of kilometers.
Even if we roll through diminutive villages with no more than a dozen wooden huts, long is forgotten the poverty of West Africa. And if life in Nigeria is unthinkable without the power generators, the Gabonese must have is the grass trimmer. The result is the entire countryside looks like it could host a golf tournament anytime, even if it's not likely that many villagers would attend. The prices for everything match the manicured look: double or even triple compared to other CFA countries. Petrol is still at about 550 CFA/l though, so we soon arrived in Bitam, where we humbly requested permission to sleep for the night at a catholic mission.




The sister in charge kindly invited us to join an impromptu jamming of the kids. We learned that they are all orphans, hosted and schooled by the mission, and that the money for this charitable operation comes from Canada. We sing and dance into the night. All our misery in Cameroon and the aggressivness of the people seem a thing of the past.


We were heading towards Libreville and soon big artificial openings were replacing the dense jungle, signalizing massive logging operations, just like we'd seen in other parts of Africa. During the 50 years of African independence, many countries were torn apart by bloody conflicts and political mayhem. Gabon managed to somehow stay afloat, building a solid, stable economy, based on petrol and rich mineral resources. Then, in 1999, the english explorer J. Michael Fay hiked over 2000 miles along the Congo basin. His 455 day adventure changed Gabon forever. The president declared over 10% of the surface of the country as national park, transforming Gabon overnight into a champion of conservation. The unique biodiversity of this largely unexplored country was on every eco-tours agency mind, so they soon started moving in and advertising fabulous and very expensive packages for the rich. We could never become their clients. We were just going to Libreville to meet the Romanian-Gabonese family of Radu, a project initiated over a year ago by the only Romanian ever to have kissed the lips of Billie Joe Armstrong, Stoi.


Soon our GPS let us know we were crossing into the southern hemisphere.


The sign that marks the Ecuator is covered in overlanders' stickers. We put the dot on the I.


On the Ecuator equality of the sexes is finally achieved.

We were chasing the time, with visas for Congo and DRC soon to expire. We had no expectations, only stress that we were late and unable to spend more quality time with our new friends. But radu had a different plan. He would guide us to a place that we were sworn secrecy to. Beautiful, impossible to find unless initiated by someone who knows it well - and there are very few of those people - this place can read your emotional profile and respond with the right energy, the one you need to recover your balance, to feel one. In this LOST place there is a beach, the perfect beach.


Anticipating arrival.


Nana

The off-road that eventually arrives on the beach is temperamental and difficult, separating the brave from the unworthy. The rain was soon melting the sand and laterite into a lava under our truck. Then we arrived on the shore: mellow waters washing white sands, not a soul for miles, paradise.




The only human touch: a shed with a table with benches, a barbecue, a hammock.


I struggle for hours to light the barbecue. I am having a great time doing this.


Cristina


Cristina


Cheers!


Cristina tastes the olive oil.




The photos are far from the unbelievably laid-back reality.














After sunset we lay the table: grilled chicken and pork, tomato salad, chilled pineapple and , a very summery Romanian fare.

The day of our departure from Libreville, Frederik dressed Ana in elegant African attire. The girls spend the entire morning at the Angola and Congo embassies, trying to find out more about the elusive visas.




Good bye, Radu & co., good bye Libreville! Thank you for your hospitality and see you soon!

Another catholic mission becomes our home for one night: we sleep over in Mouila, hosted by a very smart monsignor, who serves us local and invites us into a room that is also the library.






Magnificent books, some even from the XVIII th century.





In the morning we cannot find any petrol in Mouila or N'Dende, so we make a 35 km detour to Lebamba, then we return in N'Dende for exit stamps. Now less than 50 km separate us from the misterious border to the Congo and then DRC, the dark heart of Africa. Soon, we will descent into the unknown.

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  #44  
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100% Off Road

CONGO 06/12 - 09/12


"Donnez moi l'argent!" were the first words spoken by the Congolese at the border. As always, people, especially when in uniforms, were demanding money, souvenirs, even our bike, dead sure that we are being sponsored by our government, our rich parents or that we can easily take a plane back home or just buy a new bike. We managed to avoid paying any bribes one more time and a hour later we had our passports stamped in on time. The Congo visa was not hard to get in Abuja, but it was soon to expire: we had only until the 11 th to exit the country, but what made things even more tricky was that on the 14 th a second visa would expire swell, the one for DRC. That meant the countdown to Matadi, the last place we were hoping to get the Angola visa from, had started.
The neat Gabonese landscaping had been already replaced by a hot mess of savannah vegetation, piles of garbage and laterite huts. Hordes of street kids roaming the decrepit villages, along untamed chickens, piglets and goats. Tarmac had finished long ago, we were rolling on a piste of laterite bearing all the ugly scars of recent rains. We were back to the realm of rainy season, off-road and pain.

The custom police and border control people warned us about another overlander's vehicle crossing the border about 2 hours before. Hoping we would be fast enough to catch up with them, I went full throttle ahead. When passing through Kibangou, the first little town after the border, I was so into the groove that I could not even glimpse at the police officers waving desperately. Some 5 km outside town though, I hear the unmistakable sound of a bike engine closing in. I wonder if we are being followed, but minutes later a white guy shows up on a KTM. I am so surprised that I can aryl mumble a hello. Alper is from Germany and is traveling together with his friend Esther around Africa for 8 months. They had already pitched their tent in the backyard of some villager, so they summon us to join the party. Back in Kibangou we learned that the German's set-up kicks ass: a Toyota Land Cruiser + a KTM 690, a solid mix of contort and fun!






Our host is Madame Poulet, the wife of a local mother****er

We learn that we and the Germans share the same problem: if our DRC visa is valid until the 14th, theirs will expire only 1 day later. We conclude we all have less than 10 days to transit the two Congos, while avoiding the turbulence in Kinshasa and the potential refugees in Brazzavilles, to get the elusive Angola transit visa and, subsequently, to exit DRC. We also discover we have been planing to follow the same piste south of Mindouli, and to catch the ferry in Luozi. It's only logical that we decide to team up until Matadi...


The next morning the rain is back, we fight not to fall while riding on the bloody laterite slippery like glass and we hardly notice the stunning surroundings. The Mila-Mila mountains stretch their curvy shades of green into Gabon; a misty fog camouflages their geometry.



We soon arrive in Dolisie, the first big city in Congo, where Madame Poulet told us we can find another Angolan Consulate. Indeed, there it is and the diplomat confirms that a 5 or 7 days visa is available for 100 USD. But there are over 500 km of corrugated road to the border with DRC, so she suggests to get it in Matadi, or buy 2 transit visas and go back to Pointe Noire in order to cross Cabinda. A quick lunch and a quick run to the mechanics for the Toyo suspension and later we decide to move on with our initial plan.


The Chinese are working on the road, so we try our luck on the under construction portions, but we get in even more trouble. The sticky laterite into a deadly concoction - the African ice - that soon claims my 90% bold back tyre. Bloody Conti TKC 80! Twice I bite the dust (mud), it feels like riding on wet soap! The aluminum boxes get damaged and my rear brake lever is bent; I hammer everything in place as much as I can, but I am forced to tie one of the boxes to the frame to kind of make it work. Later, in camp, I try to get the job done more professionally, but I manage to puncture a vein with the hammer instead. Esther intervenes to stop the freakish Tarantino-style blood squirt and everything seems under control.


The next day Alper rides along on his KTM and we are having a bloody good time.










We find drinking water in a village, where, as usual, dozens of villages gather while we fill up the tanks.






For a while the road seems to improve a bit; the sun is up, and I remember how easy and fun is to ride without pillion!


The corrugated road with large potholes is more difficult for the car, so the girls are having a rough drive.

One more unidentified bush animal ends up in our lunch in Madingou, where once again we have a meeting with destiny. At a nearby table we meet a man who tells us about a different piste than the one we were to follow, a better one, he says. 100 km shorter, via Boko Songho. He was crossing that route regularly 2 years ago, we write down the name of the villages along it, we sketch a map and off we go. Beyond Boko Songho there is a blank area on the Michelin map, we will have to ride through to see what's there.

Unfortunately rain returns, and soon after the village we realize the road is not as great as we hoped. As always in Africa, information about distances, time and quality of the road is to be taken with a big grain of salt. We arrive in Boko Songho only late in the afternoon, and we are immediately summoned in the gendarmerie office. The unfriendly chief of immigration police almost has us arrested for being tourists. Who are we? What is our real mission? We are ordered to set camp on the football field and told we must stay here for 2 days, because the borders to DRC are closed. We are awaiting the official results of the elections to be broadcasted from DRC, until then nobody makes a move. Many worrying thoughts trouble our night, but before laying to sleep we have to shower in front of the whole village. The next morning we are late for our appointment with the chief, who comes up with a completely different story: now the borders are open, even if the proclamation has been delayed, but we have to pay for the exit stamp or buy a laissez-passer (in fact a document that substitutes a passport + visa for citizens of neighboring countries). We discuss a lot, finally managing to get the stamps for free, but we have to pay a visit to the sub-prefect office before departure, which is not entirely unpleasant.


Rain clouds again


The marshes, many potholes and unrelenting rain slow us down to an unbearable 6 km/h, we have only 12 km to Minga, the actual border point, where we can solve our customs papers.





















Three sets of custom and police people question and want to search our vehicles in Minga. We learn that only 3-4 vehicles cross this border each month, and that the last white people were here about 12 years ago. We have to go through the meticulous and utterly ridiculous process before being told that they want some money: to stamp our passports or just to let us go, or to fix the bridge that they just found out that had been washed away by the rain. We cannot trust anybody anymore, we just want to get out of this mercantile toxic place.


Unfortunately some 2 km away the drama unfolds: the information about the bridge proves accurate, we explore by bike the surroundings only to find an alternate route that stops in a village, so after pondering the idea that we could fix the bridge ourselves, we eventually return to Minga, to negotiate a solution with the village chief.


Alper is delegated to hire a team of workers and in the meantime we are invited to sleep over in the mayor's house, still under construction. We dine by oil lamp light and all we can think of is whether the villagers will cooperate to make the bridge somehow posable tomorrow…As the house has no windows and no doors, chickens, pigs and goats roam our "bedroom" all night. We put our mosquito net on the floor, everything is wet and reeks of sweat and mud. How will we get out of this?


At 9 in the morning we are happy to count 14 villagers working on the bridge thing. We just might make it!


Also the water level has dropped considerably overnight. 90 minutes later we are able to cross the makeshift bridge.




And it only cost 10,000 CFA, a t-shirt and 1,000 CFA worth of Pastis.

11 km farther we reach N'Finga, the dreaded and much awaited frontier of DRC. The people are so surprised to see us that they forget to ask any bribes, and so we cross the friendliest border in Africa so far. The custom formalities and actual stamping takes place in the next bigger village, N'Kundi, where we find more friendly faces and loads of kids who, we are told, are seeing white people for the first time in their lives. A man in uniform starts directing the kids to chant our names, tattooed in their young memories as marks of a historical moment. But for us, the moment is indeed a milestone to remember: we managed to get inside DRC before our visa expired, and in a time when all foreign media had launched a paranoid propaganda about the elections.
Now we were chasing the Angola visa before the 14th of December. A new challenge was on!
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We got into DRC. Now How Can We Get Out Of Here?

DRC 11/12 - 19/12

In N'Kundi we were now gods, so changing money, refueling and finding food was a child's play. In this country everybody "eats" the dollar, or the congolese franc. It feels like a parallel universe: while nobody outside here gives a damn about the US currency, here they only take and use crisp banknotes that look like they just came out of the printer. And the prices are quite paranormal, compared to the rest of West and Central Africa: we don;t know how will we afford to even transit this country, food, fuel, everything is expensive, and low quality. At least we are being told that the road will start to get better from here on, but how can we trust such an information?


Should we have made this journey by boat?


Our semi-amphibian vehicles suffer a lot. Some flooded passages are so deep that my front like is completely submerged. The Toyo is having even a harder time coping with the immense pools, due to the extreme back load.




Every other pool of water we have to stop and check the depth and discuss how to approach it. Sometimes I ride in front, right through the moddle of the ponds, to help Alper assess the water level.


In between drama we take a breather on the sandy rocky patches. Our boots are filled with dirty water, we are soaking wet and no more dry clothes in the sacks!




We completely miss the beauty of this charming region, totally stressed out and worn out.




Disaster strikes: trying to avaid the deep middle, Toyo ends up with both differentials stuck in the mud. We try everything; we push…


We fight...


We dig with shovels, hammers, our bear hands…


Then we push again…

Finally, 3 long hours later, we manage to extract the car from the mosquito infested marsh. We are totally exhausted, wet and in dispar, but we decide it's impossible to stop now. There is no place to camp, we have nothing to change into and we have to push it to Luozi, where we hope to catch the ferry tomorrow. Two more times the Toyota gets stuck: once a providential Rover comes to the rescue. At almost midnight we arrive, and almost faint asleep, at the catholic mission in Luozi, where we are hosted for free.


We were on the ferry the next day at 11, but we crossed the mighty Congo only 5 hours later. The very drunk ferry worker that has squinted to see the rain coming made everybody leave the deck and wait and wait and wait. The rain came indeed, an hour later, then there was nothing else to do, but drink, talk and hope the rain will stop. On the other side of Congo the road was almost impassable after all that water had fallen over for hours: I don't even know how we managed to get through. Every meter of that road was pure hell, alternating rocky steep inclines with deep ravines, deep soapy mud with sandy tracks, punctuated by abyssal holes filled with sticking water. To make our ride even harder, rain started once again: small drops, cold, unrelenting. I couldn't believe it when at 21 hrs, after 6 days of riding over 700 km off-road I finally hit tarmac again. We had to stop and cheer, then we decided to splurge on a room for the night. In Kimpese we found a catholic mission, not so catholic after all, as they wanted to charge us 100 USD for two not so functional rooms. Finally we settled for 40 and got some salty goat brochettes and to celebrate our success.


Back to our fav breakfast in the mo'


We fill up our tanks under the electoral posters. In the background, the opposition candidate who had announced organized riots after the voting.





The 140 km to Matadi are a breeze as the sun is shining for the first time in days and we have perfect tar road under our wheels.



By 11 we were knocking at the Angolan Embassy. But here we had another shocking news: the consul had fled to Angola on an early Xmas holiday, under the pretext of potential civil unrest before, during and after the DRC elections. There is nobody here to make our visas, only the bodyguard and a secretary remain, the consulate is closed until at least the 15th of January! Our hopes are shattered, we have made it here in time, in spite of all the hardships, only to knock at a closed door….What will happen now? Was all this that we have been through in vain, or will we somehow find a way out?
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