The Achievable Dream 5-part series - the definitive guide on DVD for planning your motorcycle adventure. Get Ready! covers planning, paperwork, medical and many other topics! "Inspirational and Awesome!" See the trailer here!
Gear Up! is a 2-DVD set, 6 hours! Which bike is right for me? How do I prepare the bike? What stuff do I need - riding gear, clothing, camping gear, first aid kit, tires, maps and GPS? What don't I need? How do I pack it all in? Lots of opinions from over 150 travellers! "This DVD will save you a fortune!"See the trailer here!
So you've done it - got inspired, planned your trip, packed your stuff and you're on the road! This section is about staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure. And crossing borders, war zones or oceans!
On the Road! is 5.5 hours of the tips and advice you need to cross borders, break down language barriers, overcome culture shock, ship the bike and deal with breakdowns and emergencies."Just makes me want to pack up and go!" See the trailer here!
Tire Changing!Grant demystifies the black art of Tire Changing and Repair to help you STAY on the road! "Very informative and practical." See the trailer here!
Ladies on the Loose! For the first time ever, a motorcycle travel DVD made for women, by women! These intrepid women share their tips to help you plan your own motorcycle adventure. They also answer the women-only questions, and entertain you with amazing tales from the road! Presented by Lois Pryce, veteran solo traveller through South America and Africa and author of 'Lois on the Loose', and 'Red Tape and White Knuckles.'
"It has me all fired up to go out on my own adventure!" See the trailer here!
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My name is Jolandie Rust. Most people know me as Jo.
I'm from Johannesburg, South Africa and currently living my dream and halfway towards reaching my goal of becoming the first gal to circumnavigate Africa solo.
The dream started out back in 2007 and I initially got around on a bicycle. I cycled through Israel, through and around South Africa in 2008 and became the first person to have cycled around South Africa in 2010, having covered 5951 kilometers in exactly 100 days!
April 2011 I set out from Cape Town to start an epic journey of pedaling around the African continent, but four machete-wielding boys had other plans for me in Northern Angola. And as I stood there, next to the road, in the middle of nowhere, watching these guys take off with just about all my belongings, I just remember thinking to myself: "There has GOT to be a better way of doing this". Soon after (whilst walking back to the nearest town) I decided that I'd start over, buy this time on a motorbike. Best decision ever!
April 2012 I set out, again, from Cape Agulhas (southernmost point of Africa) on my BMW Dakar, and started making my way up the west coast of Africa, again. With a tad more speed this time round though.
And that's where this ride report starts. I look forward to sharing my journey with you and hope to see some of you out there on the road.
It was a cold, wet and windy day on the 7th of April as I made my way to Cape Agulhas. I had a group of riders from the wilddog adventure forum (A (mainly) South African adventure riding forum) with me who'd come out to bid me farewell.
From Agulhas I made my way up the N7 towards Springbok, a town just before you reach the Namibian border.
On Tuesday, 10 April ’12, I crossed the border into Namibia. This is my fourth time in Namibia in the last year. I really do love this country. It feels like home. This is the one country in Africa where I feel completely and utterly safe! I remember last year, when I was cycling through here, I woke up one night around 11:00pm in my sleeping bag(I camped wild most of the time) and there was a man standing over me. Sure, I got a fright and immediately gripped my knife that was in my pocket, but all he wanted to do is check whether I was alive! (Not sure what he would’ve done if I wasn’t….)
Experiencing Namibia on a motorbike is a little different to the slow pace I’m used to on my bicycle. The upside to now being on a motorbike (Apart from faster progress), is that I now get to see different parts of the country. Like riding to Ai-Ais for instance. I’ve always wanted to visit the Fishriver Canyon. And now I got to do so! Really is a beautiful place. I took the C10 to Ai-Ais. Beautiful gravel road. Before I knew it I was blasting off at 100km p/h. (This might be no mean feat for most dual-purpose bikers, but I’ve never ridden so fast on a gravel road!!!). Also had my first decent fall on this road! (oops) I moved to the side of the road to make way for an oncoming vehicle, not seeing the sand lying right on the edge of the road. Snaked a bit at first…and next thing the front wheel just gave way and I hit the ground with a great cloud of dust erupting around me. Luckily the car stopped and a German guy jumped out to help me pick up the bike. I’m sure he must’ve found my laughing very strange. Well I thought it was very funny!!!
I camped out at Ai-Ais for a night. Checking myself in was a load of fun. I’m used to people always staring at me from my bicycle days (not everyday you see a white chick in Africa cycling with a heavily loaded bicycle…all on her own). On the bike, it’s so much more fun. People initially stare when they see the bike, with all her kit and stickers etc. Then, as soon as I take my helmet off you see jaws drop like a Mexican wave.
My evening at the camps was rather quiet. Spoilt myself to a nice and juicy fillet steak and a Savanna Dry to celebrate the occasion. Next morning the other campers started to approach me. I met two ladies (Jennifer and Belinda), accompanied by their Border Collie (Pegasus) riding up the West Coast of Africa in a Land Rover. Yay. More adventurous people!! We had coffee and swapped stories and notes before I left for my next destination (Mariental). Before long we had our maps out and compared routes to see where we could possibly meet up again. But it was obvious that I would be going at a much faster pace than them. So we opted for email updates.
I could feel that I’m coming down with a bit of a cold. This ALWAYS happens right after I launch for a big trip. I think it’s when I start relaxing, then my body just releases all the stress it built up over the preceding months of preparation etc. Initially I wanted to push for Windhoek, but because of the cold I decided to rather stop over in Mariental. The place where I wanted to camp for the night (River Lodge), was fully booked. As luck would have it I met a bunch of guys from Vredendal and Bellville, on their way to Henties to go fishing! They came to my rescue and said I could stay with them as their chalet had two open beds. Perfect! They had seen an article about my trip in a newspaper (not sure which one) and recognized me as soon as I pulled into the camp. Wonderful gentlemen, they took it upon themselves to look after me and gave me a place to sleep and food and drinks…and we even made a deal to meet up in Henties again. (Seeing as I’m also heading that way!). So on Sunday we have arranged when and where we’ll be meeting to continue our little “it’s a small world” party.
Staying over with Ingo and Lisa Waldschmidt tonight. Ingo was the first Namibian to have competed in the Dakar Rally. Namibia will be my training grounds next year in preparation for Dakar 2014. So we've just been chatting Dakar all night! Gets me all excited!!
I left Windhoek to visit Swakopmund and Henties Bay for the first time. It was very different to what I expected. This is what makes it such an adventure! Seeing new places where you have never been before…it excites me. “Exploring my unknown”, I guess I would call it. I met up with the guys from Vredendal that I had met in Marienthal and stayed over with them in Henties Bay. Another night with good food and lots of chatting and joking and laughing. Had such an awesome time with these guys!
I decided to push on from Henties Bay to Ondangwa so I could catch up on the day I had lost and take my next rest day staying at Ondangwa rest camp. I had underestimated just how far it is though! I spent 13 hours on the road that day!! One of those hours was spent negotiating my way out of a speeding ticket in Owamboland. (oops – it was getting dark…hence my being caught for speeding). I managed to get off with a stern warning!
At Ondangwa Rest Camp I met two bikers who are on their way down to Cape Town. Chris and Andrei. Chris is from Switzerland and Andrei from Romania. They have ridden down the West Coast of Africa, via Mali. We spent the night having a few s and telling stories of our experiences. They gave me a whole lot of information and contacts for the road ahead! Like motorcycle club in different countries. (Which is how I got to meet the MC’s in Angola)
Next day I crossed the border into Angola. I had expected it to be a quick and easy task. Not a chance!!! My fixer wasn’t at the border anymore, so I called another fixer. Then the customs officials gave me hassles because I have an ordinary visa and not a tourist visa. So I show then my previous visa which was also an ordinary visa and I had no problems with that one. They still won’t accept it! So I give them the number for the Minister of Local Government in Luanda and my contact in Lobito and tell them to call these people. Which they do. 10 Minutes later they tell me to go through!! And welcome to Angola!!!
I phoned my friends in Ondjiva to notify them that I had arrived and would be waiting for them at their house. (Afrikaans couple from Zimbabwe) They got home from work a little later on. After greeting one another with big hugs and loads of questions we had dinner and sat catching up on what’s been going on in our respective lives. And here is where the proverbial paw-paw strikes the fan.
There we were, sitting, minding our own business when next thing I know four guys storm into the house armed with a pistol a crowbar and some kind of spray which I suspect was mace/ pepper spray.
They find tape in one of the drawers and tape us to chairs. I’m first in line so they’re still very eager and almost use half the roll of tape on me. They tape my hands, my feet, my body to the chair and put tape all around my head to cover my mouth. They tell us to increase the volume of the television. (Guessing so no one can hear what’s going on). They keep demanding money. (Dineiro in Portuguese).
Luckily…the police knew of my whereabouts and came checking in on me. Just as these guys were starting to really get agitated with us, the idiot with the gun took out a magazine to load the pistol, but then heard someone hooting at the gate. It was the Police! They took off into the night. We were able to break free and Hennie ran to open the gate. Within the next 10 minutes about 5 cars filled with Police officers arrived on the scene and it was all pretty chaotic. They only took my phone! I was so relieved, knowing that they could’ve taken the bike and all my gear if they wanted to. And most importantly, we were okay! (My phone was replaced the next day)
So from Ondjiva onwards I have had Police escort all the way, everyday. I am not allowed to move without informing the Police.
From Onjiva I made my way to Lubango, knowing that a very bad stretch of road lay ahead between Xangongo and Cahama. It’s a 83km stretch, bad potholes, sand, you name it. The Police rode with me, all the way. In each town I am handed over to the next convoy who then escorts me to the next town, and so on and so on. The Chief of Police in every town has to literally sign me over to the next Chief of Police, and then I become his responsibility!
In Lubango a friend of a friend of mine in Luanda waited for me and booked me into his Lodge for the night. He took me to dinner and I was surprised by two of my friends from Luanda who also just happened to be in Lubango. Slept like the dead that night.
Next day I rode to Namibe, via Serra de Leba. It is a very beautiful area and going down Leba Pass is any biker’s dream!! The most beautiful mountain pass I have ever seen with awesome switchbacks. And it was designed by a woman!
This was my first time visiting Namibe. I stayed with a family who are friends with a friend of mine in Luanda. (I have lots of friends in Luanda as you may have noticed by now). Lol
I had such a great time with this family. Even though we had some difficulties understanding one another every now and then…we could communicate and chat and laugh. I felt right at home. Everybody here just wants to feed me all the time!! LoL. I don’t understand why! If you look at me you’ll notice it’s not like I’m starving! Food is great though! Love the Portuguese cooking.
In Namibe I had to meet the Governess who welcomed me to her Province and wished me a safe journey from Namibe onwards. I also met with the head of Sport and Chief of Police and members from the Tourism department, to discuss the road ahead etc.
From Namibe…I tackled the worst road I have ridden on to date. Namibe to Lobito via Lucira. I had always wanted to see this area as so many people have told me how beautiful it is. The first 100 kilometers is easy, tar road. From hereon out all the way to Dombe Grande the road condition is either that of a rocky road with sand….or a sand road with big rocks. I fell twice, I think. I am starting to lose count! The Police officers had to help me pick the bike back up everytime I had an off. It helps a lot having them around! Dented my panniers and have a few new scratches…but nothing too serious. I thought my rear shock would give in at any second though. This stretch of road is less than 400 kilometers and it took me 13 hours to complete. I only arrived in Lobito at midnight on Friday evening!!! And then….the Police vehicle’s lights didn’t work!!!! So I had to ride next to them to light the way. At night, on a sandy road, having been on the road for like 11 hours!!! Urrrggghhh. I was so tired I couldn’t care less if I fell over or not. I just wanted to get to Lobito!!!
Like I said, I eventually arrived in Lobito at midnight. I was booked into the Hotel Terminus in Lobito. It’s a four star hotel right on the beach! BEAUTIFUL!!!! It’s like a little piece of heaven! My friend Pedro Bandeira from HoteisAngola arranged for my stay at the Hotel and the owner, Mr Fernando agreed. I spent two days in Lobito, resting…sorting things out. Like the bike! There is a Motorcycle Club in Lobito called “Moto Clube 90”. They met up with me and took care of me whilst in Lobito. Cleaned my bike for me, checked that everything is okay. Replaced some light bulbs that needed replacing. Checked the fluids etc etc.
They took me on a few outrides around town and to Benguela. I had such a good time with these guys! They treat you like royalty and really look after you here! And I really love Lobito. I can’t explain it. There’s just something here that attracts me. Maybe I am losing it because I am starting to think that I can picture myself living here!!!!
The Moto Clube 90 guys rode with me from Lobito to Barra do Kwanza, on route to Luanda. From Barra do Kwanza, the biggest Motorcycle Club in Luanda – Amigos di Picada (Meaning: Friends of the off-road), together with my good friend Candido Carneiro from Trevogel would meet us and escort me the rest of the way into the city. My Police escorts are pretty insane! They quite literally chase everyone off the road, so I can pass by. They will ride into oncoming traffic to stop them and push them off the road….until I have passed. It’s crazy!!!! They make very sure that nobody comes near me and that I am safe.
Meeting up with the guys at Barra do Kwanza was really special! I had expected maybe a couple of bikes to turn up and ride with me. As we crossed the river, you go through two control points. (Oh, this is the other cool thing! I never have to stop at ANY control points!!! I can just ride through, following my escort! Saves on time!)
As we passed through the control points, I just saw this LOOOONG line of bikes and a bunch of people in yellow t-shirts, shouting and waving their hands and making a huge noise. About 30 bikes had come to meet me and would ride with me into Luanda!!!! As I got off my bike champagne got poured all over me and I was greeted by the President of the club, Mr Lillio Almeida. And then I got to say hello to my friend Candido Carneiro. I couldn’t believe that so many guys had come out to meet me!
I had a radio interview and we had loads of photos taken, of course.
And then we rolled out for the ride to Luanda. Two police bikes in front, then a police care, then Candido in his 4x4 with the South African and Angolan flags handing off the back, then the Leader, then yours truly…and then the rest of the pack behind me.
Getting into Luanda was absolute CHAOS!!!!!!
Sirens and hooting with the Police, once again, bringing the traffic to a halt so that I could pass with my very long convoy. If you know what the traffic is like in Luanda, then you will understand that it took some doing to get us all through!! I have never experienced anything like this in my life!
We rode into the city and to “Miami Beach”. A restaurant and club right on the beach. The owner of the establishment welcomed me and they had prepared a whole spread for all of us. Loads of food and !!!
We spent most of the afternoon at Miami Beach. I met a fellow South African reporter for SuperSport. They did an interview with me. SuperSport Massimo in Angola will have regular updates on my trip.
I had to take so many photos with so many people.
One thing I can say is: The Angolans know how to party!!
I only got to bed around half past four this morning!!!
And now, whilst in Luanda, DAX is being serviced. I am trying to catch up updates and washing etc etc.
I am waiting to meet with the Minister of Local Government in Luanda. Still have a few more media appointments to attend to. And then from here I head to Soyo to cross into Cabinda and then to Congo. (Yes, my route changed). But….now we wait for a boat!!!
Tomorrow morning at 05:00am, I will leave Luanda for Soyo. From Soyo, DAX and I will embark on a boat to cross the great Congo River to Cabinda. My initial route would have taken me through the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), but I think that entering Congo (Brazaville) via Cabinda is the best option for me at this stage.
This weekend past, I joined two motorcycle clubs here in Angola on a road trip to Huambo, which is about 300 kilometers East of Benguela. I had not been to this part of Angola and really looked forward to the trip.
We left Luanda Saturday morning just after 05:00am. About 8 of us rode out of Luanda and met up with the rest of the group just outside of town. Another 10 riders or so. From here we hit the road to Huambo. The road between Luanda and Huambo is a fairly decent tar road. Average speed around 110 km p/h. Within the group a “Lider” (Leader) is elected for the day and then the rest of the pack falls in behind the Leader. My spot is always second to the Leader.
The first time I got to ride with a group was back in South Africa, on the day of my launch. Then there was the ride from Lobito to Barra do Kwanza with three members from the Motorcycle Club in Lobito (Moto Clube 90). And then from Barra do Kwanza to Luanda with a convoy consisting of about 20 – 30 odd bikes, 2 Police vehicles, 1 Nissan Patrol and 2 Police motorcycles.
But this was my first “Road trip”. Informal, just for fun. And I really had a great deal of fun! The members from the Motorcycle Clubs really went out of their way to make me feel at home and to look after me. I never had to pay for anything! Not once! They would refuse to accept my money and tell me that they consider it an honor to look after me. Isn’t it amazing? I’m the luckiest girl on earth! ☺
About 70 kilometers from Huambo we met up with the guys from Moto Clube 90 (Lobito). Here we had lunch in Alto Hama and then carried on to Huambo.
In Huambo we attracted a great deal of attention. I think such a big group of bikes usually does attract a lot of attention. But here even more so. People are not used to this ‘lifestyle’ as such. But it is rapidly growing here in Angola.
Saturday evening we all went out to a Club. Having a lot of fun, dancing and singing. I even learned to Samba. LoL. The next day we were all looking a little weary, but still managed to keep to the program and visit the town of Kuito. This town is one of the towns that were most affected by the war. You can still see the scars that the town carries to this day.
From Huambo we made our way to Lobito on Sunday. This was my fourth time in Lobito. It is my favorite town in Angola. I love the people and the lifestyle. If I had to compare it to a town in South Africa, I’d say it’s a little bit like Cape Town. Luanda is more like Johannesburg. Busy, big city…always on the go. Lobito is more relaxed and the people are extremely friendly!
Then from Lobito we headed back to Luanda. Coming into Luanda was insane!! As it was a long weekend, a lot of people left Luanda to visit friends and family in other parts of the country. So yesterday everybody started heading back to the big city. I have NEVER seen such a long stand-still-bumper-to-bumper line of cars!! I am convinced it must have carried on for at least 20 kilometers. Well that’s what it felt like. NO space to move whatsoever. Seeing as we’re on dual-purpose bikes, we made a plan. Bikes on this road trip included: Honda Varadero (x5), KTM 990 Adventure (x1), Harley Davidson (x2), Yamaha Super Tenere 1200 (x 5), BMW R1200GS (x1), KTM Duke (x1), Morini Scrambler (x1), BMW Dakar (x1),
Maneuvering the bikes through a ditch next to the side of the road and onto the embankment next to the ditch. Then back through the ditch and in between the cars and trucks. Everybody hooting and revving engines all around you. Seeing as my bike’s the loudest, there’s never any doubt as to my whereabouts. LoL. AND, it helps creating a path down the middle of the road.
Once we made it through the traffic from hell, the President of the Motorcycle Club in Luanda said to me: “You have become a true Angolan”. Hehe.
Today is spent catching up on admin and going over the bike and packing for the road ahead. Tomorrow morning we will leave Luanda. A few members of Amigos da Picada will accompany me to Soyo.
I will certainly miss Angola a great deal!!! Especially all the friends I leave behind. So to the greater Angolan Public: Thank you so much for receiving me as one of your own. For accepting me in your country and for showing me Angola’s beauty.
To Minister B. de Sousa, Governor Pedro Sebastiao, and the Angolan Government: Thank you for helping make it possible for me to continue with my journey! Thank you for believing in me enough and for investing in me.
To my hosts: Mr Pedro Bandeira in Lobito of Hoteis em Angola - Reserve online e sem custos. – thank you for all you have done. For arranging my accommodation and for always being there for me. Always ready to help! Thank you so much for all your help in the past and this time round.
To Mr. Cândido Carneiro of Trevogel in Luanda – thank you for being in touch with me from the minute I stepped back onto Angolan soil. For everything that you have organized for me. For your updates and for making sure I am safe at all times! To you and Linda, you are my family in Luanda. Thank you!
To Moto Clube 90 in Lobito: Ahhhhh…you guys are like family to me. I love you all so much and really appreciate all you have done for me. I will be back again soon! I promise.
And last but not least, to the Amigos da Picada (www.amigosdapicada.com) – You too have accepted me as one of your own. You guys are just amazing. Thank you for making me feel at home and for allowing me to go to Huambo with you guys. Thank you so much for all you have done for me. For helping me and for assisting me, for riding with me. I love all of you guys as well!
I will miss all of you. But now…the show must go on!
Total distance to date: ± 7300 km
Total falls: 5 (Last fall was in Angola - Lucira)
Total borders crossed: 3
Current Location: Pointe Noire (Congo)
Leaving Luanda was a very sad occasion. It also meant I would once again reach that fateful point that led to my previous expedition being cut short. Reaching N’zeto once again felt to me like I had finally completed a chapter in the book of my life and could now move on to go further than I have ever gone before.
I had four riders from the Motorcycle Club – “Amigos da Picada” from Luanda with me. They accompanied me all the way to Soyo where Dax and I boarded a boat to cross the great Congo River to Cabinda.
I got up at 4:30am to have a shower and pack my gear. The guys arrived at Jorge Almeida’s house (where I was staying for the last couple of days in Luanda) around 5:00am. The previous evening I had unpacked my bags and tried to take out anything I thought I might not need…to try and lighten my load. I did leave behind a bunch of stuff. It will stay with Jorge in Luanda until I return.
When we left Luanda it was still dark outside, but even this early in the morning the traffic had already started piling up and took some negotiating on dusty roads with trucks and cars swerving left and right to dodge deadly potholes. We stopped just outside of Luanda to fill up with fuel for the bikes and ourselves. Some coffee and snacks for the road ahead and then we headed for N’zeto.
Now for those of you who might not be aware: last year August my bicycle and gear was stolen just a few kilometers outside of N’zeto. The Governor of the Zaire Province; General Pedro Sebastião had come to my rescue, picked me up in a plane, sent two helicopters from Luanda to comb the area for the perpetrators and had the whole country up in arms. I spent two days staying with the Governor in M’banza Congo and then I was flown to Lobito, from where I made my way back to Johannesburg again. The Governor also made a generous donation towards helping me get back on the road again!
I had phoned the Governor before we left Luanda to notify him that I would be making my way to Soyo the next day, accompanied by four riders. He said he would phone me back within an hour. When he phoned back he told me that he would meet us in N’zeto!
Now I know what the road to N’zeto looks like, having cycled on this road. Just North of Luanda there is a quaint fishing village named Barra do Dande. Here I had stayed at a friend’s Lodge last time round right next to the Rio (River) Dande where it runs into the ocean. From Barra do Dande onwards you have a tarmac road for about 30 kilometers or so, until you reach a Police control point. Just beyond the control point you cross a little bridge and this is where the tarmac ends. The first thing I notice is the military presence next to the road. Military officers and men walking around with mine detecting units. They’re busy combing the area for landmines. And then a thought flashes through my mind: “I had camped wild here in the bush for two nights…possibly amongst some mines”. Yikes!!! I just smile, shake my head and thank my lucky stars.
I had been a bit nervous about the road ahead, particularly because I had the guys with me. I was worried that my riding skills might not be as advanced as theirs and I might hold them back. Especially when we started hitting thick sand! But within the first 10 kilometers I realized just how much my riding skills have improved!! The road up to N’zeto consists mainly of a combination of bad gravel tracks, some sandy patches and then corrugated gravel with loads of rocks.
I had found my rhythm on the bike and easily handled the bike through the more technical sections. It was hard work though and extremely tiring. After a couple of kilometers Rui’s bike (Morini Scrambler) had a radiator leak so we had to stop to fix it. I think we all welcomed the break. (No pun intended)
I had the weirdest feeling standing in the middle of the road, looking ahead at the wild landscape of Northern Angola with it’s huge trees…it’s not bushveld and it’s not quite jungle either…something in between…and thinking to myself: “I have CYCLED through this area on this road and I had slept WILD in the bush, possibly amongst some landmines”. Awesome! Hahaha.
Just before N’zeto we reached yet another Police control point. Here we had to stop to wait for our Police Escort that would ride with us to N’zeto. We sat under a tree and had an ice-cold and grilled bananas. It was HOT and humid and we were absolutely covered in dust from head to toe! Carlos gave me a wet-wipe to wipe my face. It wasn’t recognizable as a wet-wipe when I had finished with it! LoL.
We waited for about half an hour and started to get a little impatient. We still had a long road ahead of us and couldn’t afford to lose so much time. So we told the Police officers that we would carry on and meet up with our escort on route. They were coming from N’zeto so we would definitely bump into them. And we did meet up with them about 10 kilometers ahead. From here we hit a stretch of road that allowed us to speed up a bit as there’s road construction taking place and parts of the road have been scraped and evened out. It felt good to be able to go a little faster than 40 km p/h for a change.
When we arrived in N’zeto, we were led to the Provincial office in town. I had only expected to see the Governor and his ever-present members of staff. Instead we were received by a television crew, Chief of police, a whole group of police officers and a big group of local people wearing T-shirts with the Zaire Province emblem on them. And the Governor…with his ever-present members of staff.
Governor Pedro Sebastião: retired General of the Angolan Army, Governor of the Zaire province in Angola residing in the city that used to be the capital of the Congo Kingdom (M’banza Congo) and a personal friend of mine! I have a great deal of respect for this man. Not because of the titles he carries, but because of who he is. A gentle giant with a very big heart…just don’t mess with him! LoL.
The Governor welcomed me back to his province with a big hug and handed me an Angolan flag with a message from him written on it. We posed for the media for some photos and then went inside to his office where he handed me some flowers and an envelope. We then conducted interviews with different television channels present before leaving to go to lunch.
Lunch consisted of a spread of Langoustines, salad, fried bananas, chips, bread, rice and more. We sat chatting about my trip and the road ahead, about things past and all that had happened. The Governor asked me whether I had already organized for a boat to take me from Soyo to Cabinda? “No”, I replied. He picked up his phone and made a phone call, after which he told me: “It’s been organized”. When we got back to our bikes there were five yellow plastic bottles standing next to the bikes, filled with 20 liters of fuel each. They filled our bikes for us and then it was time for us to carry on. I greeted the Governor with another hug, and before leaving his embrace he said: “I will fly up to Soyo tomorrow to meet you there as well”. Wow.
Time had run out and we would not reach Soyo the same day. Lilio looked over to me and said: “You’re the boss, you decide”. So we opted to stay at Mukula, a little village next to the ocean on route. Just about 60 kilometers from N’zeto. The first 30 kilometers was on tarmac, until we turned off towards Soyo. The road just deteriorated from here on out. I was convinced that at some point my rear shock would give in. But it didn’t. Which is why I love my bike. She serves me so well!! But…Lilio’s bike’s rear shock gave in instead. (Honda Varadero)
We opted to sleep on the beach and had to make our way through some very thick beach sand to get there. It was a real struggle. The KTM 990 Adventure (Carlos’ bike) and the Morini Scrambler (Rui’s bike), had no problems. The heavier bikes like mine, Lilio and Lito’s (Honda Varadero) struggled a bit. My bike would just sink right into the sand. But it’s a powerful bike, even if she is just a 650. We managed to all pull our way through and finally stop for the night right on the beach just a few meters from the ocean.
Filthy and exhausted we started pitching our tents. Only three of us had tents so I gave my tent to two of the guys and took one of the one-man tents. The police prepared us some dinner (Pasta) and we washed ourselves out of two buckets. We then made ourselves comfortable on a bunch of mattresses that the beach patrol police had provided us with. Lying under the stars, looking up at the full moon. We had a bottle of Amarula…and I had something to celebrate!!! I had officially made it further than ever before!!! Woooohhooo. The mosquitoes were absolutely killing us, despite spraying and rubbing ourselves with anti-mosquito products. But we didn’t care much. We had food in our tummies and a safe place to sleep right under the open sky. Life’s good!
Next morning we were up at 06:00 am to make our way to Soyo. We stopped off at Mangue Grande for lunch. We had initially aimed to reach this town the previous day but the night had caught up with us, which is why we stopped in Mosaka. We still had police escort all the way from N’zeto and would have until Soyo. The Chief of police and local administrator welcomed us to the town. They took us to a place where we could have lunch, next to the beach. Rows and rows of fish lay on the tables at this mini food market. Cold drinks and s, water…whatever you need, they have. I ate some fish with Cassava (Local food, I don’t quite know how to describe it. I think it is the root of a plant. When cooked it has this very dense consistency and it’s chewy. Doesn’t really taste like anything). One can find Cassava from Northern Angola all the way up the West African Coast.
We were all still pretty exhausted and spent about an hour and a half having lunch, relaxing a bit and having a few s of course. Sitting amongst the guys, listening to them chatting away in their flamboyant way in Portuguese I realized something! I was starting to understand most of what they were saying! When my phone rang I even only spoke in Portuguese! The guys looked at me when I put the phone down and said: “Jo! You’re speaking Portuguese!!!”. Wahahahaha! Then they switched to slang! Hahaha.
The last 30 odd kilometers to Soyo consisted of a very sandy road. Thick sand and no avoiding it. Though I figured that I made my way through hectic beach sand the night before and just this morning so this should be a piece of cake. And indeed, although it was pretty hard work with the load I’m carrying, I didn’t have any problems! Up until then the road had been pretty flat, no huge ups or downs. Now it changed with lots of bends and ups and downs.
As we arrived in Soyo our Police escort that had been hanging around in the back (as to avoid them kicking up dust in our faces), moved to the front. For the last time in Angola the Police switched on their sirens and took in their place in front of me, chasing the cars off the road and bringing the entire town’s traffic to a stand still. They took us to the Kwanda Base which is based at the commercial port. Here they stopped in front of a pretty grand looking hotel. The Governor had arranged for us to stay here. As we stopped a car with the Governor’s member of staff pulled up and informed us that we had half and hour to unpack and have a shower before meeting the Governor for lunch. The boys were taken to their rooms on the one side of the hotel and I was directed to the other side of the hotel. I had my own suite for the night!!! Another friend surprised me and stopped next to us. A friend from South Africa – Paul Buys who works in Soyo. He had brought us some energy drinks (much needed) and a chocolate from home for me! Sweet!
We met the Governor for lunch yet again, together with the administrator of Soyo. The Governor informed me that he had also spoken to the Governor of Cabinda to inform him of my arrival and I would be received by his people there. Two members of staff would accompany me on my boat ride to Cabinda and a Police boat would follow us all the way! They really did go all out this time to make sure nothing happened to me! After lunch we greeted the Governor for the last time and he told me that: “If you have any problems, anywhere…you just phone me”. And I’m sure that if push comes to shove and I think the situations calls for it, I will.
After lunch we took a ride on our bikes and met up with Basilio, a friend of the guys and also a club member. We then went to his house where we just relaxed for the rest of the day and drank some more s and Amarula before heading back to the hotel. Paul met up with us at the hotel and we had all had a nightcap before turning in for the night.
Next morning I had to face the very sad reality of having to say goodbye to my friends. When I got to my bike Paul had left me a card with a beautiful message in it and another energy drink. This was it…I would now leave my Angola behind for new countries to be explored.
The Master of the Port met me at the hotel and said he’d accompany me and see to it that the bike makes it onto the boat safe and sound. It took some doing to put Dax on the boat. But there were loads of strong and fit men to handle this task for me. I just looked on, nervously and took photos. We then boarded the boat and were on our way to Cabinda!! A 4 hour ride by boat. (They said it would be a 3 hour ride but it was more like 4 hours). Once we were out at sea and I couldn’t see land anymore, I made myself comfortable (or as comfortable as I possibly could) on a couch and slept for most of the journey.
I woke up just before we reached Cabinda. Only then was I informed that we would not be docking but would be transferred to smaller boats to be taken to land. “And my bike”? , I asked a little panic stricken. The guys will transfer the bike to the smaller boat as well, I was told. Mid sea…..Eeeeekkkkkk!!!
Two customs officers boarded the boat and wanted my passport. They then took my passport back with them to do all the necessary paperwork whilst we wait to be taken to land. We waited as they loaded all the people and their belongings into the smaller boats. We would be last in line.
Then came the moment when they had to transfer Dax into the smaller boat bobbing around in the water next to our boat. I was pretty calm and composed until the bike went over the brim to the lower, smaller boat. I panicked for a few seconds until I could see that Dax had made it safe and sound to the other side. Thank the biker gods!!! The rest of us then boarded and were taken to shore.
I was taken directly to the Police station to check in with the local authorities. Here a friend of a friend of mine from Angola, Julio, met up with me and took me to lunch. After I lunch I was taken to my hotel – Hotel Por do Sol. I unpacked my gear, had a shower and collapsed on the bed for a nap. It was already 18:00! The day had flown past. I woke up when my room telephone rang. “Good evening sir. There are some people waiting for you in reception. Can you please come down”. Sir…hehehe.
I reported to reception to meet the Vice Governor, Head of sport and other members of the sport ministry together with a translator. They welcomed me and informed me that I was now in the care of the Government of Cabinda. I thanked them for their hospitality and we planned the next day’s events. I would take a ride around town with a group of local riders and a television crew. Then I would be taken to the supermarket to do whatever shopping I need to do. I also told them that I needed to clean the bike and take care of some basic maintenance such as cleaning and lubing the chain and cleaning the air filter.
Congo lay ahead and I had NO idea what to expect! Julio would ride with me to Pointe Noire where I would be staying before heading to Gabon. The Police would also, once again (okay and really for the last time now), accompany me to the border. The road to the border is a very good tarmac road. We made it to the border in no time and I have to admit I had butterflies in my stomach knowing that I’m about to cross into the Republic of Congo! One always has these scary stories you’ve heard in the back of your head of an ‘uncivilized’ country. The roads are impassible and the people don’t like foreigners. I stood at the border, with a growing crowd gathering around me to look at the bike and shooting off comments in French. Getting through the border was easier than I had anticipated. I was on the other side in no time. This border crossing was also less chaotic than the Namibia/Angola border. The surroundings are very tropical. Dense jungle-like vegetation line either side of the road to Pointe Noire. Tarmac all the way. There are houses and huts next to the road all the way with people everywhere. People display their products for sale in front of their huts. Fruit, local drinks, bread etc.
I had initially planned on getting through Congo as quickly as possible.
Well I have now been here for nine days and it’s anything but uncivilized. A man named Patrick Lobo, based here in Pointe Noire contacted me via Facebook whilst I was in Cabinda asking me when I would arrive in Pointe Noire? He also gave me his contact details. When Julio and I arrived in town we stopped for lunch and I phoned Patrick to notify him that I had arrived. Turns out Patrick and Julio are very good friends and didn’t even know that I had contact with both of them! LoL.
A local family has taken me into their home. Fernando and Stephanie Lobo together with their children Jonathan, Jessica and Eluna. They will forever remain my family in Pointe Noire. They have been looking after me like I’m a piece of gold and they tend to my every need.
I started to fall ill last week Wednesday and came down with the flu. I spent about three days in bed. Just as I started getting better I realized that I now have a urinary tract infection. Stephanie took me to the hospital yesterday to see a doctor. They did some tests and the doctor told me to come back in two days time. He prescribed me some antibiotics. They will conduct more tests for the next three days seeing as the infection is rather severe and once we have the results I will know whether I need to change antibiotics or not.
I will probably spend another week here in Pointe Noire. I am now officially without a visa here in Congo as mine has expired. OOOPS. But…it’s not a problem. ☺ The officials know I am here and have said it’s not a problem, when I leave they will supply me with a stamp in my passport. Fabulous. I will also be able to get my visa for Nigeria here tomorrow! Wooohooo!
So in the meantime I rest as much as I can as I suspect I might need it for the road ahead.
Congo to Gabon
Current Location: Libreville
Have crossed the Equator into the Northern Hemisphere! Woohoo!
I got up at 05:00am to have a shower and load the bike to leave Pointe Noire for Gabon. It’s a bit of a push to reach Gabon in one day, but we would try. I would not be riding alone though. I met up with Allan from the Czech Republic. He left Johannesburg to ride up the West African coast to Prague. Friends in Angola had been updating me on his progress and I received him in Pointe Noire when he arrived.
We agreed to ride together for a bit. At first the idea was to ride together up until Ghana. From there I would carry on to Cote D’Ivoire and he would go to Burkina Faso as his route takes him through Mali. I am used to doing my own thing…but thought I’d give it a try.
By 06:00am the entire household was up to wish Allan and I a safe journey. We had a quick coffee and filled up with water for the road. Gave the bikes a last check and then we said our goodbyes. I had come to love my family in Pointe Noire. Fernando and his wife Stephanie and their children. They took me in as one of their own and looked after me when I was sick. Just before we left Fernando looked at Allan and said: “You look after my sister! Otherwise I will come and visit you in Prague!”. Little did I know it would be me who would have to do the ‘looking after’.
We pushed the bikes out of the driveway and slowly rolled out of Pointe Noire. We had been told that the road between Pointe Noire and Dolisie is a great tar road. So we could look forward to some speedy progress. From Dolisie we did not really know what to expect. Nobody was really sure what the road looked like apart from the fact that it is not a tar road.
The tar road to Dolisie is absolutely beautiful. Both the actual road and the surroundings. For about 160 kilometers you have this winding tar road and you are surrounded by sub-tropical jungle all the way. It is one of the most beautiful riding experiences I’ve had to date. The first couple of kilometers out of town went a bit slower because of the traffic. Loads of taxi’s loading up to take people into town for their day’s work. Early morning hustle and bustle in the city. Thereafter we hit some thick mist, which provided me with a feeling of really being in the wilderness. With the smells and sounds of the jungle and the giant trees surrounding me. Beautiful!
We made it to Dolisie by 09:00am. We would just ride into town to fill up with fuel and then head out toward the Gabon border via Fugamou and Mila-Mila. After filling up with fuel we stopped at a little market to have something to eat and drink. We bought 3 bananas and a liter of Coca-Cola, which we shared. We sat chatting with some locals who were very eager to practice the little English they know. They informed us that the road up to the border is excellent and we have nothing to worry about. It’s the national road!
With this new information we were eager to hit the road to try and reach the town of Ndende just after the border before dark. We also did not know what time the border would close. I suspected it would be around 17:00.
The fabulous national road turned out to be a sandy and very dusty track. Not too bad though, just incredibly dusty. Especially with big trucks making their way up and down between Congo and Gabon. Every time a truck passes you by, you have to stop because you are thrown into a dust cloud so intense you cannot see anything.
Allan did not do a lot of ‘communicating’ with me. It was obvious that he had decided to take the lead and shot on ahead. So I thought to myself, okay that’s fine. We’ll ride together but still each just do our own thing. I hung back as to not have to ride in his dust trail the whole time. Every 100 kilometers or so we would meet up again where he has stopped to take a break. We made pretty good progress and could manage speeds ranging between 40 km p/h and 70 km p/h. The first 50 kilometers or so was quite sandy. Thereafter just a lot of holes to negotiate through and around.
There are MANY small villages all along the road up to the Gabon border. So one has to be very careful when you enter these villages as there are loads of animals and people crossing the road. We stopped at a few of these villages to take a break every now and then and would chat to the locals. Well…more sign language than actual chat. Not everybody can speak French in these small villages up North, so they speak local languages like Lingala and Kikongo. But one can always communicate, even if you cannot speak the language.
The road started to get wetter the further North we progressed. We were lucky we didn’t have rain on the road, because that would’ve made it impossible to reach the border in one day. We were afraid we might not reach the border in time and pushed hard to make good time. I still hung back because I felt it too dangerous to fly through the villages, with so many people and animals on the road. I found Allan where he had fallen in the much just outside one of the villages. By the time I got to him there were many villagers surrounding him, checking to see whether he is okay and to help him get going again.
My GPS was not giving me the correct info. This started on our way to Dolisie. The new road between Pointe Noire and Dolisie does not show on my GPS. I have Tracks for Africa loaded but it would seem this part of Africa is not mapped out well on the new software. I guess I would have to load individual maps. Even the coordinates to the Gabon border are not showing correctly on my GPS. According to my GPS I had crossed into Gabon a long time before I actually reached the actual border. This is not really an issue for me. It’s just when I enter a town and have to navigate my way around that the GPS comes in really handy. But even this is not REALLY a problem as one can always ask around.
Anyway, so I had no idea where the actual border would be and was still hoping we would reach it in time to cross over into Gabon. The plan was to spend the night in Ndende which is about 45 kilometers from the border.
500 meters from the actual border I found Allan again. He had fallen stuck in mud. Again. This time he was REALLY stuck. I left my bike to help him. When I got to him I could see that he is really agitated and he was shouting and cursing in Czech. It was 16:30 now and we are right in front of the border, but cannot reach it.
I went in search of some wood and rocks to wedge under his rear wheel as it had no traction and would be impossible to get out any other way. I tried to push him out but there was just no way the bike would budge. I was covered in mud from head to toe. Standing in the mud it would come up almost halfway to my knees and trying to move around is a mission as the mud just sucks you in. We tried to drag the bike out and actually managed to pull out the rear of the bike. Allan then tried to maneuver the bike out but just rode it back into the same spot.
Two men came past and we asked them for help. They were very kind and did indeed pitch in to help. At this point I was so tired, covered in mud and sweat dripping off my face. The two guys had the same idea I had and started piling rocks and pieces of wood under the rear wheel. With three of us pushing now we were able to make more progress. It took us about an hour in total to get the bike out. Allan was in a bad way. Dehydrated and still cursing and shouting. Even at the local guys. He said: “I have just ridden from Pointe Noire to here in one day. It’s not easy you know”!! And I looked at him and thought to myself: what a wimp! I had done exactly the same and you don’t hear me complaining do you? This is a journey. You have to take the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult. The two local guys asked Allan for remuneration for their help which he refused. So I gave them CFA5000 each.
Nevertheless, we reached the border around 17:30. The border is like a tiny village in the jungle with a small road running through it. Not many people. A few houses and the customs offices (read huts). The people were very friendly and helpful and we had out passports and Carnets stamped in no time. We sat down to have a to celebrate having reached the border in time. Allan now smiled for the first time. We sat chatting to the people around us and maybe got a bit too relaxed. As it started to get dark the Chief came to tell us that the Gabon side had closed and we would have to spend the night. We begged him to please let us through and said we would leave immediately. He eventually gave in and gave us permission to go.
When we reached the Gabon side though they told us we could not proceed as the border had already closed. Allan cannot speak or understand any French so the Chief on the Gabon side spoke to me and explained that we need written consent from the Chief that had said we could proceed. So I told Allan to wait there and I would go back to ask for the written consent. I duly went back to the Congo side to where the Chief was sitting enjoying his and explained the situation to him. He said he would finish his and then accompany me to the other side. So I sat back down waiting for him to finish. I guess he did not really feel like going anywhere because after about 10 minutes he gave me the written consent and I was on my way again.
Back on the Gabon side I showed them the piece of paper they had given me and they let us through. 10 Kilometers further ahead you find the Gabon customs offices where they would have to stamp our passports and Carnets. On our way to this control point Allan lost his sleeping back, which I picked up. When we reached the control boom I gave him the sleeping back and we realized that his sleeping mattress had also fallen off somewhere along the way. I didn’t see it. So I took Allan’s passport and Carnet to have it stamped as he went back to look for his mattress. With the letter the Chief gave me everything went smoothly. No hassles. Quick and easy. I waited for Allan to return and gave him his documents, stamped and ready to go. It was pitch black dark by now and I was getting a little nervous. Never a good idea to be out riding at night.
About 500 meters on the other side into Gabon…he fell stuck in mud….again!!
Same story…all over again. Only difference being now it’s dark and we are both extremely tired. We’ve been on the road for about 11 hours now.
We unloaded his bike and tried to drag it out at first. It would not budge of course. Way too heavy!! And with this fall his gear lever had bent back completely. Another issue. So we decided that I would try to tow him out with my bike. I positioned my bike in front of his, where I had traction and I tied a towing rope between his bike and mine. This worked like a charm and my super bike was able to pull his out. Woohooo. Okay…then we reload his bike and head off once again to try and reach Ndende. It’s so dark I cannot see anything except for the dirt track in front of me and the dust trail of Allan in front of me. The dust hurts my eyes but I cannot ride with my visor closed because it’s too dark. I know Ndende is about 45 Kilometers away but I have no idea what lies in between and or what the road looks like.
We finally reached Ndende around 21:00. The road leading up to the town is still off road, but well compacted and easier to negotiate. No more mud holes, thank goodness! At the border we sat chatting to a Pastor who told me that once we get into town, we’ll reach a roundabout and that we should turn left here to find a hotel in town where we could stay. As we got into town I stopped to ask around for a hotel. We had to ride around quite a bit as it seemed that no rooms were available anywhere. Allan stopped and told me that he had only 800 meters of fuel left. So I told him to stay put and I’d go ask around.
We finally found a hotel that seemed promising. Though as soon as I stepped inside they told me that they had no rooms available. Here I met a very friendly and helpful young man who offered to help me find a place for us to stay. I told Allan to stay at the Hotel and I would go with this man. We walked all over town to find a place. There was nothing available! Unbelievable!!
We walked around, from hotel to hotel, chatting away. Then I remembered that Patrick and Albert Lobo back in Pointe Noire had given me a name of a contact of theirs in Ndende. Pinheiro…that was the name. So I asked the young man whether he knew a Pinheiro? Sure enough, he took me to the house. It was already so late and I felt bad having to disturb people. But I had no choice. We needed to find a place to sleep.
We knocked on the door of the “House of Pinheiro”. The guard met us and we explained my predicament. He then let us in and took us to see the owner of the house. Pinheiro. Understandably he was a bit confused at first as to the reason for my visit. But between my bit of French and Portuguese I was able to explain to him who I am and why I am there. He had no room available in his house but said he could make us a bed in the living room. Perfect! We then walked back to the hotel to fetch Allan. I thanked the kind young man and we made our way back to Pinheiro’s house. Allan went to clean up and I started unpacking what I needed for the night. Then I had the opportunity to clean up. I was absolutely covered in mud and dirt from head to toe. It felt so good to be able to have a hot shower! By the time I had finished Allan was already asleep. We had to share a bed. At this point I didn’t care anymore, I was too tired. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Next morning we were up at 6:00 again. Pinheiro prepared us some breakfast consisting of fresh baguettes, cheese, cold meats and yoghurt. I certainly welcomed the food! We thanked him for taking us in for the night and then set off to fill up for fuel before making our way to Libreville. We stopped at the Total garage just before you get out of town, where I was told: “Desoleil, pas essence”. Urrrggghhh. No petrol! I asked whether any of the other fuel stations might have? No petrol available in Ndende or any of the neighboring towns!! Now what?
We made our way back to Pinheiro’s place and explained our problem to him. He filled our tanks out of his own fuel supply!! When we wanted to pay him for the fuel, he refused! Sometimes, people’s goodwill just leaves me speechless.
Okay, finally filled up we were ready to hit the road. From Ndende up until Mouila you have a dirt road. Good enough to average around 80 Km/h though. Allan shot on ahead and I hanged back, admiring the sights. We were now getting into serious jungle territory. I made it to Mouila in about an hour. I didn’t go into town as I knew there would be a Petro Gabon station on the outskirts of town on route to Lamberene. Pinheiro had given us this information. From hereon out there’s a beautiful tarmac road as well. As you get on the tarmac you get to a big roundabout. Heading straight on would take you into town. I turned left on the road that would take me to Lamberene. I stopped at the Petro Gabon station to fill up but, you guessed it, no fuel!! I wasn’t too worried as I could make it to Lamberene on the fuel I had and I was carrying about 5 liters extra in one of my fuel cells.
I had no idea where Allan was. I had lost him and wasn’t sure whether he went into town or had carried on. Right outside of Mouila there is a Police control point. I was stopped and met with a big smile from the Police officer on duty. He asked me where I was from and as soon as I said South Africa he let out a big “Wow” and welcomed me to Gabon. I asked him whether another bike had passed before me and he said yes. So I figured Allan would probably stop somewhere next to the road to wait for me.
I absolutely LOVE the jungle surroundings of Gabon. I rode along just admiring the giant trees and dense vegetation all along the roadside. I have never seen such tall trees in my life. It’s absolutely beautiful. I stopped on the side of the road before reaching Lamberene to take a break. As soon as you stop you are able to hear all the sounds of all the different creatures living within the jungle. Birds, frogs, crickets and what sounds like monkeys. It’s lovely! I stood there trying to imagine what it must be like to live within a jungle like this with all the sounds that would surround you at night. I for one would love it!
Just before I reached Lamberene Allan caught up with me. Huh? I stopped at a garage just before reaching town. At least this time they had fuel and we were able to fill up. Allan then told me that he had gone into Mouila to find fuel. That’s where we missed each other. I had already decided that when we reach Libreville I would carry on, on my own. But when we reached Lamberene Allan pulled up next to me and signaled to me to stop. He had seen a Hotel on the side of the road and had decided he would stay there for the night. The next day he would then carry on to Cameroon! I was relieved, to say the least. We wished each other luck for the road ahead and I then carried on towards Libreville.
Going to Libreville you cross a river in Lamberene, twice. I got a little lost in town but thanks to my trusty GPS I was able to find my way back to the correct route. Lamberene is a pretty big town, much bigger than I had anticipated. A big river runs through the town and there are a few bridges crossing the river to lead you to different parts of Gabon. It felt like Lamberene is the central point of Gabon.
I knew I would soon cross the Equator and was eager to carry on with excitement growing inside of me. The road isn’t straight. You are met with curvy bends that just carry on forever all the way to Libreville. A good tarmac road. All alongside the road you find little villages with people walking all alongside the road in between the different villages…going about their daily lives. I took it easy at 80 km/h because of the fact that there are so many people on the road. Though it soon became clear that people are not my main concern on the roads. It’s dogs!! The dogs love chasing my bike and I was so afraid I might hit one of these animals. I adore animals and just would not be able to forgive myself if I hit a dog on the road. I would get a mini heart attack every time a dog shot out from the side of the road to chase me.
I was starting to get closer to Libreville and still hadn’t seen the Equator sign. I was starting to get worried thinking maybe I had missed it. How the hell does one miss the Equator? As these thoughts started running through my head I reached a stretch where there were some roadworks going on. There were trucks parked all along the road side with a “stop ‘n go” system in place. It wasn’t a very long stretch, but as I made my way to the other side something caught my eye. The Equator sign!! It was behind one of the big trucks on the side of the road! Just my luck!!! There was no way I could get to it and seeing as it was getting late I had no choice other than to carry on. I was sooo miffed, but kept telling myself: “It’s okay, you’ll be crossing it again on the other side of the continent”.
With a heavy heart I started entering Libreville. It was now almost dark and I decided I would stop at the first hotel I see and spend the night there. No hotels came into sight though. I was still exhausted from the previous day’s escapades and couldn’t focus properly anymore. So I took a chance and stopped on the side of the road to take a break. I had a smoke and watched the cars passing by, honking and waving, shouting at me in French. A truck stopped right behind me. A man got out and walked to the front of the truck right behind where I was standing. He put down a prayer mat and starting praying to Allah. For a moment I just stood dead still staring at this guy thinking to myself: “Isn’t this a little unethical on some level”?? I just smiled and waited for him to finish. I felt it would be disrespectful if I started my noisy bike in the middle of his prayers.
When he had finished he rolled up his prayer mat again and greeted me. He asked where I was from and all the other usual questions. I explained to him that I was on my way to Libreville and asked him if he knew of a hotel where I could stay for the night. Turns out he could speak English and told me to follow him as he knew of a good hotel where I could stay and would take me there. Woohoo!! I followed Duklua (that’s his name) into town. As we entered Libreville I could see the line of traffic we would still have to negotiate our way through. I had started getting used to the chaos that every town brings with it. Crazy traffic and loads of people on the streets. Markets lining the roads, cars and taxis hooting like crazy all around you. I just followed the truck in front of me and made sure I stayed right behind him.
We stopped at a hotel, but they didn’t have any rooms available. So we then made our way to another hotel. But first we went to drop off the truck so Duklua could pick up his car. This would make it easier getting through traffic. The road leading up to his place is a steep road and very rocky. I lost my balance and put the bike down. Before I had even stood up a bunch of men standing by the side of the road had already rushed to my side and helped me pick the bike back up! I told Duklua I would wait for him there and made my way back to the bottom of the road. When he returned we made our way to “Hotel du Stade”. It’s a hotel right across Libreville’s old stadium. Here they had rooms available! Woohoo! I could choose a room at fCFA 28 000 or fCFA 30 000. I chose the one for fCFA 30 000 ($60) as I figured I deserved to spoil myself a little bit. Duklua helped me to carry my bags up to my room. My room had a double bed, television, shower, Air conditioner and fridge! Perfect! Duklua offered to go buy me something to drink as he said it was too expensive at the hotel. I gave him fCFA 5000 and he came back with chips, two 1,5 liters of cold drink, two yoghurts and two bread rolls. He had also bought some throat lozenges as he figured I sounded like I needed them. LoL. What a sweet guy.
I was so happy to be in Libreville…on my own. I couldn’t believe my luck and how it seemed that I keep meeting just the right people at the right time on this journey. I stood on my balcony watching the hustle and bustle going on down on the street. I phoned home and had a long conversation with Hanret. That night I went to sleep with a big smile on my face.
The next day I slept until I woke up…which was around 10:00! Duklua came around at 11:00 to check on me and to find out whether I needed anything. I told him that I have a contact in Libreville and needed to phone him. I asked Duklua if he could help me to get where I then needed to go? He agreed without hesitation. I phoned Fernando, the contact given to me by the guys in Pointe Noire. Fernando explained to Duklua where his house was and we packed up to head over to his place. When we arrived I met Kathie and Fernando. They welcomed me with open arms and showed me into the house. Kathie can speak a little English and Fernando speaks Portuguese as well. I loved how we communicated using three different languages!
I unpacked and settled into what would be my new home for the next week and a half. Kathie and Fernando are two wonderful people. I instantly fell in love with both these beautiful souls. They’re down to earth, fun, caring, loving people. We spent most of Saturday afternoon just relaxing. Later on that evening Vanessa Vincent, a friend of theirs arrived. The four of us played a few games of pool on the pool table standing on their porch. Afterwards we went out for dinner at Cigalou restaurant, right on the beach. I ate pizza and drank , chatting away with my new friends. It was a great evening. I really love Gabon!
The next morning I slept late. We were supposed to go out for breakfast but by the time I got up Kathie had already gone to breakfast and Fernando had gone to work. Vanessa was still at home so the two of us sat chatting until Kathie returned. It was Sunday, so we spent most of the day just relaxing. The neighbors, Lara and Henry and their daughter Valentine came over when Kathie and Fernando had returned later that morning. We were joined by more friends and all sat on the porch chatting whilst Vanessa, Lara and Henry helped me to undo my braids. I loved my braided hair, but it wasn’t the most practical thing to wear when you have to put on and take off a helmet several times a day. After we had finished we all went out to lunch at Cigalou again. I would visit this restaurant several times whilst staying in Libreville.
Later that afternoon I met another friend, Bruno Grandgirard. It was hot and we all jumped into the pool at Kathie and Fernando’s place. We spend the whole afternoon just soaking in the pool. Later that night Bruno took me out for dinner and we chatted all night long. The next day was a public holiday and I spent most of the day working on Dax. Gave her a good wash, cleaned the air filter and chain. Checked all fluids. I had a few dents in my panniers that Bruno helped me panel beat out.
On Tuesday I went to stay at Vanessa’s place in the center of town seeing as Kathie and Fernando works during the day and their wifi wasn’t working. Vanessa could also help me by taking me to the Nigerian Embassy so I could apply for my visa.
During the next week I spent my time with my new Sister in Libreville, Vanessa. We went all over town and I met a whole bunch of her friends. We went to the Nigerian Embassy where I had no issues and got my visa within a day. We had lunch and different wonderful restaurants. Went out at night to clubs and meeting up with friends. I got to listen to Vanessa and her brother Alexander’s band: The Sand Quarry Band. We really had a great time.
Before leaving I met some more friends, Muriel Gilardetti and Marie, Jack and Christophe, the owner of the Guenguette. “Guenguette” is the French word for like a local get together spot, like a restaurant. I met up with the local motorbike club of Libreville at the Guenguette. They gave me two T-shirts and some stickers to add to my collection, which I was very happy for. We arranged that some of the riders would ride out of town with me on Sunday when I leave Libreville.
Muriel also gave me the contact number for a friend of hers in Cotonou, Benin, whom I could stay with after I’d made my way through Nigeria.
When it became time for me to leave Libreville, I was extremely tempted to stay a little longer. I had grown so fond of this town and especially the people I had the pleasure of meeting. I will definitely be returning in future for a visit! What’s great is that South Africans don’t need a visa to travel to Gabon. My dearest friends, Kathie, Fernando, Vanessa, Bruno, Muriel, Marie and all the rest of the bunch…I will certainly miss them all a great deal! I am amazed at the connections I am making on my journey. I will carry these friendships with me for the rest of my life.
I left Libreville on Sunday, 3 June ’12. I left from Kathie and Fernando’s house where friends and members of the motorbike club gathered to see me off. Kathie had prepared breakfast with croissants and coffee and juice. They hung balloons outside on the porch to mark the occasion. Kathie, Fernando, Vanessa and Bruno would follow me out in Bruno’s car and some of the members from the motorcycle club would also accompany me outside of town.
We set off around 09:00. My next destination: Oyem, in the North of Gabon. Bruno and Fernando had phoned ahead to organize a place for me to stay with friends of theirs in Oyem. What I had forgotten is that I had to cross back over the Equator seeing as there is only one road in and out of Libreville! So I got to take a photo of the Equator sign after all. I ended up crossing the equator three times!! Haha. Going into Libreville, going out of Libreville and then turning back up North to Oyem. I had a good day on the road, no issues whatsoever. Kathie had packed me some croissants and cheese, which I had for lunch next to the road. I reached Oyem around 19:00. My new hosts were waiting for me as I entered the town. Henry and Yvette Weber, French citizens working and living in Oyem. Turns out they’ve been based all over Central and West Africa. They led me to their place, situated next to Oyem’s brewery, which they happen to be in charge of.
After I had a chance to relax for a few minutes and have an ice cold Coca-Cola, we went out for dinner. Even though they could only speak French, we were able to communicate pretty easily. My French had now improved to the point where I could have a full on conversation. Not in perfect French of course, but I can make myself understood. I spent a wonderful evening with my hosts. We chatted about my trip and experiences I have had on route. About Africa and places we have all visited.
I turned in for the night around 23:00. The next day I would cross into my fifth country – Cameroon! Before leaving Oyem I was given a tour of the brewery that supplies and some soft drinks to surrounding towns, covering a 600-kilometer radius. It was my first time in a brewery and I found it really interesting. The processes involved in making . Since I’ve grown quite fond of the stuff on this trip and try to sample a bottle of local in each country, I found it all the more interesting. LoL.
From Oyem I headed off towards the Cameroon border. Just outside of Oyem there is a Police control point where I was stopped so they could take down all my details. I had a nice chat with the police officer on duty whilst he wrote down my passport details in his register. From Oyem I made my way to Bitam, which is situated about 30 kilometers from the Cameroon border. What I didn’t know is that I had to stop in Bitam to have the Customs Police stamp my passport as they are not actually situated at the border. When I arrived at the border I stopped at the “Duane” office to have my Carnet stamped. From there I made my way to what I thought to be customs to have my passport stamped. Here they told me that I had to go back to Bitam to have my passport stamped there. I was annoyed, not with the border control but rather with myself. Andrei and Chris, the riders who I met in Namibia had told me that sometimes the customs police are situated in the last town before the border and not the actual border. Bummer!
So I made my way back to Bitam where I had my passport stamped and then returned to the Police control at the border as the officer in charge asked whether he could have a photo with me when I returned, before continuing on to the Cameroon side.
When I crossed the border into Cameroon, the first stop was at the Customs Office. At least on this side the Customs Office was situated at the border. The officers on duty invited me in and sat chatting to me for about 15 minutes whilst flipping through my passport and writing down my details. They then stamped me in and welcomed me to Cameroon. All of them asked for my number before I left. I just smiled and explained to them that I would be changing numbers in Cameroon. They accepted this information and sent me on my merry way. The Duane office was situated about 5 kilometers further on. It didn’t seem like there was much going on when I stopped outside the offices. When I went inside I found the officer on duty lying on his desk…asleep. I unfortunately had to wake him up because I needed him to stamp my Carnet. Lucky for me he didn’t seem too annoyed at my having interrupted his seemingly blissful slumber. He didn’t have a pen to fill in the necessary details, so I gave him mine. At least he was quick about stamping my Carnet and I was out of there in no time.
I was now officially in the fifth country on my trip. Next stop – Yaounde! Here I would meet up with a friend of mine named Divine Ntiokam. Divine and I met each other through and NGO we both supported whilst I was still going around Africa on my bicycle. We kept in contact and had become friends, although this would be the first time we would meet in person. Divine was very happy and excited when I phoned him up to tell him I am in Cameroon.
I almost immediately noticed certain differences in comparison to Gabon. The building styles were different. In Gabon you are more likely to see wooden houses in the villages all alongside the road. In Cameroon you have more brick houses. In Gabon the villages seem to be build into the dense jungle surroundings. In Cameroon I could notice the jungle starting to thin out. And in Cameroon just about every second person I passed would signal to show me that my lights are on. This would carry on all the way to Nigeria!! This would also be the main reason why I would get pulled over at Police and Military control posts. Every time I get pulled over the first thing that gets pointed out to me is that my lights are on. Then I have to explain that it’s automatic and that my lights cannot switch off. Only when I switch my bike off does the lights switch off as well. (In reality I could switch the lights off by pulling out the connection to the lights but seeing as there’s duct tape over the unit this would prove a bit of a mission, so I rather opted explaining my way out of it every time).
The roads in Cameroon are good. Tarmac almost all the way to the Nigerian border. Although I had planned on making it to Yaounde, I didn’t count on the delays at the border or the delays on route being stopped at the control posts on route. It was starting to get late and it became obvious that I wouldn’t make it to Yaounde. I phoned Divine and we both agreed that it would be better if I stopped and stayed over in Mbalmayo, the town before Yaounde. Divine had phoned a friend, who phoned a friend in Mbalmayo who happened to have a guesthouse. The guesthouse turned out to be situated about 500 meters off the main road. The only problem with this is that the roads that lead off the main road into the villages are very difficult to negotiate on a bike. Especially a heavily loaded bike! These roads are more like jungle trails than actual roads.
I had to stop a few times to ask for directions to the guesthouse. The last 50 meters was a really bad stretch and I ended up putting the bike down. Two young guys passed me and helped me push the bike to the guesthouse. The staff at the guesthouse were already expecting me and were kind enough to help me carry my bags inside. It is a humble establishment that makes up in lack of facilities with kindness. The staff prepared me some food that consisted of fish and rice. I hadn’t eaten all day and certainly welcomed the food. I washed myself out of a bucket and settled in for the night. Though around 23:00 I received a call from Divine telling me that he had to go to Bamenda, which is on route to the Nigerian border. So we decided it would be best if I carried on to Bamenda the next day rather than stop over in Yaounde. This would place me closer to the Nigerian border.
It started pouring down with rain and one of the staff members had to bring a bucket to place behind my bed, as there was a bad leak in the roof. I was tired and even the persistent dripping all night couldn’t keep me from sleeping. The next morning at 6:00 Divine phoned me again to let me know he had arrived in Bamenda around 4:00 that morning. He had taken a bus from Yaounde. I snoozed until around 7:00 and then got up to pack the bike and hit the road. The only thing that was bothering me was what the downpour during the night had done to the route leading out to the main road. The staff helped me to push the bike all the way out!
Heading out of town, I stopped at a Total garage to fill up with fuel and then headed for Yaounde. Getting into town I had some traffic and it took me about half an hour to make it through the town. Once through I stopped at another Total garage to check my tyre pressure. With the previous day’s riding I could feel that I was running on really low tyre pressure. Some of the garage staff came over to chat to me. There was a shop at the garage, just like back home and I went in to buy myself a snack and a cold drink. I asked the staff whether they knew where I could get an MTN sim card for Cameroon. They sent one of the attendants to buy me one! I was able to sort out fuel, tyre pressure, food, drinks and communication at this garage. Not bad at all!!!
The ride to Bamenda took a bit longer than I had anticipated though! In essence it’s not THAT far, but you have quite a few control posts you have to pass through and navigating your way through the towns can be challenging as well. At one of these control points I was able to witness a spectacular fight. I was pulled over by the two officers on duty. A military control point. They were rather friendly and just asked for my passport. As I stood there, a truck came past and the driver was shouting through his window. It stopped right in front of me. The female officer walked up to the truck with her firearm hanging over her shoulder and pulled the driver out of the truck. By now everyone and their dog were getting involved in the fight and they completely forgot about me. So I just smiled and rode off.
The next interesting encounter came in the way of a few people trying to sell me monkeys and rats next to the side of the road. They would hold the dead creatures by their tales and run after you to try and make a sale on their daily catch. I’m not really into monkey…and or rat meat, so I just rode on.
Just before Bamenda you get to a town called Bafousam. This town had crazy traffic and I got lost several times. I stopped at a garage to ask for directions and a man was kind enough to help me. Though further on I came to a roundabout where my GPS took me to the right. About 15 minutes out of town I stopped for a break. It was getting late, almost 18:00 now. A man stopped next to me and we started chatting. I told him that I was on my way to Bamenda. “You’re going the wrong way”, was his reply! Damn!!! He explained to me that I had to go back to Bafousam and at the roundabout as you get into town, you have to turn right. I knew exactly which roundabout he was talking about and immediately made my way back.
By the time I got to Bamenda it was dark. I stopped as I got into town and phoned my friend Divine to let him know that I had arrived. Divine took a taxi and rode to where I was to pick me up. It was a joyous occasion, finally meeting in person. Big hugs and even bigger smiles followed. We then made our way to the hotel where we’d be staying. “Clifton Hotel” in Bamenda. Here, more people speak English as it’s nearing the Nigerian border. It was nice to be able to have a conversation in English. I unloaded the bike and the hotel staff helped me to take my very heavy bags to my room. It was a small room, but more than sufficient for my needs. Plus, there was HOT water in the shower!! Which is always a bonus. I cleaned up and then we had dinner at the hotel. A dish with chicken, vegetables, peppers and grilled bananas... all mixed together in one dish. I have come to grow quite fond of these grilled bananas. They cut it up in slices and then it gets grilled. Some grill it in oil, others on an open fire. I’ve been eating this since Congo. I wonder what bananas are good for. You know how carrots are supposedly good for your eyesight? Because I have certainly been eating a lot of bananas.
The next day I took the day off to prepare myself for the border crossing into Nigeria, one of the most notorious countries in the world. I met Nina; she was the girl who had organized for my stay in the guesthouse in Mbalmayo. Turns out she actually stays in Bamenda and after Divine had phoned her she phoned a friend of hers in Mbalmayo to organize a place for me to stay for a night. That’s what you call ‘team effort’! Divine, Nina and I spent the day together. First we had breakfast and then headed off to the Internet café. Here I was able to catch up on emails and Facebook etc. We were at the café until lunchtime. After having lunch at the hotel I had a nap. Divine had decided that he would hire a transport bike (taxi), so he could accompany me to the Nigerian border. He was very concerned about my having to ride through Nigeria!
We left the next morning around 8:00. Divine, his driver James and myself. Our first stop would be a town called Mamfe, which is about 60 kilometers from the border. The road up until Mamfe is a good tarmac road. From Mamfe onward it would be off-road. I just didn’t know what ‘kind’ of off-road. It took us about two hours to get to Mamfe. Divine and James would ride in front of me and could only average between 60 – 80 kilometers and hour. One can see that this is a fairly new road as the Chinese are still finishing off the last touches. They’re also working on the road between Mamfe and Ekok (the Nigerian border).
In Mamfe we met with some of the Community Leaders at the Youth Center. We sat in on a community meeting for a few minutes. I found it very interesting, listening to how the communities here organize the way their villages run. The particular topic they were discussing was what the youth should do during school holidays. They felt that more and more of the youth are getting involved in ‘unhealthy’ activities and should be outdoors exploring their environment or engaging in more intellectual activities.
We left Mamfe around 12:30 to make our way to the border. Only 60 kilometers…that would take us near to 3 hours to complete! Mud, mud…and more mud. We passed a ceremonial convoy for the inauguration of a community center. First a group of men dressed in their police and military uniforms, then community members and after a group of dancing girls dressed in traditional clothing and two men in big wooden masks that reach to the ground! This was the first time that someone shouted out: “White, white, white”. It caught me off guard at first and I thought to myself: “Huh? What are you referring to”? Of course it didn’t take me too long to realize who and or what they were referring to!
There is a stretch on the route where you make your way down a mountain pass with waterfall running over the road. Although it was challenging to negotiate my way down this road, I had a great time admiring the surroundings. The tall trees again. The greenery is absolutely beautiful. There were points where we had to stop and wait for trucks that had fallen stuck. The road isn’t wide enough for trucks and other traffic to pass next to one another. So when you get to a point where a truck has fallen stuck, you have two options. Stop and find a shady spot or pitch in and help dig it out. We were lucky in that whenever we got to a truck that was stuck in the middle of the road, we were either able to pass around or it didn’t take too long to get the truck going again.
We finally reached the border town, Ekok, around 15:30. First things first I changed money and went about getting something to drink. I bought myself and Divine a Sprite each and then we went to have passports stamped and paperwork sorted out. Divine had decided that he would cross with me and accompany me all the way to Ikom, which is the first town on the Nigeria side. James, the taxi bike rider was too scared to cross with us and stayed in Ekok.
Getting through customs on the Cameroon side of the border went without hassles. Though when we got to the Nigeria side I was met with a rather unfriendly female customs officer. Even though my Nigerian visa clearly states that I have 14 Days in Nigeria, she only wanted to give me three days!! I asked her whether she would be able to ride my bike through Nigeria in three days time? So she gave me 7 days and nothing more. I figured I could have it extended in Lagos if need be and left it at that. Divine hired another rider to take him to Ikom and we were soon on our way.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous when crossing into Nigeria. Well, truth be told, I wasn’t nervous once I had entered the country. The night before, in Bamenda (Cameroon) I had butterflies in my stomach. In my mind I had always told myself that if I could only make it through Nigeria, I should be okay on this journey.
I realized that the only way I could keep myself focused is to treat Nigeria just like any other country. It’s just another country that I am riding through. This way I could just focus on where I needed to be at the end of each day and getting there in one piece. For my first day in Nigeria I needed to be in a town named Ikom. I needed to go to GT Bank and ask for Nkem, the branch manager. He was my contact in this town.
I had been in contact with riders in Lagos since Congo. News about my arrival had spread across the country, to all the different motorcycle clubs. So by the time I had arrived I had contacts in every town I would stay in. Nkem took Divine and myself to a hotel in Ikom where we could stay for the night. I paid for both my and Divine’s accommodation. I felt it only fair as Divine had paid for my stay in Bamenda. We went to have dinner at an eatery not far from the hotel where I tried out some of the local food. It was the equivalent of “Pap en marog” in South Africa. My Afrikaans friends will know what that is. It was rather tasty and I enjoyed my meal. Afterwards we went to another hotel where we had a drink before heading back to the hotel for some much needed rest. I was tired and could see Divine was at the point of nodding off at the table.
The next day I would ride to Calabar. Andrei and Chris (The riders I met in Namibia), had told me so much about this town and how they enjoyed their stay here. A friend of mine back home, Ingrid, who had lived in Nigeria for quite some time, had told me that Calabar was her favorite place in Nigeria. So I was looking forward to reaching this town!
Divine left at 6:00 in the morning. I got up to see him off and then went back to sleep until around 8:00. I knew I could afford the sleep-in seeing as Calabar is about a 3-hour ride from Ikom. I sat outside the hotel waiting for Nkem who were supposed to meet up with me before I left. By 10:00 he phoned to say he wouldn’t be able to make it. Many people at the hotel came over to chat to me. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. I finally left around 11:00 and first stopped to fill up with fuel. Luckily for me the hotel was situated right on the road that I had to take to Calabar, so that meant there was no way I could get lost, seeing as my GPS wouldn’t even pick up Calabar when I tried searching for it!
The road from Ikom to Calabar is pretty good. It’s just the first 100 kilometers that you have stretches of corrugation here and there…but I’ve definitely seen worse! At first I was a little nervous about being on the road on my own, my main concern being the notorious military control posts one gets stopped at. I’ve heard SO many stories about these stops. About how they get aggressive towards you and only try to scam you out of money and will intimidate you with their firearms. Well I can certainly report that I did not experience anything like this whilst on the road. I did pass a couple of military control posts. But all they would do is wave at me and shout out: “You’re welcome”. So either things have changed…or I’m just the luckiest person on Earth.
The roads are always busy in Nigeria no matter where you’re heading and traffic can be a little scary at times. It’s like there are no rules on the road. First off, there’s no speed limit (seriously). Secondly, it would seem that the first rule of survival is that: “he who is fastest, wins”. Trucks come at you from the opposite direction, in your lane…and you just have to either duck or take your chances with playing chicken with a ten-ton truck.
Nevertheless I made it to Calabar safe and sound. First things first, I phoned my contact in Calabar: Chief Matthew Olory. I had made contact with him before I entered Nigeria so he knew when I would be arriving. He directed me into town and organized for someone to meet up with me seeing as he wasn’t in town that day. From the pick-up point I was taken to my hotel where I would spend the next three nights. I spent my first evening in Calabar just relaxing, and got to bed pretty early.
The next day I got to meet Chief Olory when he came to my hotel. I also met with the club’s road captain: “Kenny G”. Olory took me to have my bike washed and we spent most of the day meeting up with other riders and riding around town. Late afternoon we went to a restaurant on the Calabar river where we had something to eat and drink. There are two things I wanted to see in Calabar: The Calabar river and the Slave Musuem. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the Slave Museum but at least I had lunch on the river. Here I met the Nigerian National Motorcycle Club President. They call him “the King”, seeing as he’s the president over all the existing motorcycle clubs in Nigeria. There are quite a few clubs all over the country. The Easy Riders – in Lagos, The Millenials in Calabar, The Angels – in Lagos, The Crazy Riders – in Port Harcourt, and a clubs further North as well.
I really had a good time in Calabar. It’s a beautiful town and has a very laid back energy to it. When time came for me to leave Calabar, Olory rode out of town with me. He accompanied me to the turn off that would put me on the road towards Benin City. He had written down the directions for me as my GPS wouldn’t pick up the route and I would have to make a few turns in the different towns I would be passing through. The clouds overhead seemed threatening and I was really hoping it wouldn’t rain all the way. It didn’t. Only three quarters of the way!
The road wasn’t too bad. Tarmac road with potholes. From Calabar I had to make my way to Ikot Ekpene, then Aba and onwards to Owerri, Onitsha, Asaba and finally Benin City.
I will never ever, for as long as I live forget the town of Owerri. It is officially THE most chaotic town I have had the misfortunate privilege of having to negotiate my way through! First off, it was pouring with rain. You have single lanes going in and out of town. In the middle you have huge rubbish dumps dividing the two lanes of traffic all the way through town. On the roadsides you have thousands of little stalls covered with umbrellas and even more people! Luck would have me fall stuck behind a truck for about half an hour. All around me little yellow, three wheeled taxi cabs (exactly as the ones you see in India) gathered in anticipation of squeezing past the truck. People zig-zag through the traffic between stalls. All around me people would point and shout at me (in local language so I couldn’t understand what they were saying)…and even if I could understand, I wouldn’t have been able to hear them as I just cranked up the music playing on my headphones in my helmet, allowing me to almost disappear into my own little bubble. At a junction a female police officer was directing traffic with a baton in hand. If anyone dared ignore her instructions or jump the queue, they would have to face a whack from her baton on their vehicle or any body part that might happen to stick out! I witnessed one such unfortunate queue jumper receiving a whack on his car’s bonnet!
I was just too happy when I finally made it out of there! From Owerri I made my way to Onitsha. About 20 minutes from Owerri I stopped for a break and noticed a car turning around and pull up next to me. A news reporter from NTA (Nigeria Television Authority) introduced herself to me and inquired as to who I am and what I am doing? After I had explained my mission to her she pulled out a camera and asked to conduct an interview with me. This interview would feature on that night’s news. I spent about twenty minutes riding up and down the road so she could get a few shots of me in action. Then she asked me a few questions and gave me her card. She was also kind enough to direct me to the Asaba road. If not for her I might have missed it because of detours on the road.
From Owerri the road got much better and I was able to get on the “Express” road (like a highway). The road was good and I could get up to speeds of 120 kilometers an hour for the first time since Angola! Asaba is a town just after you’ve passed through Onitsha. There is a big bridge crossing the river that divides these two towns. I was told to stop after I had crossed the bridge and phone up the contacts I had been given in Benin City. So I did just this.
As I stood just a few meters from the bridge, waiting for information from the guys in Benin City, a car stopped in front of me. Two guys got out and ran up to me, greeting me in German! I just smiled and told them that I’m not from Germany. I let them play the guessing game for a while, to my amusement and then eventually gave them the answer they were looking for. Once they heard that I am a South African they both hugged me and told me how much they love South Africa. These two guys bought me lunch and drinks in town (Asaba) and helped me get to a fueling station, before I had to carry on again. They tried really hard to get me to stay in Asaba for the night, offering to have my bike washed and serviced and to put me up in a hotel etc etc. They were two really nice guys and I could tell that they were sincere. But unfortunately I had to get to Benin City. A bunch of riders were waiting for me and I had to get going again.
I met up with one of these riders just before getting into Benin City. He then took me to a hotel; the Uyi Grand Hotel. Here I got to meet about 4 riders who had ridden from Lagos to meet up with me, and two riders from Abuja who also just happened to be in the area. I was very happy to meet up with the guys, especially knowing that I wouldn’t have to ride alone into Lagos. Plus, I got to meet Mohammed Ducati. The guy who’s T-shirt I’ve been carrying since Namibia! One delivery made successfully! That T-shirt went from Romania, to Namibia and then back up to Nigeria!
We only left around 12:00 the next day for Lagos. We were six riders, though I would only stick with one of the guys (Busayo) all the way. He was kind enough to slow down to my speed and stick with me throughout the ride. The other guys sped on ahead, then stopped and waited for us to catch up and then sped ahead again. Speed, that’s the name of the game in Nigeria! 250/260 kilometers per hour is the average speed of these riders. It rained pretty much all the way to Lagos! A few kilometers outside of town, more riders from Lagos met up with us and rode with us to the hotel where I would spend my first night.
** Please forgive me. I don't have photos for this post. If you read to the end you'll understand why **
I spent five, very enjoyable days in Lagos. For my first night, one of the members of the ‘Easy Riders’ motorcycle club sponsored my stay at a hotel in Ikeja. For the rest of my stay a number of riders pulled together to sponsor my stay in the PENTHOUSE of another hotel! They surely went all out to make sure I was comfortable and enjoyed my stay in Nigeria!
I arrived in Lagos on Tuesday, 12 June. My visa would expire the next day, so I had to urgently have that sorted by way of an extension on my visa. Chris Odigie, one of my newest close friends in Lagos, helped me to get this sorted out. In the end I received a one-month visa (although I only needed 4 days), and it only cost me $120! That’s double what my original visa cost me! LoL
I met a number of riders from the club during my stay, as well as Gemina, one of only a few daring female riders who is a member of an all-female club in Nigeria known as “The Angels” which currently has about four members. Even here it is a novelty to see female riders. Though I have no doubt that the sport will see significant growth, especially under the female demographic in the near future, judging by the enthusiasm I have witnessed amongst all the different motorcycle clubs across the country.
I did not stay in Lagos proper, but rather on the outskirts in an area known as Ikeja. It is situated on the mainland, whereas Lagos city is situated on the island. I did make my way across to the island with Chris when we went to have my visa extended. You can see the high-rise buildings from the bridge as you cross over from the mainland and I could sense the energy of city life. Lagos, in all honesty, was like any other big African city to me. What I found extremely funny is how Lagos’ reputation precedes it as one of the most dangerous cities in Africa, but when I told people in Lagos that I am from Johannesburg they would respond by saying: “Wow, that’s a dangerous place!”
I got to attend a birthday party of a friend of the club Here I was interviewed by a journalist from one of the local newspapers. I rode around with members from the club all over Ikeja and also got to see their training school which another member, Busayo runs. I ate some local food and hung out with friends at restaurants and bars. All in all I had a great time in Nigeria! Plus I was able to deliver the T-shirt that I offered to carry for Andrei Georgescu, the Romanian rider I had met in Namibia, to Mohammed Ducati! That is now one very well traveled T-shirt!
From Lagos I would make my way to Cotonou, the economical capital of the Republic of Benin. The border to Benin is not that far from Lagos, but the traffic will delay you some. I had five riders who would accompany me to the Benin border. It was raining when we left the hotel and before we had even made it out of the city one of the riders had a crash. Not a major crash but enough to ensure him having to go to the hospital for a potentially broken arm. To me, this incident was a reminder of just how vulnerable I am out here.
It turned out that his arm was not broken, thankfully, and we were able to proceed when his family arrived to take him home. Getting closer to a border always means chaos! Border towns are always crazy and you have to have your wits about you, especially when travelling on a bike. With the rain it meant a lot of mud and traffic delays for us to negotiate through and around.
When we finally arrived at the border I had to say my farewells to my Nigerian friends and fellow riders. Though Mohammed would cross the border with me as he had some business to take care of in Cotonou. Even though we would both be crossing into Benin, we would not cross at the same border control post! The expression: “There’s more than one way to skin a cat”, comes to mind here. If you know the right people you can cross the border without needing any paperwork or even a passport. I opted to rather cross at the conventional point, as I needed to have my passport and Carnet de Passage stamped. Though it took me three times longer to cross than it did Mohammed.
This is what I recall from my time crossing the border from Nigeria to Benin:
First off, it looks like one big mud bath that you have to negotiate your way through, which in itself can be a cause for fun and games for my heavy bike and her wide load! I had no issues stamping out of Nigeria. Everything went quick and easy with no hassles. Stamping in to Benin was a completely different story though!
First I arrive at customs to have my passport stamped. This goes without hassles. Next up comes the issue of having my Carnet de Passage stamped, and this is where everything goes pear shaped! The Customs officer tells me that I must pay him fCFA 35 000 to have my Carnet stamped. I refuse and tell him I need to go to the Douane office to have my Carnet stamped there. This argument lasts for about twenty minutes. Then he tells me to go ahead to the Douane office, as they’ll just tell me the same thing.
When I get to the Douane office I see five uniformed men, four of whom are sitting and drinking and either watching a football match on the television fixed to the wall behind the door, or chatting on Facebook on the computer on the desk situated in the middle of the little room. Behind the desk there is a man sitting and sleeping on his arms. The guy who is sleeping turns out to be the ‘Chief’ and I unfortunately have to awake him from his slumber to have my Carnet filled out and stamped. He sits flipping through the pages of my Carnet and just stares at each page for about two minutes before flipping on to the next page, even though every page has exactly the same information on it!!! I realize that he actually has no idea what to do and out of pure agitation I take my Carnet and his pen from him, fill out my Carnet myself, stamp it and then show him where to put his signature!
After all of this, sleepy returns to his drunken slumber, happy at the door gives me a cold drink and grumpy next door remains huffing and puffing because he wasn’t able to get a cent out of me after all. And yes, as you might have guessed, in this bizarre fairy tale that would make me, (pun intended) Snow White!
Back outside three riders from the motorcycle club in Cotonou had arrived to welcome me to Benin and accompany me to town. A few hundred meters ahead Mohammed was waiting for us. He had gone to have a coffee, went for prayers and changed money in the time it took me to cross the border! We stopped for a quick photo opportunity and then the five of us started making our way to Cotonou. The muddy mess that is the Benin border would give me one last ‘welcome’ to Benin before finally letting me go by way of a drunk old man on the side of the road with a long grey beard and stick in hand, whacking my bike with his stick as I rode past him!!
Needless to say I was just too happy to finally get away from the border and make my way to Cotonou. Even if I actually had no idea as to what Cotonou would be like, it certainly could not get any worse?! Mercifully it did get much better as we got closer to Cotonou. The city has a far more relaxed energy to it and I instantly felt safe and secure as we entered on the main road leading into town.
First off we stopped at the president of the motorcycle club, Djamiou’s house (read mansion) where I would be staying whilst in Benin. From here we made our way to the airport to welcome a friend of Djamiou’s, who he hadn’t seen for thirty years and would be arriving from Libreville. I thought this very interesting as a friend of mine in Libreville had given me a number of a friend of hers in Cotonou in case I needed any help, and now here I am in Cotonou and the person I will be staying with has a friend arriving from Libreville!
I did phone the contact my friend Muriel, in Libreville gave me. Sylvie met up with me at the Airport and I was able to at least say a quick hello to her before we left for a ride around town. At this point we were about twenty riders at the airport to welcome Djamiou’s friend when she arrived. Afterwards Djamiou took his friend home and the rest of us left to meet up with more riders before heading out for a drink. Djamiou has eight bikes and gave me his Honda CB 1000 to ride whilst in Benin. With this I was easily able to keep up with the other riders!
After we had stopped to pick up more friends, there was a bit of confusion and Mohammed and I lost the rest of the gang. We were now lost! Since I don’t know Cotonou at all I followed Mo around and we made our way back to Fufu’s house. (One of the riders). We sat around waiting for about half an hour until Fufu eventually found us and we were able to rejoin the group. Instead of going out we made our way back to Djamiou’s house where we had a drink and played some music in Djamiou’s very impressive studio! As a last performance, Djamiou and I played drums together with Djamiou on the bongos and yours truly on a djembe.
Benin is voodoo country. Here about 50% of the population practices voodoo from what I was told. And for such a small country they have a pretty dense population of 12 million people! I thought we (South Africa) had a lot of people at over 50 million, but right next to Benin, Nigeria has over 120 million people!
Djamiou took me to see Porto Novo, which is the capital of the country. From what I saw it’s a very quiet town with some stalls next to the road selling all kinds of merchandise. A lot of people are either sitting and chatting next to the road under a shady tree or sleeping under a shady tree. We drove a bit further North so I could get to see some of the country side. There are many small villages spread out all along the roadside, just like I had experienced in Gabon and Cameroon. Tropical surroundings and lots of greenery, but not as dense as in Gabon and or Cameroon.
Djamiou helped me to sort out my visa for Togo and Cote D’Ivoire. I knew that there is a common visa for French speaking West-African countries and inquired as to whether I would be able to obtain one? We went to see a friend of his at immigration who told me that only citizens of these countries (Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali and Cote D’Ivoire) could apply for this visa. After some negotiating and sweet-talking he eventually agreed to help me out. This would mean I would have to get a visa for Benin. As a South African passport holder I do not need a visa for Benin. But now I would have to get one in order to get the Entente visa for Togo and Cote D’Ivoire. I agreed of course and paid the fees so they could start processing the visas. It only took 24 hours to process both visas and soon I had my passport back in hand with my Entente visa valid for 2 months!
Now I still needed to sort my visa for Ghana. Djamiou phoned Fufu who phoned a friend in Togo, who in turn phoned a friend at the Ghana border and they assured me that I could get a visa at the border. Okidoki, so now I was set to make my way to Cote D’Ivoire!
Djamiou and four other riders would ride out with me to the Togo border. From here I would make my way to Togo and cross the border into Ghana and on to the capital, Accra. Three countries and two border crossings all in one day! The roads are good and we flew to the Togo border. Here I thanked Djamiou and the boys and crossed over into Togo without any hassles. Within an hour I was at the Ghana border! Togo is really tiny!
Fufu gave me the contact number of his friend at the border. He would help me if I had any issues with obtaining a visa. So when I arrived I gave him a call and he said he’d be there within 20 minutes. In the meantime I was swamped by border ‘fixers’ who offered to help me with getting all my paperwork stamped. I thanked them but denied their help, as I knew this would just result in my having to empty my pockets to them. I slowly started making my way to the Ghana side. Though after I had my passport and Carnet stamped on the Togo side, my contact was still nowhere to be seen and I had no choice but to cross to the Ghana side of the border and see what I can do about obtaining a visa.
The Ghana immigration officials were very helpful and after I had explained my situation to them they said that they could do one of two things: 1. They could give me a 48-hour transit visa, which would cost me $35. 2. They could give me an emergency visa for up to two weeks for $120. I opted for option number 1! As they were busy processing my visa, Fufu’s contact arrived. Although I had already been sorted he stuck with me and gave a contact number for someone that would help me to find a place to stay when I arrived in Accra.
I have always heard so many stories of how friendly the people are in Ghana. I was looking forward to experiencing it first hand and already had my first taste of Ghanaian hospitality at the border.
The roads are good in Ghana! Every twenty or thirty kilometers you find a village. At just about every village there is a Police control point. Some of them would stop me to ask the usual questions and then send me on my way with big smiles on their faces. At one of these control points I was asked for my driver’s license for the first time on this trip, which I happily produced. He barely looked at it and then said to me: “Give us some Cedi (Ghana currency) then you can go”. I laughed and told him that I do not have any Cedi on me. Then he asked me for some CFA. So I told him that I do not have any money with me. I guess he could see that I wasn’t going to pay up so he just sent me on my way. This is the only disappointment I had in Ghana.
I arrived at the outskirts of Ghana just before sunset and phoned my contact, Abam. Whilst waiting for him a number of people stopped to chat with me. Very friendly, outgoing people. When Abam arrived he greeted me with a big smile and then took me to his house. We left my bike in front of his house and he then took me to a hotel around the corner from where he lives. I had a look at the rooms and was very happy to spend the night in Apple Hotel. I had a bed, television, ceiling fan and bathroom with a shower and a toilet. Perfect! I was tired and really just wanted a shower and a bed to sleep in for the night. So I was very happy with what they offered. The room cost me $30 for the night, but I paid it with a smile.
I only took what I needed with me to the hotel and left the rest of my baggage and my bike at Abam’s house. He later brought me a 1.5 liter bottle of Coca-Cola and a bottle of mineral water! I had some food left from the morning, which Fufu had bought me in Benin. The only problem was that it was fish pies and with the pies having been in the sun all day, I wasn’t too sure as to whether it was still okay for consuming, but took a chance anyway. I suffered some minor stomach cramps the next day, but that was the worst of it.
I had underestimated how far it is from Accra to Abidjan. My GPS doesn’t have maps of this area so I had to stop a few times to ask for directions, just to make sure I was still on the right track. I can navigate by just using the compass on my GPS, problem comes in when getting into a little town and you have to take a left turn here and a right turn there to get out of town. Back home in South Africa, Hanret was trying to help me by sending me town names via sms.
Getting out of Accra was fairly easy as there is a great highway leading out towards the towns on route to Cote D’Ivoire. Whenever I would get stopped at a Police control point, I would double check with the officers whether I was still on the right track. They are usually fairly friendly and willing to help.
Nearing the border it started raining and would carry on raining all the way to Abidjan. I had gotten so used to passing through so many towns and villages situated next to the road, but after passing through Axim the villages became few and far between. The road also started deteriorating slightly with more potholes and muddy patches. Next to the road I would see signs indicating that I was now riding next to a rainforest and a National Park.
Arriving at the border I passed a very long line of cargo trucks. The usual chaos that Central and Western African borders bring with it ensued. First stop, as per usual, the customs office. The customs officer wrote down all my and Dax’s particulars. Afterwards I was shown to the Douane office to have my Carnet stamped. I did not have my Carnet stamped when I entered Ghana, so slipped past Douane to go straight through to the Cote D’Ivoire side of the border. Here I met a customs official that could speak a bit of English and took it upon himself to assist me in getting all my documentation stamped. The other customs officials were not as friendly and would stare at me blankly, shooting questions from all directions. Who are you, where are you going, what’s in your bags, where’s your driver’s permit, where’s your bike’s registration papers, etc etc. If not for my new friend, I’m sure I would’ve only made it through the border by nighttime.
I made it through the border by 17:30. The journey from the border to Abidjan would take me two hours. This meant that I would indeed have to ride in the dark. Riding at night in Africa is not easy at the best of times. Riding at night and in the rain makes it a nerve-wracking experience! I stopped to refuel at the first town after crossing the border and asked about the road to Abidjan. Because my GPS had no information on this area I wanted to make sure about the directions. I was told to keep on heading straight to Abidjan.
I finally made it into Abidjan by 20:00. As I entered town I stopped at the first landmark I could see to phone my friend, Jackie, with whom I would be staying whilst in Abidjan. I explained to him where I was. As you enter town, right across the road from the first Shell service station you see. As I had just finished explaining to him where I was a guy came past and snatched my phone out of my hands and made a run for it! I called after him and then realized that it wouldn’t do me any good. I just burst out laughing, quite honestly. Because what else could I do? It’s just a phone, right? The only really annoying thing is that almost all my photos and videos from Nigeria to Cote D’Ivoire, were on that phone. As well as all my voice notes about my trip all the way from Angola!
Welcome to Abidjan. Or as the locals would say: “AKWABA”.
I spent sixteen wonderful days in Abidjan. The main reason for my extended stay: to decide on how to proceed from Cote D’Ivoire onwards. A friend of mine in Libreville (Gabon) made me promise him that I would not go through Liberia, after he spent a month in captivity in a prison somewhere deep within Liberia’s jungles – stark naked! Now, captivity I could probably deal with. Considering I had a small taste of what it’s like when I had a full-on abduction/torture/interrogation session on my last night of training with a few military operators, who offered me training because they were concerned about my safety, before leaving on my trip. But the mere thought of what mosquitoes (these bloodsuckers seem to consider me a delicacy) might do to my naked body sent shivers down my spine! I asked around and the feedback was mixed. Some said it was okay-“ish”, others said it was a total no-go. If someone had given me a clear: “there are absolutely no issues”, I might have considered it.
So my options were: 1. Liberia. 2. Head through Guinea (but here I was told that there’s growing unrest in the West of Cote D’Ivoire and the Guinea border). 3. A boat from Abidjan to Dakar. (Though there are only cargo ships running this route). 4. Ride through Mali to Senegal. The growing unrest in Timbuktu with Islamist radicals breaking down sacred tombs and a growing number of kidnappings is a cause for concern, but seeing as that’s in the North and I’d be heading through the South, I decided Mali would be my best option.
Though it took me almost two weeks to finally arrive at this decision. I spent my days carefully weighing my options against one another. The rest of my time was spent hanging out with fellow bikers in Abidjan, (members of the Elephants Bikers Motorcycle Club – mainly Harley Davidsons) and seeing the sights. The president of the club (he shall only be known as Mammut), kindly took me in for my entire stay in Abidjan. Everyone made sure I was well looked after and had everything I needed.
Seeing as my phone was stolen upon arrival in Abidjan, Bruno, a member of the club, gave me his phone so I could at least phone the mother ship and inform those concerned that I had arrived safely. Ivan, another member of the club, very generously gave me one of his back-up phones for keeps the very next day!
Abidjan, to me, is a vibrant city with a mix of cultures from all over the world. I ate at so many different restaurants ranging from local, to Vietnamese, Lebanese, Chinese and French. The people are very friendly and courteous. (Just don’t lose sight of your phone – hehe) I got to experience the nightlife that the city has to offer on numerous occasions. Admittedly sometimes greeting the sunrise on our way home from the previous night’s excursion.
I stayed on Boulevard de Marseille. Across the road there is a Lebanese restaurant that looks out over ‘Lagune Ebrié’. Here you can sit and drink strong Turkish coffee, smoke Sheesha pipe and look out over the lagoon. I was there only once, after we had returned from a ride out to Grand Bassam. A 30-minute drive from Abidjan, it used to be the French colonial capital city from 1893 until 1896, when the administration was transferred to Bingerville after a bout of yellow fever.
Now Grand Bassam is a city lined with stalls stocked with local art, clothes, statues, jewelry and all kinds of souvenirs all along the roads. The beautiful beaches host an array of restaurants where you can relax and enjoy some good food, massages and sunbathing. Every now and then you have entertainment in the way of traditional dancers and drumming. I really enjoyed Grand Bassam.
I took a trip out to Yamoussoukro with a group of Chinese friends. We wanted to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. Listed by Guinness World Records as the largest church in the world. This would also give me an opportunity to see what the road looks like as I’d be heading out on this road to Mali. A three hour drive from Abidjan, our first stop was to see the crocodiles that live in the lake surrounding the presidential palace, a thirty minute walk from the basilica. We then went for some lunch. I’m very sorry to say that my pasta (Bolognaise with Tagliatelle) was THE worst food on my entire trip so far. It tasted like it had been lying around for about a decade. The rest of the food wasn’t too bad. I even enjoyed some frog legs.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace is a pretty impressive sight and something definitely worth seeing.
Côte d’Ivoire President Félix Houphouët-Boigny chose his birthplace of Yamoussoukro to be the future site of the new capital city of his country in 1983. As part of the plan of the city, the president wanted to memorialize himself with the construction of what he called the greatest church in the world. He is even pictured besides Jesus in one stained-glass panel.
Back in Abidjan my friends Sunny and Ivan Bouquet treated me to a massage session at a local Chinese spa. The very next week they treated me to an acupuncture session at the same spa! Sunny also took me to a local market as I wanted to find the next edition to my growing ‘ride report’ on my arm. A collection of bracelets from some of the countries I have traveled through thus far. I love markets. The energy about a market as every stall keeper tries to attract your attention. The goods and the bargaining for prices, it’s a lot of fun!! Sunny bought me a silver bracelet and I bought myself a bracelet made of elephant hair.
When I finally decided on making my way through Mali, the issue of obtaining a visa came up next. Mammut organized for his driver to take me to the Malian Embassy the next morning. At the Embassy I was shown to an office where a woman indicated to me to have a seat. She gave me a form to fill out whilst she jotted down all my particulars from my passport. Afterwards she told me that it would cost CFA 20 000, which I handed to her. She stamped my passport and that was it! It took only a few minutes, no hassles, no queries, no issues whatsoever and I had a one-month visa for Mali! Fantastic!
The day before my supposed departure my friends from the Elephants Bikers held a farewell party for me. We rode out to a very nice hotel/restaurant where we were showered with food and drinks. I had great fun and it only cost 1000 euros! WTF??? (Luckily I didn’t have to pick up the tab, otherwise I’d have to push my bike for the next 10 000 kilometers!) I never left the next day as the party just carried on and we finally got home around 4am the next morning! After the farewell lunch, a number of riders asked me to stay another day. When I agreed, the wheels came off! Dinner, then bars, clubs and karaoke! Who would’ve thought I could sing in French?? LoL. (I actually do know one song in French, now I know a couple!!)
I had a wonderful time with my friends in Abidjan on their Harleys. Especially Mammut, Bruno, Clotilde, Ivan, Sunny and Sylvan. I spent most of my time with these people and they really looked after me like one of their own! For that I say: Merci beaucoup!
On Monday, 9 July 2012, I set out from Abidjan towards Mali. The plan was to ride from Abidjan to Dakar in four days. 2500 kilometers and three countries in four days! The reason for the rush was that I didn’t want to tempt fate and spend too much time in Mali. Just in case, you know.
Ivan would accompany me until just outside of town. From here I was familiar with the road to Yamoussoukro. From Yamoussoukro I would make my way to Bouake, Katiola and finally Ferkessédougou where I would spend the night before crossing the border into Mali. From Abidjan you have a beautiful tar road pretty much all the way to Yamoussoukro. Just outside of town you reach a big Police control point. They stopped me here and just had a quick chat. Further on the clouds hung low, threatening to open up at any second. It’s rainy season in Western Africa, so I am bound to hit some rain on the road at some point! We had a lot of rain whilst I was in Abidjan. Though Mother Nature seemed to take pity on me and didn’t throw even a drop on my helmet!
From Yamoussoukro the road gets a little trickier with big potholes all over. Not really an issue for a bike as you can just ride around these suspension killers. Though you do get stretches where there is no road anymore. Not long stretches, maybe 20 meters or so. But these stretches would sometimes resemble a pool of mud with treacherous rocks sticking out all over. I had more and more of these stretches as I progressed towards Ferke. I’d have to slow down considerably and this caused for a miscalculation in how long it would take me to reach Ferke from Abidjan. I finally reached the town just before nightfall. Luckily the sun only starts setting around 19:00, which worked in my favor this time round. I am trying my best to not reach towns at nighttime anymore. I’ve done so a number of times and know it’s not a good idea.
I easily found a hotel just before entering the center of town, on the right hand side of the road. Five hundred meters off the road lies Hotel Le Chateaux. Prices range between CFA 15 000 and CFA 50 000. I took something in between. A room with a bed, air-conditioning, television and toilet with a shower with HOT water!!! If it has hot water, it’s a bargain! I decided to make up on spending a bit more on accommodation by not eating out. I rummaged through my dry bag and found a tin of bully beef and a tin of mixed veg that I’d been carrying from…South Africa!! Hey, if you haven’t eaten all day, these make out for a fantastic meal! I left some for breakfast and turned in for the night.
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