I can't believe we made to Brazzaville, what originally was 300kms+ of Michelin Map red tarmac road was nothing but a myth! 4 days of very hard work but the sense of achievement was amazing when we dragged our weary bodies and bikes onto the tarmac, kissing it in sheer joy and took a team picture. There were 3 local boys watching us from a ledge overlooking the start of the tarmac, laughing at our silly actions but we didn't care, hey, we've looked strange and silly since we've been here anyhow!
Once in Brazzaville and seeing the mighty Congo river we felt much better. The lack of local money and the chance of an ATM was one of the most pressing points, we were skint! Coming across an ATM that took Visa was great and also we met a few 'whites' offering advice, a place to work on the bike, internet access and general niceties which was really cool, I thank you all! But in reality all I wanted was a good hot shower, a cheap hotel with a comfortable bed and a few beers! Of which I got............ beer! The hotel wasn't cheap at 20,000cfa ($45) a night, cold water if any, electricity failures and the bed sucks. Oh well!
The city is quite a nice place itself, still bearing war damage but repairs are being done and new buildings going up. Bars and restaurants have a relaxed feel and it's pretty safe at night. Albeit the power cuts happen at awkward times typically during internet access but generally not bad.
Due to the time frame of asking for parts sending from the UK, suspension and piston rings I had to consider applying for an extension to my Congo visa as it would run out on the 23rd of January, considering the time it would take for the DRC visa application I had to weigh this up carefully. So I opted for the DRC visa first thinking if the Congo extension was denied I could jump the border and MAYBE get the piston rings sent from DHL to Kinshasa, a big maybe. The bike was in such bad state that I dreaded to think that maybe the bike could fail with a buggered starter motor, shot piston rings and a collapsed shock absorber! I was worried to say the least!
After a night on the piss which invariably happens in a new city, knackered but I can still push myself for a few beers if I really want to! Migo and I applied for visas with DRC, a bit of to-ing and fro-ing and the applications were in, 35 grand, two pics and all's done. Mark decided to leave it to another day seeing no rush. But the rush came when he did the application the next day and found he had no pages left in his passport.......... Oooops!
28th January 2009
We waited for the later ferry which arrived a couple of hours later. I've ever seen so much commotion! The passengers disembarking in a rush to be at the front of the queue for the formalities and the cargo being unloaded by hand.
Bales of cloth, second hand clothes, palm oil containers by the hundred and then comes the embarkation... Wow! Even more chaos! There were people pushing and shoving anyone, including us, out of the way, some guys swinging underneath the loading platform to avoid the officials in charge, fare dodging and the police and customs dispensing 'immediate' justice to anyone crossing their path. Whips made of old rope, belts, car belts from engines etc and the good old fashioned truncheon. Of which I saw a guy for whatever reason take a good hit from one truncheon wielding cop and he must be still hurting two days after!
Getting the bikes aboard required extra help as the platform was slippy with oil and the final few steps were really steep but all was done reasonably quickly. The bikes positioned on deck and the usual awe from the passengers.
The other side, DRC,
awaited us with a little less chaos but we'd heard of the formalities and the problems we may get from Migo who did the crossing 4 days earlier. We'd not printed off a copy of our Letter of Introduction for Angola so when asked for one I opened the laptop and showed the emailed copy. The laptop itself brought a lot of attention which diverted their thoughts from whether we had one or not. Strange I find that the DRC officials want to see an LOI for Angola before letting us into DRC..?
1st February 2009
I'm in the town on Nzete on the Northern Angolan coast. A quiet town and I mean really quiet, There's nothing here of a commercial value or trade and although finding a hotel wasn't too difficult, finding food is! The prices quoted in Lonely Planet for Angola is $100-$120 per day, which obviously doesn't include fuel and it is expensive here for accomodation and food.
After getting the 5 day transit visas I was so relieved as it's the last one I have to apply for in advance. Namibia and South Africa I can get on the border. So the mad scramble began! Crossing the border from DRC was an event with an early start from ourselves at 7am and then having to wait for the chief to turn up on the DRC side to stamp the passports. I was approached by an official asking for my Yellow fever vaccination card, of which I don't have. The vaccination I have had but as it was in the military no cards were issued. I lied and said my bag was stolen in Mali and the card was with it and on no account was I to go back to the UK just for a card!! George an English over lander I'd met the day before came to the rescue with a vaccination card from one of his buddies who'd gone home, the name details were absent so I filled out it out with my details and hey-presto, one vaccination card for me. So I'm now 'officially' safe! Ha ha ha! I've promised to return the card upon entry to South Africa, so I'll mail it back to him. Thanks George!
I had to push on with the riding as 5 days for a large country like Angola isn't easy, over 2,000kms and the roads are difficult in the north from the border to the capital Luanda. The bike is still vibrating like mad with the busted suspension at the rear and the top end of the engine is still making a lot of noise although it's pulling quite well. I need to get to Windhoek in Namibia as soon as possible in the hope of getting bike repairs. The roads were in different states from rough piste to new Chinese constructed tarmac.
The visa issue was going to be a problem as by the 2nd day Mark had developed an illness. First fears were for malaria but this was discounted and i think it was a mild fever and exhaustion. A malaria test was done in Luanda which ruled out the dreaded 'M' but we'd lost a ½ day for he needed rest. So we knew we were going to overrun the allocated 5 days but we'll figure that out at5 the border with Namibia.
I've heard about overrunning the visa and a 'fine' of sorts to be paid. We'll soon find out......
7th February 2009
Birthday.....! Whey-hey! I'm 36 years young today and to make it even better I'm in Namibia, a first world country, food in the restaurants, petrol in the fuel stations, good roads, actually...... bloody wonderful roads! Long stretches of mile after mile of billiard table smooth tarmac. The adventurous side of Africa has finished, the bad roads, broken bike, unpredictable fuel situations, dodgy police and officials, sickness, foreign languages and I've loved it!
I'm in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, sat in 'Joe's Beerhouse' enjoying a birthday pint. Actually I've enjoyed a pint nearly every night on this trip, throwing the budget out of the window but tonight I'm getting shitfaced and will recover tomorrow with the worlds largest hangover.
The push through Angola was completed in 6 days, 1 day over the visa allocation. Migo and I went through the formalities of the border rather quickly, the immigration officials ensured we paid a 'fine', initially demanding $300 for the 2 of us but the price dropped to $150 and not being in the mood for negotiations I agreed and just wanted to get into Namibia soonest. We very nearly got away with not paying and after the carnet was stamped we returned to the bikes but were 'captured' by a guy who claimed to work for the immigration and wanted the $150. I asked for his ID and as he didn't have any then I told him to go away, which he did only to return with the official, Bugger! Who ensured I paid up.
Arriving in Windhoek felt a relief as there's a Yamaha dealership in town. I was shown there by a lovely couple, Paul and Brigit, riding their Honda CBR 1000. They also were kind enough to show me the hotel, Kubata lodge and Joe's.
After waiting out the weekend and getting to the Yamaha garage with a bad head and not feeling too good, either recovering from the weekend or getting some illness of sorts, I was disappointed to find the repairs on the bike wouldn't be worth the money value of the bike. $1,000US for the parts and then labour charges on top! I only paid £1,250 for the bike initially and the rigours of the trip have taken their toll. So I've decided as it's only 1500kms to Cape Town and the roads are good, I've replaced the rear brake pads so I can at least stop now, fill in the holes from the blowing exhaust and see if it makes it to the Cape!
Namibia doesn't have much of a reputation for violence, unlike South Africa and further north but I'm finding it to be really violent! The obvious dodgy countries of 'Congo', 'DRC', Angola, etc were rather pleasant and nothing like I expected but here in Windhoek after 3 days there's been 2 knife attacks on tourists already! A Dutch guy from the 'Chameleon Lodge' was robbed in a taxi and he was a big guy. He had to escape by climbing out of the car window after relinquishing his wallet, watch, phone, etc and the second was near my hotel, a tourist/white was stabbed and robbed by unknown assailants and left bleeding. “Watch yourself Geoff my boy!”
A couple of days here, where hopefully I'll feel better although I may go for a malaria test to rule that one out then I'll head down towards the border with ZA and ultimately Cape Town. I hope the Yamaha reliability God is looking favourably down at me...........!
22nd February 2009
Big sky and lovely people. South Africa, what a lovely place. I've been here before to Cape Town, doing work training in 2006 and have been looking forward to getting here but it wasn't easy. The bike was getting more problematic everyday.
Leaving Windhoek for the 400km down to Klipmanshoop was a good ride, playing cat and mouse with the rain clouds visible from 20+kms away I was able to keep the bike at a constant 100-120kph even though the engine wasn't feeling too good with sudden power cuts of which I was to find out later what it was. Namibia is a very flat country along the main north/south highway with only light rain clouds to dodge. Entering 'Klip' was marred by the chain jumping the sprockets and to my suprise the thing had stretched so much in the last few days I was unable to extend the rear wheel to accommodate it or even remove a couple of links for my 'punch' had mysteriously disappeared. So in the hotel carpark I changed the chain for my spare I'd kept from Cameroon and replaced the rear sprocket which was getting dangerously thin on teeth.
So the next day I headed south for the border and after 65kms the 'new' chain snapped at 120kph! Jamming itself into the front sprocket housing with a horrible crunch. After luckily being able to coast to a halt I inspected the damage and found 4 links bent out of shape and minor damage to the rear sprocket. With no spare chain and not enough links to repair I was stuck. 65Kms into the desert with a half bottle of water and a packet of 'biltong' (dried meat) as my only supplies. After a short while a couple of cars stopped to offer assistance and one of them was a pick-up and trailer with a kind old couple Max and Myra, heading north back to to pick up their furniture. They kindly took me and the bike back to Klip where I was able to order a new chain and wait till the next day for delivery. The owner at LSL garage in Klip allowed me to do an oil and filter change using the garages facilities at no charge and fitted the chain for free too! Nice one mate! I also found the oil sump plug was badly stripped of threads from the crankcase which was done by 'Tony Togo's' in Lome. Thanks guys!MORE...
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