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!
Migo and I received our visas, bunging the 'Chief' 5 grand for some 'phone call' to Kinshasa..? and I went to the DHL office to see if my shock absorber had arrived. It had in country but not at the office of which I'd paid for. Finally it did arrive not the day I expected but the next. When I outlined I wanted DHL to deal with customs and bring the package to the office, accepting the horrendous charge of £120 because I'd dealt with African customs before and hated it, Mark collected a package for himself at the airport and from the original quote of 240,000cfa ($600) FOR A TYRE..! He got it for 25,000cfa and all smiles! I however picked mine up, got it scanned and what should have been a charge of 84,000cfa was ignored and I left, BIGGER SMILES!! Dancer!
The application went in for a Congolese extension, explaining for 2 hours my bike problems, I love Brazzaville, buddies here, blah, blah, blah, and my application was accepted. “Come back tomorrow and we'll see” The usual African answer again.
In the mean time the bike needed to be dealt with so I cracked on, firstly the shock. Disappointed with the 'Hagon' shock I'd bought (20,000kms and busted!) I had the stock shock to fit and what a bugger it was. When I fitted the Hagon I didn't grease the bottom pin and it had corroded so much that thing wasn't budging an inch! I had to dismantle the entire swingarm (with again, much difficulty. Thanks 'Tony Togo's' for not greasing it as requested and paid for!) and literally beat the hell out of the pin with the bigger hammer I'd bought, if in doubt, hit it harder and it worked. The whole swingarm needed a good clean and regrease and it and the new shock fitted sweetly. 2 days to get it off and a half hour to put it back on! I did some sweating and the locals stopping me every now and again to look at the fat bloke with the tattoos! .
The starter motor was another problem, after opening it up it was as black as the ace of spades! Everything in and around the bushes was full of carbon and I feared a burned out starter motor. When I opened it up in Dakar, Senegal it was as clean as a whistle so the only explanation was I didn't correctly refit it to the aligning marks. So I cleaned it up, following the manual, greasing the bush mounts etc and it now turns like a dream! Lesson learnt......... read instructions you arse!
Next job.... piston rings! I'm not looking forward to that one especially in a hotel carpark! One of the things that bothers me is if the barrel is scored then the whole thing is buggered and will need a rebore but I'm optimistic for a change. If it works well then good, it may last till South Africa if not then Hey-Ho! I'll push on as far as the bike will go cos there's no chance I can get a rebore here, DRC or Angola and the only place, maybe will be in Namibia! The way the bike is going, it'll not last another 500kms. The other one bothering me is I'm hoping the rebuild will be okay for if the valves move position once the cambelt is off, a bolt snaps or won't free, etc, etc. If I'm sat in a garage in the UK then no probs but I'm in The Congo! Ha Ha Ha! (slightly nervous laugh!) I have the instructions on paper and PDF so that will be the bible.
Mark has received the extra pages for his passport inserted from the US embassy here in Brazza, good on him but a slight oversee on his part as he readily accepts for the problem in the first place. No DHL package has arrived for me today and the visa runs out today too! If I get my extension then great, if not........... ? Dread to think!
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