March 13, 2007 GMT
Gorilla trek & Pygmees in CAR

Its a long side trek of nearly an extra 2000kms but we we give it the thumbs up to head to Central African Republic to go trek the lowland gorillas! We think the roads are tarmac but Mary Mary, oh the contrary! Long bumpy corrugations & dirty dusty roads. With the extra strain on the bikes, we think twice about whether we have made the right decision.

The poverty becomes more evident, old shacks held together by thin straw & crumbling mud walls. People seem more filthy, pigs, goats & flu infested chickens run across the road missing our tyres.... this is real central africa.

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pygmees by the road

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Central African Republic, just past the border

After eating more dust & surviving the manic logging roads with dangerous oversized speeding trucks we make it to the border. What a haven for corruption, every police, customs, gendarmarie, vaccination officials ask us for money, its supposedly the 'formalities'. I refuse to pay, getting quite tedious the more checkpoint we go through.

At one particularly bad checkpoint, they tell us sternly 'get off your bikes' & hold us in the straw huts for what seems like forever. We start to get fed up with the usual questions & red tape when suddenly a rude drunken police officer threatens us with a rifle tells us to 'shut your mouth' & give him money. I then bravely inform them that not to mess with Rob as he is a very important man in Australia, a high official and we don't have any money! I even show them an expired commonwealth bank card, stating it's a credit card to pay for things. A sober official inspects the card upside down & eventually gives us the okay to leave. Phewww.

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We found another way to clean the air filter.

Its so up & down, the officials are frustrating but the local people will wave frantically & smile as we ride past, giving us an invigorating feeling. As we ride over hills of beautiful open plains, we see silhouettes up ahead, reassuring us there are people around to ask directions to Dzanga Sangha National Park. As we approach closer, something seems different, they're carrying spears in their hands & scantily covered in simple clothes...... I pull up & relalise that its a tribe of pygmees! (& he only comes up to my wing mirrors). I can now say that I am officially taller than a pygmees as my friends use to call me.


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A typical pygmee house

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Pygmee

We are told when we arrive that we cannot take our motorbikes into the National Park due to fear for our safety, we beg & plead with them. The chief tells us that its okay as long as we sign an agreement that we'll take our own responsibility & that we must have a guide with us. Agreed, our guides, being pygmees. So my first ever passenger (& pygmee) hangs on for dear life of over 60kms of difficult muddy, narrow & sandy tracks.

We trek through the thick dense jungle passing large saline pans hosting an array of wildlife - duikers, wild pigs, bongo, buffaloes deers & about 80 forest elephants at the same time.... A pure sight of natural wildlife. We then trek further into the forest & there we spot our first sight of the enormous silverback gorilla with 13 other females & juveniles. We sit & watch them from an extremely close distance for a few hrs.

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only metres away from the lowland gorillas

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the many forest elephants spotted at a saline opening

After our hit of wildlife, we cruise back to Cameroon on 'roads' that aren't even on the Michelin maps. We have to cross 2 rivers, one with a barge but as we approach the next barge, we are told it is no longer in action..... shite, We can't turn back, so what do we do? A few locals say that the only way we can get across is via pirogue (traditional dug out canoe), "no way, its too risky, if the bike falls in, its the end of the trip" but it starts to rain & realise we have no other option. So reluctant & nervously so, we unpack the bike whilst the locals balance the bikes across the raging la fleuve... errrkkkk

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Stranded between 2 rivers with a broken barge, we have no other choice but to leave the Baja in the hands of locals!!!

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Nerve wrecking

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entertaining the children in a remote CAR village

Posted by Amy Lee at 09:45 AM GMT
 
 

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