Unfortunately the request for access was rejected. We left somewhat disheartened and headed to Lamberene on the river.
Charlie Curtis : 31st July

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25th March
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Nigeria 20th June
Cameroon 16th July
Gabon 30th July
Congo 6th August

Click the photos to see the gallery of Gabon

DIARY : Gabon Imagery: ©2009 Terrametrics
Map data: ©2009 Europa Technologies

30th July : Equatorial Guinea

At the tri-border with Gabon, we made one last attempt to visit Equatorial Guinea and crossed the border on foot. It was hectic; people with bags and sacks and animals everywhere.

We found the head of immigration, who welcomed us into the country until he discovered we had no visas. Soldiers escorted us out of the country. So close!

30th July : Gabon

Entering Gabon we drove directly to Mikongo, hoping to visit a British Zoological camp. Unfortunately a logging company owns the road and we needed a ‘laissez-passez’. So we spent the night at a truck stop hoping to succeed in the morning. On the dinner menu something caught our eye; Python.

They had a pot with a whole python stewing. I couldn’t resist. The meat was flaky like fish but tasted almost like pork. It was delicious; although it was bizarre chewing on the camouflage skin.

An old local sitting nearby and told us about the snakes in Gabon. Apparently they are renowned for attacking people. The pythons and boas can grow up to 12m long. He showed me some scars from a snake attack which looked brutal.

The only problem with staying at a roadside truck stop was the constant flow of trucks rolling at speed by our tent, with the constant fear of a near hit keeping us awake. Luckily sleep eventually came and in the morning we awoke in one piece!

31st July : Gabon Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

We had another attempt to access the private road. The chap in the office agreed to radio head office in Libreville to ask. We went with him to a camp in the forest, on a massive logging machine; these are used to stack enormous trees and treating them like matchsticks. He was keen to demonstrate his skills and used the massive jaws to pick up a log, that could have accommodated a car, by one end and flicked it up to catch it fully in the jaws before stacking it neatly on a pile, creating a terrifying crashing sound.

Unfortunately the request for access was rejected. We left somewhat disheartened and headed to Lamberene on the river. Gabon appears to be one huge dense rainforest

1st August : The Equator Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

Waking up early this morning we continue south keeping a constant watch on our GPS system for the equator coordinates.

I used our GPS to find the exact position. We wanted to mark the crossing. It’s not often you cross the equator. In the true spirit of tourism there was a large sign marking the crossing.

We had driven 14000 miles to get to that line and I was a touch disappointed. And they got it in the wrong place. The equator was actually 10 foot further south. However at 9.30am UTC [Coordinated Universal Time] we are standing on Earth’s Equator. Car problems led us to stopover with nuns in a small mission.

We spent a few days there while we had a local garage fix the brakes and the bungs. I tried some washing. It took me two days and I’m pretty sure that some of the stuff was actually dirtier than when I started.

We met a German couple on our last night in Lambarene. They gave us a lot of tips as they had just come up the coast. Unfortunately, they advised us that the ferry to Lubanga National Park was on strike so we could not see the hippos. They did, however, give us directions through the middle of the country – very useful.

2nd August Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

The road was a single track through dense forest with the trees and plants. With the windows down you would be whipped in the face. At one point it was so dense that I sat on the roof with the machete cutting the branches and vines getting caught on the tent. Within 20 minutes I was covered in scratches and spider bites. I am now covered in tiny pink spots.

While the bush was trying to get to us from above and sides, the mud was doing a good job from below. The roads felt more like rivers. There were massive cracks running down the middle which you had to straddle. With the cracks meandering, we had to as well. Then you would find the mud holes which appear innocent but are in fact several feet deep. At one point we tore off the exhaust and water tap. Well and truly stuck we got the winch out only to find the nearest tree was 3 feet too far. Luckily some local villagers appeared and helped dig us out. We patched the exhaust and were taken to a nearby village for the night. Lots of curiosity as usual and we shared a lot of tea.

3rd August Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

The morning brought an incredible mist through the village. Most of the men had already left so the village was very quiet; very eerie. I watched one villager walking through the trees with a homemade rifle over his shoulder and ammunition belt round his waist. Barefoot and topless he was going after bush meat. Snakes and monkeys mostly.

After some basic repair to the exhaust pipe (cable ties are amazing) we set off. The road deteriorated further and we were soon fording rivers and crossing rotted log bridges. I was pretty sure they weren’t designed to carry loads like ours as they creaked and cracked in protest as we inched over them. The last half always taken at speed when it seemed the end was in sight.

4th August

We had now spent almost two days driving just 50km.

Finally the road improved. We caught up with a Toyota pickup. The first car we had seen on these roads for days. I can only assume the others had been taken in by the forest and were now being held hostage somewhere. The vehicle was a flat bed truck containing over 15 men, women and children. The driver did not like someone on his tail therefore he tried to lose us. We were not going to let this happen. We had a blocker and we were not letting go.

The biggest problem with driving in the bush is the unexpected. You could be driving along a glorious highway and you would hit a stretch of gravel with a one foot drop. In the forest you can drive at speed if the road is good, but the blind bends, ditches and potholes waiting to swallow a wheel can send you cart wheeling into the trees to join the dozens of trucks already

there. And so if you find a blocker you don’t let go. They drive just ahead of you and they announce the surprises for you. Our blocker was doing a fine job knowing the road ahead. We were absolutely flying through the forest; branches and plants whipping at the windows. Finally we escaped our green spiky prison. Back on the tarmac we made fast tracks for the border with Congo. We were aiming for Franceville.

We spent the night about 100km from the border along a track outside a village not meant for cars. We bridged a three foot drop with our sand ladders and then navigated an uphill trail of broken earth creating a minefield of deep crevasses and sharp protrusions. After the inevitable greeting by a troop of local kids and a visit to the chief we got some peace.

5th August : Heading for the border with Congo

Overnight stop en route for the coast.

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