Camping out in the bush, we are soon introduced to our first delicacy in Gabon – Python for dinner”.
Charlie Curtis : 31st July

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Cameroon 16th July
Gabon 30th July
Congo 6th August

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

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

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!

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!

29th July

We've had no luck with Equatorial Guinea visas so tomorrow we head for Gabon.

28th July Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

Back on the road to Yaounde.

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27th July

On the return journey we were met at the same road block by the same men; this time with machetes. We agreed to make payment after the detour. However once again the threats began in earnest with even greater sums demanded.

In desperation I threw a handful of notes out of the window and in the confused scrambling managed to drive off. The sound of machetes against the bodywork was the last thing I remember. We were very shaken. We have been driving through Africa for over four months now and this was the first time that we have ever encountered such a problem. Not once had we been threatened, especially not with a weapon.

This was an isolated incident, and not a reflection of the people we have met. Desperation and Alcohol were certainly contributory factors in this group’s action. Whilst not an excuse, it would be wrong not to reflect at this point on the daily struggle to survive that people endure in many parts of Africa

26th July Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

During our hike back to be picked up by rangers we were followed by one of the many troupes of Colobus monkeys that surrounded us at all times; gliding between the trees as they launched themselves 20ft between branches 100ft in the air.

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25th July Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

We spent three days hiking through the forest with our pygmy guide ‘Little Jean’ tracking gorillas by smell – gorillas give off a very strong scent of ammonia.

At the end of the first day we had our first sighting. Peering through the bush the head of a female suddenly popped up, eying us curiously. Her expression swiftly turned to fear and she bolted, screaming.

At which point the large male who must have been just behind us erupted in shrieks and also ran. We eventually arrived at the clearing we had been aiming for and were greeted by the sight of two females with infants on their backs, and a huge silverback all sitting down to dinner. Returning to this clearing several times over the next few days we spent plenty of time in their company; an incredible sight.

The nights in the rainforest were a dramatic experience. Camping miles from any other people the only sounds were those of the forest. When darkness swoops in suddenly, the forest erupts. A million crickets chirp, monkeys call out to each other, and forest elephants trample their paths sending out their rumbling calls.

24th July Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

Spending the night at a Ranger station – deep in the rainforest, before heading into the forest trekking our guide.

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22nd July Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

The drive took three long days, on roads that were consistently the worst I have seen so far.

On day two the brakes failed. We had severed a brake line and unable to fix it on the road, made a temporary fix and found a mechanic at the WWF office in Yokaduma. Then on to the final leg down to Lebeke. This we were advised would be tough, with terrible roads in a remote area.

We met the familiar sight of a lorry sitting at a seemingly impossible angle in a deep mud hole. And of course the usual welcome sight of a group of locals who had built a diversion. We had agreed to pay 3000 CFA to use the detour; a typical price for this encounter. However on the other side the price was lifted to 30,000.

I refused and the bartering began but suddenly the car was surrounded by men, women and a few children; all shouting at us; with arms clawing at the inside of the vehicle trying to grab a trophy.

Suddenly a hand came through the window and held a large knife to my throat. Calming the owner I handed over 10,000, which only temporarily placated the crowd. Only the intervention of a local truck driver helped us out of the predicament. We were shaken up, but also knew we would have to pass back this way on the return journey.

19th July : Yaounde Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

Our time in Yaounde was far more relaxed. This city set in rolling hills is one of our favourites in Africa. Fish stalls and bars as far as the eye can see, and the aggressive street sellers of other towns are nowhere to be seen.

With our visas in order we were ready to leave. Jon had to head back to the UK for a flying visit, so I decided to explore to the east of the country near Lebeke National park on the Congo border in search of Gorillas. I was joined by Danny, a UK medical student who had tried to get into Equatorial Guinea to undertake volunteer work in a hospital but been refused entry (familiar feeling). Information from guide books suggested that the east was not yet set for tourism and we should take all the food and water we would need. We soon discovered the reality for ourselves.

18th July Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

Heading for Yaounde.

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17th July : Cameroon
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Driving south to Yaounde we realised how close we were to the Central African Republic. In fact, Garaoua Boulai was 100m off the track we were following.

We could not resist diverting for a look.

Like most borders in Central Africa, security was not exactly tight. Most locals do not even see or recognise the border. They may live

on one side and work on the other. The armed militia patrolling didn’t seem to bother with them, so we parked the Land rover and strolled across confidently. We were in CAF! That was easy. Wrong!

20 seconds later we were stopped by the military. With bars a prominent feature in Central Africa, we thought a round of beers might solve the dilemma even though it was only 9:30am.

And so we found ourselves in a bar in CAR surrounded by representatives of police, immigration and military.

As the morning progressed and the beers flowed we became more at ease with the bizarre collection of hosts who joined us. Not least the militia man with full shell suit, rucksack, beanie hat, 50’s motorbike goggles, and AK47 strapped to his chest. When the mood had mellowed we were finally able to withdraw.

16th July
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The scenery in Nigeria began to change as we drove east and up into the impressive plateaus.

This continued into Cameroon were we found ourselves camping on the edge of a plateau looking down a lush valley.

13th July : Yankari
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Heading for the Cameroon, we travelled through Jos stopping at the Yankari National park, exploring the game reserve and Wikki spring one of four geothermal springs in the park.

In the 24 hours we were there we fought several battles over food with the local baboons, were woken up by Elephants tearing branches next to our car and eventually surrounded by a 40 strong herd out in the bush.

Sitting within a few metres, watching these huge creatures showed how imposing they really are. With trepidation we approached the largest male on foot and got within 3 metres when he turned, raised his ears and trunk and trumpeted.

We thought a charge was imminent and ran like schoolboys back to the Land rover. On reaching the car we realised it was an idle threat. Our guide was laughing. He knew this elephant and assured us he would never charge – not sure we were wholly confident in his theory.

12th July
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Leaving Abuja we stopped off at Nigeria’s very own Ayers Rock – much smaller but with a lot of folklore attached.

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