I previously claimed that the road entering Cameroon is possibly the best tarmac in sub-saharan Africa. The Gabonese trumped it. Not only is the road from their border fantastic, they have also trimmed away 3m of the jungle from both sides of the road. Gabon looks like it could be just a slightly poorer departemangue of France. The simple houses are made of stone with lawns carefully mown and trimmed. Some gardens even have flower pots.
The task on the Gabonese border is to get through without our bikes being registered in the passports. Some countries do that and it becomes a hassle to fly out, because they then expect you have imported the bikes and should pay duty. Successfully we passed through with just a lot of time spent by semi-literate border guards writing little essays on random pieces of paper. No hassle though and no marks in the passport, so we’re clear to leave the bikes behind when we fly back.
We haven’t had to pay a single bribe at the checkpoints and have only been asked about 4 times. By the time it gets to the guard asking for money you know that you’re clear to leave. Just smile, put on the helmet and say “imagine I’m black”.
The sign says 650km to Libreville, but we also know that the road turning right is only 360km. It goes through the jungle, with only two villages on the map. We felt intrigued enough to take the shortcut against the advice of the checkpoints.
360km is a long red dusty track and it passes through a mountain range, oscillating between 300m and 600m above sea level. The road isn’t too bad, other than it is long and all the same – winding left and right, up and down, entirely to ourselves as we meet only 5 cars on the way. The cars in this part of Africa are synonymous with Toyota. There are just no other brands, winner has taken all.
There are two things noticably common with both Cameroonians and Gabonese. They take their time in whatever they do and secondly they sing while taking their time. Be it repairing the tyre, making food, cleaning the house or just watching traffic go by. Often they have african rhythms coming from their small portable loudspeaker. If that’s the case, the lads also tend to dance a bit. For example, while repairing a tyre. Their dance is standing on their forefoot and moving hips up and down like in foreplay of a slow sex tape.
In your face Equatorial Guinea, we are in you! For about 20km the road goes 4km inside Guinean territory with no border checks on the road. In the jungle the country borders don’t matter as much as whether you can pass through the rainforest or not. I wonder how it happened historically, some road must have been there in the 60s when the border was drawn in the straight line and the colonial powers didn’t care too much about it. Perhaps it’s too much of a hassle for Guinea to care either. Gabonese seem to take good advantage of it though. Logging in this region seems a bit more active, harvesting the Guinean rainforest.
The main problem with the road is that every uphill and downhill section has one or two enormous trenches running in the middle of the road as the water finds the best way downhill. I don’t quite understand why have they put so much effort into clearing the jungle and building the road only to stop short of digging the ditches next to the road. These trenches are usually okay to navigate by bike, but must be quite tricky for cars and trucks. Sometimes the speed is too high and the handling skills a bit too poor for the white boy.
Although the humid weather is like Turkish baths, it doesn’t keep you clean. Quite the opposite – the mixture of humidity, dust, sweat and killed mosquitos all eventually become a thick ointment covering your body and clothes. 5 days of dust road and sleeping rough in the jungle completely erases the hygenie from the consciousness. When we eventually reach civilisation again and I go to a decent restaurant to ask for a coke, the French waiter suggests: “Are you looking for a bathroom?”
New photo added to shared album
In the same bar, only 50km left to Libreville, a dude comes by as we’re taking the rest and starts talking about our bikes. He is a member of the OCB Gabon moto club, who I’ve been in touch with. We arrange to meet later on in Libreville to discuss the future of Kotilda and Suusi.