Sunday, 13 March 2016

Congo

Arriving at the border post Mandy said to us that on her iOverlander app it had been marked as a notoriously tricky border with bribes being asked at every opportunity. To get our passports stamped we had to wait a while, whilst us girls were waiting the boys went to sort out the Carnet. Sadly they were not so good as the Cameroonians with what to to, however the learnt from their mistakes and after getting the first attempt wrong managed to get it right! Mandy and I got called into immigration and the officer looked at our passports, he asked where our invitation letter was... We knew full well we didn't need one, but was insistent we did and told us it would cost us to get our passport stamped without it. I explained to him this was the first border we had been asked to pay for a stamp, we had paid a lot for the visa and we would not be paying for it. He took his time, expecting us to relent however 4 stamped passports later, no money exchange and we were out. As this was happening the boys were getting the cars searched.. We thought they were thoroughly searched in Mauritania but this was something else..they had every box open, the roof box open.. Who knows what they were looking for but they didn't find it! Charles stood there calmly, took his time to pack everything away and they moved in. That is the trick, don't get annoyed and don't make it easy/worth their while! We went to have our yellow fever certificates checked by a lovely lady who was rather fierce.. A man came in demanding her to do something, she told him no and stuck up her finger at him! I did think good for her! Whilst the border was hassle we got through it quickly. Charles and I were talking after saying if that hassle was back at the beginning of our travels we would never say no to an immigration officer (or police officer!) and probably would have paid, it is amazing what the experience has taught us! 

Leaving Ntam it was a red dirt road through the jungle. Normally after a border post you are stopped about 1km down the road to register your details again, normally with the local police. This time we were stopped by the military who wanted everything. We got out and gave them passports, licences, car documents, insurance, yellow fever and the Carnets. They were very friendly, and we chatting away to us about our journey and about the Congo. After they checked our documents they wanted to search the cars.. This was another pain staking task, everything came out and was very thorough. As we were stood there one of the men said it was because of the up coming elections, they were having to be vigilant.. To be honest we really don't mind being searched at least they are doing their jobs and keeping people safe! As it came to end of the car searches one of the men looked at our flags and asked where Congo was, explaining to him we had literally just crossed the border he insisted we put it on there and then, and then had photos with him in front of it! We parted on a good note with a more positive experience than the border.

By 12 we were hungry having to had breakfast. Food as been a little more scarse than in the Western countries, there at lots of tinned things however tinned sardines for breakfast doesn't really do it for me! Stopping off at the first town for bread and eggs the boys were approached by a man who wanted to see the Carnet. They went with him to his office and came out a while later saying he wanted 5000CFA for a stamp and signature on it. We all knew he didn't need to stamp or sign it and after telling him so and refusing to pay we went on our way! Again some people are crafty.. They see us and just see the dollar signs! Stopping for egg sandwiches our eggs were off which kind of summed up the whole experience in the town! 

We had to head to Brazzaville however it was over 1000km away and we had approximately 12 days to get there then onto the border. The first 35km was red dust piste which is a nightmare.. Red dust coupled with sweat is a pain! The arm by the window becomes orange, as does half your faces, ear and hands! You being to look a little bit Essex! I even look tanned (which as most people know I don't ever tan)! After the 35km we reached beautiful Tarmac! It was like the till Ouesso where a hotel was on the cards if only for the shower and running water! 2 showers later (you have to scrub off the mud), and 2 loads of washing (we had not done any for a while) our room looked like a laundry service however we were clean. Food was cooked hurriedly, beer was welcomed gladly and bed could not come sooner! 

Having a late start the next morning was welcomed, we left the hotel at 9 to try and find some diesel. We had been unlucky the night before.. There seems to be a shortage in the country at the moment so we filled up a jerry can as well. We picked up some food also, some tinned beans and sausages, a pineapple (sadly not ripe because I wanted it now) and some bread. We headed along the road to Brazzaville stopping a few times for the police; here they don't want money they want juice.. Luckily we don't carry any so couldn't give them any even if we had wanted to! We arrived at the town nearest the equator and we greeted with political rallies. We had seen the remenaints of one in Ouesso the night before but in this town it was the middle of one! Steams of people everywhere, mopeds all with flags on parading around. Music blaring and lots of beer being drunk! The police who stopped us spelt rather strongly of it! We seem to be following the president as he campaigns in the upcoming elections on 20th (we saw him fly overhead in his helicopter). Whilst stopping to find somewhere to stay (and we tried a lot of places but most were full due to the rally), Rob realised he had an oil leak in the car, luckily once we stopped he fixed it and Charles also fixed our central locking issue.. The car had been tempramental when it came to locking recently! 

Driving the next day the terrain seemed to go from jungle to flat open grassland. At some point we crossed the equator, sadly, unlike in Gabon, there is no tourist sign telling you you have crossed which is sad, however the sat nav began to register the south coordinates instead of north. The buildings in Congo seem to be of better quality and bigger, built with a plaster effect as well as bricks. There is a lot of contradictions, whilst the houses and general conditions of the general population seem better (the government has put water systems in each of them - once the photos go up on charles' Facebook they are red, yellow and green tanks, you seen them everywhere), the contrast between rich and poor is still huge.. There have been some amazing glass structures buildings, and we have driven past immaculate housing estates with helipads! 


(Quick snap of the landscape in Congo, as you can see the roads are prefect tar. I said earlier like Enland, however the roads are better than the majority of roads around where we lived!)

Driving day by day we seemed to be chasing the presidential election rally in each town we passed. I have mentioned before.. Driving through one town we seemed to get right into the tick of it. There were thousands of people wearing their t-shirts with their chosen candidate on, women wearing their traditional skirts in bright patterns with the faces of the candidates as part of the pattern! People having a good time, singing, jogging, mopeds beeping! Just madness! 

(Not a great photo illustrating the above point, however at this point we were stuck behind a group of about 50 people jogging and singing)

Arriving in Brazzaville we headed to hotel which allowed you to camp for free, arriving there is noticed a tent already up and as we came around the corner we realised it was Simone and Kars who we had met in Togo! This along with Kris and Patrice who were also in the parking lot! Familiar faces and English speaking people is always a welcome sight and we opened up our tents and got chatting! They had shipped their cars from Togo to Gabon and driven up. Now in the Congo and moving onto the DRC quickly. That evening we had a Chinese buffet dinner! Amazing! We didn't know what to dowith ourselves   after eating so much food.. We have been living off dairylea and bread mostly the last few weeks! Second day we had a rest day. The boys had done so much driving and rob had not been very well. They fixed the cars, we wandered to the bakery and then went out for a few drinks! Brazzaville is full of amazing bakeries.. They are run by Lebanese and just have the most Amazing cakes and pastries. We definitely pigged out a lot!




It is now 6am, Monday morning and I cannot sleep because it is so hot! Best time to write emails home, blogs and go on the Internet! We are heading to Dolise for the dreaded Angola visa! Fingers crossed!
 
#africa #overlanding #travelling #thisisafrica #congo