Saturday, April 21, 2007

Periga Mina!!

I woke still drained, lets go thought I wanted to nearer to something that reveals civilisation which I guessed would be hard to find in Angola, as we rode I was weak and the what energy I had was draining fast just negotiating the track in front of me, we finally made it to a town called Miquala Do Zombo and that was it for me, fortunately we met an Italian lady there who was a doctor who let us rest in the shade of her veranda and away from the gather crowd. By 2 o'clock it was decided I had malaria as my temperature hit 40! SO quickly taking the treatment tabs we bought in Senegal we realised we would have to ride it out here, once again the police to the rescue, they let us camp at the station which involved putting a ground mats inside on the floor of the building as a huge storm approached, night one saw me in a daze, hot and cold, sweating one minute freezing the next as the biggest lightning and thunder storm raged outside.......for the first time I imagined been home curled up in bed with a fridge to go to and more importantly a toilet.

Yep thats a mine in the middle of the road.

The next day came after no sleep and I was no better, the head officer decided the place need a clean up for the new guest, us, and rallied all the prisoners from the cell to give the place the once over before been locked away again. Day three saw a vast improvement and I wanted outta there and feeling allot better with my temp almost normal we headed south again.

Move over you big loath.
The roads were horrific, and in one day it seemed that our bikes were destroyed in a sense, up until now I had managed to keep them going fine and in good shape but in one afternoon things changed, first Amy had a spill and bent her mirror and also the rear sub frame seemed out of shape, it was the back tire now rubbed on bits that are not meant to come close to the tire. Then it was my turn, the roads still bad but at least rideable I took a path on the edge of the road as the middle was washed out but as went my right pannier clipped the side wall throwing myself and bike into a huge canyon, well not that bad but it seemed that way, the mother ship went down hard with a bang. Straight away I could see the mirror smashed, it took Amy and I all our strength which I had lack of from the Malaria to get it upright. Eventually after a few vein popping moments it was out of the hole and the real damaged was visible, my entire dash took the brunt of the crash breaking all the mounts holding my dash together and shifting it all to the right, things were not very straight, a little annoyed with myself as i looked at the line I should have taken. But with nothing I could do about it there we pressed on.

The crash.
It was a race against the rain for the remainder of Angola, one afternoon we spent it all riding in the rain but it made no sense to stop and wait for it to pass as that might be days so we pressed on. As we rode I noticed white post each sideofthe road, thats strange I thought,white posts out here, they had something written on them so I slowed to read it, Periga Mina! this in Portugues translated to danger mines, we were riding right through the middle of a mine field!! But as we discovered this was normal, many a time we found ourselves riding on the road thats path travelled directly through mine fields, there are alot in Angola, one time there was a pile of sticks and a make shift barrier with a skull and cross bones on it right in the middle of the road and right there we could see the mine, must have washed up from the rains. We casualy rode around it.

Tank left over from the recent war.
Angola changes vastly from top to bottom but one thing that does not is the abandoned tanks and other military vehicles from the war and the old Portuguese buildings that crumbled from bullet and rocket holes were visible in every town. Plus the food or lack of in the country made us want to get to Namibia even more, we wanted civilisation, we wanted a hot shower, we wanted normality..........we were tired.

Angolan scenery.

...another left over.
The roads continued to get worse and worse shaking us apart as my broken dash bounced all over the place. But eventually we made it and on nothing but fumes as well, the Namibian border was in sight and the mother ship gave up, out of fuel so we drained what we could spare from the Baja and limped across the border looking a bit worse for wear, I suppose it looked like we had just ridden across Africa!

Mother and child.

The young and the old!

DRC Congo

Well what could we do we had no option but to cross the river to Kinshasa hope for the best and more importantly find a rear tire for the trusty stead, else I we are going nowhere, but the people of Brazzaville assured us you can find everything in Kinshasa, well I hope so.

The ferry crossing was another reminder to us that we were in wild Africa, nothing orderly about it going from one office to another getting the appropriate ticket and stamp from the relevant official, making our patience wear very thin but eventually we were escorted onto the ferry by a policeman shoving and whipping people with a broken fan belt to make room for us to pass, I felt bad, why do they have to do that to their own people just for us white people as they call us often, sometimes I wonder how they think. The trip was short and sweat across the grand Congo River but all the time my mind racing as to what would meet us in this next country...DRC Congo one of the largest in Africa.

The ferry to Kinshasa.

More whipping of people as the ferry docked it was anarchy as people shoved at one another to disembark, one lady fainting and falling to the ground whilst others clamored over her, madness but it was every one for themselves and we had our own concerns of riding up the ramp. Once up it the formalities went smooth but lasted an age then one official clown said we had to disinfect our bikes, what a joke we refused and after a while he gave up.

We road out of the port not knowing what to expect but all was well besides a few blown up cars and the building with the Spanish embassy in it was blown apart, and that's only what we saw. We quickly located a Yamaha dealership which luck be have it had a 17 inch rear in stock but a road tire, I did not care I needed it, so 165 US dollars later I strapped it to my bike and thought to change it later.

Sure enough just before dark as we were about to find a camp after getting 100 k's south of Kinshasa I got a huge nail in my rear, tire that is so what a better time to fit the new tire and patch another puncture.

We left the tarmac behind and headed straight for the Angolan border, people telling us the road would be bad ahead of us but us been us and been where we had thought we would be OK, was I wrong. What unfolded the on this day, day 197 turned out to be the hardest day of all. The road turned into anything but a road, it was one big bog, a river, hell on earth. The only other vehicles to attempt it were the local old 6 wheel drive trucks and to cover the 70 k's to the border took them 4 days, this we found out at the end of course. We sweated, wrestled and heaved our bike down the mud flows, the rainy were well and truly here. It was tough, never in my life have I ridden through such tough conditions, oh and of course I had a slick on the back which did not help. One stage I came to what I though was about a meter of mud spanning across the road, I gunned it and my front tire just sank and sank deep followed by by back, it was like glue stopping me so quickly nearly sending me over the bars. It took myself and half a dozen Congolesse locals to prize it from the mud. At times I thought to turn around but I kept thinking we have come this far, it has to improve. After a long long day we covered a mere 74 k's and had still yet to reach the border of Angola.

I think I'm stuck!!

Wheel of mud

On the Michelen Map this is the number 1 highway!!
After spending the night camped at the police station and been the movie for a hundred locals to watch the road got better to the border which we reached by late afternoon, Angola at last, and camped in a village close by. I started to feel weak, and just thought that from the last two days wrestling a quarter of a tone through what we had had taken it out of me, I was drained completely, Amy cooked up a delicious meal and that was me sleep was heaven.

This is the way to travel.


We headed East across Gabon to Francville then out to Congo from there, been so remote we some how missed the border proceedings for Gabon, I looked down at my GPS and it showed us in Congo, with no carnet to be stamped and why get an exit stamp in our passports that were filling fast we shrugged our shoulders and continued on. The track was sandy and it did not see much traffic at all but it was not how I imagined the Congo which my thoughts were of thick jungles, in the north I am sure it was the case but here it was huge high rolling hills covered in grass lands, very beautiful. What people we started to see seemed poor, not asking for money but as we passed they rubbed their tummies asking for food. I cant figure it out the land here is so fertile and lush with life....grow something...I don't know.

Sandy roads of Congo.

As evening approached I got stuck in a bog hole which would have been impossible to get the bike out if it were not for three lovely ladies in their best clothes flick their flip flops off and wade into the mud helping pull it out, one even had her baby on her back, we payed them with water, and away we went, we spent the night in a village hut, one thing is the people of Congo are friendly.

The road the next day got worse with deep sand and by now I was riding on a rear tire the likes of Valenteno Rossi would only use, it was bald but it only had to get me to Brazzville were I'd hope to find a new one. Eventually we reached the ever so lovely tarmac and cruised down to Brazzville where we ran into Leo, the Spaniard and Del the Pom who had arrived the day before. The city was quite lively with nice bakeries which we treated ourselves to but after an afternoon of searching high and low for a new tire or something that would suffice we turned up nothing, except discovering that there are a load of shot up and bombed buildings from the war and that only two days ago 160 people had been killed in fighting just across the Congo river in Kinshasa our next destination....great.


With a visa dead line to get to Angola before the 14th of April, we decided to move through Gabon as quickly as possible but I had the problem of a fast wearing back tire so to go or not to go to Libreville the capital to try and find a new one played on our mind, it also meant an extra 800 or so k's so it was not an appealing option. Gabon was beautiful, thick rain forest, the trees so enormous towering high both sides of the road and the main road was music to my suspension smooth as silk, well with the amount of logging trucks carting the forest away the better the roads the quicker they can do it hey...sad! We crossed into the southern hemisphere, my first time in over three years, almost feel like I am home...and decided not to head west to Libreville but East to the Congo, chance it with the tire, what the hell hey!

Crossing the Equator in French.

With a visa dead line to get to Angola before the 14th of April, we decided to move through
In the middle of the Gabon jungle we camped, the night before saw a huge storm and our tent get flooded so I had to get up and make channels to divert the water, guess we should not have set up in a gully! So after a restless nights sleep we woke to a strange buzzing, laid there for a bit and it got louder, I looked out of the tent to see bees, thousands of then swarming over all our stuff, the bikes were covers, Holy Shit what are we going to do, I got out a just stood there so still, bees everywhere in my hair, landing on me, I was petrified, so ever so slowly I picked our helmets up and walked down the track with them about 100 or so meters til there were no bees and returned to the camp repeating this with our jackets, bags and the rest of our gear, whilst Amy packed all she could up inside the tent, time to move the bikes as they where just covered, as I moved Amy's away BANG...a bee hit got me on my little finger, the pain, I pushed it away down the road and returned for mine, my fingers were swelling fast, I tried to push mine, hell its stuck, I looked down, you guessed it, a flat tire, I had to start it and ride it away on a flat tire, few bees followed but not as bad as where we were. Amy was out of the tent by now with everything packed away, the tent was the last item to pack and by now it was covered in bees, I picked it up in the middle and just sprinted down the road with it, bees falling off as I ran. With everything packed away I had to then get the bike pump out and put air in my tire, by now the bees were around again, all through my hair and on my clothes, I could hardly use my right hand as by this stage it was completely swollen, like the elephant man. With just enough pressure in the tire we road down the road with no helmets on leaving the last bee far behind slowly.....what a headache, it took my swollen hand a few days to return to normal!

Back to Cameroon

Leaving CAR was as much an adventure as getting there, we had to go back a little the way we had come which meant passing by a favourite check point of a few days prior but as we passed it was empty, thank goodness for that, but still there were plenty more to keep us annoyed, fuel was a problem also and one stage we payed 2 Euro a little, which for all you Aussies is about 4 dollars a litre! But out there there is nothing you can do, you need it. We finally made it to the frontier of Cameroon and what a relief but the fun was far from over, at the final police check point they asked the usual questions and to us his french made no sense, and to my right a voice, in english, it came from behind a cell door, it was a prisoner translating for us, but the door made it hard still so the policeman stood walked over and unlocked the door, the tiny room was quite full, he let the prisoner out who came over to help translate for us, once again he, the policeman wanted money, and we gave our usual reply, our translator explained, the policeman gave up, we asked our new friend why he was locked up, something to do with not paying a fine of some sort, he seemed like a nice man and I wanted to pay his debt for him but what was I to really know why he was there, with proceedings over he was locked away again in the dirty dark wet room and we were aloud to proceed, free as birds!

Down the road 100 metres saw us board a barge to cross a huge river, once across we rode a mere 1 k to another river crossing this time the barge looked very abandoned and unused, a few questions to the ladies washing clothes in the river revealed is not working and will not be anytime soon, shit what now.....I just wanted out of Bloody CAR! But alas never worry along came a man in a pirogue who said it would be no problems to take our bikes across, hmm in a dug out canoe, the whole quarter of a tone of African Twin, and the river was not small, maybe 300 metres wide! But what was our option, the border was on the other side, the heavens were about to open up on us and it was 4 pm, lets do it.....unloaded the luggage and sent the that, Amy and the Baja on the first trip, then the return of the pirouge for me and my mother ship, we wrestled it in and set of, no problems. On the other side the heavens did open on us and we sat in the Customs office for and hour trying to convince the man to stamp our Carnet and that he did not need his superior to stamp and sign it, hard work but eventually we twisted his arm as the sun was almost set, we went out the road and camped in a village that I don't think have seen a white folk for along time and some of the younger kids maybe never so a party was held for us and we danced long into the night drinking some ghastly local brew.

Yeah I was nervous!

The next day saw us back into Cameroon, we welcomed it and there was a vast improvement in treatment and also fuel availability more importantly. We reached a fork in the road and asked one man which way to the town we wanted, the left he said was long but good roads, the right short but bad roads, right then the right for us! The road was reduced to a walking trail at times with the jungle reclaiming it, then we came to a fallen tree across our path, surprisingly it move easily by both of us but then a problem and the beginning of a long chain of problems, as I went to move of the bike wallowed beneath me, I looked down and had a flat tire and the cause a huge huge nail. We pushed it back to a school yard we had just passed and I set about patching it. The problem was the glue I had had kinda gone off and lost its ability to stick, and one failed patch attempt after another saw me with three patches left and still two huge holes, some locals to the rescue, they sent a young boy who returned holding a spoon with some white milky liquid on it, I guess there jungle glue! It worked a gem, we camped in the school ground for the night.

Cameroonian motorcycle!

Just another obsticle.

One of many flat tires I encounted.

The following day saw us hit tarmac for the first time in about 2000 k's, great but 10 k's from a town my tire went down, a failed patch, the jungle glue was not as good as I first thought but at least it got me out of there. So Amy had to ride to the next town and get more patches and some good glue, Amy also took the tube to get fixed I was over it, her return 40 minutes later saw a patched tube, new patches and a bottle of cold coke, bliss. But in my haste I pinched the tube putting it back on...SHIT, SHIT, SHIT......we quickly packed up and shot to town before it went down to much, again I did not want to fix it. So with a tube with more patches on it than granny's quilt we set of for the Coast of Cameroon, Kribi, easier said than done, after about 100 k's another flat tire, this time I had no choice but to fix it myself, talk about over it! We camped not long after and made the beach the following day what a relief.

Kribi beach, Cameroon.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Heart of Africa

Things started to get interesting after we climbed Mount Cameroon, which was spectacular, walking past the old volcanoes that only erupted a few years back. We road to Yaounde to pick up a visa or two and as the embassies were all close together we managed in two days to get Gabon, DRC Congo and CAR, yep that's right this is why thing started to get interesting, we decided to head to the Central African Republic to go in search of gorillas.

The road over to the border of Cameroon was hectic with logging truck after logging truck on the most corrugated roads you could imagine and not to mention the dust that filled our lungs. The bikes held up only just with the Baja's chain guide rubber wearing in half so a bit or glue and zip ties did the trick. We reached the frontier and was it a new world, Cameroon was a modern country compared to here, the border was one formality after another with them all wanting money but we just kept saying no and eventually they tired of it all.

Crowding in CAR, its Africa.

CAR was proving to be one challenge after another, just to go see gorillas I started to think was it worth it. As we road we noticed some of the people where very short looking but thought nothing of it but then it occurred to us they were pygmees, after all the Michelen map suggested they where in this part of Africa, we pulled over to chat with some Pygmee hunters that were caring spears, such primitive people, their teeth sharpened into points to chew meat!

The Pygmee hunters...Amy is taller than someone!

We came to one road block and was told rudely to "get down" that was to get of our motor bikes, then into there little make shift wooden hut with a whole tribe of Pygmees watching on with interest. The same angry sounding policeman told us abruptly to be seated, he spoke, as they say small small english, the others french only, they wanted passports the usual stuff, then finally they asked for money and a lot, we refused and were patient then the angry man turned to us and said "shut your mouth, give us money" hmm whats going on here I asked myself, he was drunk and he had a machine gun do I give him money or do I stand firm?? Stuff it I am standing firm was my decision, I turned to the other police officials and said this is wrong and that this man is drunk, that went down like a lead balloon, the police saying he is not, but I could smell it. Then he said"give me money I am hungry" wrong move buddy, I turned to the other policeman and said "see he only wants money for food, this wrong we want no trouble just let us pass" they started to see my side, one policeman stepped forward and took the machine gun from the drunk man, yep we had them, as he gave us another small volley of drunken slur we asked for our passports which they gave back to us and left, as we walked passed all the pygmee villages they looked at as with smiles as if to say "hey well done white man you beat them" we are determined not to pay a single bribe!!

Eventually we made it through the thick jungle and wet roads, the rains have started, to the Sangha Dzangha park in the bottom corner of CAR, I really felt like we were deep in the heart of Africa, with the borders of Congo and Cameroon only a stones throw away.

The next day we went in search of the Gorillas and we where not disappointed, with a Pygmee tracker each on the back of our bikes they directed us 30 k's into the jungle on roads that were hardly a road, through wash outs, mud, water and sand. We reached the camp where the local Biaka people stay and left the bikes for a walk through the thick jungle for about about 4 k's, on the way seeing forest elephants, dears and monkeys, its another world out there, so far from civilisation, and then there they were a family of 13 and of course one huge Silver Back to keep the order, he was a giant, we watched them for about an hour and a half searching for food on the ground in the trees, crossing streams and for the silver back just sitting back and watching us, fantastic!!

How did they know...........

.............and again!

The following day we were convinced by a German chap working out there called Philip to go to an area called the salines which is a naturally cleared area in the jungle were there is a huge concentration of wildlife, especially elephants, feeding on the unique minerals found in the was like a scene out of the Lion King, at any one time there were 70 to 80 elephants grazing, also Bongo's which are unique, Buffalo, deer and wild pigs, we sat for 3 hours perched in a tree platform watching this spectacle, that evening we enjoying cold beer and delicious food with Philip and Michele in a house...argh the simple things you miss!!

Pygmee mother and child, pancakes anyone?