Chapter 2: The Congo
Well its day 2 in the Congo, and something tells me we're not in Kansas anymore...
We had to pay bribes of us$150 at the border just to get in here, and have been stopped 6 times in 2 days by
crooked cops wanting money.
On one occasion one guy must have thought we were military because he saluted, so I saluted back and didn't have
This seemed a good strategy and in keeping with Arthur's advice I tried it again and it worked. Unfortunately
the third time there were spikes on the road that I didn't see until it was too late so I got 2 flat tyres!
This took a couple of hours to fix, thanks to an eager local with a tyre lever who holed a freshly repaired
It really is another world in here, the base wage is
just $2 per day, so everyone, and I mean everyone wants money from us.
The roads are unbelievably bad, there are trucks
everywhere, car wrecks everywhere, and so many people!! I think we had a crowd of 100 just watching us change
I will expand on this log when we get a chance but
we're in the middle of a very third world country. Needless to say, email access is non existent.
We are generally travelling well, having fun and
seeing some pretty amazing stuff
Bye for now!
Its pretty crazy here in the Congo, hard to explain...
We rode non stop for 10 hours today to do 175km!
We ride through tiny villages, and bigger towns. Last night we camped in a small village.
The road used to be a bitumen highway but is now just dirt. There is no sign of the tar. Just sand and mud, and
with no exaggeration, holes big enough to swallow the bike. It's an absolute Shit fight!
We passed 2 towns that looked like something out of Mad Max. Dilapidated, run down, dysfunctional, but once they
Broken down train systems. Abandoned buildings, streets overgrown with weeds, no power or sewer. It's crazy,
like the caretakers left 60 years ago and since then its been left to rot, which I guess is correct..
Today we rode for 10km on the rail line to avoid the worst of the 'highway'
Hotels without running water (but with sinks and taps), whole towns without power but there are tram lines and
light poles in them. People continually ask for money from us... 'Mr Mr give us money'. Actually its a little
This morning we fell off the bikes a lot in deep sand, it's a bit disheartening, but the afternoon was better.
Scary falling when there are no medical facilities at all. we're both ok though, some aches and pains but nothing
Happy Easter to all back home,
Paul and I are now at Kapanga, in the Congo.
Another hard days riding, from 7am to 4pm. We managed to make 160km!
Pretty amazing to be riding thru the jungle on little tracks only used by people and bicycles.
The locals use the bikes to transport goods (like a full 44gal drum, or 60lt of fuel on one bike!!!) between
villages, so we see lots of them.We call them the couriers, and they make us feel a little safer. They are always
good for directions and we follow their detours through the areas that are unpassable. It's like we have angels on
our wings, and whenever we see their tyre tracks we know we're on a good track or the right trail.
It would be a scary place and easy to get lost without them.
We've come a long way through the Congo now, still in good health and high spirits.
The bikes have been flawless.
Wish us luck for the next few days!
8th April 12.20am Adelaide Time
We have been arrested, and taken into custody by the DRC Police...
This was a message received from Paul just after
3.30 am (around 7.00pm DMC time)
Message from Dean:
We are in some serious trouble in the DRC. We were arrested by millitary-ish people today for no reason. They
made us travel a long distance and then put us in an old mission for the night. We made a run for it without
much opposition from the locals there.
We are aproximately 30 km from Katenge but we are lost.
We are very scared. We don't know what to do. We have now stopped on the road. For now we are ok.
6.45 am. (10.15pm DMC Time)
I have just heard from Paul and Dean. All seems to be ok at this stage. They have taken refuge for the
night and will make a run for it in the morning...
1pm (5.30am DMC Time)
We are ok! A little shaken but on the move again and riding to the next town. I will elaborate on the storey
when I can, but for now we are on the move, and we are safe, and out of harms way.
7pm (11am DRC Time)
Boys are OK and heading at great speed for the border of Congo. I will not be updating the
map or giving details of their location untill they are past the border, but they are fine and an amazing
story is to follow.
11th April 2010
It is 6am and we have been rained in. Stuck in a tiny tent for over 12 hours now. Everything
is soaked. It is still raining hard outside. We are in ther middle of nowhere and so far still from
We are in Fucking Hell!!!
13th April 2010
The DRC is an absolute shithole. Can't wait to get out, and never come back...
14th April 2010
We landed in Kikwit this morning after an 18hr truck ride. We were squashed in a truck, in an area
the size of half a shipping container, with 100 other
people. Mostly children and pregnant women, but also goats
A lot has happened since the last update and if we ever get somewhere with electricity again,
I'll pen something appropriate. So stay tuned for tales of post
apocalyptic towns, military kidnappings, escape, days of riding on goat tracks across the Congo, exhaustion
and dehydration, corruption, lies, bribes and kindness. Days without washing, no dry or clean clothes, falling off the bike
over 10 times in one day, riding for 12hrs and only moving 40km,
and finally making friends with one of the kindest people we're ever likely to meet. His gang of helpers and
the magic that ensued was breathtaking. We've just got out of
the local immigration office having narrowly escaped paying yet another frikkin bribe.
Time for some dinner and a nap, tomorrow will be the first bitumen we have seen for 2 weeks!
19th April 2010
The further north we get, the more out
of place we look, the dirtier our riding suits get and the more people stare at us. But it’s not the sly, out
the corner of your eyes sneaky kind of look, it’s more a ‘stop whatever you’re doing and gape, then rouse
your mates and get them to gape too’ kind of stare. We must look like aliens around here.
While this is a little disconcerting,
it’s also nice to finally feel like we’re off the tourist path and seeing some of what people keep calling
the ‘real africa’
The routine usually goes something like
this. We roll into town and pull up near a bank, either to withdraw money, or because they all have a
security guard who will keep an eye on our stuff for 50c. People congregate, but no one really engages until
we say hello.
Then it’s on. Where are you from, how
fast will the bikes go, how much fuel do they carry, is there a road from Australia to Africa?! How long have
you been travelling, where are you going? (Russia) WHERE ARE YOU GOING??!!! And so
On Sunday morning as we rolled through
Ndola looking for somewhere to stay, we went past a café where a guy on a sports bike waved at us, and we
waved back, there was a moment of ‘hey we should stop and chat to this guy, he could probably suggest
something, but by then we’d rolled past and he was mounting up too so that was that.
Ten mins later we were at an atm where a
friendly guy stopped for a chat, he suggested that we might try heading to Broadway Ave because lots of
bikers hang out there and they’d probably be helpful. So off we went and found ourselves on the same street
as earlier, so we stopped at the café we’d seen the other rider and sat down for a bite to eat, thinking the
guys might return later.
Just as we were getting ready to leave
we could hear the sound of a few superbikes heading our way, and sure enough they rode right into the carpark
and came and said hi.
They were a motley crew, Sanjay,
Roberto, Malcolm and Arthur - they were also pretty insistent that we join them for a beer, suggesting that
we should come and meet another one of their friends (Wade) from Harvey Bay who rides a ktm
So what were we to do, we packed up the
bikes, and off we went. 10 mins later we pulled into a compound a little out of town and were ushered
upstairs to the club house for a chat and a beer. We looked at each other wondering if we should get the hell
out of there but figured we were committed for the next half hour at least so up we
The guys bought us a beer and we chatted
a little, recounting some of the trip so far, and where we planned to head next… a plan which they all did
their best to talk us out of, except for Wade, who thought it was brilliant!
Roberto – ‘but seriously guys, the DRC?!
No, I mean come on lets be serious, it’s crazy, a nightmare…”
Us - “but that’s why we want to
Wade – “fuck that’s great man! yeah I
mean it can be a pain in the ass, but when you get to the other side and are high fiving each other because
you made it, that’s gonna be awesome!”
Roberto – “but really, why not go the
east coast? It’s lovely, good roads the whole way, you’ll have more fun that way”
Us - “yes but everyone goes up the east
Wade – more
A few hours later, Roberto had
generously checked us into a local motel in town where his company houses employees, and so we headed to drop
off the bikes before things got too messy. We pulled up in the carpark…
Malcolm – “hey, your bar is still open
Guy at the door – “no sir it
Malcolm – “Ah fuck, when did it shut
Guy at the door – “ It closed several
months ago sir”
Malcolm “yes ok, but you can sort some
beers out now cant you, yes please good man go find us some beers, these guys have come a long way, oh and
make sure you take good care of their bikes now man huh”
Shortly thereafter both bikes were
parked in the function room of the hotel, and we were riding in the back of Wade’s bucky (ute) out to another
bar, which was closed, and another, (closed) and finally another, owned by a friend of the guys,
We left Naga’s later that night having
swapped numbers with most of the guys. We were full of beer and pizza, faces hurting from laughing at Arthurs
jokes, riding in the back of the bucky, loving life and marveling at having met such a great bunch of
The next day our attention turned to
adding more fuel carrying capacity to the bikes because of the concerns around availability of fuel in the
DRC, and this took almost all day.
We bumped into Sanjay half way through
the day who managed to find us some containers and then we called on Wade who’d offered us use of his
workshop to tinker with the bikes a little. At the end of the day Sanjay dropped into the workshop to say hi
and suggested we might catch up for some dinner if we didn’t have plans already – us?
We got back to the motel and Malcolm has
left us a note to call him, but before we could, Arthur called us (his first words) ”so do you guys feel like
a beer or what?!” so 15 mins later Malcolm and Naga came to our room and we headed off
Naga (with a great Egyptian accent) “so
after last night I make some calls to my friend at DRC, he very up high in government or something, and I ask
about the road in DRC and he say no problem, is possible, will be hard ah, but is
“I give you his number, when you arrive
you call him, he will meet with you and if you have any problem he can help, I trust him, he is very good
friend to have in DRC”
So having initially tried to talk us out
of the foolhardy attempt, then having seen that we weren’t to be discouraged, this awesome group of guys were
now connecting us with people, giving us their cell phone numbers and doing all they could to help us
“hey it’s our pleasure, and you know
what, it’s cool man, if you guys can make it, then I’ll be able to say that we had beers with those two crazy
guys who rode from Lubombashi to Kinshasa on their KTM’s!”
The guys even organized a braii (bbq) as
a bit of a sending off party for us before we head to the DRC, Naga and Lisa provided the venue, Sanjay and
Unice arranged the meat , Sanjay cooked, Arthur told more hilarious jokes, and we all laughed our heads off
for the whole night.
We left there last night feeling like we
were old friends and counted our blessings to have met such an awesome bunch of
Now staying on a dairy farm with Eugene,
who we met on the street a few days ago, and had generously invited us to stay with him if we passed this
way. We’re waiting for a couple of rear tyres to arrive in Lubombashi before we cross the border. Apparently
there isn’t much in the way of phone coverage in the DRC so it might be a while before we update again, WISH
2 days into the DRC and it’s truly
mayhem. The border crossing was everything we were warned about and then some more. Every other border post
has taken us less than an hour to get out of one country and into the next, this one took 5 hours and around
US$400 for the visas and bribes.
We rolled into the Zambian border post
and found our fixer Carlos (who was recommended by Eugene), he was then punched in the face by a Zambian
official, called a frikkin criminal and told where to go, The Zambian guys were very helpful in getting us
processed out of their country, but ironically recommended another fixer for entry to the drc – who ended up
being partners with the first one who was punched in the face!
In my ever tired state it’s really hard
to describe the chaos that unfolded at the DRC border, from Paul being led into a small room where a
standover man tried to extract cash from him, to being charged for defumigation of the bikes that never
occurred, to our carnets not having “DRC” printed on them and hence being invalid but with a bribe the
problem going away, to using false insurance certificates, crowds of people staring at us all the time, and
finally being allowed to enter, it was bedlam to say the least.
Having recently agreed not to ride at
night anymore, we faithfully did the last 2 hours into Lubombashi in the dark, were then befriended by
Patrick for the evening who helped us find the DHL office on the way home from dinner (where we could
actually see our new Dunlop’s sitting on the floor through the window), then went to sleep in a mosquito
infested hotel which had no running water except for the steady stream passing by the foot of Pauls
Next morning (today) we went and packed
up the tyres and headed off again. Unfortunately the contact person in the DRC that Naga gave us is not
answering his phone so we didn’t catch up with him before leaving Lubombashi, but will hopefully get to chat
at some later stage.
Today we have been through countless
police checkpoints, gotten 2 punctures, been asked for money no less than a billion times and finally found a
place to stay in Fungomare. Our friend from Ndola – Arthur gave us some advice about the Police roadblocks
“Whatever you do, don’t fucking
Ok… so we stopped at the first one,
where they inspected our documents, agreed that all was in order and asked for US100 for beers. We talked
them down to $40 but it’s still a bit shit. At the second one they let us go without a bribe, the third one
must have thought we were someone important because they all saluted, so I saluted back and kept going. This
seemed a good strategy so I tried again with success, and really thought we were onto something until I
rolled over a spiked plank and ended up with 2 punctures (*!^?(*
The policeman caught up with me down the
road a little, looked at my 2 flat tyres and said “big problem”, I agreed and started cursing in my helmet,
but all he wanted to do was help me get it fixed (meanwhile Paul was being asked for more money…). The
punctures took a long time to fix, and in blistering heat it really took it out of us, you can imagine how
pleased we were with all the locals wanting to lend a hand, particularly when someone picked up a tyre lever
to help and pinched a tube with it… so we had to do it all again
Not the perfect start to the Congo
Tonight we have accommodation at a
mining town where we were informed that it’s not safe to walk the streets at night because there is a band of
locals killing people and taking their hearts to sell on the black market… nice.
Tomorrow morning we’re filling with fuel
from the local black market dealers who all have 4 lt containers filled with “I cant believe it’s not fuel”
lining the street all along the main drag, so we will be leaving here with about 45lt each, and will try to
keep it all full until we get back to civilization in a couple of weeks.
Will write more when I get a
16/4/2010 – Something a
little more colourful…
The bike is thrashing wildly from side
to side, I catch myself holding onto the grips too tight and make an effort to relax, but something doesn’t
feel right… the forks have been leaking for days so maybe the front isn’t doing what it should be… I don’t
think that’s it though.
It’s pushing me from side to side, like
boat in a storm being pushed and pulled by chaotic forces, there’s a series of loud hisses of air, and I hear
a baby scream manically somewhere just above me. Then I’m hit in the face by dirt and debris and finally a
spray of something wet shakes me from my half sleep.
I wake with a start still clutching the
handlebars bracing for an impact... Again I hear the baby scream, this time louder and more desperate.
There’s that stench in the air - the Congo, that mix of sweat, dirt and desperation. A stench that just a
couple of weeks ago made me wretch, but now I barely register the revulsion...
Still trying to force myself to lucidity
I blink frantically and look up trying to make sense of the scene around me. There’s a goat suspended from
the truck canopy half a metre above my head, and as the truck lurches through another pothole it screams
again, this time louder and I moan in the realization that the poor animal has urinated on
“Mr Tino” screams Didier, “Ca va
“NO, NON BIEN, TRE-FUCKING MALE!!, il
chevre, move il chevre *&^!!”
Didier barks some orders to the other
boys and the goat is plucked from the air and relocated somewhere else in the truck where it will no doubt
piss on someone else, I can still hear it screaming but now it’s drowned out by the scream of the motor,
the children crying and the hiss of the air brakes and transmission as the truck grinds its way at
10km/hr to Kikwit - with me in it. I’m sitting on my bike in the truck, along with another 80 or so people -
it feels like an evacuation.
I’m exhausted, we rode for 12 hours 3
days prior to travel only 60km. It’s brutally hot, and I can feel that the strength has gone from my limbs,
we need to rest for a few days but there isn’t time, our visas expire the day after tomorrow. Mentally things
are not great either, we’re both fragged, 12 days riding in the Congo has taken it’s toll and we’re both near
the end of what we have to give. Now it’s just hard slog, trying to keep moving to get out of this
We encourage each other saying things
like “at least we’re not still in that little dark room with the commandant”, or “at least we haven’t been
kidnapped”, but the nearness of the experience, and the reality of what might have been take the humor out of
The hands of the Congolese boy are
shaking as he asks for ‘argent per passage’ he’s fidgeting and shifting his weight from left to right
nervously, avoiding all eye contact. This fee is obviously a sham, but I feel a little sorry for the guy so I
give him the 1000 francs (AU$1) he asks, and we move on again.
The track is narrow, barely wide enough
for the bike to pass, and I’m continually hitting things with my panniers. It’s been like this for days now,
we’ve been following the bicycle tracks across the southern DRC, sometimes we get some good going, but mostly
it’s terrible, 1st or second gear. Paul mumbles something about always having wanted to ride
across Africa in first gear, it’s funny except that we’re actually doing it…
I fall heavily in some mud and the tank
starts to leak, fantastic. Not much to be done about it here so we just keep moving. Another 20km pass slowly
and we pull up to another barricade across the goat track. This time it’s no Congolese teenager, but a guy
dressed in military greens holding an AK.
“What the hell is he doing out here in
the middle of nowhere?!”
We pull to a stop and he barks something
in Swahilli, then something else, then pauses.
Eventually we work out that he doesn’t
speak French, he asks whether we speak Swahili,
“um… No. Only
He lifts the barrier and motions for us
to pass and park the bikes nearby. There’s a small clearing in the tall grass that covers much of the lands
here, a makeshift shelter and evidence of extinguished camp fires.
His clothes are old and worn, with no
indication of rank at all, only a skull and cross bones on an armband that would have been cheesy on Peter
Andre; but on this guy, in the middle of nowhere in the DRC it’s just plain scary. He is tall, thin and very
dark skinned – so much so that it accentuates the whites of his eyes and his teeth. He smiles a lot, and I
cant decide if I should trust him or not. My intuition tells me he means us no harm, and he is motioning to
us that we don’t need to worry, but at the same time he’s pointing his gun at us.
His AK is really old, well worn and I
wonder if it even has ammunition in it, but before I can make my mind up he’s motioning to us that we need to
start walking, we understand that he wants to take us to the Chief. We lock the panniers and top boxes, unzip
tank bags and head off.
It’s the middle of the day and it’s
belting hot to boot, dressed in our riding suits, carrying tank bags and helmets we’re marched maybe 3km into
the village at the end of the AK.
The Smiling Assasin as Paul has dubbed
him, seems to be enjoying himself, and has that proud air of “hey look what I found” about him. As we get
closer to the centre of the village we now have a crowd of people circling us, and we’re sat down on the type
of plastic seats your grandparents keep in the garage for when they get too many
The village is just a collection of mud
brick huts with straw roofs, no power or water, no sewer and only one toilet. It feels like all 1000
residents of the place have come to see us, they’re mainly children, no one is over 50, all filthy – at least
we fit in in one respect!
The chief must be busy busting the nuts
of the last tourists to visit his village as it takes him an hour to show up. When he finally does he
introduces himself as the ‘Big Chief’ and sits with us, along with a few other heavies. We provide our
passports, but he barley looks at them and quickly the conversation turns to money.
HE wants US$100… we ask what the hell
for, and are probed with more questions about what our mission is in their country. Our
“Are you here to seek our diamonds?? On
“No we’re tourists in
“There are NO TOURISTS in
We can’t really argue with him. The
previous night the Priest at the Mission in Luiza told us that we were the first tourists he had seen there
in 18 years!
Trying to gauge the seriousness of the
situation is really difficult, there are maybe 6 guys talking in Swahili, and we’re surrounded by onlookers
peering at us. They insist on $100, still asking about our mission… One is the Village Chief, another is the
local ‘Immigration officer’ (filthy plain clothes, no ID), there’s the police chief (old tatted blue uniform,
no rank or ID), and another guy in an old suit no doubt donated by Oxfam.
We’re looking at each other, wondering
what the hell is going on, we want to leave, keep moving, but the Smiling Assassin is still there, picking at
the AK… we’re not going anywhere.
The conversation turns to a demand for
some forms that we don’t have, something about permits and approval of the route, then more demands for
We’re been surrounded by people staring
at us from a metre away every time we stop for the last 10 days, its claustrophobic, so we just want to get
the hell out of there. We look at each other wondering what to do, we have $84 between us, but this seems to
only make things worse. The Chief takes it and puts the money away, returns our passports and tells us the
Commandant will now see us, and they march us back to the bikes at the end of the AK
They want to ride 2 up with us, 30km on
goat trails to the Commandants compound. We still have some resolve left so we flatly refuse, making a song
and dance about the weight of the bikes and the lack of space with top box and reserve fuel cells. They
insist, and we refuse… this goes on for some time until they threaten to make us sleep on the side of the
track until morning when the Commandant will come here.
We both smile and agree that this is a
good plan, we have leaking forks and a puncture repair to do, so would welcome some time out. This surprises
them, and after more shouting in Swahili the Smiling Assassin proposes a plan, and acts it out in a
We are to follow them on our bikes, we
are not to try to escape. If we try to ride away he will shoot us. Do we understand?
The Assassin acts out another mime to
reinforce the severity of the outcome if we try to escape, he loads the AK with a series of deliberate clacks
and clicks, removes the safety catch and pretends to fire it at someone from his motorcycle
We get on our helmets and start chatting
on the intercom.
“Are you ok? Do you think they’re going
to shoot us??... Are you scared at all?”
We follow the Assassin and the Police
Chief for an hour, I’m constantly looking at my compass to establish the direction we’re heading in.
We pass through countless villages,
double back on ourselves and change direction from east to north, then south for a while and then east again.
The Smiling Assassin continually looks back and flashes a smile - we finally arrive in a bigger village just
as the light has disappeared.
We’re expecting some sort of official
military or police presence, but it’s just another dirty village, where we’re taken to one of the mud huts
indistinguishable from the rest except for a stick fence and a satellite dish, and told to park the bikes and
In this moment I realize that NO ONE
KNOWS WHERE WE ARE.
The ‘Commandant’ is tall and wiry, he
wears a blue and white checkered shirt and brown slacks that are too short for him, he shouts rather than
talking. He stinks of Alcohol.
I am pushed into a small dark room in
the hut, and told to sit, I realize Paul is not behind me so I push my way back out calling for him, he’s
double checking the locks on the bikes, and we both then go in together. The room is about 2m x 3m, It’s
completely dark, the walls are mud and the floor is dirt. An old table sits between us and the
Then he starts shouting again. He’s
speaking too fast in French for us to understand…
“parler piu lontamont sil vous plais?”
He repeats it just as quickly, but this
time even louder, it’s something about our mission – what is our mission here??!
We repeat that we have no mission,
He keeps yelling in the darkness, and
we’re starting to get really frightened.
This is no military compound, and he’s
“Is this for real?” I ask Paul, he looks
back at me…
“I cant believe this is
My mouth is totally dry, heartbeat is so
fast I think I can hear it, and am sure the commandant can smell fear in the room.
After another rant he sits back in his
rickety chair looking satisfied, then in very broken English
“it is late, too too late, tomorrow will
come the interpret, then you will write. You will write on the carte, on the paper, you will write about your
mission and what we will do after, to your home. Then we can talk again, and after you write we will send. No
now too late. Tomorrow. Now we sleep, you go to compound to sleep”
“We have no mission” we protest again,
all I can think about is the National Geographic article I have at home about the guy who spent 18months
locked up in Sudan for a ransom - beatings and torture.
The Smiling Assassin is outside waiting
for us, and escorts us to the Compound with another 100 people following in the
We’re really frightened. Again in the
intercoms we’re chatting…
“this is really fucked up Bro, what the
hell does he want us to write??”
We’re both thinking it, but neither of
us say the words – a ransom letter.
We’re ushered into a walled compound,
then into another dark room totally freaking out at this stage. There are about 10 people in the room all
talking to eachother in Swahili or French. I keep hearing the words Australian, Tourist and Moto, but that’s
all I can get.
We keep asking what we have done wrong,
and why are we here, both in French and English, but they either don’t understand or pretend not to. At one
point a door opens and 2 younger guys come in and greet us in broken English.
They explain that we are to spend the
night there, and ask if we want water or food, which we decline.
“But you are hungry no? it has been a
long day for you, and you will need rest”
I wonder if the food will be poisoned,
and tell them that we have our own food and water, we don’t need their offer, we want to know why we are
being held. It’s been about 6 hours since we were picked up and we’re both terrified. One of the guys is
talking again, he explains that there is no problem, we just need to spend the night there because it is dark
and the roads are very bad in the Congo.
“Yes I know the roads are bad, we have
been on them for 10 days now”
“Oh you have been in this area, what are
you looking for??” he probes again.
“NOTHING – WE ARE TOURISTS!” we
He looks at us and smiles, and asks why
we seem so uncomfortable… What a ridiculous question.
Where do we start? Paul explains that we
are concerned, we have been brought here at the end of a gun, we are not happy here, we will not eat. We have
no mission. We are tourists. We have passports with legitimate visas. We have done nothing
The guy says that we can leave if we
want to, but there is a big river nearby, it is dark and it is very dangerous in Congo at night, “you don’t
really want to leave do you?!”
Is that a question or a statement. I
don’t know, but we press the point. “So we can leave if we want to?”
“Yes, can leave, but is very danger in
Congo at night”
We look at each other, and silently
agree that absolutely anything is going to be better than being here in this dark room, we also agree that
there is no way they are going to let us ride out of there, but play the game anyway and repeat again that we
want to leave.
“if you want to leave you may, but we
should ride with you to show you the way” they insist… the way to where I wonder?
“No thank you, we are fine, we can find
“But the river, it is dark, it is
dangerous” they repeat.
The Smiling Assassin comes into the room
and mimes that he is to return to his post, he has come to say goodbye. It feels like he has come to pay his
last respects before we are put away for good, and he leaves in silence.
“So we can leave
“Yes you can… but it
“Ok then… we will
We pick up our tank bags, push our way
through the crowd of onlookers and to the bikes in silence. We attach the bags, pull on our
“There’s no way they’re going to let us
ride out of here”
“Yeah I know, fuck. Fuck! What should we
“I don’t know, but fuck it, anything is
better than this”
“Ok let’s just get this over and done
We wheel the bikes over to the double
doors of the compound in the darkness, playing the charade, just waiting for the inevitable
But to our astonishment the gates open,
we fire up the bikes, and roll off into the darkness.
The HID headlamps are bright, but it
doesn’t change the fact that this village is a maze. Mud hut after mud hut, no roads, just tracks between the
huts and it all looks the same.
“Fuck, they’re following us, bloody
hell, there are a hundred people running after us”
At this point all I can think is that
we’ve called their bluff, and now it’s on. We try to move faster but it’s useless, the village is endless and
we’re going in circles. Eventually we arrive at a dead end.
“Hang on a second, let me get my
headlamp, I cant see my compass, too dark. We’re going around in circles, we just need to head west!” I
scream down the intercom.
We pause for a moment, but there are
people running at us from all directions, we’re expecting to be dragged off the bikes any second. Finally I
get the lamp working and we head off in another direction.
Again we find a dead end, but this time
we’re totally encircled by people, including the English speaking guys from the compound, they are all
screaming at us. The 2 guys are saying something about the direction we are heading in, something about a big
river, it is too dangerous, we need to return to the compound with them.
It’s not going to happen. We fire the
bikes again and the crowd jumps back just far enough to create some space, first gear, another big rev and
the crowd parts a little more and we move again. This time we find a track and keep going through the
village, more people are running out of their houses, in my periphery I can just make out the scores of
people running after us…
“They let us go, they fucking let us
go!! What the hell is going on??!”
“I don’t know, what direction are we
“West, I think
“Ok just keep going, they’re falling
Eventually the village ends and we’re
moving on a little track about 1m wide, first gear is as fast as we can go, we’re both
“Someone is following us” Paul
“Fuck!! I knew it, I knew
“Are they far
“I don’t know, a
It’s too dark and the road is too hard
to navigate to consider trying to outrun them, we continue for a kilometer but the light is still
“what do we do?” I’m so scared, more so
than ever before in my life.
“I don’t know, should we keep going or
“Ok let’s stop, turn off the lights and
see what happens”
We want to get this over and done with,
one way or another.
The light approaches, it’s another
motorbike. We wait in the darkness of the Congo jungle, but the pursuit stops 40m from
Paul switches on his headlamp and shines
it at the other bike. I’m crouched down low, fully expecting to hear the sound of gunfire. Instead the other
bike inches forward a little, then stops again.
It’s quiet, all I can hear is my heart
pounding madly. The followers move forward again and this time pull up next to us. It’s the Smiling Assassin
brandishing his AK and the Police Chief. Fuck. He says something in Swahili, I understand that we are
supposed to follow, and he rides on.
The sound of the little 150cc bike fades
into the distance and then ends abruptly. I’m sure they are waiting for us.
No one knows where we
FUCK IT! NO ONE EVEN KNOWS WHERE WE
“Are they coming
“I don’t know”
Now our minds are playing tricks on us,
and every moving thing in the jungle is the Smiling Assassin creeping back to kill
I crawl into the reeds lining the road.
We get the GPS turned on, and sms our coordinates to Hamish back home. We are terrified, expecting the see
the Assassin any second, but at least the knowledge that someone knows our position is some comfort, if
We try to figure it all out – why the
hell did they march us 30km at the end of a gun, only to let us go. What was the Commandant talking about
with writing something, why did they follow us into the jungle and then ride off. What the hell were they
talking about with a Mission? Why were they even there in the first place? None of it made any sense. Could
it be that they got their wires crossed and that the guys in the mission let us go by accident, or maybe they
just didn’t think we’d actually leave. Most of the people we meet in the Congo think we are US military, so
maybe they’d pushed it as far as they dared, and when we insisted they didn’t think they could stop
After 10 mins hiding in the reeds Paul
suggests we should move on. I’m still freaking out a little, and just need a few minutes to get my head
together. If they’re waiting for us down the road then that’s that. We’re sure as hell not going back to that
town again, so we really have no choice but to move on.
We start the bikes again and all of a
sudden I’m acutely aware of the way we stand out l in this landscape. All I want to do is fade into the
background like a chameleon but instead I’m on a 950cc pounding dirt bike with a HID headlamp, they could
probably see us from space!
We move for another 5 minutes expecting
to see the Assassin any moment, but nothing. We roll into a village, park the bikes on the verge and wander
around the place looking for someone to ask permission to camp, but in stark contrast to the previous village
this one is quiet and there is no one around. The first person we see runs away from us, almost as though
they know who we are, the second person does the same. We go back to the bikes in a panic, we just don’t know
what to do. A boy walks past and we try to tell him we are tired, we want to rest in his village for a
He says something and disappears, but an
older man walks out of the darkness towards us, he says good evening, we respond the same. We tell him we are
tired and would like to rest the night, and ask if this is ok? Of course says Oscar.
Now there are a lot of people around us,
100 or more curious faces. We put up the tents with them all watching, and sit down to drink some water. Only
after this Oscar asks about “our friend”? We say we have no friend, just 2 of us. Oscar shifts his weight a
little and asks if we passed earlier with another bike, he mimes the Assassin with his AK pointed back at us.
We marvel that somehow we’re actually on the same road, and look at each other wondering how the hell we’re
going to explain this…
So we try. We explain that we were
stopped 30km away by someone, we were taken to a village, our money was taken. The onlookers listen intently,
umm-ing and ahhh-ing comprehension. We explain the Commandant, the “mission”, that we are tourists, we tell
him we are very scared.
There is some debate in the circle of
watchers, it seems some of them are not pleased to have us, and some shouting ensues, but Oscar is in charge,
and abruptly says “Fine! Stop!” “Riposa ici, pa di problem”
He smiles and puts a hand on each of our
shoulders, and says “Courago” and tells us we are safe in his village, no problem. We explain we are
frightened that the previous village is still very close, but he reassures us that it is no
In his village we are safe, end of
I want to cry, but instead I hug Oscar
and thank him again. I look at Paul and we’re both overwhelmed with emotion, we can’t really speak, we just
keep thanking Oscar.
He has this big infectious smile and
soon has us feeling a little lighter, we cook pasta for dinner with 100 people watching over us. With
stomachs full of fear we cant eat much so we share it with the village, and watch on bemused as Oscar tries
to use the fork to eat it, and the whole village bursts out in riotious laughter when he almost
After dinner we are still obviously
shaken, and Oscar looks at us again, “In my village you will be safe”.
I lay down thinking that there is no
chance of sleep, but wake with a start at 4am, and we’re putting tents away, packing bikes and ready to leave
when it’s still dark. We ask for directions to Luiza and Oscar points to a small track that wil bypass the
closest villages and take us to the correct trail. We thank him again and head off, still thinking there will
be another roadblock waiting for us around the corner.
The whole landscape has changed now
though, what were nice little villages with nothing worse than screaming children could now be housing a
darker side, a dark little room and a ransom letter. I don’t want to stop any more, all the villages freak me
out, so I just want to keep moving, if we can keep moving then bit by bit we will get out of
We ride from dawn to dusk for the next
two days, but it’s only after we are picked up by a real Immigration official who only wants a small
“donation” that we breathe a little. We are exhausted though, and on the third day it’s gotten dark while we
are still on the road.
I fall once, twice… “Bro, I don’t know
how much further I can go. I need to stop, I cant keep doing this”
“Ok lets pull up at the next village
I’m shaking by the time we stop, I
manage to get my tent out and in a soft drizzle I get it assembled. Thankfully Paul is doing ok, so he cooks
dinner while all I can do is sit. I have the shakes, everything hurts, and I’m now really worried I may have
malaria. We eat but I can only get a few mouthfuls down before crawling into the tent and passing
The next day I wake feeling a little
better but 30 mins into the ride I’m already exhausted. It’s deep sand and I fall repeatedly, I have to stop
and rest for half hour after just 15km. We push on again but another 10km I need to stop again. Thankfully
Paul is still going strong, and does water purification duty while I sit panting in the shade of a tree.
Repeat. We make only 60km for the whole day, exhausted and craving some anonymity we decide to camp on the
side of the road that night.
The wind changes just as we begin to set
up camp, and before we can get into the tents it starts to howl with rain. We’re both soaked, there’s water
in the tent, and the rain is showing no sign of letting up. We collapse without even bothering to eat, and
spend the next 12 hours wet in the tents while the rain lashes the landscape around
It’s still going in the morning, but at
6am we decide to get moving and so we pack up in the rain. We’re dripping wet by the time we’re packed, and
we wobble out to the road again to get moving. It’s changed from deep soft sand to deep soft mud. It’s awful
and for the first time in the Congo one of the locals expresses doubt about whether the road will be
passable! Now we’re really worried. They think any road you can walk along the edge of is a great road. We’re
in first gear yet again, belly pan scraping the mud, chain choked so hard with mud that it makes grinding and
cracking noises under the stress.
We’ve now left the goat tracks and
bicycle riders behind and are on the N1, but instead of getting better, the road is actually even worse.
After 15km we stop on a brand new bridge in the middle of nowhere, engulfed on both sides by metre deep muddy
water, it was hard just getting onto it so we pause to eat yet another avocado sandwitch and a banana (our
staple diet from the past 2 weeks).
After 2000km in the Congo I don’t
have much energy left, and just don’t know how I’ll manage to ride the last 200km to Kikwit (where the
bitumen starts), to make things worse the bikes are in desperate need of
We don’t have much choice so we push on
again, and make another 40km before rolling past a couple of 6WD trucks in a small village where we pause for
a rest and to ask about the road ahead. More of the same is the reply, or possibly worse. I look longingly at
the truck, and half jokingly suggest that we could hitch a ride through the worst of
Paul isn’t protesting, so we weigh it
up. Our visas expire in 3 days and at this rate it will take 4 or 5 days to get to Kikwit, and another to get
to Kinshasa - assuming all goes well, but we are in the Congo…
I ask one of the guys if they have space
on the truck, and am referred to the proprietor who introduces himself as Ali. That’s where our luck
“yes of course we have space, no
“che combien?” I
“money? ahhh, no problem, I take you for
no cost, is no problem!”
I look at Paul and we are immediately
suspicious. “No money, No Help” that’s our Congo motto, so we ask again…
Ali laughs, “no problem for money, I can
help, so I will help, is no need for money, I like to help people” Ali has an easy going air about him, he
laughs a lot and speaks English very well. We both smile for the first time in 3
We discuss it further, not wanting to
take easy street so close to the bitumen, and decide to have a crack at it, in the knowledge that Ali will be
heading in our direction in an hour, so if it all turns to shit we can hitch a ride.
We load up, say bye to Ali and head off
again. The rain from the previous 12 hours is making the going tough though, I fall in mud, then get beached
trying to get moving again, it’s exhausting. Eventually we make it to the next village, pull up next to
eachother and silently agree that this is not going to work. Without saying a word we turn the bikes around
and slip slide our way back to Ali’s truck.
He’s laughing when we get there and so
are we, our nightmare in this mud is over for a day. Ali is waiting to make sure his friend gets his truck
repaired before heading off himself, and once this is confirmed the bikes are ready to be lifted into the
truck. A little concerned about exactly how this will happen we ask about whether the truck has a lifting
rig, and are assured it does. The rig turns out to be Ali’s helpers, 5 of whom manage to lift the loaded
bikes about 2m into the air and onto the back of the truck – we’re amazed.
The truck drive to the next town reveals
the full extent of the damage to the roads, and we agree that it was lucky we bumped into Ali, it could have
taken us 3 days to make the same ground. We roll into town and just before we reach the centre the road is
blocked by another broken down truck, so that’s as far as we go with Ali. He’s taken us under his wing though
and sends the immigration and police packing when they come to check our documents. It turns out that he
really is well respected in the town!! We were loving it, for weeks these guys had been our bane, dragging us
off into small rooms and demanding money from us, and now we laughed our heads off when Ali told them in no
uncertain terms where to go, and they sulked off into the night without even registering us, it was
Ali then organizes a chicken to be
killed for our dinner and he joins us for the best meal we’ve had for days. The next morning he arranges a
canoe to transport the bikes across the river, again sends the immigration guys scurrying away and negotiates
another truck for the 180km to Kikwit. We were really sad to say goodbye to him and his guys, they were an
amazing bunch who helped us out without asking for anything in return, the first time this had happened in
The truck to Kikwit however was a
nightmare. It took 18 hours to make the 180km trek, it was hot, dusty and noisy, and we were being thrown
around like being in a great ride at the royal show, except this one didn’t stop. At one point I was woken by
a goat urinating on me while being suspended from the canopy, I could only feel sorry for the poor animal.
There were so many people in the truck that we couldn’t get off the bikes unless the truck stopped – there
was nowhere to step on the floor. I kept thinking that for the locals this was the best means of transport
available, and they probably counted themselves lucky to be in the truck rather than walking, it was a
Kikwit was another big village with more
corrupt officials, immigration people wanting money, and staring children on the streets. Our hotel didn’t
have electricity (except for 2 hours a day), or running water, so we were up at 4am and on the road at dawn
for the 525km cannonball run to Kinshasa. We belted along with minimal fuss from checkpoints, and arrived in
Kinshasa by 2pm. The scene at the border checkpoint was chaotic, but we booked a boat, then missed the boat
due to a storm and so spent the night in the city we’d heard so many bad things about, and to be honest I was
a little disappointed. After the chaos of the rest of the DRC, Kinshasa was just another big
Next day amongst more chaos we got onto
a small boat and lobbed into Brazzaville, we were efficiently processed through immigration and sat on the
banks of the river with a beer in hand toasting our sortie from the DRC – We finally made
Sitting in a hotel writing this, it’s
called the Hippocamp, run by Olivier who is letting us stay in a room out the side for free. It has wireless
so that’s why this is getting to you. We applied for the Gabon visa with success, tomorrow will try for
Cameroon and then we’re off again.
Take care all, we miss you
start? How about “Fucking Shit my Christ” (Sorry Mum)
To say it all seems like a blur sounds cliché, I know. However, I can say with hand placed firmly on heart,
that the only consistent theme of this trip, is the inevitable extremes of high and low that we seem to be
challenged with on a daily basis.
some time since I had the time or energy to write, and I apologies in advance if the details seem sketchy.
Unfortunately it will take a hand far more skilled than mine to properly convey the events of recent weeks,
alas; I shall do my best…
three weeks ago we left a cool little town, the last civilized outpost we would see for some time. The
generosity and warmth we felt from the guys we’d met only days earlier, was an abysmal preparation for what
we would quickly be thrust into. Before I continue… an enormous thanks to the crew that we met in Ndola,
Zambia. These guys made us feel like brothers in three short days, bending over backward to help and asking
nothing in return. I repeat, Bad preparation for the DRC. Anyways, to Wade, Sanjay, Malcolm, Roberto, Arthur,
Naga and Crew, you guys were the absolute definition of Fabby! Their parting comment, although said in jest,
rings eerily in my mind. “Take a good look at these smiling faces, they’re the last one you’re gonna see in a
left, Ndola, land of love and sunshine, enter stage right, Democratic Republic of Congo, land of thieves and
perpetual dark. It was seriously that definitively different,
and although this comparison may seem a little jaded and biased by experience, make no mistake as to the
conviction with which this statement is made. The Congo is hard, unforgiving, relentless in its desire to
crush the spirit of two white men, bumbling through its interior, closer to imminent danger than they often
knew. Would we recommend it as an overland destination? Only if you are hard of mind and body, or retarded.
read Deans synopsis of our journey, and although it’s about 14 pages long, ‘tis still a brief account.
Suddenly the enormity of the task that bequeaths me becomes obvious. An accurate account of our Congo
experience typed with two index fingers may take several years. So I’ll focus on the
· Again, more than ever, Bribe is
King. Except of course in the company of Ali, who is the real King.
· The Illegitimate roadblock takes a
close second to the bribe. Predominately because it involves a bribe. Oh, and did I mention a stick on 2
forked branches to stop your travels. So lame it’s funny. So long as it costs you less than 2 bucks it’s
· The once affectionate nickname
“Smiling Assassin” will never be the same again. I still see him in my dreams. Stupid Smiling Punk Bastard.
Pink lips and Mc Leans white teeth. Hrrrr…
· Truck rides over impassable ground
are only marginally better than impassable ground. Suffice to say, it was the second worst experience of my
life. No prizes for guessing the first.
· I have developed a deep seeded and
passionate dislike for bananas, avocados and bread made with Manioc. (Locally grown root vegetable, that they
manage to squeeze into almost everything)
· The seat on a KTM 950 SE is harder
than diamond. I will never get used to it.
· I take extreme pleasure in seeing
junior Priests offering to bathe Dean when we stay in Catholic Missions. It’s the second best thing I’ve ever
seen. So creepy it’s funny. “Now, we go to wash?”
· We are no longer scared of
officials. We either stand on the pegs and roll through with fingers, toes and pubes crossed. Or, we stop and
tell them that this is the fourth time in the last 50k’s that we’ve done this, and that they need to “step
the fuck back” or we’ll shoot, or something…
· Kids in villages are cute for about
14 seconds. Maybe less on a really hot day…
· We will never enjoy fixing
punctures. We will enjoy fixing failed repairs even less.
· Being a ‘Rock Star’ is not all it’s
cracked up to be…
· And, finally. The Congo is as
beautiful as it is hostile. As safe as it is unpredictable. And, despite aforementioned
negative rant, a truly amazing experience. Would we do it again? Absolutely fucking not! Are we glad we did
it? Fuck yes! The overland folk we meet are invariably chuffed that they’ve met two Aussies stupid enough to
cross the Congo. Big up to the Martinello brothers, Pa would be proud. He’s the third person I know,
excluding Sam, sufficiently stoopid, to blindly attempt such a mission... Sheet, takes me right back
to the guy in the blue and white shirt, banging the table in the darkness, demanding that we inform him of
our ‘mission’. WHAT THE?
we visit Cameroon, the next Gabon. As I write the thunder crashes around me, bolts of lightning discharge
into earth’s surface at random. The ‘land of thunder’ takes on a whole new persona during the rainy season.
So glad I’m not in a tent tonight. It’s amazing how the goal posts shift though, in almost every facet of the
journey. From not being satisfied with a 500k day on tar(as we’re used to in Australia), to being exhausted
and comforted by achieving 65(in hell). From bitching about a partially blocked shower head, to being totally
exhilarated by a bucked of cold water in a grotty alcove once deemed to be a shower. Feeling short changed by
your last pair of clean socks, only to put them back into service four days later, for another four days
running, thankful that they’re
dry. From whining about an overcooked piece of Fillet
Steak, to being overwhelmingly grateful for boiled rice with tomato puree. And the list goes on… In
Australia, as hard done by as we often feel, we are truly lucky. Never before has the colloquialism “the
lucky country” rung more truly. Still, I’m envious that the missus is sleeping on a two thousand dollar
pillow top mattress tonight...
Ciao for now, hugs and kisses, non gaily of course.
21 April 2010
Our visas came through a day early so we’re off again
in the morning, really looking forward to some forward motion with less red tape as we now have Gabon,
Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria and Libya all organized
Will keep the updates coming as I can,
apparently mobile service is better in this part of Africa so you should hear from us
Hi to all at home
To be honest I can’t really be bothered
writing anything right now, I’m a little too drunk and tired, but Sam would never forgive me if he found out
I’d left a beer half finished, and in the spirit of the trip so far, I’m going to push on. Plus I quite
enjoy putting pen to paper so I might have another crack at describing one of the situations we seem to have
found so many of…
We roll into Luiza tired and hungry, but
more importantly we’re out of fuel. It’s a really big village by these parts and we’re a little edgy to
keep moving to avoid the local immigration police, so we find the nearest fuel area that looks like it might
have enough to fill the katooms. Fuel in the Congo is not delivered by way of a bowser, it’s stored in
old 5ish liter containers, never all the same color, and normally diluted with paraffin or whatever else is
cheaper than fuel and will burn.
We pull up and ask the price, 5000CF we
are told (2x the going price), we buck and quickly settle on 2700CF, still more than the locals pay but
nearer to the mark, and better than the 5000CF the Nuns at the last mission charged us!
They ask how much we want. Panic sets in
when we reply, and quickly runners are sent out to return with more 5lt containers from around the corner.
These containers go via another small hut before being given to us. We presume to add more paraffin, or to
remove some fuel.
Meanwhile quite a crowd has gathered, so
it’s about 5 deep around the bikes, and we’re pouring like mad in an effort to get out of there.
Everyone wants to know our names, and those with some English are keen to
Bikes filled, we pay the bill, argue
about the exchange rate from US to CF, compromise on the result and head off again. We need to keep
stopping and asking for directions so our progress through the village is slow, but when we see a market the
temptation gets the better of us, and we stop for a moment to stock up on avocadoes and bread rolls -
While Paul is in the market, a guy comes
trotting up carrying a blue exercise book and introduces himself as immigration, telling me we need to
register and that I need to give him my passport. SHIT!!!
Paul returns, I give him the great news,
and off we go following the immigration guy. He starts off walking but quickly borrows a motorcycle
from a passerby, but not before the owner makes sure the official has put some fuel in the bike for the 2
minute ride to the immigration office.
The office is a little out of town, it’s
more or less a mud hut with some blue paint on it, and there are some police out the front. We are
ushered inside, where our documents are inspected, they are of course all in order, and so a fictitious
document is invented which of course we don’t have. This is not a problem though we are informed, and
This is our queue to ask whether there
is some way we can find a solution to this problem. Solution involves US$100 each. Much arguing
follows, including but not limited to us telling the guys we are not rich Americans, we are poor Australians,
with no money, who are meeting a friend in the next town who will have more money for us. More arguing
and they take about US$6 from us, but then we also need to go see the ‘boss’. All this has taken about
2 hours already.
We go outside to mount up again, but the
immigration guy’s borrowed bike won’t start. I’m laughing in my helmet pretty hard when he finally
ditches it and walks the 500m to the next office. We follow on the bikes.
Here things look a little more official,
but the boss spends a frustrating 30mins fingering our passports oooigh and aaahing at all the stamps before
asking for more money. We kindly inform him that we gave all our money to the last guy - who is now
looking a little guilty himself, and therefore we have no more!
We explain that we only have money for
fuel and food until Kikwit so we are very sorry but we cannot pay this administration fee.
More cursing in French, Swahili and
Lingala. More waiting, but finally we are bade farewell. We walk outside to see the borrowed
motorbike arriving, and then wait around for long enough to see the guy try to use it again, fail dismally
and start to walk back to town. We hit the electric starts and
rumble by him.
This little episode has cost us US$6 and
about 3 hours. The money isn’t so bad, but we’re trying to get out of the country in a hurry, so the
delay is frustrating. This happens again another 4 or 5 times before we get out of the
It’s no wonder no one goes
Sitting in a net café in Yaoundé
Cameroon as I write this, we arrived here yesterday afternoon having been moving pretty well for the past
week or so. From Brazza we decided to head north on the road less travelled following some advice from
a bunch of guys we met at Hippocamp. I have a strange feeling that I have already written about this…
maybe via sms, no that can’t be it, my phone hasn’t worked since we crossed the Congo river, anyhow… press on
The ride north from Brazza was mainly on
good bitumen (now I’m sure I have already written about this!), we went about 300km and stopped in a town
just shy of where we were aiming for as a pretty dark cloud was forming in front of us. The place was
typical of African hotels, that being no running water or electricity, no mosquito nets, and pretty average
food. We sat out the front of the place enjoying our newly found liberation from gaping locals, drank
some beer, ate some bread and avoided the fish that was absolutely disgusting. We went to sleep.
Overnight it rained harder and for
longer than I had thought possible, I even went outside to see if the bikes were still standing at one point,
and I was pretty worried about what this might mean for the road ahead. In the morning we got off early
and rode the next 50km to the end of the bitumen, and were a little apprehensive on rolling onto the dirt
road. It was a little boggy, but for the most part easily passable, and when we came up to a road being
constructed next to the track it was a no brainer to sneak onto the sandy but flat highway in
construction. We followed this for about half the day, having to revert to the normal track many times,
but usually getting thumbs up from the road workers. We came
across graders and rollers along the road.
This bit of good construction road ended
somewhere around Kano (I think…), from where the normal track also got quite a lot worse. Some pretty
deep mud, and lots of water on the road, we struggled for about 20km and decided to stay in a village that
We were warmly greeted by a local
drinking in the bar at the village (yes it had a bar!), he thought we were military and saluted us when he
came trotting over. I went and had a chat with the chief of the village, and by chat I mean a mime with
a few French words thrown in, and we settled on US$4 for staying in the village that night. The chief
was a bit of a character, and also completely drunk as he welcomed us into his
We got a couple of beers, the chief
brought out some cane chairs and we sat and watched the sun set in the village, having a laugh with the
kids. It was really nice to be able to just sit and chat to people without the ring of curious people
staring at us from half a meter away.
We gave the kids some chewing gum,
carefully explaining that it wasn’t to eat, just to chew. This took some convincing as they didn’t
really understand why you’d chew something but not eat it, but we laughed our heads off when the first one to
try it put a piece in his mouth, chewed it twice and spat it out. This communication issue solved there
was a group of a dozen kids happily chewing away on Wrigley’s spearmint for the next
We cooked pasta with a few curious
onlookers, drank a beer with the now heavily inebriated chief, took pictures of the kids and chief (but not
before he hastily changed out of soiled clothes into a suit, albeit with some help!) and went to sleep with
mozzies buzzing around our heads in the front room of the chiefs hut.
Next morning the road continued quite
badly, with some puddles deep enough to nudge the headlight of the bikes. I was waiting to hear gurgling
noises through that bike but thankfully it chugged its way forwards. The bad road continued until we
hit Gabon, where it literally went from a pretty bad dirt road, to a wide flat highway complete with lines
and lights. Paul got off his bike and kissed the tar!
In Gabon the roads were great, and we
made really good time on the bitumen and on the pistes (dirt roads). We stayed in a town 60km past
Francistown where we had our first hot shower for weeks, and had another good day in the saddle the following
day to arrive in Lope national park. There we found an ok motel room for a good price, and stole a
mattress from another room so we both slept well.
Its an ongoing laughing point when we
ask questions about the rooms, invariably the questions lead to…
“Do the lights
“And… does it have
“From taps or from a
“Is it hot
“Really? Is it really
This always ends with us being assured
it is hot water, which of course it never is when we go and try it. When we enquire, we are always
given the mime for ‘I’m going to go and open a tap out the back and you will then have hot water, please wait
a moment’ complete with the hand turning imaginary tap gesture.
We now know this hand gesture means
‘there is no hot water here, please stop asking you stupid feeble white man’
Lope national park was really beautiful;
we rode for a few days in pretty dense forest/jungle, over lots of really big rivers, very pretty
scenery. The road then poked out onto the main highway north to Cameroon, and we stayed in a mission
for the night shortly before the border. The place was great, complete with 2 beds and not hot water
complete with ‘tap turning mime’. Paul cooked a great aubergine risotto for dinner and we slept
Next day we entered Cameroon on a great
bit of highway that had us wishing we had the motard wheels on (or actually anything other than badly worn
nobbies), and did a long haul day of about 400km to the capital Yaoundé.
We have front tyres showing canvas so
are pretty keen to find some replacements, and were hopeful that this being the capital of Cameroon there
would be some stock around… insert game show ‘wrong!’ sound effect
The city is pretty big, but not
especially affluent, and given the way people stare at the bikes we doubt they see many of this size around
here. As luck would have it though, we rolled past a Michelin shop on the way in, where the guy behind
the counter laughed at me when I asked if they had any tyres for the bikes, but on the way back to the bikes
we bumped into a Pirelli rep who was there to pick up some tyres. He was really keen to help out, and
so we followed him to the Pirelli store 10mins away.
Half way there the heavens opened in a
way they only seem able to in Africa, and having been hot as hell moments before we were saturated on
arrival. Jean Pierre was nice enough to let us park in the tyre change bay, and we followed him
inside. He had bad news… he’d called in the car on the way there and there was nil stock of what we
wanted in Cameroon. SHIT. However there was some stock of the next size down for the front in the
next major city, so we promptly ordered 2 and with some more help from Jean Pierre we found a hotel nearby,
(but not before riding around for an hour in smog infested traffic trying to find something cheaper, looking
at one, declining, following GPS for a little longer and finally deciding to pull the pin and head back to
the first one…).
Last night we went out for some dinner,
with some help from the guys at the hotel we were put in a taxi at a pre negotiated price (by the hotel guys,
if we’d been left to do it, the cost would have been double – US$1), and sent to the local ‘white guys’
restaurant. We were bemused to see the white tablecloths and well dressed waiters when we arrived, and
felt a little out of place in our dirty clothes, but the food was sensational if expensive for this part of
the world (US$9 each).
This morning we went for a walk to find
some sunglasses, post some stuff home, try to get another fork seal and finally pick up the tyres.
We’re at this net café trying to sort out the next set to take us through the Sahara as we don’t think this
set will make it, and the desert isn’t a good place to find yourself out of rubber! We have a few
leads, hopefully something will work out.
By the way, I just worked out where I
had written about all this before, it’s in a file appropriately called ‘update’ sitting on my desktop waiting
for an internet connection to be sent to Hamish the web master with the mostest…
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