Separate names with a comma.
Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Wanted, May 16, 2016.
Good to see you back at it.
Top speed to the DRC!
Take your time and ride as though there were no urgency. This is no time to take risks—keep your mind on your side.
Glad you guys have a solution to your visa conundrum, as shitty as it is, a solution is a solution.
Watch the traffic and roads in Nigeria, they can look great, perfect tar for miles then there will be an enormous hole in the middle of the hwy and cars all over the show, coming your way in your lane. They are a bit mad.
Do not miss the bypass around Benin City! Mate of mine missed it and he thought he'd just persist - how bad could it be? It took him 6hrs to transit through the city! If you go around its maybe 45min.
Yaounde traffic is a pretty bloody silly too.
If you do end up doing the route from Cam to RoC direct, once your through the dirt, from outside Ouesso you've got good hwy you'll be able to rip down all the way to Brazza, and the best bit, minimal to basically no traffic at all. It's a good road and there is no-one, you could pull a 1000km day there no worries. Not many places in Africa you can do that.
So this is turning into a nightmare.
I dropped Isabel at the airport and it was 1pm Friday by the time I got moving solo. I chose to ride the 3 hours north up to a quieter border on the Benin side, as I wanted to avoid the chaos of Lagos. Crossed into Nigeria relatively hassle free aside from money changers trying to rip me off, thankfully I had checked vaguely what the exchange rate was so didn't get off too badly. It was a further 2 hours to a town called Abeokuta where I found a cheap crappy guesthouse to stay the night. No WiFi, so I have no idea how Isabel has got on with her flight to DRC and it is really stressing me.
This is a very long story about Nigeria, I didn't stop to take pictures so sorry for the lack of photos. Skip if you want
I wake up at 6.30 and am packed and riding by 7am. The roads progressively get worse as I head out of town, there is traffic everywhere. Luckily it is a highway with two lanes per side, but this isn't a developed countries highway, they have shut down the opposite side of the road with absolutely no signs or guidance. All the oncoming traffic had just come into our lane, the traffic is getting clogged behind big trucks and I'm choking on perpetual diesel fumes while trying to swerve in and out of oncoming traffic.
All the while I am being stopped by police at every checkpoint, these checkpoints are frequent, sometimes only minutes apart. This continues for approximately 7-8 hours where I am stopped approximately 30 times. They all ask me for money, or a "gift", when I refuse, they do a full search of my baggage, this would have happened at least 5-6 times. Finally I arrived in a town named Aba. I had been warned about this town by the German cyclist that I met in Bamako, Mali. As she passed me again while I was in Europe, she had sent a message warning me about the road conditions. She had said the road didn't exist anymore followed by this picture.
As I had been heading toward Aba I had been hoping and praying something might be different by the time I arrived. Once I arrived in Aba I realised I was wrong, it was even worse. Most of these towns are so clogged with traffic, they take a long time to pass through and the heat is sweltering. When heading out of town the roads turned into lakes to the point that I could not pass, people started to surround me and after a while I worked out a deal with a taxi moto to show me the way. He led me through deep pools of muddy water, and where there was no water the road was so bad it was more like riding over jagged waves like the swell in the ocean.
This continued for 40 minutes until the road just disappeared into a lake as far as the eye could see. The taxi moto led me off the side of the road into the jungle, onto a small single track only 1ft wide, weaving in and out of trees with deep pits of mud and pools of water. I was terrified of how to handle this on the big KTM, but fortunately I didn't come off at all. I was almost glad that I didn't have Isabel and the extra luggage on the back. We continued through the jungle like this for 15 minutes before re-emerging on the road. We did this a couple more times until it got to a point where the taxi moto stopped and said it was good until the next town.
By now it was getting on for 5pm, most of this afternoon had been in thunderstorms also. My goggles had become so bad I couldn't use them anymore and had to ride without goggles causing the rain to sting my eyes as I rode on. I asked at a fuel station how far it was until Calabar. She said 2 hours, I had been asking at checkpoints close by and they had also said 2 hours. I decided to chance it and at the worst I'd be coming into Calabar on dusk. The stress is building now as I do not want to be stuck in the dark, but I didn't want to stop here.
I continued and the rain was getting harder and harder, I had wrapped my drone up in a towel on the back and was hoping it would be good. The roads were getting better, there were no more lakes, only huge potholes every few hundred meters. These potholes were very deep and stretched across the whole road. This caused a lot of traffic to slow down and people creep across one by one in turns. By 5.30 it was starting to get dark, it was still raining hard and I was under pressure to get to Calabar. Then my steering felt strange and I realised I had a flat back tire.
This is turning into a nightmare, I pulled off the road and into a petrol station out of the rain. By the time I got off the bike a crowd of guys had already swarmed around me. There was a huge piece of shrapnel sticking out of the rear wheel, I looked around hopelessly. I didn't have time for this, it's nearly dark and I'm still about 80km out of Calabar. This is also the region where the Australian and Kiwi guys were kidnapped last month. I pull my bags apart and get my repair kit, it takes 30 minutes and several attempts but I finally plug the hole and pump the tire up again. It was still raining quite hard so I asked for a hotel, they said there was no hotel. My only option now is to continue to Calabar.
Here are some of the guys who stuck around to watch me fix the tire.
I depart by 6pm and I have 30 minutes of light left. I continue to ride and the roads are starting to get really bad again. I continued on until it turned into pure darkness. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it did. I came upon a huge backlog of traffic in the middle of the jungle, there was traffic going the same way as me backed up stretching the width of the road and as far as my lights could shine. I sat in the traffic for 30 minutes and did not budge, I was getting really nervous now. I tried to maneuver around some of the cars but they were packed so tightly together it was impossible, even right out to the sides of the road where it turned into thick mud and trees.
This is where my headlight blew, I lost my low beam bulb and was now trapped on high-beam. One of my spotlights had sheared off the crashbar earlier due to poor road conditions so I had disconnected it. I jumped off the bike and disconnected my other spotlight and light bar. This is where I started to have a borderline panic attack, now I am trapped. I am trapped in complete darkness, unable to move, on a road so bad it is swallowing logging trucks, with a broken headlight, surrounded by cars, vans and trucks with people running and screaming in the night, in the last country on the planet I want to be after dark, in the very area the guys were kidnapped a month ago.
There were people running around screaming everywhere in the dark, screaming at each other, threatening each other. Now an hour had passed, a few guys started screaming at vans making some room and started to wave me through. Slowly but surely a gap widened between some vans and I slid through. They did this for the next 15 minutes until I got into the heart of the traffic block where a big truck was broken down in a huge pothole full of water.
These potholes are large enough to swallow a 4x4, I could not believe what I was seeing on these roads. The group of guys took me to the very side and got me across, the mud and water was coming right up to my knees. I was surprised the 1190 was getting through this stuff, it wasn't slipping and was handling well. The traffic on the other side was just as bad and backed up much further in the opposite direction, lucky for me there was a track to the right wide enough to slip down the side. The guys were running barefoot covered in mud in front of the bike, running and screaming and wielding large sticks in the night, hammering their fists on vans in their way.
Eventually we made it to the other side, they motioned me off the road next to a hut and surrounded me. They were asking for "something". I didn't even try to refuse, if these guys hadn't helped me I would have been stuck the whole night. I only had 2,000 Naira (about 5 euro left), I gave one guy 1000 and said I don't have anything left, I only have 1000 left afterward. Surprisingly they took it very well and let me go with a good farewell.
My new problem now was I couldn't see anything even with my high-beam, as now I couldn't use my aux lights. Even with my single high-beam, this caused every oncoming car to high-beam me back like I was doing it on purpose. Some of them got very aggressive and swerved at me due to this. I could only creep along at 30kmp/h in the bucketing rain, still trying to avoid huge potholes while being blinded by oncoming cars/motos.
An hour later I made it to the next highway and continued to creep the next 30km into Calabar. I was exhausted, it had now been about 14-15 hours on the bike, I was filthy and didn't want to ride around this city all night trying to find somewhere. I passed by a big hotel that looked fancy, I said f#!@ it and pulled in. I didn't care how much it would cost, I just needed to get off the bike. I went in and the price was $105USD. I freaked out, but I managed to talk them down to just over 40. I think they felt sorry for me seeing that I wasn't a white business man, and looked like an animal just released from captivity.
This is where I got WiFi at the counter and the night was topped off. I got a message from Isabel reading;
Yesterday during the flights everything was good and perfect. They fed me twice and everything was easy until I arrived to Kinshasa. Once I got to the passport control the guy asked me for my passport and if I was a Benin resident. I said no (because if you are a Benin citizen you have to prove it). Then everything turn into a nightmare... He said that I couldn't enter in the country because the DRC visa must be issue in Spain. I said that I got the visa in Benin because an Ambassador issue one for me and that I paid for it. He started to tell me that if I wanted to enter in DRC I had to pay 350$. So first it was you can not enter and after a while the possibly of entering the country had a price. Anyway I said no, I'm not going to pay that money because I paid the DRC Ambassador in Benin and that it wasn't my fault if they gave me that visa. (All this bullshit in French, of course). So he told me... Ok, if you don't pay you will return to Cotonou. Then I started to get anxious, mad, worried, bad, upset, they didn't believe my version about the motorcycle.... So suddenly an angel appeared (a really nice passenger woman) who started to help me with the translation (I have to admit that I cried a little bit). The police put us in a room and they were asking me for everything, about the motorcycle, they didn't believe me, and they kept asking me for money. So I said no and I asked to go to the toilet (my plan was call the Spanish embassy in DRC). So I went there and I called them. They started to help me out with everything. Then I came back and all the bullshit started again. Questions, questions and more questions. My cousin was out and I couldn't talk with him and the police started to take me around the whole airport. They asked me if I had even a blog where I can prove that I'm traveling. And I said, yes it's called from map to map. And he said... I don't ask for a map (LOL). So after that they made me go inside again and I saw my cousin. But as well we started to go everywhere without any reason. After a few hours, talk, calls to the embassy and more bullshit, they put me alone in an office full of policemen. I was there for another two hours until they put me in an old terminal (like Tom Hanks in the terminal movie) to stay there the rest of the night. Lucky that all of the policemen who were looking at me fell asleep and Pablo could come to stay with me. We spent the whole night there and this morning I talked again with the Spanish embassy and some guys came to talk with me. Finally at 7 they decided to put me on a plane back to Cotonou (lucky that we paid for a multiple visa, if not they would have put me on a plane to Spain). At 8.00, after 12 hours of nightmare I was on a plane. I'm lucky my cousin was there helping me out with everything. Now I'm back in Benin. I still don't have my passport, it's at the Cotonou airport with the police. I have to come back tomorrow to talk with them.
Of course it's Sunday now so I have to wait for the Cameroon embassy in Calabar to open in the morning before I can continue. This has cost us 500 euro just to get rejected by the corrupt immigration in DRC and we don't have this money, we can't afford anything like this to go wrong. This is stressing us more. We decide to fly Isabel now to Gabon and continue down to Congo and into the northern part of Angola, from there we can put the bike on a ferry to the southern part of Angola, skipping DRC entirely. This is if she gets her passport back, she went to the airport today again and they denied her. Apparently she has to wait for the immigration commissioner to arrive, and to make matters worse, Monday is his day off. This is making it harder for us to purchase a flight too as she can't get her passport and the prices are getting higher and higher.
Right now we are both sick of West Africa. We are sick of the roads, we are sick of the accommodation, we are sick of the police, we are sick of the people, but most of all we are sick of the bureaucracy and corruption. For me I knew West Africa wouldn't be the best place to go, I knew it would be an experience rather than a good time. However, I would never recommend anyone to go to West Africa. Once I leave, I will never come back here.
Wow. I have to admire your fortitude but given what you've described it doesn't make traveling to Africa sound appealing in the slightest.
The nightmare continues.
There is a huge lack of photos lately, skip if you want!
I wake up early Monday morning to get a start on the Cameroon visa, after riding around for 40 minutes with bad directions, stopping and asking and getting more bad directions, I finally arrive at the consulate of Cameroon. Thankfully something started to go right, the Cameroon visa was issued within one hour with no problems. In this time I had packed up the bike and after stopping by the consulate to pick up my passport, I was on my way. I am trying to remain calm after the last few days, everything that can possibly go wrong is going wrong. I feel like under Murphys law in the dictionary there should be a picture of me.
This is where disaster struck, on trying to navigate the terrible roads, I was preparing to overtake a car by closing the gap between us when a huge pothole went straight under his car and directly into my path. I could not avoid it, and smashed into it hard. I get a puncture warnings on my dash and the pressure starts to drop. It's holding at about 1.4 bar which I thought was weird until I got off the bike. The pothole had smashed a huge dent in my rim and air was leaking out the side. I didn't have any tools to try and fix it so I continued like this. When it hit 1.2 bar, I'd get off and pull out my electric pump and top up the air. It wouldn't allow any more than 2 bar in the tire, and this didn't matter because every bump I hit knocked off 0.1 of a bar until it held around 1.5 bar where it would turn into a slow leak again. There was also oil pissing all over my brake calipers, rendering my front brakes almost useless. It was a mess, I think it was my fork seals leaking from the hit.
I kept doing this over the next hour every 15 minutes. The roads were so bad now, like riding on the surface of the moon. Huge jagged pot holes often full of water and mud that you had no choice to go through. These were every 1km or so, with a minefield of smaller potholes littering the road in between. I was coming up on a police checkpoint and slowed right down to go down through a big crater, when I got another puncture warning. This time the rear wheel. I nurse it across the pool of mud and out to where the police were, where I got off to inspect. This is my second flat within 2 days, the plug had come out of the hole. I empty my tools and set a out fixing the leak, I topped my front up as well. Now my electric pump stopped working. This means that if I have any further problem with the tires, I'm essentially screwed. I continue on further, lucky for me the back rests around 2.1 bar and the front sits firmly on 1.3. I battle with the atrocious roads for another couple of hours and make it to the town of Ikom, where the road connects with one of the newly built trade highways. It was like a dream, pristine blacktop all the way to the border!
When I arrived at the border it was about 3pm, I wanted to be out and on the way by 4pm. I had considered just riding through the night to make it to Yaounde, and figured I'd make that decision on the way. It was a 9.5 hour ride according to my maps. The Nigerian immigration was a painful experience trying to leave. I had to spend about 40 minutes going to 4 different immigration buildings and several different officers just to get stamped out, and this seemed like standard procedure. I make my way across the bridge and rode straight past Cameroon immigration accidentally and ended up at the customs office. I jumped off the bike and went in to get a temporary import permit.
This was all in French, and I don't speak any French, but when I asked for the permit he just said to me tomorrow. I figured he didn't understand what I was getting at, I explained it very carefully waving my hands around to give him a better idea. Another guy came in speaking broken English and said the chief isn't here, he's on holiday, he will do it tomorrow. I stood there not really understanding the gravity of the situation, this was made harder with how casual they made it sound. I stressed that I needed to go to Yaounde tonight.. They took very little interest in me and just said "tomorrow". It turns out the chief is needed to sign my passavant, but he decided to take the day off. Now I'm standing there at 4pm in disbelief that they're telling me he decided to take the day off and there is nobody else who can sign it. I asked him what I can do, where am I supposed to sleep. He just pointed at the floor and continued lazing around. My anger toward these people was boiling over. All I could feel was pure hatred to him and everyone else around me.
I walked over to immigration to get stamped into the country and let it sink in that there is no way I can get past. I can't go back into Nigeria as they have already stamped me out, and I can't just leave as no doubt there will be a million check points ahead where I will be at the mercy of the police. I sat around my motorcycle for a couple of hours cooling down and did some more pleading with the customs guys who couldn't care less. There were some old women with bags full of goods who also looked like they had to sleep here. It got dark and I was hanging out at the customs office trying to think of where to put my tent up. Some local guys mentioned there was a hotel in the town, so after a couple more hours, I left my moto and bags with customs and jumped on the back of a scooter over to the "hotel”.
I feel like “hotel" is a very broad term used to describe a type of sleeping accommodation. The place I checked in to was like something out of a South American or Thai prison documentary crossed with a Serbian brothel (the latter of which is an assumption, I swear). I forked over 8 euro and got the room. The woman said she was going to turn the water on for me, but I soon found out that wasn't going to happen. The room was in the center of the “hotel, but had windows into the hallway, thankfully it at least had a dusty old 6 speed ceiling fan, naturally with the main light above the blades which was borderline cause for an epileptic fit. I lay down on the bed, at least it wasn't too noisey. Minutes later she came knocking in the door informing me I've been upgraded to the "nice room" aka The Kapua suite aka The Favela. This room was even worse as the windows went to the street with people yelling and practically brawling outside. She showed me to the bathroom, and was proud to show me a cold drizzle that indeed came forth from the shower head when she cranked the handle. She also made a point of turning the sink taps on to prove that the sink does in fact get running water. How lucky am I.
I woke early the next morning as I want to be down at the customs office by 7, which is when they open. As I walk downstairs and prepare to leave, the rain was absolutely bucketing down. I considered to taxi the 700m back down to the office, or a moto, or something. But nobody was around, everyone was either hiding from the rain or still asleep. I waited for about 40 minutes for the rain to ease up even a little bit, but it just kept coming, just as strong. I finally said f!#$ it and walked out into the rain and down to the customs office where I was saturated, only to find that the chief had still not arrived. Old women were laying on the benches and floor wrapped in blankets looking miserable. There was a girl working at customs, I asked her what time the chief would arrive and she said 9am. It’s 7.30 now, and I am burning to leave, especially if I want to get to Yaounde today. I sit down on some bags of rice and begin the hour and a half wait. Three hours later the chief arrived, I was enraged. I went in and got the import permit and left, surprisingly the chief was a pretty nice guy. Sadly that wasn’t any consolation.
The road was fresh tar which must have only been laid in the last year or two, it was a dream to ride. Nobody was on the road, I figured anyone who was trying to cross the border was behind me, as I was the first one to cross this morning. No trucks, no cars, just me and a perfect conditioned road that winded its way through the quiet jungle. As I got further away from the border the rain eased up until it turned into a scene like something out of the King Kong movie. Just endless mountains and rainforest, tall thin trees with huge canopies, all covered in a thick mist. It was a really beautiful sight, and it was almost therapeutic riding through this on nice winding roads.
Aside from the city of Bamenda and 60km south of that, it was a really nice road all the way through. This didn’t help me though as I got my first flat for the day, the plug had come out again. Thankfully I seem to be able to keep riding the bike at 100kmp/h (60mp/h) to the next town, the flat only became noticeable when I slowed down. There are bike shops everywhere in these countries, all with a small compressor and a little know-how to fix their small scooters and motorcycles they use from day to day. I stop outside one, there is always a group of guys working on a few motorcycles, and they all stop what they’re doing and lose their minds when I pull up on the bike. I start unpacking my things and get another plug out as they scramble for the compressor, I plug the hole and they get it inflated again, I thank them, give them a little bit of money, chat for a few minutes while the adhesive settles and then carry on.
An hour later, I get another flat. I repeat the same steps as before, and continue on. Thirty minutes after that, the same thing again. I repeat the same steps, and continue on. Then 20 minutes, and five more times at 20 minute intervals I’d lose the plug and have to pull over and repair it all again. It was getting on for dark, I was lucky enough to nurse it into Yaounde with one plug that gave me a full hour. I pulled up at a guesthouse at 8pm where an Australian couple Paul and Jan were waiting for me. When you’re riding down through Africa, most people doing it are on the forums on certain websites and pages, Facebook overland groups etc, so you know who is on the road, the rest you hear about by word of mouth, so there aren’t many huge surprises with who is out there on your path. I had started yarning to Paul on Facebook a few months ago as we knew our paths would cross at some point, and it was great to see them there in Yaounde! The first overland motorcyclists I have come across since the beginning pretty much. I was too excited!
We settled in and had a yarn, talking about my bike problems. Paul offers to stick around tomorrow and help me out, I was stoked to have the help, but more-so the company! The next morning we were up bright and early, ripped the rear wheel off my bike and got stuck in pulling the rear tire off to patch it from the inside. A few swear words and rim scrapes later, we had the tire off and could see what we were really dealing with. The hole was just in a really awkward place, right in the corner of one of the knobs where it was ever so slowly tearing open. We decided that our patches didn’t cut it, and took it down to a local tire guy named Isaac. He normally does cars from his little stick shack in a back alley, putting bald tires on cars to replace their even balder tires. He was an awesome guy and set to work crafting a heavy duty patch to go over the hole. Bit of glue, some more swear words and rim scrapes and we had the tyre back on inflating it up. It looked great! The hole was finally patched!! Then disaster struck again…
Isaac started pouring soapy mud water over the tyre to check for leaks, air was pissing out the spokes. My heart sank, this is not the first time I’ve had this problem, it was one of the problems that held me up for a week in Spain. I knew there was a cut or something on the rim band, and air was leaking out under it and through the spokes. We took off the tire again, and sure enough right under the TPMS sensor there was a 5mm cut. I don’t know if this was newly introduced or had been nicked when I got the initial puncture, it would explain the very slow leak from the rear, but maybe it wasn’t there. I was gutted, last time this happened I had to wait a week for the KTM store to order a rim band in from Austria. This time there is no KTM store, and no way to get the part from Austria. I considered patching the rim band, but I have also heard the patches on the rim band don’t do so well. This is where me and Isaac jumped on Pauls BMW and went to find a tube.
(I'll add a bunch more photos when Paul sends some through)
We searched high and low, and Isaac was getting awkwardly intimate with me on the bike. Every time I moved forward, he would slide up right against me again until I moved forward yet again. This happened multiple times until I was practically sitting on the gas tank where I looked around and said “Can you move the f!@$! back please!?”, I think he got the hint and shuffled back, don’t know what that was all about. An hour later we had a tube, I had been sold one with a cut in it and didn’t realise. After we got that exchanged for an extra 2 euro, we had the tube in the rear and the tyre back on. The rear wheel is finally sorted. Me and Paul bolted back to the guesthouse, now I want to see if it is possible to clean up my front brakes and try fix my front wheel. I take the KTM back down to Isaac by myself this time, now it’s pissing with heavy rain. We set up an umbrella and I start taking off my brakes and front wheel.
I get some muddy water out the gutter and a kid runs over and pours some soap powder into the bucket for me, I get started cleaning all my brakes. The callipers, taking off the pads and giving them a good wash, the forks, the mud guard, everything. Isaac was around by his shack annihilating my front rim, smashing it with an iron bar back into place. A couple of hours later, the wheel was back on, brakes were cleaned and front tyre no longer leaking. I took the bike for a clean, which is a bargain by the way. 1.5 euro will get your bike a 40 minute hand wash with soap and pressure wash. The bike was looking good as new.
Headed back to the guesthouse just on dinner time and was glad to have sorted those issues, 20 minutes later I started the bike up to head out to the ATM when I start getting new warnings, ABS brakes warning and traction control warning. FML, I have no idea what the problem is now. I decide to ignore it. Paul, Jan and I all head out to a restaurant for dinner. It wasn’t really what we were expecting, as they served up what looked like vomit on a plate. Paul and Jan barely touched it, I ate it all because I was starving. We went back to the guesthouse and talked for the rest of the evening about everything travel, Africa, equipment and motorcycles. It was a really great night.
Up again early the next morning to say our goodbyes. I wanted to be out by 7am but didn’t start riding away from the guesthouse until 8. Finally made it through the chaos of Yaounde and an hour out of the city when I realised I forgot my F!$@ING laptop back at the guesthouse. I had no one to blame but myself, I lost my shit and had a tantrum in my helmet effing and blinding, turned around and 2 hours later was back in the same spot to continue the journey a few more hours to the border. On arrival at the border, Cameroon was really pleasant and let me out efficiently and friendly. Gabon was a different story, they dicked me around for 2 hours before I finally got through, now it was 5pm. I really want to make it to Libreville! which is apparently 8 hours away.
The roads in Gabon are really awesome, from the border it was really narrow winding roads through mountains, the jungle is trying to reclaim the road where everything is overgrown out over the bitumen and you have a very isolated feeling. There is nobody around, very few villages, and the ones you do ride through are more or less empty. It was great. By nightfall I realised my GPS had yet again given me the wrong directions and I should have taken a turn off an hour ago. Again I lost my shit in my helmet. The GPS always does this, Openstreetmaps is a real let down sometime. I find a hotel in the town I am in and haggle with the woman down to a still inflated 11500CFA (18 euro).
Anyway the next day I rode 6 hours to Libreville without problems other than running out of gas, there are no petrol stations here and nobody sells it on the side of the road. These guardian angels really helped me out, in the middle of absolutely nowhere these guys appeared with 2L of fuel for me!
This whole time I have been riding, Isabel has been stuck in Benin by herself after the DRC rejected her. They confiscated her passport (illegally I might add) and she was trying multiple times each day to get it back, they were holding it without reason. In the end she had to call the Spanish embassy who demanded the passport back, two days later (the day I was fixing my bike in Yaounde) she got it back. We booked her a flight to Libreville and she is flying over tonight. She is shit scared they will reject her at the border again, our fingers are crossed.
I truly feel sorry for ya
Wishing you the best man
Fuck man you're doing it tough. Once you get Isabel I really recommend you guys find a quiet spot and just chill for a few days. West and central Africa completely burns you out... It's fucking hard. That's why so few people do it. Just travelling there is a real test of patience and determination which you seem to have well and truely gathered. Stop and recharge the batteries, because I hate to tell ya, the worst is yet to come.... Cameroon and Nigeria make Rep of Congo and DRC look like Europe in terms of functionality. Not that you wanna hear that I know, but better to be prepared than not hey?
Central and West Africa, especially the borders and checkpoints, is a test - a game - of patience and determination. Get refreshed, slow down, get your game plan to share the bureaucratic load between the 2 of you sorted and you'll be sweet. Tan and I would tag team through the hard shit to split the load and reduce the stress so I can understand going solo would be a real burn out, add bike problems (trust me I know about bike problems!) and I can understand you've had a shit time of it! But once there is two of you you'll be better for it.
Good luck man! Luck comes in swings and round a bouts and sounds like you're due for a massive upswing!
And remember the light at the end o the tunnel, Namibia! Once you get to Namibia everything changes. People are friendly and awesome. Shit works. It's fucking cool place. Food is good. Good German beer. Seriously, Namibia is one of the worlds coolest places, especially for riding. Once you get there, Southern Africa is totally different to central Africa. It might be on the same continent but once you cross the border it's a completely different planet.
Best of luck guys! Go well. We are sending positive vibes your way!
Mick and tan.
This is Tan of Mick and Tan. Just wanted to send my sympathy and good vibes your way. You are definitely proving to be a lightening rod for bad luck and BS at the moment. So unfair especially at the beginning of the trip where you haven't had a chance to fall into a good groove and to get plenty of the good times to dilute the tough times. So sorry. Things will most definitely pick up and you'll be more resiliant travellers for it. Once you get all this dealt with everything else that comes will be a piece of cake.
And then will come Namibia...you'll fall in love with her and she'll treat you real nice!
Send my regards to Isobel she is a real trooper by the sounds of it
Cheers Mick and Tan, thanks for your support. I just got a message from her brother that Isabel was just refused entry to her flight to Gabon from Benin as they didn't believe her motorcycle story at the airport, with luggage full of motorcycle clothing and a motorcycle helmet, with photos of us and a blog..... I am praying somehow she gets on the flight. My patience is razor thin with West Africa right now.
Fuck dude so sorry to hear that! Tan and I will brainstorm and will be in touch on FB. We know a guy in Benin who might be able to help her get through the shit and on the plane.
Good lord... I am getting pissed just reading this and now the DR duo says it can get worse. Try not to kill anyone.
Hopefully it will make the southern part or the journey that much sweeter... once you get there.
Holy Crap! You are in the thick of it for sure! I am very sorry to hear of your travails.
I have no experience with overland travel in 3rd world countries but in all my reading I keep hearing travelers alluding to the 'rich overlander' effect, folks with large funds freely paying to play rather than negotiating which increases the 'cost' of travel. Maybe that is part of the cause in your case.
West Africa sounds pretty unappealing,
I have been following mick and tan's journey from the start. They are amazing at working their way through the web of African travel. If anyone can help you it is them.
Sending out the best wishes that you can get through to Namibia as smoothly as possible!
Hey man just got to know about your trip through Mick and Tanya. Haven't had time to read it from the start and will do so in good time. But have read back a few pages. Just for some support with this fresh new hell, but stick it out if you can, and keep contact with Mick and Tanya at least it helps to have some new fresh info on hand.
Africa is not like other places and it's brutal but in the end it's a rewarding place to travel. And the beers are cheap
Unbelievable what you are going through.
Cross my fingers,and wish everything go well from now and on!!
I received a message from Isabels brother informing me that she was able to make it onto the plane. At midnight I headed for the airport in Libreville, when I arrived, there was no “arrivals hall”. Only the outside of the building, where passengers would exit through frosted glass. I had only been there 10 minutes, when I saw Isabel coming from a side door, escorted with an officer. I went over and we were taken into a room with the “head of police”. He came up with this ridiculous bullshit that Isabel had to prove that she was a teacher in order to continue. He kept pointing to his badge that said he was a police officer. We calmly had to explain to him that we are not officials, and that we do not have an official document to prove our profession. I also explained that this is the first time in Africa that I have ever had to “prove” my profession also (on behalf of Isabel), and was also left stumped when I said "what if she was unemployed?", to which he responded that she would need proof of unemployment. This continued on for about an hour just going around in circles, his argument was weak and outright illegitimate, he just frothed over having some power. In the end, we were sent out to immigration where the passport would be stamped.
With passports stamped, we headed back to the hotel overjoyed that we were finally together again and our next problems we would be facing together. That is until we realised that the baboon in charge of stamping the passports had actually stamped me in for a second time, and didn’t stamp Isabels passport at all… This is going to mean another trip to the airport.
After a decent sleep, we were up, packed and on our way back to the airport. It didn’t take too long to explain that the buffoon on duty last night had stamped the wrong passport, we got a new stamp in Isabels passport, and were finally on our way again. It was a fairly uneventful four hour ride down to Lambarene aside from crossing the equator!!
Lambarene is a small town made famous by Albert Schwitzer, a presumably German doctor who did some important stuff in this town back in the day, sorry for the lousy history lesson. We stayed at the museum, but didn’t check it out. Another uneventful 4 hour ride and we made it to the “border town” of Ndende. This border town we found out was still 50km from the border, but we had heard you could camp at the local catholic mission for free, it was true, and that is where we camped.
In the morning, the priest who reeked of alcohol escorted me down to the police station to notify police that we had stayed there at the church. The police took it upon themselves to stamp both me and Isabel out of Gabon. I have no idea why, that could have ruined our plans had we wanted to stay longer. However, we are on a mission to just get through these countries and down into Namibia. Once back at the catholic mission, the priest showed us into his house where we were welcome to take a bucket shower in his room, and use his toilet covered in piss. He wanted our e-mail addresses, and we happily took his pad and pen to jot down some bullshit addresses on his coffee table, right next to the pretty well empty bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label. All at the bright and early hour of 10am.
We packed up and headed out once again, almost immediately after leaving Ndende the road turned into a crappy dirt track that winded its way through the burnt scrub. See not long after leaving Lambarene yesterday morning, we had noticed the jungle start to fade away. Now it was thinning out into smaller brush, not really clear enough to wild camp, but we didn’t plan on wild camping until at least Angola anyway. It took us a long time to make the 50km to the border. We were stopped at several solitary checkpoint outhouses on the way, where they each took a stupid amount of time to note down our passport details. And on arrival at the border, this happened four more times. It must have taken us three hours to cross the border, as they were just so slow at the offices. This was way out in the middle of nowhere at what seemed like a border that nobody crossed at. The police told us to get a passavant 50km away in a small village, we could not get it at the border. The road eased out, but was still a poorly graded dirt road. We could only make 30-40kmp/h all the way to the village to get the passavant, of course the photos always make it pristine!
When we eventually made it, the customs officials were outside playing cards, and had no idea what a passavant was. It didn’t help that a Chinese guy must have passed through here recently with a Carnet de passage, as police since Nigeria have been waving this Chinese guys carnet paper at me (the part they keep) asking where mine is. I have to explain each time that I don’t have a carnet and I need a passavant, and show all my previous passavants. After a long wait while the customs guy made a phone call, he examined my old passavants and wrote one out for me. He then slid it across the desk, smiled at me and made the universal sign for money with his thumb and fingers. I said no, and started going through my old passavants saying “no money, no money, no money”. He said “no carnet, you give me money”. I said no again, he gave up and said I was free to go.
Went back and jumped on the bike, it’s a three hour ride down to Dolisie and its 3pm. We could possibly make it by dark, except now the bike has a flat rear tire again. I limp over to where some guys are sitting outside a small hut, they point down the road. I struggle down the road and pull up at what happened to be a KTM store.
Chic Garage KTM
I put my bike up on the center stand and started to wheel the back wheel around searching for the cause of the flat. There was a nail sticking through the tire, which must have pierced the tube. With the wheel off, we set about breaking the bead. All this time in the past I have been really careful with my rear sprocket and brake disc. These guys didn’t give a shit, dragging my wheel across the dirt and concrete and jumping all over it, despite my protests more or less ignoring me when I tried to stop them.
The tire was off and the tube was out, it had pierced it in a couple of different spots and we organised some patches which took a long time. Once it was repaired and tested, it went back in the tire and back on the bike. That took two hours, now it was near dark. We bought some bread and water and headed back off down the dusty trail searching for somewhere to wild camp. This was just as difficult as it had been in the jungle, as it is still dense dry bush and as we ride on, we discover there is literally nowhere to pull off, and we are losing sun quickly.
The road had turned from dirt, into a thick powdery bull dust. It comes and goes, however riding in it is like trying to ride in talcum powder and can be a bit of a pain. Thirty minutes out of the village, just as we lose the sun and head into twilight, we notice a side trail going back up behind us. This was our only shot, we turned around and headed up the trail, it was still dense bush but every couple of hundred meters there was a small cutout where it looked like some big machinery had turned around. It certainly wasn’t big enough to put a tent, nor as far off the road as we would like. We continued on and came upon pretty well the same thing, except the machinery had gone in 20m to turn around, carving out a big track that we could set up the camp in. It was still on the road, but we are running out of light now and need to set up camp. We park the bike and start searching for a good place to put the tent, and then start to hear the hissing of air.
I run for the bike and start ripping the luggage off to get it on the center stand, then get a bottle of water and start to pour it over the rear wheel looking for anywhere the air could be coming from. After a few seconds, it seems its all pissing out from around the valve stem. We leave it to go flat, and continue setting up camp. We will deal with it in the morning. As we are setting up, we didn’t think there was a chance that anyone would come past, but a scooter with a couple of guys came by, we exchanged waves but now our cover was blown. Once it was all set up, we got inside the tent and started to settle down, it was now dark and we were getting ready for sleep when we heard a vehicle approaching and voices. Slowly a pickup truck came upon our camp site, the back of it was loaded with guys all shouting and laughing, the truck continued on but they exclaimed making me think they’d seen us. We lay there a bit worried not knowing who is out there, or if these guys would be back. We didn’t really want to camp in the Congo, this was the place you heard of all the horror stories.
We woke at 8am the next morning. I wanted to turn the bike around and assess the situation on better ground, I jump on the bike, now the bike won’t start. The electric start button is gone again, I remove the seat and start the bike manually with the wire the KTM mechanic gave me. This at least got me off the mound of dirt and onto some flat road. Just as I pulled up, I heard the distant yelling, and the sound of a vehicle approaching. It seems to be the pickup truck from last night, and sure enough as it rounded the bend, it was the pickup loaded with guys. They stop next to me, the driver starts yelling something in French, but it seems he has already spotted my rear tire. I yell for Isabel to get out of the tent and come to translate.
They were a group of workers heading up the road, the driver said that he would drop the guys off and come back here, where he can take the tire to the next village to try and fix it. They drove off, while me and Isabel discussed our options. I really didn't want to leave her alone her, I didn’t want to leave the bike alone either, but I didn’t have many options left. I start to take the rear wheel off the bike, the guy was taking a long time to come back so I broke the bead and removed the tube. I started looking for the leak but couldn’t see anything, I needed air in the tube. My electric pump hasn’t been working since Nigeria, I got it out to try the 12v cigarette lighter plug, no joy. I cut the plug off and spit the wires, attaching them to my battery. Presto, the pump was working again, now I have a pump at least.
The tube was leaking not from the valve stem, but from 1cm away from the base of the valve stem, it seemed to have split a bit. I get my patch kit out and start scraping away at the tube to rough up the rubber a bit. I cement it and leave it to dry a little before placing a rubber patch on, I have no idea if it is going to hold. Now the pickup truck has returned, still loaded with half the guys. They throw my wheel on the back of the tray and my tube. I grab my wallet and tire spoons, if all goes well, we can just nip down to the next village, use the compressor to test the tube, then throw it in the wheel and we’ll be away. This was not the case, there was no compressor in the village, just a large truck with a built in compressor we used to test the tube. My patch tore straight off when testing the tube. I had bought a spare patch, so the local guys snatched the tube off of me and started trying to plug the hole with dirt and glue. They then used the patch, doing so methodically as if they had done this a thousand times. We left it a few minutes to settle, and then tested the tube again. It peeled straight off.
Now the driver who I’ve assumed is the boss starts yelling that we’ll go to the garage, everyone is back on the pickup and we’re heading out of the village once again, I didn’t have any idea at the time, but the garage turned out to be a 30 minute drive out on back trails off the main road out into the middle of nowhere. I was so far out in the middle of nowhere at this stage that if this was a setup, then I am way up shit creek. I’m getting really worried about Isabel too, they had left a couple of guys with her but I had no idea what could be going on at her end. We ended up at this ghost town forestry encampment with a graveyard of old large logging machinery. They said the guy who could fix my tire was eating, and he will be out soon.
Finally the man appeared from behind some huts on his scooter, and assessed the tire. Apparently this guy was the all-knowing, the one, the saviour who would end my troublesome woes. He drifted around slow as a wet weak gathering parts to patch the tube. This shouldn’t be rocket science, all I needed was a better patch than the cheap Ebay ones I had bought and it would be good. He literally spent two hours moseying around, sanding the tube, checking over and over again the damaged part of the tube. When the glue finally came out and the patch went on, he tested the tube with some air and it just tore straight off. I almost exploded, I’ve been gone for hours now from the camp. He set about redoing the patch, and an hour later it was repatched and apparently good to go. With the tube back in the tire, and sitting firmly on 2.5 bar, we headed back to the camp.
It was a difficult 30 minute ride back for me, as I kept thinking of all the worst outcomes with Isabel. When we arrived, she was dying of boredom but that was about it, she had said the guys were really friendly but had no idea I’d be gone for four hours. I pulled the tire off the back of the truck and put it on the ground. Flat again. I’ve all but given up hope now. The boss says to put the motorcycle on the back of the pickup with all of our gear, and they will take it to the nearby village where we can spend the night and find a solution. It took a bunch of us to get the bike up onto the tray, but within 30 minutes we had all our shit on the back and were on our way to the village.
They took us right to the back of the village where their little makeshift church was, they asked the village chief or priest or whatever he was if we could stay, and he said yes. The workers said they have to go and do some work today, but will be back later. Now it’s already about 3pm, so there probably isn’t too much work for them to do today. As it turns out, they’re all working out of Point-Noire for a company making a road from this nearby village, 5km to run a phone line. They probably didn’t give a shit that they did piss all work today. But they all headed out again, and once again I started on my tire. I decided this time, I’m going to patch the rim-band and just go back to tubeless.
I had the tire off, tube out and rim band patched when a bunch of local villagers showed up out of nowhere, taking my tube and dunking it in a bucket of water. After some time they decided the tube was okay, so I decided to give it one more shot with the tube and try patch around the valve stem once again. This again turned into a two hour event of running around looking for spare tubes, patching, airing and resitting the bead. The tube was in and the wheel was good to go back on the bike. I tested the pressure with a pressure gauge, it was 445KPA. I reduced it to 310KPA and left it off the bike for an hour, when I tested it again, it was 320KPA. I left it another hour, 315KPA. It seems to be holding. I left it one more hour before giving it the last test, 310KPA, then refit the wheel on the bike.
Something to note about this experience so far, since these guys stumbled across us and started helping us. They drove me around for 5 hours and got the bike back to the village, and didn’t ask for a single dime. Aside from a couple of kids who borderline helped get the tire refitted after patching, nobody asked for anything. In fact, the boss offered to drive us 20km to the next town for dinner and back. When we declined, people offered us a couple of packs of spaghetti, tomato paste, onions, salt, fresh drinking water, and a gas stove to cook everything in, they also gave us a basic room with a bed to sleep in. They asked for nothing in return, it strikes me as incredible how generous some people can be, which is stark contrast to many other places I have been here in Africa. I’ve put it down to officials, officials are generally the people I despise the most, and then it is just like any other country, with people willing to help when they see someone in need, but also a few bad eggs in between.
Another thing to note is the amount of albinos I have seen everywhere. Since entering Nigeria, I must have come across at least 10-15 on my travels. At first I thought they were just white, but after reflecting and wondering why mainly white children would be out here living like Africans, that there was no way they were just foreigners. I don’t know why it is so fascinating to me but it is, a white African is just outright bizzare. I don’t know if they’re just more noticeable here because they stand out more against their peers, or if the albino toll is the same as back home. One thing is for sure, nothing quite looks like a white kid with full African features.
Courtesy of Google images
Unfortunately for these guys, in many places in Africa they are considered demons, but their skin is considered gold and their bones are thought to be made of gold too. Typically as young children, they’re captured and butchered for their limbs, which are then sold to be used in witchcraft rituals to create potions, much like the Chinese poaching of rhino etc, some people believe the albinos will help them find a job, or cure erectile dysfunction. This is more prevalent in Malawai and Tanzania, but also happening in Nigeria where I saw a bunch of them. There are some pretty horrific stories told by families trying to protect their children, and apparently the kidnappings and butchering is only on the rise. I best be careful, I'm practically transparent myself...
Onward to Dolisie!
Goodness what an ordeal, I know Africa but haven't had that much bad luck at borders. You need to drink more beer it's an African spiritual believe it will bring good luck
Rock on, it's cool reading about your trip
Amen to that, it's liquid gold to me!
And you will not get screwed by the water bottle trick with old infected water being sold, beer can't go bad even in the sun, but I guess you knew that
And it is all four food groups in nice package