Finally I got the bike in tip top shape. But having spent 10 days in Yaounde living on a diet of chicken rotisserie and beer, I was less so. Oh well. Time to hit the road again.
I enjoyed some pleasant days cycling through Gabon. Good tarmac following the Lalara river through equatorial forest and then taking the dusty backroads to Booue. It didn’t take long for me to be covered head to toe in the fine orange dust which obscured all views when the logging trucks came trundling past. Unfortunately I was ill in Booue (from drinking contaminated pump water) and decided to take a train to Franceville to recover.
Then I cycled on towards the Republic of Congo border. I came to a sign directing me to this next country and immediately the tarmac ended in a pit of sand. Now it was time to start pushing and dragging. Very slowly I made my way through this remote area until eventually I came across more tarmac a few days later. Thanks to Chinese business interests and the President’s self-interests in lavishing funds on his family village. So from there it was a smooth ride right through to Brazzaville on the banks of the Congo River.
A boat ride across the mighty Congo river to Kinshasa and I was in the other Congo – the Democratic(-by-name) Republic of Congo. With a reputation of endemic corruption and history of bloody war, some still ongoing I was more than a little concerned. But I needn’t have been. I avoided the insecure regions and met along my travels some of the friendliest people yet. Sure, travel could be hard and frustrating, and some of my toughest, most challenging days were in the DR Congo. But I found myself loving the country all the more for it.
But it wasn’t just all pedalling in the Congo. I took some time off and went further into the forests by 4×4 and along the Sankuru river in a dugout. One experience was a four-day triain journey. I could almost have cycled quicker. And that didn’t include the time waiting for the train. Indeed, if you ever decide to travel to the Congo, expect to spend most of your time waiting. Patience is a requirement.
I spent three months in this country. I could have stayed much longer. But my visa was about to expire and I set out on this trip to cycle to Cape Town. I knew I could always come back some day. So off I went, towards Zambia.