GabonWritten by admin on February 23rd, 2010
Wednesday 13 January
After getting our official entry stamps on Monday we carried on to Mayumba, which we had been looking forward to. However, as we arrived late morning in Tchibanga there was a terrible grinding, screaming noise from the transfer box. A noise had been starting to develop for a little while, but the Land Rover guys in Kinshasa said no problem it’ll make it all the way to England! We had expected something major at some point on our trip and the cost of a replacement gear, or transfer box in Gabon was immediately going through our minds.
We stopped at a Total garage in town and after listening the guy put a little grease in the gearbox and also said we were fine to carry on to England. The screaming noise from Bob suggested otherwise and we headed to another local garage for a second opinion and met Martial.
Opening up the transfer box the teeth had clearly been broken off two of the gears. It just so happened that Martial had another box lying around, which would solve our problems if the gears matched. However, the going was not quick, so at the end of the day we were still not sure how long we would be there, or at what cost.
Fortunately, toward the end of the day we met Jean from Belgium who had a place on the river, 2 minutes down the track and very kindly offered us a bed in his living room for the night. This turned out to be even more of a result, as the managers of the Modibotie Hotel then invited us to dinner with him. We had earlier been dreaming, as we sat around waiting, about what we would eat if we went there, but certainly wouldn’t have afforded the prawns, lobster, pizza, beef skewers spread that was laid out and enough to feed about 10!
Next day we learnt that the gears did not match and so Martial set about trying to find another option and Defenders that may be suitable donors for Bob started popping up all over the place! Eventually one was found, but it was clear that we weren’t going to make it away that day, so we crashed at Jean’s again…. and again the following day after some last minute trouble and a replacement battery we camped at Jean’s for a final night.
Tuesday 19 January
We did eventually end up making it away on Thursday. On the small ferry over to the Mayumba peninsula we met Richard and Aimee who lived in Mayumba and had been involved in the turtle and conservation projects there for a few years. They invited us to camp by the research house and join them for dinner and a couple of beers, so after exploring the town a bit on our own we headed over to theirs.
Friday was Marc’s birthday, so we went in search of a deserted beach spot we had heard about to bush camp. We picked up a fish from the market, a bottle of ‘special’ wine and few beers on the way. We drove about half an hour through forest and open grassland with water spraying up over the car until we reached the perfect place to camp – about 100km of deserted white sand beach, backed by rainforest and the lagoon! We put up the awning and did fairly little othe than watch the sea, swim in the sea and drink cold beer! We then dug a pit on the beach and grilled our fish dinner over the fire.
It was leatherback turtle nesting season and this is also one of the best beaches in the world for them. So at midnight we got up to walk along the beach to see if we would get lucky. As we walked the phosphorescence from plankton washed up on the beach lit up the sand around our feet. We also came across fresh buffalo tracks, but sadly no sign of turtles.
The next night we went looking twice during the night and found a couple of nests and one set of very fresh tracks from a huge turtle.
It turned out that Richard and Aimee’s place was very nearby on the edge of the lagoon. We were loving our beach spot so much we had decided to stay another night and so on Sunday we wandered over to see them. We borrowed their kayaks and paddled off through the forest on the lagoon to a little village to try to buy essentials; bread and some more beers! We went out again for turtles and still nothing.
We were finding Mayumba hard to leave though and so just one more day on the beach! That night we did find tracks and a nest again, but had missed the turtle. Starting to give up hope that we would see a turtle we finally came across a single set of tracks and excitedly knew that meant it had not yet returned to the sea. We quietly followed the tracks up the beach and then watched for about half an hour, as the turtle dug its nest, laid her eggs, buried them and then returned to the sea.
Of course we woke this morning to find another set of tracks and nest about 20 metres from our campsite!
Thursday 21 January
Our next stop was Lamberene. By now we were loving the Missions and we camped with the Soeurs D’Immacule Conception for a couple of nights. Drained of emergency cash by the transfer box we drove around Lambarene yesterday trying to find somewhere to change Traveller’s Cheques, pounds, or dollars, but it wasn’t a day anyone felt like doing it, so we had to accept the inevitable diversion to Libreville to find an ATM.
Getting cash from the ATMs in Libreville wasn’t a straight forward process either. We drove around the city trying ATM after ATM, but it seemed there was a connection problem today. Inside the main branch of one of the largest banks in Gabon a guy tried to assist us, but had to agree that the ATMs weren’t working. The lady with the VISA sticker on her counter window was also ‘unable’ to give us cash on our cards. Seeing she also had a Traveller’s Cheques ‘Bienvenue’ sticker we attempted to change ours with her, but apparently today they were not ‘welcome’ either.
The day ended well though when we found a blue nun who ‘yes had somewhere we could stay 50 metres away’. We went out to treat ourselves to dinner; steak and delicious king prawns.
In the night we were woken by the lady in the next door room with her baby who was very distressed, pointing toward the car and saying fire. The smoke was coming from her room though and the fan cable was sparking, smoking and catching alight. We used a broom to knock out the lead and then went back to bed, leaving some relieved looking nuns.
Friday 22 January
We made for the Cameroon border today. This was a major route for convoys of logging trucks that travel at a pace downhill, usually led by a 4×4 vehicle with flashing lights, warning you to get out of their way. Driving through the hills we were made to stop and wait, as a big cycle race ‘eventually’ went past.
We stayed the night at a large Mission on a hill in Oyem with good views and facilities and asked for just a voluntary donation for camping.