Something making huge the dust cloud
another good couple of hours riding until we would be on a tarred road again
the next morning. This last section kept
us on our toes right to the end with deep sandy ruts, deep muddy ruts and a
downed bridge with a river crossing for good measure thrown in. Matt’s bike had an increasing oil leak,
worrying. We pushed on and once back on
the main road we stopped for ice cold Fanta and let the bike cool before
checking Matt’s and inflating the tyres on both bikes for the smooth tarred road
into Brazzaville. School was out so we
had a mass of kids around us, I mean a mass inquisitive of kids. As Matt took a short video I got the kids
wound up into a frenzy, shouting “Bonjour!” and getting a “Bonjour!!” shouted
back in return and then I started shouting “Sava!!” (are you ok?) to which they all shout in
unison “wee!!!” (yes!) jumping and waving to the camera, very funny.
When we sat back down the owner start to
spray the kids with water to get them to move on. I thought it would be a good idea to make a
dash at them like the owner was doing to scare them and talked Matt into it, we
both leaped from our seats to our feet running at them and the kids scattered
in all directions to our shock as some ran into the road, not the best idea I
had in hindsight and the owner shouted at them again. One sheepish looking young boy timidly
returned to pick up his younger brothers sandal that fell off in there mad dash
away, he looked nervous but returned my smile and was happy.
Brazzaville was a nice place with just over a
million people, very small for African standards.
At our overlanders hotel, Hippocampe, it was
Vietnamese run and Vietnamese food, excellent!!
We where covered in mud and very dirty from the route across and we met
another Dutch biker (also called Matt) who rode the inland Franceville route
towards the nicely tarred road that leads the Congo president’s farm up north
(when you’re president of the Congo you can do anything!), he feared the route
we had just done and didn’t want to risk it.
It was a busy time washing the bikes and all our clothing yet again,
nice to have hot water on tap for this!
We serviced our bikes, changing the oil and filters getting a far
quantity of oil over my bike, hmmmm getting distracted by others is never good
half way through a job. Matt’s oil had
water in it and he used my old oil filters because his had collapsed from the
thick watery oil (a couple of weeks later he would email me to say his head
gasket was blown but should get repaired ok, DHL saves the day).
Hmmmm, where to go.... glad it is dry'ish...
Clive and Tanya arrived in there Landrover to
our surprise as we sat in the restaurant which meant I would be staying a
little longer, they had travelled faster than we though and also came the
Franceville route making up time. It was
good to see them and catch up, they said the Oasis overland truck with Grant
and Andy were also taking the Franceville route because the insurance company
would not cover them to drive down to Dolisie and east to the coast through Pointe-Noire.
Rule number one, let someone else cross first and watch how deep it gets!!
couple of days the three bikes and the Landrover went in convoy across the
Congo river border into the DRC and Kinshasa. The usual messing around with immigration,
police and customs, customs giving Matt and myself a stamped piece of paper for
our bikes because I didn’t get my Carnet stamped coming in because Matt had no
Carnet (Carnet is like a import document for the bike, the RAC in the UK issue
these and holds a large bond, money, for the bike to stop you importing it and
The port was chaos. Goods got transported across by disabled
people on three wheeled bikes, carts made to carry loads with bags stuff
anywhere they could with able bodied friends pushing them and the officials
would hassle them at random leaving the port up the road trying to take stuff
for themselves. We were told to key a
good eye on our things, especially with these disabled people getting light
Kids enjoying the criac with a couple of white ejjits inflating there tyres for the tarred road ahead.
roll-on roll-off ferry had arrived and got the go ahead to enter the loading
ramp area which had many people and goods still trying to get off plus people
and goods trying to get on, pushing carts or more often carrying large loads on
there heads. Official guys with sticks
and pipes beat people who seemed to be trying to get on without paying (((I use
the term officials during my blog but you never know who they are and they
don’t always wear uniforms, during the trip south it was always a bit of a
guessing game knowing if you were talking to an official
[police/customs/immigration/security…] or a random person, a fixer who would
demand cash for help, being careful before handing over passport or other documents))).
We were stopped at the top of the ramp and
then other officials started shouting asking for something, I had all the
mornings various bits of paper in clear view inside the clear plastic map reading
pouch, lots of them which mean something to somebody. I pointed to them but the guy was not
impressed then he caught sight of my yellow Carnet tucked under the map and
demanded to see it, oh bollocks!! I
refused to get it out then all hell broke loose shouting (I don’t speak French
but I understood what was happening).
They started to manhandle my bag to get into it and refused again
getting a bit aggressive in return shouting and getting out the stamped piece
of paper to show them that took place of the Carnet. One guy went to walk off with it until
started shouting at him, I needed to keep that wee crappy bit of paper in my
hands if I’m to get out of here.
Congo river at night
Dutch biker Matt on his BMW was also shouting at them beside me but once he
figured out they wanted to see his Carnet they left him. It was a standoff, just before the steep
descent down onto the boat, what if I just fired up the bike and push my way
onto the boat would they dare beat me with the sticks?? Probably by the looks of them. The shouting continued as we sat on our bikes
blocking part of the ramp way and the shouting continued with them saying this
was a piece of paper from the police, not from them the customs!! Or who ever they where. Different officials came over shouting explaining
but I didn’t move repeating myself over and over again waving my piece of
paper. Then all of a sudden the angry
officials started shouting for us to board the boat and I didn’t have to be told
twice! (they were probably after a dash, money). The descent down the stony ramp full of
people running all directions was a little tricky and slippery but once a guy
waving his stick walked past the way parted and I was aboard.
Crazy ferry crossing from Congo to Kinshasa into the DRC
was packed but we all made it onboard and kept a good eye on each other stuff,
I tried to hide Matt’s backpack for the craic but he caught me (hehehee). People where even in wooden canoes climbing
aboard the front of the boat with people hiding them from view but a guard came
down and put a stop to it. Lots of
shouting, cold bottles of Coke and Fanta for sale and disabled carts pushed on
all around us, other cargo stacked with people sat on it. With everyone onboard the pack ferry we
crossed the Congo
at an angle facing upstream rather that straight across to combat the current
of this mighty brown river. Once the
ramp was lowered on the Kinshasa DRC side there was a push of people trying to
get off but this side was a little more organised. Tanya took the lead from an official grabbing
all our passports and headed ashore with the official while we waited, after a
while we got the go ahead to disembark.
taken our passports to immigration where one guy was sleeping, opening and
closing an eye when the passports were dropped on his desk. After a while he woke, sleepily inspected the
passports declaring they where all genuine handing to another guy. We went a couple at a time to complete the
immigration/customs process, they asked loads of personal/family questions as
routine it seemed. This time I handed
over my Carnet to get stamped into the Democratic Republic of Congo. There was a lot of waiting around, some hours
and used the time to change my used CFA into US dollars. I asked in the Western Union if I could use
there small airconed office to make the black market deal with the money
changer as I had quite a bit, over 600USD to change. They were very helpful and even let me use
the ultraviolet light to check for forgeries, it was all good and also the
100dollar bill I received at the port in Brazzaville from a money changer that
morning, I had my doubts about him so didn’t change more with him.
from the information given to us from other overlanders they would disinfect
our bikes but we don’t have to pay the white suited guy with big red gloves and
a paper face mask. Hmmm, you can guess
what happened next. People with white
coats with some sort of markings on them started to demand money and we all
refused. After some time and more
arguments on a very hot and sweaty day, Tanya, Matt and myself were escorted to
there grubby office, it had a desk a few posters and boxes on the floor with
paper stacked in them. They were
speaking mostly in French and all I could do was speak in English (Tanya and
Matt knew French) so once in there office I grabbed a plastic chair next to the
wall of the small office with everyone crammed in. The one saving grace to this was they had a
small fan pushing the air around, ahhhhh bliss.
As soon as I sat down I positioned the chair to rest my head on the wall
and proceeded to fall asleep, not to be intimidated by them. Tanya eventually paid to have the Landrover
disinfected leaving Matt and me. Every
so often I would wake up and ask why are we still here throwing something in
the mix, asked to see official documentation for the charges, it never
came… They saw I was getting to
comfortable and they where getting more angry so we got evicted from the
office, outside Dutch Matt also paid up.
We had planned to stay only a few kms away that nigh so speaking with
Matt we decided to wait it out to see what happens for the craic after this
long. They got more angry with us and
the police didn’t seem interested when they came over as we said we wanted our
bikes disinfected but they wouldn’t. It
was getting close to 5pm and the last boat was disembarking, we jumped on our
bikes and rode to the exit to the shouts of the white coats and the big chief
of police came out to see what the commotion was. It was all explained to him and he said just
pay them. The white coats were very
pissed by this stage wanting to go home and instead of paying the 20USD each we
paid only 10USD each and left.
Back at the
overpriced Protestant mission we meet the rest of the peeps. Clive and myself went down to the main road and
had a beer. So this was Kinshasa, where Muhammad Ali had
the rumble in the jungle fight. As we
sat watching the new large 4x4’s driven by rich locals, expats and the UN a
motorcade with police bikes and cars with blacked out windows, military and
meat wagon (ambulance) went hammering past to the shrikes and cheers from the
locals around us, it was there president, Joseph
Kabila became Congo's
president when his father Laurent was assassinated in 2001.
Kinshasa is known ask a dangerous city but we got a nice feeling from
the locals around in the wooden huts selling drinks, food, tyre repairs, hair
dresser... the others arrived and we
went to a restaurant up the road for food and more beers, it was a good nigh
after the long day of 7km travelled.