Trip Start Apr 11, 2009
38Trip End Jan 08, 2010
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Our journey to Gabon was slightly delayed by our driver, Chris, coming down with Malaria...third and hopefully the last of the truck! The first couple of days was driving through thick equatorial jungle. The villages we drove through revealed a slightly better standard of living than the past couple of countries (such as better quality concrete and wooden housing and produce available in markets/supermarkets)...proving that perhaps decades of dictatorship under President Bongo was not a entirely negative (he died a couple of weeks prior to our arrival).
We drove over the equator and I returned back to the southern hemisphere - yah
We drove to Lambarene, where the Albert Schweitzer hospital revealed an amazing insight into early medicine - the well-preserved museum showed a hospital as it would have operated over 50-80 years ago when the renowned humanitarian established a pioneering medical facility in Africa. That evening, we were treated to an amazing meal of pizza and garlic bread produced over the campfire....it's the simple pleasures...as we celebrated our arrival into the southern hemisphere with a skit night....my and Tamara's rendition of Abba's Money, Money, Money left a lot to be desired!!....but luckily most had had their fair share of "Lene pours" of the gin punch (mad Norwegian girl who likes a heavy-handed pour...not unlike myself!).
After another couple of days driving through thick jungle and slow dirt roads, we arrived at Lope National Park, where we spent a couple of days chilling out (catching up on showers and washing) and most went on game drives to see forest elephants, monkeys and buffalo...whilst some thought the drive was worthwhile, I still believe east Africa will be the highlight in regard to quality game experiences
Our progress toward Francesville in the south was delayed by radiator problems, which required a diversion to a logging camp where the company mechanics were able to weld the cracks sufficiently enough for our journey to continue...whilst there, some very friendly locals entertained us for the evening with beer and stilted french conversation - interesting to see that the ramshackle hut on the outside transformed into a fairly modern two bedroom home on the inside (albeit the plumbing did not appear to be connected).
After a quick stop in Francesville, we headed along good tarmac roads toward the border with Congo. We took one wrong turn that lead to sand-matting and digging out the truck for a couple of hours, before realising we had to turn back to get on the correct road....some found this incredibly frustrating, but I had to laugh - that's Africa, and with a lack of appropriate maps or road signs, easily done!!
The tropical jungle often opened into grassy rolling hills. I was often reminded of the scenes in "Dances with Wolves" and expected herds of bison to come stampeding over the far away rolling hills. What did seem to lack in all of Gabon was any signs of agriculture or commerce, apart from logging. It makes me wonder how sustainable the country's economy will be in the medium/long term, and although 10% of the country is retained as national parks/reserves to promote eco-tourism, information or facilities is lacking, with few tourists actually visiting.
The people were friendly and hospitable, however the colour, energy and excitement that I've witness in so many other country's in West Africa seemed to be lacking. And the bugs, which left most of us looking like measles victims, drove everyone loopy with itchiness!