Originally posted to HUBB on 12th July, 2017
We are currently in Brazzaville, looking across the Congo River at Kinshasa and the madness to come. From Cameroon we decided to go through Gabon rather than direct to Congo. Gabon gets high praise for its scenery etc so figured why not.
The visa process for Gabon was the most involved we have experienced on our trip. They insisted we wear pants inside the embassy and then we needed copies of previous visas, passport photo, proof of a hotel booking and payment (which we explained we couldn't have a receipt because we weren't in Libreville and they let it slide) travel insurance with Gabon listed on it (a bit of photoshop here helped) and yellow fever certificate. 70,000cfa for same day.
We departed Yaounde, Cameroon last week only to have Richard's bike break down on the outskirts of the city. Larry a local biker helped us out big time and brought us to Shankar's shop, an epic junk yard of old motorcycles. Eventually we diagnosed it as a failed rocker arm bearing. (I have a video of the sound the engine makes with a busted rocker arm which I will upload another time for those non mechanic, first timers like ourselves if that helps anyone in the future) Luckily we have spare rocker arms with us as this is a known issue with the 690. Many hands don't necessarily make light work though as our African mechanic friends wanted to put it all back together with exploded shards of metal and bearing rollers still floating around the top of Richard's engine. It was all happening pretty quick but we had to step in and slow the whole process down. It was all great fun, but don't take your eye of your bike for minute. Thankfully we had a magnet. We got it all cleaned out it seems and changed the oil and his bike has been great since.
My clutch has been variable so we searched high and low for mineral oil which it turns out is baby oil. That wasn't easy to find but we did find some eventually, topped up my clutch lever reservoir and we were finally on our way. Smooth as a babies bum.
Checking out of Cameroon was easy enough. We never got a TIP/Passavant upon entry into Cameroon at our backwoods border. Luckily the officer was really friendly and spoke English and let us pass. No hassle, no squeeze for money. We stamped our passports out no problem.
Across the river a small post took their time and had a dirty smell about them. They called the hotel we made a temp booking with in Libreville for our visa which was for the day before because of our mechanical issue. We sat for 45mins or so, heard the word "cadeau" muttered between them but they never asked for a gift. It turned out fine but felt like it could have gone either way.
We got stamped in at the next town of Bitam at the police station and got a passavant nearby at customs also. 10,000cfa for the passavant.
Gabon was great riding. It was GS country. Perfect, sealed blacktop twisting and winding, dipping and weaving. It's not quite adventure off-road riding, but it's difficult not to grin as you tuck into corner after corner for a few days. We went Bitam, Mitzic, Lambarene, Ndende. If you go east to Lope and on down the Franceville I suspect you get a bit more adventurous but read around.
We stamped out of Gabon in Ndende and that's where the blacktop ran out, straight into a dirt track for ~50kms to the Congo border.
Numerous offices to visit and register in. Passports stamped but got our TIP/Passavant in Nyanga the next morning for 10,000cfa. We camped at the border as it was late in the day and the bar had a good vibe.
Then another 200kms of really rough and rugged dirt road with dust traps most of the way. Really felt like we are in Africa now. Beautiful landscape and lots of friendly villages. Then it all of a sudden ran out at a sparkling, new toll booth for a Chinese built road at Dolisie and perfect highway all the way to Brazzaville. Lots of police/military checkpoints as you near Brazzaville. And checkpoints that force you to stop rather than the others we have experienced in Africa that we just ignore, give a wave and keep going. Genuine concern here with rebel activity. Had our bags searched at one looking for weapons. All above board and all warned us to be careful.
We have been riding til an hour before dark and pulling over to ask locals for a place to camp. It always happens that we are welcome to pitch the tent and have felt safe and enjoyed the ambience.
Hotel Hippocamp is a must to check in with in Brazzaville. Olivier the owner understands what you need after being in the road and allows overlanders to camp and use facilities for free. Not glamorous but everything you need. Food is amazing. Vietnamese Oho is a must. Be sure to check out the guestbooks. Some great characters and information in there. He and the staff are a great source for information about changing money, visas and the road to Boko for crossing into the DRC. Interesting that he flat out insisted that managing the rebel threat and road status to Boko was a better option than trying to cross Brazzaville to Kinshasa directly.
So that's where we are. The road to Boko is currently open and we intend to head out tomorrow (12th July, 2017) and cross into the DRC and up to Kinshasa to check out the madness.