Gabon
Russell writes on 4/3/11 Photos by Darren apart from the one of him:

 

Bathing in Lope

We could see Gabon, but we were just too late for immigration and so had to camp on the other side of the river border in Cameroon. That was probably a good thing because it gave us the whole of the next day to enjoy ourselves on the most amazing road of the whole trip so far! After getting stamped in we set off south to see how far we could get into Gabon, however, it felt like we were in Spain! The road was so smooth, well maintained, curvaceous, with nicely strimmed road sides. What was going on, had we arrived to Europe? With big smiles we made the most of our last day on road tyres and a tar road. We’d almost made it to central Gabon by night fall when we turned off the tar to hit the compact track to Lope, our destination for the night and home to the national park we wanted to visit.

Praying Mantis

After a few hours of travelling we stopped on the track for a break, it was completely dark, no other traffic or people or villages around. Then I froze as I heard what could only be something very large moving and breaking the thick jungle that was our roadside. A deep roar confirmed what Darren was thinking, a gorilla. We sat with lights off waiting for an appearance, one of us with hand on ignition button, the other was getting the hammock out!

We're on the equator then

Lope was smack on the equator, and with some amazing thunder storms we could feel it, literally, the room shook. We hung out here a few days enjoying the chance to relax by the river, swim in it, wash in it, and enjoy some stunning views from its banks.

Sunset over Gabon at Lope

We stayed in the cheap place in town, which was ok, it had electricity, a fan and bucket shower. But it also had the drunken mother and grandmother in the evening, not to mention the very armours daughter!

The locals

Anyway, we decided to try a gorilla trek and arranged what we thought was an afternoon trek, camp over, and another trek in the morning. However, after a 6 hour mission through the jungle we discovered either a complete misunderstanding or a complete rip-off. There would be no camp over or morning trek, it was back to Lope. This was very disappointing as we only managed to see gorilla poo, and some knuckle prints! We did however see some monkeys, including Mandrills, and get a little too close to a large jungle elephant.

Cobra sticks around for a photo

We left Lope via a little detour as Darren’s eagle eye spotted a snake striking at him from the side of the road. We’d not come across many snakes yet and this was a rare sighting of a small cobra. Also along this stretch of road Darren saw the even more elusive Black Panther, leaping from the road into the bush. Finding our track we headed along a forest route to a barge river crossing and on to Makouku in the east. It was along this track we met Rene, who started by helping us with directions in the forest track. We got to know him a bit more as he bought us a drink after the river crossing and we agreed to travel with him as we were going to the same town. When we arrived he offered to put us up for the night with the words ‘my house is your’ marking his generous hospitality. Rene treated us to a lovely meal out that evening and in front of a Manchester United game with a glass of his whisky we relaxed. After the rainstorm the next morning and once the petrol lorry had made it through from Libreville we said goodbye to Rene and headed further east towards the Congo boarder.

Welcome to the jungle!

The route now was more into the jungle and along some logging roads, so we went for a few km and found a place off the road to set up hammocks. Our first jungle bush camp, but with a bottle of French red wine from Rene!

Nice easy logging route

For our next installment from the Congo and our continued trek through the jungle check out Darren’s update above.

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