Friday, 16 May 2008

14th May 08

Date: 14th May 08
Location: Ngo, Congo
Weather: humid and thundery, 34°c
Status: Moving south as well as can be expected

Left the debatable comfort of the hotel grounds in Ngo and started early on the trek south to the capital Brazzaville, made good progress and hit the outskirts of the city around 3pm with the help of the hand drawn map from the owner of the hotel.

Now I’m not one to criticise help in any way but in general African directions bear very little resemblance to the actual direction that you need to be going in, distances are never correct and usually come as either “just down the road” – which could mean 100m or 10kms,or “in ten minutes you’ll be there” – again could be walking very slowly of flat out in the car…..but this set of directions and the subsequent map which was drawn were absolutely spot on!! I managed to navigate a bustling city with police stops every where, with two vehicles in tow and pull into them embassy car park just as it was about to close for the day. A big thank you to Francis for the help!!

Spoke to the security guard at the gate of the embassy and told him about the letter and email which had been sent forward on behalf of us to his boss and he insisted that all we could do was to drive to Matadi, on the DRC border, and try and apply there. After a troublesome 10 minutes of yet more pigeon French I managed to tell him of our arrangement for the visas and even got him to talk to the consul about our plight.

He asked us to come back before 3pm with photocopies of all the passports at which time a letter would be ready for us to take to the DRC authorities allowing us entry into their country which would allow us to transit through to Matadi to collect our 30 day visas giving us enough time to travel across the vastness of Angola legally.

Next was to find accommodation for the night and funnily enough the guidebooks feature absolutely nothing on the Congo and even less on the capital Brazzaville as tourists rarely visit here, so we drove to the centre and spotted the Le Meridian hotel, a far too expensive spot to stay in at CFA150,000 for a night, but somewhere I could speak to the Director for information on a better location for our camping. He directed us to the Hippodrome and 8th Novembre hotel just down the road, so we turned the trucks around and pulled into the very welcoming forecourt. WOW what a perfect place to stay, another expat hangout with quality Chinese restaurant and bar!

Olivier the owner was more than welcoming and told us that he’d had other overlanders staying there in the past and we could use the forecourt for the vehicles, the toilet and shower room and the pool/snooker room to set up our base camp in for however long we’d be here for! And no charge as he’d been on the road a few years ago and knew how hard it was to make ends meet, perfect!

Had a spot of lunch, very good and then back to the embassy with photocopies. Was told to come back tomorrow at midday to collect the letter.

Back to the restaurant for dinner and then bed.

End of day location: Brazzaville, Congo
Distance covered: 370kms

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