Friday, 25 April 2008

22nd April 08

Date: 22nd April 08
Location: Drill Ranch, Calabar, Nigeria
Weather: Humid, hot and thundery…just what we don’t need for the roads ahead! 38°c
Status: excited to be on the bad roads but full of anticipation!

Yesterday, the 21st April we collected our visas from the Cameroon embassy and finally had our way out of Nigeria and permission to enter the next country on the map, and probably one of the hardest ones to get through due to the condition of the roads.

Had a very early night after a superb beef stew courtesy of Alex and slept extremely well until the alarm went off at 05.30am.

Packed, washed, fed and left the Drill Ranch at around 07.00am and finally the next step of the mission could continue with all on board including Bre and Ammon and now with three 4WD vehicles in convoy. It’s a superb sight to see all of us storming down the African roads with lights blazing although we have a urgent mission to carry out….well in theory we do, getting to South Africa in time for the Comrades!

We took the 200km return road back to Ikom as its a whole lot easier than using the forest reserve road which at this time of year can take weeks to cover the 75kms between the border and the next town on, Mamfe. Filled up with the cheap Nigerian fuel for the last time and headed down the 26km road to the border. Usual police tactics on the way and we had to stop at 3 different checkpoints to give ALL of the passenger details which took nearly an hour….and then finally we arrived at the impressive, first-ever suspension bridge in Africa, between Nigeria and Cameroon.

Usual routine of heading to immigration first to get the passports stamped, left another complete passport sheet for the officials to have and then up the stairs to the customs for the carnet stamp…..then finally we were there, through the gates and into no-mans-land. Across the bridge, and into Cameroon and how the mood changed, the officials were almost hilarious in comparison, offering to get all of the single people on the trip, which amounted to all except 2 of us, a wife or husband as they felt sorry for us.

The warnings came thick and fast about the road ahead to the next town, Mamfe ranging from “it’ll take you a few hours” to “you’ll need 4WD all the way”. Great, but this was exactly the reason I wanted to come here in the first place – to challenge myself and the vehicle. This is the point where I have to say thank you Dad for all of the hard work you’ve put in to make this possible, the Colonel so far as performed impeccably and now is the start of the real test!

Left the border village of Ekok and immediately the road turned into shit, not a spot of tarmac in sight, rough, ungraded clay and sand mixed together which had dried into the most angular, rutted mess you could imagine…..and that was just in between the long deep puddles, sorry lakes!

Over the next 16.5kms we tested the 3 vehicles to the full with axle twisting, grinding situations which resulted in all of us ploughing for our perspective countries….but finally we got through the worst of the first section only for me to look underneath and see that the transfer box cross-member we’d installed before leaving the UK had taken a good whack and was now pretty knocked up. Add to that a slow puncture around the bead of the front tyre caused by the mud and sand getting forced in and I was having a great time leading the expedition.

Swapped the wheel and carried on our way for another few kms before pulling off into a sand pit for the night as the heavens looked as if they were about to open. Set up camp and Patrick and Sarah cooked a superb Poitjke which we had by the camp fire.

Bed at 11pm as we have another huge day ahead tomorrow. We are a third of the way down this road before the tarmac starts again at the next town and then after Mamfe we have the gruelling 200kms of similar roads to today.

This is Africa and I love it. The travelling, expedition part of the mission is truly underway and I’m so happy the Kees the Dutchman suggested we drive to Cape Town. Together me and him are gonna smile, laugh and drive these homes of ours all the way to the V&A waterfront in Cape Town….bring it on!

End of day location: Sand Pit, 18.5kms east of Mfum, Cameroon
Distance covered: 289kms

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