Monday, 2 June 2008

16th May 08

Date: 16th May 08

Location: Brazzaville, Congo

Weather: Scattered clouds and sunshine, 32°c

Status: All ready to leave but now really pissed off L

Todays the day we head across the vast Congo river from this city to the next one and probably the most challenging of the trip so far, Kinshasa. Renowned for being a corrupt, hassle filled, terrible place for outsiders it sits on the opposite side of the river within view luring us over as we take on the next part of this challenge.

I’m ready, the Colonel’s prepared, I feel equipped enough both mentally and physically to take on the officials and people on the other side of the river and am ready for the task of the day – getting us over, through the formalities and down the 380kms of good tarred road to the border and the next visa collection point of Matadi.

Headed to the ferry port and instantly the problems hit us. We’d reserved enough money between us to buy the ferry crossing leaving us very little in reserve as it’s the last country we’ll be in which uses CFA (Central African Franc), so when we arrived at the gate to the port and the officials demanded 40,000 for the three vehicles to enter I’m afraid I blew off at them and had a good full on argument in French complaining that when we’d been there the day before no such charge existed and that we had nothing left in the kitty to be able to pay it! They were insistent but we didn’t move and inch and even pulled our 3 trucks straight across the entrance to the port blocking all access for the workers and taxis all arriving, a bit of a risky tactic but it got the attention it deserved and the Director of the Port was very quickly on site!

After a pleasant conversation with him during which I explained the purpose of the expedition and the fact that when we had received our quote for the boat a day earlier it had mentioned nothing about this new sneaky stealth tax (Gordon Brown style definitely) he understood and was willing to reduce the charge to a much more reasonable 10,000. Job done, I was happy as was he. A moral victory again but this time against the Congo Military – have that!

Pulled into the car park and made my way to the office of Albert Kankounde who’d given us the quote but was closed so we went to immigration and had our passports stamped with exit stamps and then headed to customs for the usual carnet stamp for the vehicles. No one there so back to the office to buy our tickets in the meantime, and then Albert dropped the bombshell……there would be no boats sailing across the Congo today by order of the Interior Minister due to the amount of flotsam coming down the river due to heavy rains upstream making it a danger to shipping! Crap, we’d signed out of the country and now were illegally there, probably for the next 2 days as the weekend is tomorrow and no-one will be in the office until Monday at least.

That well and truly puts the brakes on the emergency mission south and could hugely reduce the number of days I have to visit Namibia and the fantastic scenery there and also result in me missing Cape Town on the first trip across that side of SA meaning I have to transit the Trans-Kalahari Highway cutting of the corner in order to get to Durban in time for the Comrades. Nothing in Africa is simple.

Back to Hippocampe and now in much better spirits after a bacon sandwich and cold drink.

Wasted the afternoon away on the internet updating the site and also went to the expat supermarket to buy the ingredients for my dinner which I’ll be cooking on Sunday night.

End of day location: Brazzaville, Congo

Distance covered: 22kms

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