Day 226: The Four Guineas

14.08.09: I headed over to the Equatorial Guinea embassy only to be told that all the borders were closed and that they didn’t issue tourist visas at all, ever.  I’ll just have to sneak in.  I picked up my Gabonese visa, but zut alors! they’ve only given me a SINGLE entry visa. Which means I’ll have to buy another one in Sao Tome to get back. That will be my THIRD visa for Gabon, as the one in Passport #2 had run out. Ygads!!  We packed up our gear and headed to the bordertown of Ambam on the frontiers of Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, arriving around midnight after a few more spats with the bloody horrible checkpoint policemen (including one where they said that Rocco’s visa was invalid, because he needed two visas, one to arrive and another to move anywhere!!). Ratbags. Can I also point…

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Day 225: The Best Chocolate Eclairs In Africa

13.08.09: I rushed to get my visas for Equatorial Guinea, DR Congo and Gabon. The visas for DR Congo and Gabon were straight forward, but the Equatorial Guinea guys suggested I come back tomorrow. Then it was a case of twiddling my thumbs for the day, discovering that one of my hard drives had died (with all the footage from Cuba to Malta on it!) and then finding somewhere to while away the evening eating and drinking. Yaoundé has a nice climate, it’s up in the hills, so it’s surprisingly cool. But as a city, it’s very very 70s concrete office blocks, which is never going to turn me on. But they have a cracking boulangerie called Calafata’s which supplied us with disgracefully tasty chocolate éclairs, so it gets a gold star and a jellybaby from me.

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Day 224: Taps

12.08.09: Started the day in fine fettle – crossed over the border into the Central African Republic (and got tapped for €20 for my endeavours) then kicked Rocco out of bed for the trip to Yaoundé, back to the capital. The roads were nowhere near as bad as yesterday and we even had a little space to stretch our legs. Halfway through our journey we stopped for lunch and a change of bus in a town called Bertoua. I decided to go and do a little filming (of a roundabout) when I was approached by two men in plain clothes (who had, up to the point of seeing the white-skinned cash machine with the camera, been boozing in the Obama Café behind me) who claimed to be policemen and demanded to see my passport. Not being born yesterday, I showed them a photocopy and asked to…

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Day 223: Think Once, Think Twice…

11.08.09: We arrived back at the railhead of N’Gaoundéré at about oh, god knows?, and promptly checked into a nearby hovel for about three hours of overpriced shuteye. Then at 6am, we were at the bus station, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready to roll for another day’s slog along Africa’s less-than-forgiving roads. The guys in the bus station said that it would take 6 hours to get to Garoua-Boulaï, the border with the Central African Republic. The Lonely Planet Guidebook said that it would take 12 hours...it took 18. To be fair, the LP Guidebook did say to think twice about taking the road in the rainy season – and my giddy aunt, they were spot on. But there really wasn’t much of a choice other than to go back on the train that night to Bélabo and head north from there – it wouldn’t have saved…

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Day 222: TCHAD!

10.08.09: The train arrived at 7am in the central Cameroon town of N’Gaoundéré and, if we were VERY lucky, we could make a border hop to Chad today and get back in time to have a kip and catch the first bus south in the morning. The plan seemed sound and within just half an hour, we were in a minibus heading north to Garoua. It’s a good five-hour journey and so, we got in about lunchtime. We had an hour before our next bus, which would take us to the border town of Figuil (not marked on the standard map) so we went to a local eatery and enjoyed a good Cameroonian lunch. The name ‘Cameroon’ actually comes from a corruption of the Portuguese ‘Rio dos Camarões’, meaning River of Prawns, so perhaps I should have had a Prawn Salad, but I’m only prepared to…

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Day 221: Monsooner Or Later…

09.08.09: After a couple of hours of shuteye, it was back on the case for your favourite ginger wanderer here. We left the house in search of Liberty (Yaz’s mate, not the concept) and it was POURING DOWN with rain. By the looks of things, Hugo hadn’t been driving for too long and a combination of him stalling the engine and the relentless WET resulted in the car battery dying an ignoble death. We had to push the car up out of a pothole on a hill with the rain teeming down and a storm drain thundering away just inches behind our rear tyre making failure not an option. I nearly gave myself a hernia, my well-worn Vans slipping and sliding in the wet, but eventually we got the car free and after I got it push-started, we soon got to Liberty’s gaff. From there, we…

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Day 220: Glastonburied

08.08.09: Roland woke me up by firing up his little generator outside the hut. The lights came on and so did the telly. Wow we take electricity for granted. I got up and watched a bit of a bloody awful Nollywood film (Nollywood is the Nigerian Film Industry, the third largest in the world after Hollywood and Bombay, but the less that is said about it, the better) and then I got ready to head down to the docks to catch this mythical boat to Cameroon. But unlike most myths, there was actually a boat. However, it left at six thirty, not seven thirty. I had arrived at seven. Time for Plan B. Now, after three weeks of non-stop West Africa, Calabar was a breath of fresh air. Grass! Trees! Pavement! Road signs! Restored Buildings! No Litter! (Seriously!) It looked like what African cities should look…

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Day 219: Beyond Thunderdome

07.08.09: At 6am, Tony kindly dropped me off at the nearby taxi rank and before too long, I was sitting under a flyover in a minibus with a guy named George because he thought it wasn’t too safe to have me mooching around Lagos in the dark under an overpass. Why one would locate a bus station under a flyover is quite beyond my programming, but this is Africa, so let’s roll with it. There was a cluster of minibuses all geared up and ready to go to every corner of the land. The corner I wanted was in the bottom right and is called Calabar. Once the bus to Calabar had its full compliment of passengers, George let me go and I bagged the seat behind the driver (the safest one) and strapped myself in TIGHT. I had heard stories about these minibuses that would…

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Day 218: TONY!!

06.08.09: After getting to the hotel, I had worked for an hour or so on getting a video speech for my mate Michelle’s wedding uploaded onto YouTube, so it was light before I got to sleep. Two hours later, I was back awake with things to see and people to do. Although after last night’s (morning’s?) shenanigans, I was slightly more than reluctant to get out of bed, but there was no time to rest on my laurels. I got the wedding vid uploaded and sorted out a few bits and bobs online before unpacking my bag, repacking it and handing it over to Rocco. He would not be accompanying me to the next country, Nigeria, as (obviously) IT’S TOO GODDAMN DANGEROUS. But luckily for you lot, I’m as expendable as the crew of the Nostromo, so happy days off, I jolly well pop. Rocco would…

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Day 217: Songs For The Deaf

05.08.09: Frederick offered me a lift over the border on his bike, so at the cock’s call, we were hurtling towards Niger at a great rate of knots. There is a good 20km between the border guards and the border runs down the middle, so there was no bureaucratic tomfoolery to cause me problems. Once past the sign welcoming me into Niger, we rode for another half a K, just in case they had put the sign in the wrong place, I got off the bike, looked around for a bit and then we turned around and came back. I don’t know what Niger is, or what it does, but I’ve stepped foot on its soil. A perfect border hop, methinks. On the bus on the return journey to Fada N’Gourma, I sat with a couple of deaf guys who were from Liberia. One of them…

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