Sunday, 27 March 2016

Congo Brazzaville

We arrived at the Cameroon border and were pleased to see it was laid out in order with signs to direct you where to go. This was incredible, most borders are a guessing game with most lacking in organisation and order. But this was a real treat. We walked in, got our passports stamped, then carnet stamped and car checked and we were free to leave. So easy! We drove up to the barrier to leave Cameroon, but the police officer was too lazy to walk over and open the barrier, so Cat and I opened it and closed it after the boys drove through. Only in Africa do they let you control your own exit route! Lol.

We drove the 30km to the next barrier on decent dirt tracks, where a young child of about 12 years old came over and asked for our passports. No we were not going to just hand them over to a child. We would leave our vehicles at the barrier and walk to the immigration buildings with our passports safely in our possession. We arrived at the immigration building and the man flagged the boy to just open the barrier. Perfect! No need to give any body fixer money! We were told there would be a wait to get our passports stamped in, so the boys went off to get the carnet's sorted. After trying to explained they didn't need a passavant and a carnet would do the trick. They had to show him how to fill it in after getting it wrong the first time. But at least it was stamped and no need to pay for a passavant. 
The immigration officer called Cat and I into the office to get our passports stamped. He asked for a letter of invitation. We explained we were just tourists, had visas, and therefore did not need an invitation. He then told us we needed to pay him to stamp our passports. We flat out said NO! We played dumb and pretended like we couldn't understand him from then on. Eventually, after realising he would have no luck with us, he started stamping our passports slowly while asking us for juice, water, anything. We still refused! While we were sat there playing dumb, the boys were outside being instructed to unpack the cars in the beating hot sun with the 12 year old boy. Rob and Charles weren't impressed, especially with the boy being instructed to go through our things. He rummaged through with little respect as he took things out of their place and chucked them to the side. Robs worst nightmare of course, as everything has their place and needs to be neat and tidy. 
We were then instructed to get a note taken of our yellow fever certificates. We sat with a lady who was dressed in her woman's day attire with an amazing updo in her hair. Today was woman's day and she certainly did look the part. A man walked in speaking to her in a demanding tone waving money at her, but she stayed cool, didn't accept it and sent him on his way. After he walked out she pulled her middle finger to him and said 'fuck you!'. This woman was clearly a strong lady, not taking shit from anyone. We laughed with her and we left wishing each other well. 
So it's safe to say, not the most amazing border experience, but we got out without paying any bribes! We're getting good at this game...

We drove for only a few kilometres before getting stopped by police officers. They looked at all our paperwork and wrote our information into their books. They seemed quite stern but were soon loosening up. They asked to see everything in our vehicles... again!!! It was absolutely roasting and we needed to get to the town Ouesso before sunset. They were certainly not helping our cause. 
They started with our car first as we took one thing out after another. They joked how we absolutely had EVERYTHING in our cars. They were clearly getting tired as well. But we joked and laughed with them as they noticed we did not have our Congo flag stickers on our cars yet. So they insisted we put them on there and then. Well this then led to a photo shoot as they demanded to have pictures with us and the flag; they proudly stood next to us all puffed up and guns on show. It was hilarious! 
They made sure we were happy and understood why they had to see everything; they explained they were only looking because it was the elections and the president would be travelling around the country, so they needed to make sure we weren't carrying anything dangerous. Who could complain when these guys were just doing their jobs, and with a smile as well! 

We were soon on our way on a good dirt track, but we did have to endure the occasional corrigation which rattled both the car and us like crazy! We arrived into a small town and stopped to grab some bread and laughing cow cheese (something we've grown to love during our time in Africa)!!! As we stopped a man from the immigration department across the road summoned the guys to go to his office with the vehicle documents. After a little while they both stomped across the road from his office back to the cars where they said he was demanding 5000CFA per car because he stamped our carnet's. No way were we paying him for a second stamp. We told him we didn't need his stamp in the first place, got in the cars and swiftly drove off with him standing on the side walk scratching his head in bewilderment! Little did he know that we had played this game many a time and we were not about to be his loser! 
So we stopped a little way down the road to enjoy our lunch in peace! With a beautiful, colourful backdrop with red dirt roads, deep green forest and blue skies with puffy white clouds that would never get boring!

We soon arrived into Ouesso and found it difficult to find available accommodation. We had somehow managed to arrive on the same day they were starting the campaign celebrations for the upcoming presidential elections. Everywhere was full and the ones that were available where extortionate in price for what you got. We drove around for ages with no luck trying one hotel after the other, eventually coming to one on the outskirts of town that offered a very cosy room with air conditioning and running water for 20000CFA (£24) a night. Still expensive for our normal budget, but under the circumstances, a welcome treat where we could chill out with a cold beverage and make some spam filled rolls for dinner. 
On a dietary note, I have started putting on all the weight I initially lost during the beginning of our travels as our diet now consists of bread, bread, and more bread!!! Bread for breakfast, bread for lunch and guess what.... Bread for dinner!! Of course, to my frustration, Rob remains the same size and never puts on an ounce of fat, but eats what he likes! Lucky bugger!!

The good thing about staying in a hotel is we get to fill up our water tanks, charge all devices up, and get some clothes washing done and drape them over all the furniture with the fan and aircon on full blast. Of course our hotel room starts to look like a Chinese laundrette, but at least it gets done. 

We head off in search of diesel in the morning. Our tanks are low and every petrol station we turned up to the day before was empty! We were told there should be tankers arriving in town that morning, so when we pulled up and saw a queue of people filling up their jerry cans and cars we knew we were in luck! Thank goodness, otherwise we would be sitting ducks that day! So we filled up our tanks and a Jerry can each, just in case, and headed on our way south. 

We reached the town of Makoua, a town famous for being smack bam on the equator. We drove around after following the campaign south. There was people everywhere protesting and promoting the leader they wanted, all wearing green, yellow and white clothing with the candidates faces plastered all over. Again finding somewhere to stay would prove difficult as we tried one place after the other. As we drove around we tried to find the sign that said EQUATOR so we could take a once in a lifetime selfie. It was possibly that the roads were too crowded, or we were looking too hard for accommodation or plainly that the sign just didn't exist; but sadly, we couldn't find a sign. 

We drove out of town and tried a hotel on the outskirts. Yes! they had room and after bartering the price down from 20000CFA a night to 15000CFA a night as the air conditioning wasn't working, we were in business! So we parked our cars, grabbed a drink and the boys spent the afternoon doing maintenance on the cars. Our car had started leaking oil, so Rob tried to fix it and Charles also had a small leak he would look at too. After our long and hard driving days, it's taken its toll on the cars and they needed some TLC.
After the boys were done, it was only fair we treat them to a beer down at the local street stall. So we wondered down the street towards town and saw a large truck filled with beers next to a little shack on the side of the street. Yes, this would serve us nicely! We sat and enjoyed one after the other while watching the locals around us stare at us and greet us shyly. There was a lady cooking some chicken on the side of the road so we ordered 4pieces to tie us over. Braai'ed chicken was just what the doctor ordered, and it was devine, perfectly cooked!! Even Rob enjoyed it and he hates eating anything on the bone or with his hands. Possibly the beers had loosened him up. Lol!
That evening we opened a tin of tuna and made some more bread sammies. The tuna smelt a bit funky to me, but Rob ensured me it would be fine. I opted out of it but Rob enjoyed it before we hit the sack.

The next few days Rob had gained a rather nasty tummy bug. It had to be from that dodgy tuna, but he was definitely not well. When you have to pull over at the side of a busy road to poo in the bush while cars and scooters drive past slowly to get a good look at this crazy white man leaking from his bum, you know there is something not right.... Obviously not a fun experience for Rob, but the three of us couldn't help ourselves and sneakily laughed behind the cars at his poor expense. Most certainly a vision that's scarred me for life.

We needed to head towards Brazzaville and get there before Friday to get to the Angolan embassy in hope they would issue us a visa. Poor Rob was still not feeling his best, but he was able to continue in his sorry state. 
Everywhere we have been we have marvelled at the beautiful scenery. Congo has totally shocked me, there seems to be more money here than the countries we have since passed. Incredibly expensive cars drive up and down the roads, the Chinese are everywhere improving the infrastructure, and mud huts are better built and brick houses becoming more prominent. I expected quite the opposite. 

We arrived into Brazzaville (Congo's capital) and went straight to the Angolan embassy to try our luck. Nope they would not issue tourist visas to non-residents, but they said with a little luck Dolisie (a town west of Brazzaville) might issue us one. At least we knew and could now rest at Hippocampe so Rob could recover properly. 
We were pleased to arrive at Hotel Hippocampe which has welcomed overlanders for ages to camp and use the shower ablutions for FREE!!!! (Rob of course was pleased!!!) We were even more delighted to be given the warmest welcome by Kars, Simone, Cris and Patrick, the two couples who shipped their cars around Nigeria and who we had met in Togo. What an incredibly small world as we all shouted and squealed with excitement! This was amazing, they were here as well!! We would enjoy the buffet Asian meal at the restaurant at the hotel that evening and learn about their shipping experience and that of Gabon, a country we did not visit. Even Rob managed a small bite to eat before retiring to bed.

Rob was starting to feel more and more like himself and was able to look at the car again. The oil leak had gotten worse!! We had filled up with diesel earlier that day and the car immediately started shooting out thick, stinky, white smoke out of the exhaust. This was not good and Rob was starting to really worry about the car!! Not sure whether the white smoke was dodgy diesel or engine problems.
(It's funny how Rob and Daisy seem to work in unison, getting very ill at the same time, squirting out all the wrong things!?)
So Rob had a good look, but couldn't find anything obvious. 

That evening we all went out for dinner and enjoyed hamburgers and pizzas. Even Rob managed to eat all it, with his appetite back in full swing. Such a relief!! We enjoyed another great evening chatting about borders, visas, travelling and of course the cars. 
In the morning we all came together to wish each other safe travels.

We headed off towards Dolisie, but Rob was getting intensely worried about the car. Oil was leaking quicker than we could put it in and the white, smelly smoke wasn't going away! Rob explained it could mean two things to me. Either it was the end of the journey for the Land Rover as the oil leak was down to too much pressure in the engine causing the oil to leak and the thick smoke out of the exhaust; or it was simply an oil leak (which hopefully he could find) and dodgy diesel. We started chatting about our options with little enthusiasm. We had set out to do this trip and it would be a huge failure if we couldn't finish because of engine problems.
But we talked about other options like sending the car home on a boat and us buying a motorbike or another kind of vehicle to continue our travels. 
My mom and her husband, Roger are joining us, in April, in Zambia with a rented kitted out vehicle so they could experience a taster of our life and adventures on the road. I was going to make sure we were there either which way, come hell or high water, we would make a plan!! So we both agreed we would be there if not with Daisy, definitely another kind of motor. But would do everything we could to fix the car.

We were upset and sad and taking it out on each other. It was hard to look at the positives, when ultimately, it was all pointing to Daisies doom! But we decided, we wouldn't make any drastic decisions until Rob could take the engine apart in a better location. 

We arrived into Dolisie and arrived at a place called Sala Ngolo (meaning to make an effort) - a college set up for school dropouts teaching mechanics, hospitality, agriculture, basic computer skills, etc. When we arrived it was raining cats and dogs, so when we asked if they wouldn't mind that we camped, the receptionist said she had to wait for the owner who would only come after the rain. So we zipped across the compound to the bar where we enjoyed a few drinks while watching rivers being formed all around us. The rain was intense, with big droplets falling to the ground.
Eventually it passed and we were told we could camp and to give a small donation of our choice after we left. Great news!

In the morning we headed straight for the Angolan Consulate in hope we would be successful. We were given our visitors badges and we wondered in with our hopes held high. They could only speak French, so Cat would have to do all the shmoozing.... Later we all learnt Cat was actually interrogated profusely in a tiny room while we were made to sit outside. She came out... eventually... and said we had to wait for the consular, but to return at 12. They had taken Cats contact number and would call her if the consular would arrive sooner. We decided we would head into town for some breakfast and would try find parts for our broken car before heading back.
We ended up enjoying a chicken roll with chips before heading off to find silicone, jubilee clips, a card board box and mountains of oil!!! 
As we arrived back at the Consulate, Cat received a phone call to say we needed to print off our invitation letter we had from a very awesome guy in Angola who has helped us out with documentation we would need. The only problem was this letter was addressed to the Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria and says we want a double entry (where we originally were going to apply, but got turned down). Cat would have to try talk her way around this as we are obviously in a different town and country and only want a single entry as the double entry would be double the price!!!!!! No way!!!!!
We shot back into town to find a working Internet cafe; a much harder task than it sounds!! But we eventually got our documents printed and headed back.

The consular was still not in the office, but Cat did her best to chat her way through and convince them to use this invitation letter that wasn't addressed to them and held the wrong info. Eventually they told us thy needed to wait for the consular to arrive to make the final decision. They would call us when he was there. So we left all our documents with them and headed back to camp.

The next couple of days Rob drained all the fuel and took apart the engine to check all the seals, amoung popping out to get a very delicious breakfast with a cake to top it off and wondering back and forth into town. 
Everyday we would pop back to the consulate to check if the consular had arrived, but he never had. When it got to Thursday, we were starting to stress!! But they told us hopefully on Friday. 

After Rob put the car back together, the boys went off to make it run out of fuel. This will then determine if Rob found the oil leak and ensure that it was just the fuel and not the engine making all that smoke. I was sat back at the camp holding thumbs that it would all be ok. Eventually the boys returned, after telling us they almost got shot because they ran out of fuel in front of an airport. The army thought they wouldn't move the car because they were going to set off a bomb, not because they had merely run out of fuel. But they returned with good news!!! WE GET TO CONTINUE WITH DAISY..... YAY! 
Rob was suddenly my hero, making our trip continue!!! What a huge relief!!!

We decided we would make the best of our time here while waiting for the consular and go to the Grande Marche to buy some fabric and get one of the local taylors to make us a dress. We bought 5metres of fabric for 7000CFA (£8) and took to the taylor who would charge 5000CFA (£6) to make a dress. So cheap and would be ready to collect two days later. We were so excited!

We turned up on Friday at the embassy and were turned away at about 10am and then again at about 11am, so we agreed we would try again at 1:30pm before they closed at 2pm. We arrived and saw loads of cars in the parking lot... We may be in luck!!!!
We sheepishly walked in again with hopeful smiles on our faces. The receptionist instructed us to sit down. This was already a good sign. We sat there for about 20minutes when eventually we saw a lady stroll past with a beautiful pink floaty dress and 4 passports in a folder. Oh my gosh, we were in luck!! They called us in and charged us 93000CFA (£110) per visa. (Normally they want dollars but luckily accepted the local currency!!).. And we were out of there, feeling totally ecstatic! We got the notorious Angolan visa that everyone told us we wouldn't get!! Well this only meant one thing... We needed celebratory drinks!!!! 

While sat enjoying our drinks at a town pub, marches and parades were happening around us with one of the candidates for the elections in town to promote his party. It was incredible to watch, with the town all cheering and running behind him, singing and waving branches.
We learned that the whole country would come to a halt on Sunday as this was voting day. No vehicles would be allowed on the streets, all access to mobile data would be disconnected and all borders would be closed.
This meant we had to stay the weekend and leave on Monday, to head for the DRC.

The day of the voting was a bizarre day. The place was absolutely silent! A strange phenomena that we have yet to experience here in Africa. There was no blasting African music which they play from 7:30 in the morning till the wee hours of the night. There was no cars, taxis or scooters zooming up the streets hooting their horns for the sake of it. No people shouting at each other from across the road. And our campsite/hotel was desolate, with no one wondering up and down, not even fetching water.
But we sat in camp and could finally hear the chirping of the birds, the thunder happening in the distance, the wind rustling the trees. It was actually rather peaceful in a eerie sort of way.

On the Monday morning we were up bright and early to head to the border. We were told by the locals and the Angolan embassy that we did not need to back track towards Brazzaville to get to the Lwozi border, as there was a border just south of Dolisie that would go around Cabinda (the little Angola). They assured us it would be much quicker and they confirmed there would be a customs post for the cars. We had no note of this border on our maps, but as they were all sure, why the hell not! So we drove and drove on incredibly dodgy roads. This was a 4x4 route at its best. Clearly the locals only attempt  these roads on a motorbike, as evidence of a vehicle going through these roads was nonexistent!! It was however magnificent to watch our beautiful surroundings as the countryside was spectacular! Beautiful tall green grass covered the landscape! 

We arrived at the border to get our passports stamped out of Congo. This was going to be interesting. The police took our passports and said they could get our passports stamped out. We asked about a customs officer and they ensured us there would be one down the road. After getting our passports stamped we drove about 400metres down the road where we were then stopped by the army. They told us there stamp was better, so they stamped our passports again??? Two exit stamps for one entry, who would have thought. We continued down the road, but no customs!! 

Eventually, we arrived to the border just before 3pm. We would be sat there for the next 3 hours while this man tried to figure out what he needs to do. While sat there we were surrounded by the village, all watching us with amazement. Looking at our clothes, hair, skin, and laughing when we spoke English to each other. I guess we now know what if feels like to be an animal in a zoo! 
After he went off on his scooter to collect forms, he would then try to charge us $10 per form, that 4pieces of paper. Well this was most certainly not going to happen!! We sat there and point blank refused. He started filling in the forms anyway and we watched him take about 40min to fill in one form!!! It was like watching water evaporating in a very, very cold climate!!! Utterly painful. It got to about 6 and he then said to us, thanks, but you need to go to Lwozi to get the passports stamped in. WHAT??? We had just watched him slowly fill in our details to tell us he couldn't stamp our passports? Well, it's safe to say we were fuming!! We were in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of DRC with the whole village begging for money, flip flops, food, water, and with no stamp!
Luckily another man walked over and explained how a border works and that he needs to stamp our passports into the country if he was to let us continue our journey. He eventually stamped our passports, but still stuck to his guns when saying he couldn't stamp our carnet or issue a passavant as there was no customs here, and had to go to Lwozi anyways. 
Later we learned we are the first tourists to ever take this border. That's why everyone was fumbling around!! Listening to the locals failed this time! But we still got through without paying a cent!

Friday, 11 March 2016

Nigeria to Cameroon

The Afi Mountain Drill Ranch was our next point of call. This was somewhere I was truly looking forward to seeing as we had been told it was a must! We left Calabar to make our way North to the mountains. The road was filled with pot holes which made the drive slow going, but the country side was absolutely beautiful. Eventually we turned off onto a dirt road track that would take us to the ranch. This road was intense and we wondered how some of the overlanders we had met that recommended this place had gotten through, particularly the Oasis overland truck as it's extremely tall and with forest on either side of the road, it was even a push for our cars. But we made it through and it was definitely loads of fun picking the best lines to take.

We got to the drill ranch and felt so welcomed. Innocence treated us like celebrities and made sure we were comfortable before telling us about the ranch. His passion oozed out of him and it was hard not to fall in love with this amazing place and its staff. We were sat in the communal kitchen; sitting area which overlooked the magnificent forest covered mountains. This rustic, no frills, wooden structure that screamed Africa, was just what the doctor ordered. He told us about his time at the ranch, the animals, and the struggles they face daily. He then showed us around with a short walk through the forest to the toilet. You needed to pull a rope across the path to let people know the toilet was in use. Then a short walk to the long drop with a small shelter that offered amazing views of the surrounding trees while you enjoyed your time on the loo. It was also probably one of the cleanest toilets we've used in Africa! Then again another stroll through the forest to reach the shower, also a no walls, open air experience. Now this is what Africa's about! 

We met some expats from Abuja that had arrived for the weekend to escape the city. They told us they were hiking up the mountain the next morning. That sounded awesome, so we decided we would tag along. That meant we needed an early night, so we could leave early in the morning before the humidity and heat got too unbearable.
That night we slept like absolute babies! The temperature was nice and cool at night, so no sweating while you try and sleep. The air was clean and fresh; no pollution, no generators, no hooting horns... Just nature! The forest was buzzing with sounds of insects, birds and bush babies chirping the night away. And every so often you'd hear the Drill monkeys or Chimpanzees chatting in the distance. You don't get much better than that! 

We were up early to make some lunch for our hike and to meet the rest in the communal area. Eventually our guide, Chris, showed up and he got hounded by the expats for being late. We've gotten used to Africa time, so waiting half an hour or so after you've agreed a time, is pretty normal. The ranches Land Rover was going into town, so he said he'd take us all in and we could start our hike from there. But first we had to unload all the fruit for the monkeys and chimpanzees. So we all got stuck in and it was soon empty so we could all pile in. 

The hike was intense, as we scrambled up the steep mountain with the ground covered in loose leaves  making it difficult to get good grip. One of the guys we were hiking with was finding it rather difficult. He couldn't  catch his breath and he was absolutely soaked head to toe with sweat. The rest of us were dripping as well, as the humidity was crazy up there, but nowhere near what this poor guy was experiencing. Eventually he gave up so we instructed our guide to take him back down and ensure he was ok. As our guide was exceptionally quick going up the mountain, he could make it down and meet  us along the way to the top. We were suppose to reach a base camp and then turn back and make our way back down. But we hiked and hiked up the mountain sometimes losing the path. There was no sign of our guide, even after a couple of hours and soon we started to decend on the other side of the mountain. Nope, this was wrong. So we decided to head back before we got too lost. Eventually we found our guide, and he confirmed that yes we had taken the wrong route. We were pretty exhausted at this point (and our poor guide), so we decided to head back down and grab a cold beer in the town. But the scramble down proved difficult as well, with the leaves creating a nice sliding effect when trying to get down. Yip our bums took a bit of a beating. But it was so much fun, none of us were fussed about not making it to the base camp.
We got into town and were given a tour before getting a cold drink before heading back to our campsite.

Once back at the campsite we were able to see some of the drill monkeys being fed avocados. They were fascinating with their almost baboon like faces and watching the hierarchy of males dominate the younger ones. Such a joy to watch them and see the amazing work this organisation is doing. This is where they breed them and eventually get to release them back into the forest when they are ready to be reintroduced to the wild. To think, they started with 1 drill monkey in 1988 and now have 6 large groups of almost 200 in a group. We could sit and watch them for hours, but it was time to get some grub of our own.

The next morning we enjoyed an amazing cooked breakfast by the expats; eggs, beans, bread and avocados! A breakfast of champions!! They were such a great bunch, but we had to say our goodbyes as they were heading off that morning. It's amazing how we get to meet such incredible people along the way! 

We spent the day watching the chimpanzees get fed (there was one poor teenage boy called Mickey, who was different to the rest. He liked to stand like a human, so ended up getting beaten up by the others regularly. The poor chap wouldn't learn. But it was amazing to see him parade around!). We walked around the sanctuary and enjoying their canopy walk overlooking the forest. Unfortunately we couldn't walk the full length of canopy as some of it was taken away by a land slide. Innocence mentioned that a Canadian company had offered to repair it for a small fee, but the government has yet to do anything about it. Later that evening we met the founder, Peter, who had made an appearance at the Ranch as the Kenyan CNN news was there to make a documentary about their organisation and the problems they faced. It was interesting to hear their biggest problems were with the government in more recent times. A new government has just been elected, however this one has no care for forestry or illegal hunting and has therefore stopped any help they used to have. Forest fires are a major threat to the vegetation and there is now no one reinforcing the laws against this. The locals set fire to their farms to help fertilise the land, but many are unable to keep them under control, so they end up wiping out the little remaining natural forests. It's such a sad thing to see first hand. 

Peter was a force to be reckoned with! He was passionate about his organisation, but many years of being beaten down by the government, police, and the locals; he is finding it hard to be positive about the future of Drill Ranch. He most certainly said it how it was or how he saw things and heaven forbid if you should see things differently. But, I grew to really appreciate his honesty and openness, even if he was effing and blinding his way through. Such a character! I feel blessed to have witnessed such an incredible person, staff and organisation.

For our last day we attempted the hike back up to the top of the mountain with our guide, Chris. We were determined to make it to the base camp, as we had planned on our initial hike. Our poor muscles were still aching from the hike a couple of days before, so it took us a while to find our feet. But we made it to the top after sweating out more litres than we could drink. It was incredible and certainly gave us a sense of achievement!
We headed back to camp to enjoy everyone's company once again. We had fallen in love with this place! We were almost begged to stay and volunteer and help out. If we didn't have to move on, we probably would have taken them up on their offer! 

In the morning, we said our goodbyes and headed for the town Ikom, close to the Cameroon border. Here we spent a night in an ok hotel, that certainly wasn't amazing, but would serve us well for the night. As we had reached the town in good time, we decided to head to a local bar for a drink or two. After sitting down the sky turned dark, the rains were certainly coming. All of a sudden a massive gale force wind decended on the town, it felt like the tin roof of our bar was about to take off! There was dust everywhere, and people were running from the streets to get shelter. Then the heavens opened and a torrential downpour decended on the town. We watched as rivers appeared down the roads, people on a motorbike crashed in front of us (luckily all ok) and still with gale force winds. We hadn't seen anything like it. But the locals were over the moon, the first proper rains and the country certainly needed it. We on the other hand were thinking of the dirt roads we needed to travel on! Congo was going to be a nightmare. 

In the morning we got up early to head to the border. We have decided to no longer listen to what other people's experiences are with certain borders. We normally get seriously worked up about expecting the worst, but touch wood, we have yet to have any really bad experiences. So we had no expectations for this next border, no idea what to expect. But we would go and enjoy it, like all the rest!
As always, we got stopped a number of times before reaching the border. But all very friendly and still not getting anything out of us, so all was good! Then a customs official pulled us over and asked to see our passports. Like all the rest, we handed them over.... Not expecting what was coming! He turned to us and said, "Do you know that you have overstayed your entry by 2days?". What? That was impossible, we had a 30day visa and had only been in the country just over 2weeks. He then showed us that when we entered Nigeria, they wrote we had up until the 29th of February. We hadn't even noticed, as normally if you pay for a 30day visa, that entitles you to a 30day entry. Well, not in Nigeria. They have their own rules. 
We pleaded with the official, and he understood that this was not explained to us at the border. He saw how shocked we were so told us, not to worry or get upset, but he would let us continue regardless of our mistake. Wow! That was lucky! 
We continued driving, but there was yet again another customs road block. Crap! We decided to act dumb once more and hope for the best. These were a little bit more difficult to persuade. Giving them the shaking lip and an almost crying face.... He let us go with no payment!!! Amazing!!
Now it was for the actual customs post at the border. We went in with our normal overly friendly, overly happy attitudes (hoping for the best). The man soon spotted our mishap, but we distracted him with talking about the very hot pepper soup and our other experiences of Nigeria. We did get interrogated one by one by another official. But they seemed to enjoy our shenanigans and stamped our passports out if the country without further mention of our law breaking ways. Hooray!!! We still wonder how we got through without payment for our errors after being begged for money and gifts all the way through. We were most certainly very very lucky!

We entered Cameroon without a hitch and were soon in the most beautiful country! The newly tarred road was immaculate with forest on either side of the road and very little rubbish on the roads, which was a nice change to a lot of the other West Africa countries. Unfortunately we can't spend much time in Cameroon as we have visa restraints after spending a little too much time in Nigeria. Such a shame as this country looks and feels amazing! 
That night we stayed in Queens hotel (5000CFA = £6) which was probably the most uncomfortable to date as the beds were very uncomfortable. You could feel the wooden slats under the mattress and were only given one pillow. Ants had clearly made this hotel their home as they were everywhere. But it did have a comfortable lounge area serving cold beers. So Charles, Cat and myself played Uno cards with a few cold ones while Rob was being a bit grumpy and went to bed.

The next day, we spent most our time on the road until we got to town Kumba. We stopped off for some food and we were soon surrounded by kids as they were fascinated with taking selfies and videos, while they laughed at their own pictures over and over again. Such happy kids! The food was amazing and we enjoyed being out of the car as the roads had turned into a mud bath along the way, so we were all feeling a little battered. We were surprised to see the large number of Chinese workers putting in tarred roads. It won't be long until all of Cameroon's main roads will be tarred. 
We stayed once again in another hotel, Azi Motel, which was in contrast to our hotel before, as it was so comfortable. It was a little more expensive at 12500CFA (£15) a night. But it had air-con, working shower and toilet, a seating area in the room, a fridge, 2pillows, blankets... It was amazing! 
The four of us wandered down the road in search of some wine for our movie night, as I was craving something different to beer. We found a little shop that had boxed cheap wine. It was perfect. So we headed back and enjoyed an amazing night watching Django (a great movie, by the way), playing cards and listening to music. It's strange what a few home comforts do to lift your spirit while on the road.

The next day we headed for Limbe where we had heard Marimar Hotel allows you to camp next to the pool overlooking the sea for 2500CFA (£3) per person. We arrived and were glad to see the pool! We set up camp (in an area which looks like building site - not nice but doable as it had such a nice view) and soon dived into the pool to relax. We got chatting to a couple of girls from Holland who have come to Cameroon for work experience and research at the hospitals. It was fascinating to hear how daily they are tackling traditional beliefs and remedies against new age medicines and introducing these to the locals. They have to deal with other issues like the hospital only having running water for two hours a day; so patients (often with broken limbs), families and workers alike, have to fetch water in buckets every morning. Things are certainly very different here!
That evening we had a quick dinner at the restaurant and even enjoyed a delicious chocolate ice cream for dessert! Such a treat!

Our next stop was the capital. When we drove up to the presbyterian guest house, we were surprised to see a large overland truck with British number plates. Unfortunately they weren't in camp, but hopefully we would catch up with them later after heading into town to grab some dinner. We stumbled across an Indian restaurant, so we decided to bite the bullet and grab something nice and a little upmarket for dinner. It wasn't quite the standard you would find in the uk, but it was still really good! So we headed back, looking forward to meeting some fellow overlanders from England. 
They happened to be the family that we just missed when arriving into Togo, as they had to back track to Burkina Faso to get their Nigerian visa, as Togo and Benin weren't issuing visas to anyone. We ended up chatting the night away, swapping crazy stories of our travels and theirs. Such a fantastic family and sure we will meet them again along the way. 

In the morning we were on the road again. Heading for the Cameroon and Congo border. We drove and drove until eventually we came across a small village and would try to find somewhere to sleep. We drove up and down the town and saw signs for accommodation, but nothing more. On my iOverlander app it said a fellow overlander was able to camp on the soccer field by the church. So we headed to the church to hope for the best. We pulled up to a very closed looking church, it was a late Sunday afternoon after all. Just when we were about to consult our map again, a couple of white ladies came over from the school next to the church, obviously intrigued to see us as they never get tourists. We told them we were looking for somewhere to stay for the night, and asked if they knew where the Motel was that was on the sign down the road. They had absolutely no idea but were extremely kind and invited us to stay with them. 
We were so lucky!

We had the local children fascinated with our cars, saying they were going to have a car like this when they get older. We piled as many kids into the passenger seats and the boys took them up the path to their compound, where we were greeted with more people staying in this large communal building. They were all Spanish and were working for a NGO that worked with the local Pigmy people. They have a small hospital and school set up, and they help the local villages with their water wells and teaching the people how to maintain them. They were doing such great work and it was a pleasure to learn about them and their aims. 
That night we shared a few beers before they took us out for a meal. We enjoyed a large smoked fish with cassava (compacted into a long tube) eaten with your hand... Right hand only, of course!! It was devine, and most certainly the best fish we have had to date. Unfortunately Rob didn't go near it, but it meant their was more for Cat, Charles and myself to enjoy. It was delicious! I just love trying all the different foods; it's such a big part of learning about the African culture. Some dishes are most certainly better than others, but that's the beauty of it.

We woke up at the crack of dawn so that one of the guys we stayed with could take us to a reliable garage where Charles could get some welding done. He was going to a small village to help educate the locals on water well maintenance that day, so we had to be up early to get it done before heading to 'work'. 
We arrived at the village and sat in a lesson about the construction of the well. Of course it was all in French, so we couldn't really follow what was going on. But I enjoyed seeing how the locals do it. We sat in a mud and wood house with breaking wooden benches and a black board in front. There were only a couple of people that could write, so they made notes while the others just listened. They spoke about the pump having two one way valves and demonstrated to the class. After going through the construction of the pumps and going through a list of problems they might have and how to fix them, we went outside where they could put their new knowledge to the test and fit the pump down a well. It most certainly was interesting to watch, but unfortunately they couldn't get it working. This well had not been working for some time now as the local children had thrown sand and mud down it, blocking up the pump and causing it to malfunction. A problem that happens more often than you'd think, when water is so precious here!

While they were trying to get it installed, I was having a wail of a time with the kids. They were first scared of me and thought it was a great game when I pretended to come get them! Teasing these kids was such fun and they were loving it. Eventually, I pulled my phone out to take photos of them. They were lapping this up, as when they saw their photo they screamed with laughter. When I took a video of them... This was something entirely new to them and they now wouldn't leave me alone. Hanging on me and pulling me away from the grown ups. Such fun!

We unfortunately had to hit the road again if we were to make it to the border before sun down. We said our goodbyes and were soon on the road again. We eventually reached the border and were happy to find out they had an auberge there. That was until we saw it! The bed was well used with dirty stained sheets and pillows. We opted to sleep in our tents and use a room for a bucket shower... There was however no toilet, so we had to get a little creative being in the middle of a village. Lol! 

We decided we would head into town to enjoy a few beers before hitting the sack. We started at one pub and watched the locals play checkers, they were really good as well! We decided we would wander to the next pub where a police officer had stumbled out of the pub to wave us down and pull us over when we entered the village. Dealing with drunk police officers seems to be the norm here, but they have all been really friendly, so can't complain. He welcomed us into the pub, where we asked if they were serving food. The police officer ensured us only the strongest of meat was served here, luckily it was only beef and not some other meat like dog or monkey.
Our meat was served with a soup and boiled plantain (a green banana) which had a similar taste and texture to potato. This meal was amazing and even Rob was enjoying it. It was mega spicy, like most food in these parts as they absolutely love their chillis! But really good and just what the doctor ordered!

There was a man that walked into the bar that immediately insisted he buy us all a drink. We are so used to being begged for stuff that when we get offered something, it always feels like there's a catch. We thanked him, but ensured we were happy to pay for our own drinks. We paid for our meal and drinks and he was somewhat offended, saying we are in his country and he would like to welcome us with a drink. We sat chatting to him for a while as he explained he had come from Yaoundé, the capital, and was here to transport cows to Congo as they have a real shortage of cows. He insisted we go see his cows, so we wandered down town to see the massive cows. He was so proud of his work and how he was making a really good living transporting cows. Cat and I were exhausted so we went to bed while the boys stayed and had a few drinks with him. It turns out he was an extremely wealthy man and he was right, he was making a killing with these cows selling them for 700 000CFA (£830) each as he transported 80 cows in 3trucks every week! It turned out he was just a really nice man, no catch! How wrong we were!

Tomorrow was border day... We all wish we could see more of beautiful Cameroon! We didn't even scrape the surface of what this country has to offer, but we had to motor on! Goodbye Cameroon, you are one amazing country!