The journey from Leconi (Gabon) to Congo was another 'epic' which began with the mysterious loss of the map - who needs a map anyway? - so off we went ready to use our tongues to find our way. After
leaving the tarmac at Kabala we immediately hit deep, rutted, sandy piste tracks, gouged out of the beautiful open savannah grasslands by big Congolese/Chinese lorries servicing the road building teams in Congo. Twice, in the full, intense, heat of the day,we had to dig out the sand from underneath Mitzi as she bottomed on the central ridge. After 30km of 'no - man's land' we arrived at Congo immigration at Mbie where a loquacious immigration officer kindly gave us an hour of his time practising his English via his encyclopaedic knowledge of the colonisation of Africa, America etc! A further 40 km of bad piste brought us to the Customs at Leketi where we opted to camp for the night after buying the customs officer a drink from his own bar.
We enjoyed our camp on the banks of the river Alima, a tributary of the Congo; we also had a lovely refreshing swim to the great excitement of the locals -who had never seen so much pink flesh wobbling around!
This was also the site of a new inland port to commemorate Pierre de Brazza (the Italian/French explorer) who first landed in Congo at this point.
Leaving Leketi we immediately hit deep mud and the track was almost blocked by one immovable truck, with another struggling to get through; Mitzi and Nigel again performed wonders, slipping and sliding until they just made it through. We then decided to adopt a 'Canary' and follow another truck (to show us the hazards) as we encountered the mud and huge pools/ponds on various stretches of the route, until we eventually arrived at Okoyo after which the piste improved significantly.
One memorable moment came when we drove through one of the bigger pools on this 'improved piste' and Berwyn created our first bow - wave, breaking completely over Mitzi's bonnet - but she still ploughed on!
We finally hit perfect tarmac at Obouya - what a relief, and motored down to Oyo (the Congo President's home town) to spend a welcome night at the Bel-Air Hotel.
Spectacular landscape and Gorilla at Lesio - Louna Gorilla Reserve
Gorillas were our next goal. We drove on piste through some of the most spectacular, vast, green and hilly landscapes to spend a couple of nights at Lesio - Louna Gorilla Reserve near Inoni. This was a really interesting Gorilla re-habilitation project funded by the John Aspinall Foundation; Luc, the manager, was very helpful with our camping arrangements and also in enabling us to see Gorillas, though not 'in the wild' as we had hoped. This was a fabulous location, on the banks of a river, with a lovely lake (Lac Bleu) nearby, that we swam in - but still none of the other wild animals one would expect in this type of terrain. Throughout our journey in Gabon and Congo we were confounded by the vast amount of open savannah grassland and the total lack of wildlife that one would expect to see grazing.
At Lesio - Louna we also met Pascale and her husband Christian, he a doctor with the French Embassy in Brazzaville, with whom we shared our Crepes and their Dolmas, their Pastis and our Glenfiddich and a really enjoyable evening's conversation.
Three hours on to Brazzaville where we pitched up at the Hippocampe Hotel: to sort ourselves out, get Mitzi serviced, write up our Blog and to glean useful tips from kindred spirits who frequent the Hippocampe. This was a great place to stay and prepare for the next major leg of our journey through the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and to Namibia.
Now for the Democratic Republic of Congo
Location - Congo