After a final night sleeping on the floor in the billiard room at the Hippocampe (they were full!) in Brazzaville, we set off for the Ferry port, just a few minutes away, to catch the boat to Kinshasa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Ferry port and ticket purchasing rigmarole was another of those memorable episodes, though sadly, severe restrictions on photography prevented our recording the visual experience of the ferry crossing itself.
On arrival at the port we were encouraged to employ the services of a 'helper', who happened to be called Willy, to deal with the paper work and various officials; we soon realised Willy's value as we wound our way through the labyrinthine bureacracy.
Emigration and customs were relatively straight forward though the Chef de Brigade had to sign our pass-avant (vehicle pass); being from Ghana the vehicle did not have the usual carnet that is issued in Europe.
Port entry tickets - 10,800 francs (CFA)
Port tax 20,000
Customs? fee of 15,000 for our 'excess luggage' (we got a receipt but it looked very dubious)
Armed with the 'luggage ticket' the ferry boat tickets were then purchased.
Ferry: Vehicle +1 - 30,000 francs
Ferry tickets: for 3 passengers @ 6,500 each
Finally we had our tickets and Willy
got in beside us to take us to the quay and the boat; but the relentless extortionists were not finished yet! The gate to the quay was a mass of uniformed 'people' and others carrying receipt books all trying to demand money for a variety of mythical tariffs - with shouts of Brigands, Bandits etc, Willy managed to settle for one fee (for heaven knows what?) of 2,400, which secured the opening of the gate and our eventual embarkation.
We were the only vehicle on the ferry amongst a sea of humanity.On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays people suffering from a disability are able to cross on the ferry at a concessionary rate, hence, on the ferry with us were many partially sighted, wheel chair bound folks all carrying heavy loads - sacks of rice, flour, toilet rolls, materials, absolutely everything. Business people employ them, their myriad of 'helpers', and benefit from their discounted rate, to ferry stuff from Kinshasa into Brazzaville to sell at the markets and vice-versa.
It took about 30mins to cross the wide, muddy brown river.
It was organised chaos when the ferry docked. The partially sighted people went first, in a long crocodile each holding the back of the person in front. Once they were off the 'converted wheel chairs/carts' were pushed up the steep ramp by the helpers. We were the last off.
Next stop was the long Immigration process, documents to be stamped and despite lots of argument we were forced to have Mitzi disinfected for a 'knock down fee' of $45 - a rip off we were unable to avoid!
On arrival in Kinshasa we took refuge from the melee in the port at the Estoril Hotel near to the harbour and railway station. A reasonable but expensive place - but just what we needed at the time. We also saw Man Utd beat Arsenal 3-1.
On towards Chutes de Zongo to visit some historic cataracts on the Congo but within a few hundred metres we were forced to turn back by the depth of the mud and flooded tracks. Time was running short and dusk approaching as we continued towards the Angola border looking for somewhere to stay; we finally reached the police post near to the frontier at Songololo where the Police Inspector (Victor) invited us to put up our tents in the police compound. Victor joined us later for a drink (coca cola - he was on duty) in the local village bar - he was a great guy, as were most of the Congolese we met.
Next day it was across the frontier at Luvo into Angola, a quick change of currency from Congolese francs to Angolan Kwanza, taking with us a poor impression of the port authorities at Kinshasa and a very good impression of the police authorities in Songololo DR Congo.
Now for Angola
Location - Democratic Republic of Congo