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My pal inspects factories for a living, and I shall take his expert advice to the grave: "Never eat the meat pies". Tell us the best advice you've ever received.

(, Thu 20 May 2010, 12:54)
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Another from the ‘Africa Bore’ series methinks…
It was April 2002, the Camel, Richard, Roxana and I had managed to successfully travel around Lake Chad and into Cameroon (successful meaning we hadn’t been murdered by the Chadians, who to be fair assume all white people are French).

We made our way south through Cameroon, all the time nursing our leaky tyres, and eventually found a decent tyre shop in Douala who we trusted to repair our 11 punctures, and fit the new tyre we had picked up. As we waited, we got chatting to the only other customer, a French bloke who was clearly involved in some shady illegal logging operation. It’s always worth swapping notes on the routes that are open, and when he found out that we were heading into the French Congo he told us that the South Westerly route through Gabon was difficult - the ferry was not working, the roads were bad, there be dragons, and that we really ought to go East to Moloundou, a small town in the South East corner of Cameroon, from where we could cross the river into the Congo using a free logging ferry. We pored over the Michelin map as he drew on roads where none were marked, and began to get excited as it showed a good tarmac road almost the whole way to Brazzaville once we were across the border (I believe it still does, by the way, but then French cartographers are all lying bastards, so I’m not surprised.)

I talked about the route with a few other locals in Youndé who confirmed the existence of the ferry crossing, which is not on the map, and so we decided to leave the well trodden path and head into the bush.

I’ll skip the details of the journey East – we slid our way along the muddiest roads ever until we eventually reached a charming town in the middle of nowhere with a broken rear right spring, and no chance of repairs. This is why you drive a Land Rover, they still keep going even when they are broken. From there we crossed the river on the ferry exactly as promised

Everything was going swimmingly – the advice we had been given was going to save weeks of hard slog – or that’s what we thought until we asked the border officials on the Congolese side where the tarmac road was. They rocked with laughter as they told us that there hadn’t been any road for 25 years, and even if there were, all the bridges had fallen down. Thanks Michelin.

The advice had, to be fair, been given in good faith, but on the face of it we were up the proverbial creek. The next few weeks saw some of the most uncomfortable and dangerous travelling of the journey, as I came down the River Congo on a trading boat, sort of like Heart of Darkness in reverse. I saw death and torture, pygmies on dugout canoes with tree-bark clothing, and a butterfly so large that it could glide. And here’s the irony – looking back on it all this was simply the best part of the entire journey (though probably not at the time). And I still get an email about once a month from some poor sod who wants details on how to retrace my route. So looking back on it I’d have to say that however fucked up it all was, that Frenchman gave me some of the best advice I’d ever heard.

More here: www.camelworld.com/diary_congo.htm

Length? 18 months and 70,000km
(, Wed 26 May 2010, 12:21, 1 reply)
good man
I had a similar experience in the Sudan and Ethiopia

I now know there is nothing wrong with getting horribly lost.

We look back with pride on the trials, not the easy times
(, Wed 26 May 2010, 16:35, closed)

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