Three borders three days

Three borders, three days….

Borders in Africa are unlike those in Europe, usually the procedure is something like this:

Local police check you into the border in a big log book. You find another office, Immigration then process passports into computer checking each page, then they send you to another customs office, tucked out of the way unmarked usually in a different building, who labouriously process the carnet. Then another police check before you cross into no man’s land.

Repeat all the above on the other side, except additionally providing copies of passport, vaccine record, visa, prior country exit stamp, vehicles registration document etc

Change money on the black market so you have some cash, find a place to buy and register a SIM for your phone

Average time about three hours, excluding SIM which is another hour, in the sweltering heat, with conflicting directions and a little swarm of “helpers” trying to tell you what to do for money.

Then do one a day for three days in a row

That was our last three days with 400km drives added.

The reason is we were on a “hot” run from Congo to Cabinda, then through Democratic republic of Congo, then into Angola meaning 10 hour days on the (initially bad) road. The reason for our rapid progress is the DRC is the second most dangerous country on the trip after Nigeria, they have a problem with criminal gangs, and we have a problem as they are known to target the rare foreigners.

We met some NGO folks in the Congo, he was the security expert for the US aid team, one of their group had been severely injured in an attack just two weeks before and our information system had alerts to avoid certian roads that were prone to attacks.

So Tony and I are careful, stick to the main roads move fast and book into (very crap) hotels just for the security they offer.

Of course all went well, the most excitement we had was following a truck up the hill in the town of Matiadi, as every time he had to pause in the traffic two boys jumped out and put a wedge under the back wheels!

We got to our hotel in DRC just as night was falling and kept a low profile.

Along the way we get to see the navigable section of the Congo River, we dip in and out of small towns and markets, and enjoy the banter at the borders and the Police checks before crossing into Angola, so in reality a few hard days but quite enjoyable!

So now the West Coast is done, we change Tony for Duncan tomorrow, and we are in Southern Africa, here we should start to see again Deserts and Savanna, move out of mosquito country, and into regions that have spectacular sights, proper campsites, Land Rover garages, recovery trucks and banks that work!

The hard part is done

Thanks very much to Tony Borrill who has been a rock of support through what is for sure the toughest and most relentless overland trip I have done so far in the world.

Hopefully looking forward to lots of chilled Safari adventures for the next four weeks with Duncan Mackenzie, before Nelson goes into storage for a few months in Namibia and I go home to relax for a few months!

On “the wrong road” we went a bit sideways in the slippy mud and the back end scraped a bamboo grove, the grove won as it snapped off my high lift jack, which we only noticed the next day…
I had a nice chat with this chap while waiting an hour for the passports to be processed at one border
The hilly town of Matadi the end of the navigation section of the Congo river and a major container port with tiny roads well congested by miles of trucks in both directions
On the hill in Matadi we are stuck behind a truck with a large block of wood and a boy as a handbrake
Lovely views along the roads here groves of bamboo
The ships navigating the Congo River up to Matadi, Angola on the other bank
We had hoped this “hotel” would offer some security, and I suppose it did as we hid from sight behind it !
The first 100km of the road in the DRC was fine for us, but one of those occasions were good tyres and 4WD were handy, the route we took had little bearing to any actual road on the map as that was impassable
In Angola we see signs of the war that ravaged the country just twenty or so years ago
Colourful markets and villages make the drive interesting
Tony inching forward in Matadi
Sunsets now start to be good as the beaches in Cabinda and the rest of the trip face west
Progress can be slow in the busy streets of Matadi, took us an hour to cross the small town which made it a push to get to our hotel before dark. Tony “I dident think Nelson could do 100km/hr Gerry” with a hit of concern in his voice….
Good selection of fruits on offer along the way so we are well stocked

About Gerry Mulligan

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