The road to Congo is more like a country track, a little wider than a single lane, and composed of earth. At one of several Gabonese checkpoints a woman says to me:
“And now you have to pay to cross the frontier”.
“How much is it?” I ask, I’m not entirely sure why.
“Ten thousand”, that’s about 12 pounds, or more than a hotel for the night.
“I don’t have ten thousand”, I lie.
“Monsieur…you must pay to cross the frontier.”
“No” I say. “I have a visa.”
“Its okay,” says another official now, “you can go.”
I make it about 200 metres into the Republic of Congo and have to stop. There is apparently no onward transport until tomorrow morning. But at 5.30 that afternoon, as if to prove anything is possible in Africa, a grey pickup pulls up heading for the town of Dolisie.
The country track continues into Congo, but considerably worse than before. It is both severely waterlogged from the recent rain, and has hard sections of protruding rock. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Congo, but it certainly wasn’t the round grassed hills that formed out before me all the way to Dolisie.
The road from Dolisie to Pointe Noire and the coast was only inaugurated in 22nd December last year. It winds up and down, and around, hills for almost the entire route, perhaps explaining what took so long. Pointe Noire is a port town, and its at the port’s environs that I search for passenger boats heading to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, the big scary Congo). There are lots of freight companies but little else I can find, meaning I must travel to Congo’s nearest border with DRC, which believe it or not is at Brazzaville and Kinshasa, hundreds of kilometres inland. Due to rebel activity and banditry between Pointe Noire and Brazzaville I must fly between the two cities. All this to avoid Cabinda, a bit of Angola separate from the rest of the country I can’t enter as I’m yet to get an Angolan visa. Complicated!