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Clean clothes, warm tea and bushmeat

2006-07-05 15:12

The team reaching the Equator in Gabon.

DAYS 32 to 34 : 26 to 28 June

SENGAL: Dakar - Kaolack - Tambacounda - Kidira MALI: Diboli - Kayes - Diema - Didiena - Kati - Bamako - Bamako - Segoué - San - Djenne - Mopti - Douentza - Timbuktu - Sévaré - Mopti - Dogon Country: Bandiagara - Sanga - Bankass BURKINA FASO: Ouagadougou - Kantchari NIGER: Niamey - Birni Nkonni NIGERIA: Kano - Bauchi - Yankari Game Reserve, Wikki Warm Springs - Maiduguri - Banki CAMEROON: Limani - Mora - Maroua - Garoua - Ngaoundere - Tibati - Banyo - Foumban - Bafoussam - Bamenda - Ring Road: Bafut - Wum - Bamenda - Limbe - Douala - Yaoundé - Mbalmayo - Ambam GABON: Eboro - Bitam - Mitzic - THE EQUATOR - Njole - Bifoun - Kango.

We've had plenty of all three while staying with Rina Pretorius, the endlessly hospitable Counsellor at the South African High Commission in Yaoundé.

Last night she hosted a reception in our honour, to meet Cameroonian tourism ministry people as well as a South African parliamentary delegation here on a forestry and water mission.

Then today we dropped the Toyota Fortuners and Land Cruisers off at Cami Toyota, who are tightening bolts jogged loose by the potholes and generally giving them a once over, while we were taken on a tour to Mbalmayo and A'Kok-Bekoe, about 70 km from Yaoundé, to tour some impressive grottos.

(An interesting feature of some of the homesteads we've passed alongside the road is that many have fairly elaborate graves in the front yard. Apparently if you have family and ancestors buried in the garden, others will be less likely to try and appropriate your home or land.)

It's Day 33 and we've entered Gabon, the seventh of 12 countries we'll travel on this expedition. We were accompanied by more armed guards all the way to the Cameroonian border, and they also smoothed our passage through customs and immigration - two hours and 20 minutes to do both sides (including an extra stop in Bitam, the first major town we came to in Gabon, where the gendarmerie has to stamp passports), which is something of a record.

We're now flying along brilliant tar roads - like a highway - with absolutely impenetrable forest on either side. Well, it's a jungle out there?

Day 34: We've crossed the Equator, and feel at home now in the Southern Hemisphere - for the moment, at least!

We made great time yesterday, with our moving average speed shooting up to 61Km/h, which hasn't happened often on this trip. We stopped at Oyem, a tiny town boasting a magnificent red bricked, full-sized cathedral, and overnighted at the Salesienne Sisters Mission, where we were welcomed by the most gentle and friendly nuns - even if they were surprised to see our camp set-up sprout like a mushroom on their front lawn.

The brilliant highway continued as far as the Equator, and then became a narrow tar ribbon pitted with dangerous potholes that had us weaving from side to side.

Suddenly all the massive logging trucks we have to pass have become a real danger: the road twists and turns, making it almost impossible to see ahead, and the trucks seem to travel in convoys of three or even five, so passing becomes a nightmare. On top of all that they take up much more than their lane and sometimes swing out to avoid potholes.

Another disturbing sight we're witnessing more and more (in fact it started in Cameroon) is bushmeat hanging up for sale at the side of the road. We've seen monkeys hanging by one paw, including what we think was an endangered mandrill, porcupines and even pangolins, being shaken by their hunters so they can't furl up.

The animals are alive.

Hunting and selling bushmeat is officially illegal in Gabon, but unofficially it's freely available - openly for sale at the roadside, in the markets and listed on restaurant menus. We've stopped for the night at Kango, just 100Km from Libreville, Gabon's capital, and we're staying at Hotel Assok, whose menu lists python, monkey, pangolin, crocodile, antelope and more. We're having omelettes.

Adelle Horler and Geoff Dalglish

Visit the Toyota Timbuktu Table Mountain Web Log for updates and photos at http://blogspace.mweb.co.za

With thanks to our sponsors Toyota South Africa, Megaworld, African Outback Products, Pertec, Garmin, MWEB @ Home - iPass, African Stuff, Toshiba and DataShuttle. Thanks also to CFAO Toyota dealerships in Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso and to Cami Toyota in Cameroon. for their enthusiastic assistance.

*Catch the television series on this expedition on SABC TV3 on Sundays, starting on September 3 at 5:30 pm.


Timbuktu Expedition rolls on

2006-06-12 15:06

Inside Wheels24

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