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Grumpy officials and high walls

2006-07-19 12:21
DAYS 48 to 49: 12 July to 13 July

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 - Libreville - Lambarene - Mouila - Ndende - Doussala REPUBLIC OF CONGO (BRAZZAVILLE): Ditsandu village - Nyanga - Loubetsi - Kibangou - Pointe-Noire - Nzassi CABINDA: Cacongo - Futila Beach - Futila Beach DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC): Muanda.

We bopped and bounced our way along the mainly single lane track through the bush for over 100km, which took almost six hours of hard driving. On flat sandy stretches we could push over 70 km/h, but the bulk of the route had us slowed to a crawl, negotiating deeply eroded dongas, lumps and places where, in the wet season, people had obviously become hopelessly mired.

Over time vehicles have eroded parts of the track to the point where there are chest-high sand walls on either side, which must be treacherous in the wet as they'd fill with water and you wouldn't know how deep they are.

Even potholes and dongas would be impossible to gauge after rain, and the wet season would definitely render certain sections impassable, even in a rugged 4x4.

At times it was hard to believe this is the country's main road, but thankfully we met very little traffic.

Over some of the worst sections our vehicles' wheel travel and supple ride were much appreciated, but passengers and cargo still took a pounding.

On the last section though we were rewarded with our first sighting of the mighty (there's actually no other word) Congo River, that's wide and deep enough for huge tanker traffic.

We overnighted at the Catholic Mission in Boma, a bustling little town with a magnificent red brick cathedral. Next to it though is the DRC's first ever Christian church, a delightful, typically gothic-style cathedral with a magnificent spire, but the main body of the church is about the size of a double garage.

Our goal the next day, Day 49, was Matadi, to cross into Angola. The last section was great tar snaking along the Congo Rover, which looks more like a lake than a river.

A magnificent kilometre-long suspension bridge, apparently the largest in Africa, spans the water just before the town. We were a bit nervous of Matadi, as two weeks ago a solider was killed by a crowd there, and the army retaliated and killed 13 civilians, but thankfully the vibe was relaxed and people were friendly, even though they're gearing up for elections in a few days' time.

The border crossing was relatively fast and friendly too (just under three hours for both sides), except for one spectacularly sour Angolan customs official who insisted on a vehicle search. He refused even to be moved by the Angolan flag painted on my toenail, courtesy of our day-long wait to get into DRC!

Adelle Horler and Geoff Dalglish

Visit the Toyota Timbuktu Table Mountain Web Log for updates and photos at http://blogspace.mweb.co.za, or go to www.mweb.co.za, click on Blogs, and look for Toyota Timbuktu Table Mountain.

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

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


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2006-05-31 11:57

Inside Wheels24

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