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Viva Toyota Gabon!

2006-07-18 19:07
DAYS 35 to 42: 29 June - 6 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.

Apart from some tiresome potholes and a couple of unpleasant dirt stretches, the roads have been better than expected, we've had no vehicle problems, no injuries and no border difficulties (apart from one small bribe in Mali).

We hope our luck continues as we leave Gabon.

At the moment we're fresh from two fantastic Gabonese experiences: first was our three-day rest at Loango National Park, famous for its surfing hippos, that use the sea currents to move to new feeding grounds.

We stayed at Loango Lodge which sits on the edge of a wide river that opens into an immense system of lagoons covering hundreds of square kilometres.

They're linked by rivers flanked by dense bush, home to forest elephant which are slightly smaller than savannah elephants.

We saw them swimming in front of us, their trunks raised as snorkels, along with forest buffalo and spectacular birdlife - including the black-headed bee-eater, a big tick for birders.

Palm nut vultures, another special back home, were a dime a dozen, along with loads of African grey parrots - brilliant to see them in the wild.

Sadly we didn't spot any red river hogs with plumed ears, We fished, swam, rested, and took a great break from 35 days of hard driving in the Fortuners and Land Cruisers.

Which brings us to the other great Gabonese experience. Viva Toyota Gabon!

Our first stop when we arrived in Libreville, Gabon's seaside capital, was the local Toyota headquarters where they opened several bottles of fine French champagne to celebrate us making it this far.

Thank you Eric, Astrid, Francois, Vincent and Virginie: we were welcomed in style! Then that night they took us out for a Gabonese meal and quantities of Régab beer.

Since we'd done just over 9 800km, the Toyotas spent the next couple of days also taking a break, enjoying a full service and oil change, plus a couple of tweaks.

The aircon in one of the Fortuners (Baobab) had expired; there was a blockage in one of the lines from the refuel tank in a Land Cruiser (the two Cruisers are each carrying extra tanks, which are used to refuel the Fortuners); the dog guard in Baobab (Fortuner) had come loose and needed rewelding; and they did a spanner check on all nuts and bolts, and discovered that the drain plug on the rear differential of one of the Fortuners was loose and would probably have spilled its oil within a day or two.

By Day 40 the Toyotas were purring after their service and so were we - thank you Astrid for helping with all the Loango arrangements.

In fact Toyota Gabon have been extremely helpful and friendly, going well beyond the call of duty, entertaining us to two dinners with fine food and wine, and by babysitting our cars and other royal baggage.

Libreville's other happy event was that we welcomed a new member to the team. Hugh Price-Hughes, a paramedic and fire fighter from Johannesburg, has come to replace Pankil who sadly leaves us in Libreville. Thanks Pankil, for good care, pizzas and even chocolate cake baked in camp!

Day 41 saw us heading for Lambarene where we camped last night in the garden at the Mission of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, a beautiful collection of red brick buildings with pillars and arches, a tiny chapel and a most gentle Argentinean nun creating an oasis of peace.

Lambarene is most famous for its hospital created by Dr Albert Schweitzer, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. He dedicated his life to healing and creating a village for lepers, who previously were exiled from their homes.

We visited the hospital this morning - the original part is now an interesting museum, alongside the newer hospital - which sits on a wide river, in the tranquil shade of many trees. Schweitzer is buried there.

Despite some decidedly Eurocentric attitudes, he lived his motto, 'Reverence for life' - which was an ironic start to the day: from there we left for Mouila, passing loads of living and dead bushmeat - pythons, monkeys, baby duikers - along the way.

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. 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.


Haplessly traversing home

2006-06-08 12:03

Inside Wheels24

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