Point de Noir is the second biggest city in Congo and lies on the Atlantic coast and the team decided to drive there (some 160km) as they were told that it is fully tarred.
The road was fully tarred indeed and maintained again by the Chineseroad builders but was leading from one mountain to the next in never ending serpentines in so much that an average speed of 40km/h again could not be exceeded.
With the road connecting the 2 biggest towns in the Congo Brazzaville and Point de Noir there was also heavy truck traffic and passenger cars making overtaking almost impossible.
A live goat being tied onto the boot of a car
African monsters carrying logs – Lipstick nearly drove into these logs the night before…
Congo workers securing the mountain from falling onto the roads
Andre enjoying a banana freshly fetched from Lipsticks roof through the sun roof……..
Another great day driven through West Africa…
The last 15km into Point de Noir took over an hour in go- stop- go mode and African traders lining up on both sites of the road
The team also wanted to investigate the possibility to drive through Cabinda(an Angolan enclave between Congo and DRC Congo. Unfortunately the Angolan visas however only allows the team to enter Angola once and the possibility of getting another Transit Visa through this small piece of Angola became rather distant.
After some internet research and discussions with locals at Point de Noir Lipstick decided to abandon the task of getting another Angolan Visa from the embassy in Point de Noir as this would possibly mean waiting another 3-4 days with the possibility of being declined and form of transit permission through Cabinda.
The fall back would be to drive to Brazzaville and cross into the DR Congo by ferry to Kinshasa. Some other travellers describe this as the worst border crossing of the world but the team still decided this to be the better options after reading up Voetspore recent shortcut trip around Cabinda toward Matadi:
Quote from Voetspore:
Just outside Dolisie, direction Brazzaville, we took the turnoff to Londela Kayes. Soon the track became a footpath.
The roads also disappeared from our GPS. It was clear: few people had ventured in this direction with 4x4s in the recent past. A problem developed. Francois had been driving with one broken leaf spring since Dakar in Senegal. Up to that point the Cruiser had managed. But the condition of the roads, or actually the lack thereof, created other challenges. All his Cruiser’s springs collapsed, with the exception of the main spring.
He was driving at a snail’s pace, trying to protect his one remaining blade. The progress of the convoy was very slow. That night we camped in the middle of the “road”, as there was no traffic. Not that day. Not the next, or even in the foreseeable future. The following day we struggled towards Londela Kayes. Progress involved a lot of road building, winching vehicles from ditches and asking any local, in our best French, the route to Londela Kayes.
It became something of an expedition. We were happy to get to a border post with Frontiere Police, Customs and Passport Control. Our passports were stamped and we were pointed towards the south — towards the DRC. On the GPS it became clear after a while that we had crossed the border. The “road” remained a footpath. It must have been many years since the last vehicle travelled in this part of the world. Yet a few decades earlier there were well maintained roads in the area. We could see the deep ditches on the side of the road, built for the rainy season when the heavens opened and water had to be diverted away from the road.
Now these ditches became obstacles. Our vehicles fell into them time and time again and the winches on our Cruisers worked overtime. Just as the sun set we managed to get to a village. The villagers were restless and angry. They screamed and shouted and rocked our vehicles. We managed to attract the attention of the local chief, who led us to safety. We travelled to the next town. Progress was slow. The roads were more manageable, but we never got above 30km/h because of Francois’ broken springs. It was past midnight when we got to Kikenge. This is where the chief had indicated we should spend the night. The following morning the chief accompanied us to Luozi, where there was an even more important man. We arrived at the town just after midday, by which time “the important man” was highly intoxicated.
As there is simply only 3 ways to get to DR Congo
1) Through Cabinda but it is impossible to get a second visa from Angola at short notice
2) Team Voetspoore route described above would be too risky with one vehicle only
3) Through the world’s worst border crossing Brazzaville to Kinshasa
The team decided to have a rest day in Point de Noir , recharge all batteries and go through at Brazzaville therafter on by latest Wednesday 23rd July .
The next reports will give insight into what happened but as a foresight here are some reports of other travellers who did the crossing before team Lipstick.
|Carl & Tom (To Hell and Back), describe in vivid detail the entire process, including the offloading and re-loading of personal goods to be traded on the opposite bank:
The ferry actually consists of 3 small tug boats roped together, which sit very low in the water and plod their way across the fast flowing murky brown expanse of the Congo River.
As the boat became visible, so did more and more Police, many holding large batons or whips fashioned from rope or cord lashed together with strong tape, whilst others went for the most dangerous of all African weapons, the whistle (the rubber stamp is a close second).
There were red, black and pink pea-vibrating versions on display, the operators switching between different whistle instructions of
beep beep beep, to beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep or beeeeep beeeeep beeeeeep.
Of course, no one paid a blind bit of notice.
A week on, the main memories certainly revolve around the lack of order and the level of aggression. It is still almost incomprehensible how this can happen every single day, for most of the produce was damaged or broken by the time it was unloaded. Mental, nuts, stupid, crazy, idiotic and maddening; that’s how we summarise this surreal experience.
Team Lipstick will share its experience in 2 -3 days time as and when internet is available. For now a nice rest day in Point de Noir is had and the team just spotted a broken down overlander from Italy who wanted to do the same trip as Lipstick but now has total engine failure and decides to abandon the trip and fly home…… maybe he joins the team tonight for a few drinks…