Gabon – rainforest and Albert Schweitzer (April 2014)

 

In the morning we replaced a lost rubber at one of the Landy’s front shock absorbers which turned out to be far more complicated than on a Land Cruiser and required the use of an oil filter wrench. During that Jasmine prepared some pancakes with extra ants due to contaminated flour in memory of her grandfather who was a pancake master and died one year before. Border formalities to enter Gabon went smoothly even though they were spread out over several kilometres and different stops. The immigration guy in Bitama apparently had a bad day and acted like a complete nob but gave us the desired stamps nevertheless. The first impression of Gabon was that of a wealthy country with brand new vehicles on the perfect tarmac road and comparatively modern buildings. We drove through endless dense rain forests with few settlements and none of the livestock, motorbikes and other obstacles that we knew from West Africa on the roads.

We found a nice little bush camp and headed on towards Lambarène the following morning. The road was beautiful but very curvy and we spotted many an overturned truck along the way. Lambaréne turned out to be a widespread and relaxed town located on the banks of a river and some islands. We had no luck finding a new laptop charger, Marc bought some Toyota relays to be able to start the Landy again and a junkie tried to pick a fight with us. In the evening we ended up at the Albert Schweitzer Museum and were allowed to camp on its car park.

Albert Schweitzer was a German-French doctor who got a Nobel Prize for Peace and opened a hospital for the locals in Gabon in 1913. He spent many years in Lambarène and lays buried there with his family. Famous for his selfless medical work, theological opinions and fight against nuclear tests, his hospital is still running here and providing much needed healthcare to the locals.

We were lucky as we met Nils the next morning who maintains the hospital equipment once a year for two weeks. Instead of visiting the museum we got a tour of the running hospital which turned out to be highly interesting. We also learned that Lambarène is home to more than 150 different kinds of mosquitoes and malaria laboratories come here to collect their samples. And then it was already time to head on with our Angola visas still running out so we drove towards the border with the Republic of Congo. Shortly before Mouila the skies opened and some of the heaviest rainfall of our trip came down on us obscuring the views of the road. To our luck we left the good tarmac and hit a piste shortly after. As it was getting dark already we tried to camp in one of the road construction gravel pits until we realised that the cars were sinking deeper and deeper as the pit got flooded. We crept out of our refuge and headed on through the darkness, hitting some deep potholes heavily as it was impossible to see anything, let alone a possible bush camp. So for the first time on this trip we were happy to see our antagonists – the police. We asked at the little checkpoint in the middle of nowhere if we could set up camp somewhere around and were directed to the shack acting as a police station – finally a compact area that does not turn into sticky mud in minutes. We treated ourselves to a homemade pumpkin soup with roasted sausage and fell asleep to the sound of the retreating rain.

In the morning we were laying under the Landy once again as the new shock absorber rubber decided to make a runner already. We continued on the now softer and smoother piste to the border. All exit formalities were done by one lonely police officer at an isolated station where we discovered that one of our front shock absorbers tried to get away and dropped out of its lower bracket. One more stop right at the border with our details being filled in a big book by a completely wasted and slightly gay soldier and we were off into the Republic of Congo.

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