A tough, but rewarding day..... Soyo, and finally the Congo River!

"Into Africa" More than a Motorcycle Adventure
Howard Fairbank
Sat 1 Mar 2014 12:01

06:07.16S 12:21.58E




28th February, 2014   (Hmmm, the last day of February!)


You may wonder too?:


I wonder if ‘tough’ and ‘rewarding’ are a symbiotic pair! And the answer for me is: Unquestionably yes!  Haha, maybe the Congo River has affected me!

Everyday takes me further North, closer to the equator again, and it feels like I’m right here, it’s very warm, and muggy, a thick atmosphere that seems to continually ooze precipitation, even when there is no rain. Last night I was in a hospedairio, where the air conditioning didn’t work, and I had a pretty uncomfortably muggy night. Going down for ‘breakfast’, I arrived with my t-shirt in hand as I was sweating profusely just from my packing up and dressing activity. The elderly lady that manages the kitchen looked quite shocked at my state, but then I told her why, how I was struggling with the heat, and she seemed to understand. Breakfast consisted of a cup of black coffee, supplemented with my camping, Coffeemate again, and a delightful, icy, Vietnamese made, fruit juice, which I bought. Interesting how the Vietnamese have got into the Angolan fruit juice market, seemingly being the largest market shareholder.


As I was about to leave the waiter asked me to take a shot of him, with his camera, this is my shot. So nice to have guys asking for their photo with their camera, rather than asking for money after I take a shot!

It had rained heavily overnight, the typical equatorial rains that I have come to understand now…. Relatively short, but very intense bursts, that one can always hear from inside a building, no matter where you are. The net result is that the road out of my hospedario was just a mud canal, reminding me of what I most of the day today was probably going to be like….Hmmm, I reminded myself to prepare for a hard day, of intense riding concentration on the bike.


     The Main road in Nzeto....!

After riding out on the main road above, I hit the start of tar again, and having just passed a dirt road off to the left, stopped to ask a local village guy, which was the road to Soyo? He pointed to the tar, and said direct ahead, until I meet a police control point, then I didn’t understand more other than that I’d have to turn left there. Well, a bonus 40 kilometres of tar, still on the road to the DRC, but going eastwards, I come to the police block. Normal stuff, passport, licence, bike papers, etc, but really friendly and helpful guys. In fact all the people I have met in the last two days have just been so friendly, and genuine, probably some of the best people I have come across on this whole Africa trip…. I sometimes just wish my Portuguese was that little better…. I start getting into their subtleties and humour and then run out of vocabulary! These guys told me that I’d just have to cross the Mbridge River, bridge (that’s a funny one hey. See pic below) ahead, and then turn left and from there on to Soyo, it was dirt road…. 140 kilometres or so… I never know when to know that these guys actually do know the kilometres, I have had my spirits raised and lowered so many times, I just treat the answers as maybe, maybe not, just embrace the journey whatever it will be….! I did actually think about this a lot today, and thought what does it help to know how far one has to go, it just begs the next question, and then the next question, etc, none of which takes you any closer to the endpoint… At best it only helps one, prepare for the journey and what it may entail, but if this is all what we need to deal with our fear of ourselves and the uncertainty. You may be wondering why I don’t have a map, and / or know where I am going? Fair question, for an adventurer! Well, I worked out that the roads on my map in Angola aren’t actually in Angola anymore, and the distances are not accurate, plus there are very few signs around, and if there are, they are well camouflaged….. To me it’s all part of the fun of roughing it… Strangely it builds something inside of me, that I value, knowing I can do it, ‘without much’, other than my gut and spirit…  It seldom fails, me, and like most things, as you build it more with success, it builds itself into something valuable…! I see it in all the disciplines I adventure in, ‘people’ are relying too much on technology which gives them artificial intelligence, eroding their ‘gut intelligence’, the real stuff!  


A view of the pumping Mbridge River, from the bridge!

Since yesterday I could feel the whole experience moving into a new zone, and crossing this bridge and onto the dirt (mud!) road to Soyo, moved it further into the zone. The bird life improved dramatically, I saw lots of my favourite, palm nut vultures, down to lots of waxbills, etc…. It just felt like the wild bush again! Maybe it was being free again…!!  I noticed the trees, the huge baobabs, then the  dense palm forests, stopped at the villages, spoke to the kids, simple things, but just all very special. I felt privileged to be out there. The ‘fear’ of the bad road was somehow gone, replaced with a focus to win, and not fall, through concentration and respect for the conditions. A strange mixture of super confidence yet acknowledged vulnerability to myself….



The road wasn’t easy, varying from sand to mud, and even open water, with unknown underneath it’s brown murkiness. Then the occasional traffic, mainly large trucks, mainly driven by Chinese, who are ‘still’ building the road, my travel guide said was scheduled to be complete in 2010! Give it to the powers that be, they are building a serious road, and from the double bridges across the rivers, they are planning ahead for significant traffic usage! At the moment most of the bridges are initial stage, concrete structures.



Most of the times I was able to go faster than the trucks, standing up on the footrests, the bike became a fluid, animal of the road, taking the inevitable holes and ridges in its stride, as I moved in counterbalancing-unison with its demands!


  A reminder how the mud can suck up vehicles! I saw a number of these!

The ‘soft sand’ is where ‘we’ showed our Achilles heel, and my fear, tried to pop back into forefront focus, as I twitched my ankles, in a reminder of how well they are healing, and don’t need setbacks… (Yeah, still not back to 100% yet!) As they went by, four wheels (or more) having enviable stability, the trucks could see me struggling in the soft stuff. The bike occasionally slewed to one side, with me hauling in the clutch, tapping off the power immediately, and avoiding disaster.


About 7ok kilometres into the dirt road, just where the picture in of the bridge above was, as I came through the dip where the river was, I looked up at the valley top, and thought I’d seen an apparition: Another crazy solo motorcyclist, it can’t be? Well, yes it was, Stephan from Spain, heading the other way to Luanda, having left Spain two months ago. I stopped and we must have chatted for an hour, many questions about our unknown roads ahead, as the other had the i….Cheating or sensible, you decide???? It is always nice meeting some form of kindred spirit, and Stephan fitted that description, other than he had a KTM, bike. I don’t want to tempt fate, but he had a few stories of bike problems, and I once again quietly thanked Yamaha, an my specific ‘friend’ for the wonderful, trouble free partners they have been for me…



Stephan, spoke excitedly about Gabo, the Cameroons, and Mali, and that was just what I needed to confirm the new horizons awaiting. We parted with a warm handshake, and my commitment to meet him in May at his home in Northern Spain.  


The constant focus on the road is draining, and I took more than ‘the usual’ rest and refreshment breaks, always stopping at a local village to mingle with the locals. This one, more remote one, was particularly interesting. There was no central ‘retail’ area, just a community square where they were drying fish for their own consumption.



The kids came out to great me, and soon I had about six around the bike wanting pictures taken of them with the bike. When I said they could one by one, get on the bike, they were beyond themselves, fighting to be first…..



A loner, who looked a bit older joined them, and the one guy went out of his way to show me that this new guy was more like me than them, pointing to the colour of his skin and then mine…! He mas of mixed race, and they wanted me to know that…….. Geee, it’s interest how early all this stuff starts hey…. What it is like to be different man???


  The Different Boy!   In many ways I could relate to his journey ahead!

Eventually the road took me right down to the see, next to the ocean and then across this bridge back inland a bit.




I eventually hit tar road for the last 10 kilometres into Soyo, feeling good that I had conquered the challenge of the day. The bike had the red mud to show for it:



I was lucky in finding a hospedario on the road to the port, and mouth of the Nile. It looked great value for Angola, at $90 a night, double bed, main en suite, and even a lounge area, TV, and air conditioning. I quickly changed out of my muddy motorcycling gear, and headed off to find the mouth of the Congo River:


Figure Hard to see but the south end of the river mouth is on the left, and north end barely visible above the concrete pier on the right. This is one huge river mouth!

The last ‘chore’ for the day was trying to secure a boat and captain who will take me and my motorcycle the 60 kilometres across the river mouth and north up to Cabinda, part of Angola.


Just found an internet connection so will send this now, rather than finish it all….


I have found a boat and captain, and at 3pm today….1 March I hope to be ‘sailing’ to Cabinda…Another mini adventure!


More soon