The Northern Hemisphere and Libreville.... Living up to its reputation: Getting my freedom back!

"Into Africa" More than a Motorcycle Adventure
Howard Fairbank
Sat 15 Mar 2014 12:36

00:23.00N 009:26.81E


Flag of Gabon


13th to 15th March 2014.



Well, I’m officially into the Northern Hemisphere, and also, this is the both the furthest north, and west, I have been on this huge, African expedition. These may seem like arbitrary reference points, but particularly the north milestone, has been one my mind has been waiting for many months now. I remember way back in August 2013, when I was in Kenya just in the Northern Hemisphere and dealing with the decision to head all the way back south to Botswana, so I could do Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Lake Tanganyika, but also get around the DRC. It was a very challenging thought, and a decision I didn’t take lightly. Once the decision was made it took me a few weeks before my mind capitulated to facilitating the decision’s pleasurable execution.  That’s all done now, and I have finally recovered my north latitude, and with a huge amount of truly amazing experiences (and the necessarily associated ‘ordeals’) along the journey.   It feels good, to stand back and look at the big picture view of this demanding expedition, and what has been achieved…..



If you have been reading the recent posts, you may have picked up how parochial and narrow focused the posts have been?  To be honest the challenges and conditions have required all my resources to keep moving forward, and this requires focus on the immediate priorities, with little time or energy for anything else. I feel it hugely inside me, I have noticed that I have lost my spirit of inquisitiveness, and the creative ability to see things outside of the immediacy, and I’m almost only into bike riding, and survival mode. I never saw this expedition about motorcycling, but rather about exploring Africa, and the motorcycle was just the means. That’s changed in the past weeks, as the conditions have demanded more attention to the adventure struggle, and a  pure motorcycling focus.  


Maybe there will come a time, where I truly take you further inside my world of dealing with the inner side of this journey. I do hope to ‘sometime’, send out a big picture, summary type ‘Simply Adventure’ e-letter, similar to what I did, late December 2013, after Phase 1. For now, it’s back to the more functional, day to day stuff, like crossing the equator!


Well the ride from Lambarene, took on new purpose when I realised I’d arrive in Libreville on Thursday, and if I didn’t get to the Nigerian embassy earlier enough, I’d be holed up in Libreville till Monday or Tuesday!


This Central / West African side is very visa intense, and apart from often driving priorities, it also means a lot of time is spent dealing with arrogant bureaucrats, begging and being humiliated, before being raped for exorbitant visa fees. I was expecting Nigeria to be right up there with the worst, so best get there early! This gave me incentive to wake up early and leave for Libreville at first light. I had 230 kilometres ahead of me, and then the challenge of finding the embassy office.


This gave me incentive to wake up early and leave for Libreville at first light. I had 230 kilometres ahead of me, and then the challenge of finding the embassy office. I imagined it would take me two to three hours but it ended up being almost five hours. Most of the road was through the dense forest again, and so a very winding road, with lots of dips and rises. Then I got caught up in a convoy of huge logging trucks, escorted by normal vehicles, front and back. There were 12 trucks in convoy, and although these trucks got up speed downhill, they slowed on the hills, and the twisting road made it quite challenging passing them. The result was that I ended up sitting behind these trucks for many kilometres. This enabled me to actually see the enormity of these trunks, and it was visually obvious the value of the timber. I wondered how often a week these convoys run, and what the extent of forest destruction was?


Not long after I had passed all 12 trucks, the Equator sign came up, and I just had to stop to capture on record my, now fourth, surface based, equator crossing. I was just finishing up photographing when I heard ‘them’ coming again! Yeah, they all came past and I had to repeat the passing exercise all over again. The nice thing was almost all the drivers gave me a small, “I know you”, hoot as I passed them one by one.


As I got closer to Libreville, the road surface deteriorated as they were busy with re-surfacing. This together with a significant increase in population density meant traffic was now an issue, and real attention to the road was needed.


I was soon right in Libreville, it’s a huge spread out city, and I was riding down the main oceanside esplanade, impressed with the quality of the infrastructure and the level of building activity.




The city is quite special as far as layout and French feel goes. I can see why the French see Gabon as a special African country for them, and Libreville as an attractive African city for them.



Well my Nigerian visa, as expected was a long, and  emotionally wrenching story, but the good news was my strategy worked and I had me visa by Friday afternoon. Many hours spent waiting at the embassy, but interestingly many of them were spent having very stimulating conversations about Gabon and Africa, and where they are going. These discussions with people also waiting for visas, and so the time didn’t seem totally wasted. The real issue is the arrogant abuse of power, and the attitude of looking in your eyes while they rip you off. I saw it happen with almost each person before me!


A few more photos from Libreville:



The usual conflicting picture Africa throws at one:

Pollution on the main esplanade, and then a new, African form, of the traditional  ‘Hotel De Ville’!



Tomorrow I leave for Cameroon, and not sure what internet will be like, but I’m hoping to get to Yaounde in three days or so…


While walking around the port today, I connected with some guys from the ‘Tatina Estella, cargo ship, from Cameroon. I wasn’t looking for a ride, but as we spoke more, it became apparent that they were heading to Cameroon later in the afternoon, and could take me and my bike! Now as I thought about it more and more, it would be a great adventure, and was a ‘nice’ solution for a number of issues I was dealing with. We went through all the logistics details, got the immigration and customs people onside, but eventually the price they wanted was too high, and I was put myself right up there for more money being demanded on arrival. It didn’t feel sweet, nearly though!