An unexpectedly social day....... Now at sea on the way to Cabinda!
1st March, 2014
As we all now, life is full of surprises and sometimes when we think we know the path ahead, a third force intervenes, to show us life is not always predictable…. Well adventure is the epitome of that……
There I was, 10 am, and having just been out for a ‘local’ breakfast, I was sitting on one of my panniers, laptop on the bed, writing up the previous day’s blog. There was a surprise ringing of my doorbell, and I presumed that it was the hotel staff telling me that I was overstaying my checkout time. (The doorbell, being one of those real old fashioned electric ones, that even reminded me of school days!) Well I was the guy from reception, who cannot speak any English, and he rattled off some Portuguese, that I could find a single connection with…. Trying to help I went through in my ‘best’ Portuguese, what I assumed could be the possible reasons for his visit, but it clearly wasn’t those. (One of these reasons I thought was that it was the Immigration Police, again….: They stopped me twice, the day before, just as I was leaving the ‘hotel’ and demanded all my documents again…. But no they didn’t need me again….) The reception guy eventually disappeared and I was left wondering what I’d missed. A few minutes later, a French speaking, DRC guy (a Zairian, as they call them here), who I had chatted with last night, rang the bell. He then told me that there was a ‘friend’ waiting to see me down stairs. Now I was intrigued, and said to this guy, to send the guy up…..
Well, this imposing looking Angolan appeared, with a warm smile, and after confirming that that was my motorcycle outside, introduced himself as “Basilio”. Immediately he said his name I knew who he was: On a blog of a South African guy who had motorcycled up here last year, Basilio was mentioned as this larger than life character, who is passionate about motorcycling, and will go out of his way to meet and help touring guys like me! This was like manna from heaven, as only yesterday as I was struggling to find someone to take me and my bike on boat to Cabinda, and I thought: “If only I could contact this guy ‘Basilio’.” Now here he was…..!
We just bonded immediately, Basilio was just as intrigued to know how I knew of him, as I was to know how he tracked me down…?
Late afternoon, yesterday my ‘mission critical’ task was to find a way of getting, me and my bike, across the Congo River, around the DRC and into Cabinda. I’d headed for the direction of the Port, and as I asked a few people my hopes were raised that the large, commercial ferry that I’d read about, was back in operation. People seemed to know exactly what I was talking about, and directed me to the terminal where it clearly used to leave from. The final sign that it wasn’t running, was when the road led to the new LNG terminal security check point, and I could go no further. The security guys were very helpful, and the one guy in particular was interested in my journey, and also gave me the name of the place where the small local boats leave from. I was so thankful for that, didn’t think anything more of our interaction, and did a U turn, heading back into the chaos of town, to now try and find this place…. Well it turns out that that security guy, works for Basilio, who is ‘the man’ in charge of all security operation for the LNG plant, and he knew Basilio would want to meet up with me, as he is interested in touring motorcycling!
Lucky I parked my bike outside my 'hotel'...That's what Detective Basilio saw!
I eventually found the small boat place, that was hidden on the river, requiring almost motocross skills to navigate the craters, mud laden road, and then finally onto the river bank. The place teeming with people, loud music blaring, and obviously a central travel point. As I asked around, I realised none were going to Cabinda, these boats were used to take people to the plethora of islands spread out in the huge Congo mouth…. It is said to be 20 kilometres wide. Well, I certainly was a point of interest, and eventually the ‘businessman’ who does run the Cabinda route, found me, and we were able to negotiate a deal for the next day. He said I need to be there at 15h00, and the trip would take about 3 hours. I had read that the trip was six hours or so, so this surprised me. I asked to see the boat, and although it was fine for the bike, I did question his three hours, but left it at that, as time wasn’t the issue for me.
Not sure where this car was going, but seeing that did boost my confidence in the boatmen!
I was just very proud of myself that in an hour and a half I’d completed this important task, and could now go and have a relaxing dinner. (Well, although I had ‘secured’ the deal, the mind does start wondering what actually I had secured? There were no brochures, tickets, other people wanting the same journey, this was a one off special trip, and just like my adventure down Lake Tanganyika, I should just be calm, and have no expectations other than: We will eventually get there!
Back to Basilio: We chatted and he told me about his life, and his love of motorcycling, and how he is so alone within his community, in his interest of touring motorcycling. As he told me his ‘life story’, I became to appreciate a very deep, well rounded, guy, who had had a lot of diverse and rich life experiences. Most of all what impressed me, was his vision and philosophy, for himself and his family (He has a wife and three kids). Here was a guy who was questioning life, while at the same time he was living it to the full. In my travels in Africa, I have found few who are questioning, those that are driven, seem to have just locked on to western world goals of success. Basilio, was different, and yet he hadn’t lost perspective on where the Western definition of success fit into his life.
The rest of the day was spent in Basilio’s company, and I really enjoyed getting to know him, his perspectives on Angola, and then of course we shared many thoughts on adventure, and I sense I helped him move one more step forward to helping him define his motorcycling dreams. He invited me around to his house, and we had a wonderful, traditional, African lunch together, all expertly prepared by his fulltime housemaid. He opened up to me, that he had specially asked her to cook an ‘African’ lunch, as he seldom has it, and he thought, I’d appreciate it… It was very special, not just in the gesture, but in the whole experience. I tasted the Angolan version of Ugali, a starch made from the cassava root.
Lunch at Basilio's house
Basilio on his 1000cc Honda Tourer
It was just great to have Basilio assist with the boat people, and in the end, he was able to control the waiting game for our benefit. Although I was supposed to be at the river at 15h00, they only loaded the bike at 16h30, and we only finally set off at 19h45! This extra time was spent with Basilio at a wonderful, riverside resort, run by a Portuguese couple, for what seemed like mainly expatriates.
My bike being loaded onto the boat!
It had been a full day, and as I climbed aboard ‘my boat’, I wondered what lay ahead at sea…?