A day in Pointe Noir.....Day away from the 'office'
4 March, 2014
This was officially my day out of ‘the office’….. so just a few snippets from my relaxing day in this Congolese city.
Off day’s also should be free of ordeals, and this one had definitely passed that test, other than in my brief hour of ‘work’, I had found to that contrary to my information, I needed a visa for Gabon, and had to obtain it before arriving at the border. There were no consular services in Point Noire, and so my decision was made, I’d be travelling to Brazzaville, ‘tomorrow’. I had this as an option, and thought it was about 500 kilometres, of which 300 or so would require me to double back, to get back on the road to Gabon. From my map, and the pretty good Congo roads I had already experienced, I thought I had a 5-6 hour ride ahead, so this rest day was a good strategy. So a bit about Point Noire:
The city centre is fairly developed with signs of investment and modern infrastructure going up. An area of maybe 2km X 2km, and outside of that is the typical African city chaos, with informal business, mixed with formal, potholed roads, markets every now and then, but always real busy, with people in the streets, clearly out there to look for and buy the goods on offer.
The scenes above were taken on my early morning walk in search for a great coffee and French pastries….? I passed this guy selling fresh baguettes, and pate, he could make a delightful sandwich to order, for you right there as you wait. Very cheap, and the locals buy on their way to work. The other shot is of a delightful, French cuisine, restaurant called ‘Cactus’, just over the road from my hotel, and with a very special display outside of cacti and other equatorial indigenous plants.
Desiring a bit of exercise and ‘natural inspiration’, I went down to the main beach for a swim. Pointe Noir, was a long open beach front, and then right on the south end is the popular beach place for the locals. Lines and lines of umbrellas and chairs, where you can sit and watch the oceans, while being served food and drinks. All very civilised, but I was quite a rare species, being an adult who stripped down and went swimming in the ocean. There were a few young kids enjoying the nice size, breaking waves, and they migrated to where I was swimming, greeting me with polite: “Bojour, monsieur”! I was fascinated by the number of ‘professional’ photographers around, all keen to capture that special shot of ‘you’ at the beach…. Interesting in this digital age, that they have a business…?
As the sun started setting, I was amazed at how many oil platforms popped up on the distant horizon. Angola was full of oil / gas platforms off the coast, and now the Congo too…
The more formal infrastructure of Pointe Noire: The Railway station, clearly a renovated version of the old colonial one, and it seemed to be operational, but not passenger trains. Then, the cheapest hotel in town, but not a desirable place to spend a night or more: The Hotel de Police! A little bit broken down, but very operational.
The two pictures below, are of my hotel and its restaurant, Hotel Master! This was on the main street in the central business area, very pleasant, and I even had CNN to watch…! It was good to find out about Ukraine / Russia happenings, but as I always find, after an hour or so it’s very repetitive, sensational, and trying to make the viewer feel as if they are involved in the judgements of what / who is right and wrong, and what action should be taken. After Iraq, I guess, I have become quite a sceptic, about the media’s ability to falsely shape our views of things… Not seeing TV for weeks, and sometimes months, I always find it quite disturbing when I first connect back to it: The initial reaction is that wow, I have been missing out on real important stuff, but then as I reflect, I feel that this content is being made to seem, urgent, very important, and to hook me the viewer to thinking I’m actually involved in the decisions and outcomes. Anyway, it was nice to feel the ‘normal’ world again….For a short time!
The restaurant next to the hotel, is ‘quite a place’! I decided to go there for dinner and a drink, rather than have a beach evening! Well I walked in there, and I was surprised what I saw: European men, and provocatively dressed, attractive local barmaid and waitresses. Hmmm, is this a prostitute pickup joint? No, it seemed better than that, and as I searched for a vacant table, I felt I was the centre of attention, as I was the, lost, newbie in town. I soon settled down, and was into my romantic dinner for one, determined to not be distracted by the whole scene. Within minutes one of the single ladies, sitting with a drink, spoke across her table to me, asking me in French where I was from, and then quickly switching to English. Next she asked me if she could come join me, and looking for an interesting conversation I said, “why not?”. As soon as we had got through the niceties I made it real clear to her that I wasn’t needed anything other than some good conversation, and also that I wasn’t interested in paying for her drinks or whatever…! Yeah, yeah have gotta know what you want, and be clear what you don’t want! I take this tack, because, I’d prefer my own company than waste it with someone wanting to try and make a buck out of me! Well it took about half an hour of me really being nice and friendly, but getting nothing back from her, that I managed to drag out of her that yeah she provides massages and sex….! Well, I was always expecting that, but enjoyed the journey to finding it out… I sense with the French ex-pat community here, it’s all a big part of the survival in Pointe Noir culture. My food was great, complimented with a chilled(I guess this is equatorial heat!) OK, French red wine to cap a lovely ‘day off’.