Day 120 :Into Congo

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Fri 4 Mar 2011 18:25
Day 120: Friday 4 March 2011.  Bush camp south of Nyanga, Congo.  S03 00.269 E011 58.907  Distance driven 146 km. Total distance 18,648 km
Here we are, 7pm and it is dark outside, the bugs have driven us into the car and we are sitting here running the aircon!
Having thought about the potential wheel bearing problem during the night, I replaced the bearing this morning before we left and we then motored on a good dirt road about 80 km to the Congo border.  As usual, the border formalities were spread out over about 50 km but it was all very friendly and informal with no touts and no hassle.  The road across the border was very low-key with practically no traffic, considering that it is one of the two main routes between Congo and Gabon.  On the Congolese side we had to attend at no less than 12 official posts for police, frontier guard, immigration, gendarmerie and customs spread over 30 km.  According to our Tracks 4 Africa map, we crossed and re-crossed the border about 5 times!
At the frontier we caught up with one of the overland trucks that we keep coming across.  This one is Africa Tours and is run by Farron and Leigh and they are headed the same route as we are to Namibia.
Once into Congo the road deteriorated very badly and for 25 km was one of the worst we have encountered, with very deep ruts and potholes all full of rain water. For a while we were behind the Afritours truck and watched it wallow through the holes listing heavily and with the back wheels becoming airborne as it went into the holes! Jenny took some great photos  of it plunging through a waterlogged section.
On the Congolese side it was very noticeable how much more populated it is than Gabon, even in these remote rural areas.  There is just a continuous string of little villages with lots of people, mainly sitting around drinking beer, but perhaps that's because it is Friday afternoon?
During the day we called Travelex on the Sat Phone and arranged for money to be transferred to us at Pointe Noire by Western Union.  If successful, we'll treat ourselves to a good meal out, maybe a hotel and certainly a car wash!