I backtrack to the Immigration / Military Post just before Lekoni, where the friendly guy there remembers me from a few days prior, and is more than happy to stamp out my passport with any exit date I want. He is proud to hear I have enjoyed my time in the area, and agrees the Canyon is a highlight. I walk one hundred yards to Customs, and the temp import for the Jeep is also stamped out in less than three minutes.
With so many friend people around I feel a tinge of regret to be leaving Gabon – although I have explored for an entire month, I feel I am leaving a lot behind.
I continue directly East on the major highway, and soon arrive at a barrier across the road, the formal exit of Gabon. I wait only a few minutes while a local ahead of me is processed, then it’s my turn. As usual all my details are entered into an enormous paper ledger, and I am asked to move the Jeep on three separate occasions for reasons that are not clear to me.
The minutes later I am on the road, and continue on the best highway imaginable into the Republic of Congo. The first barrier across the road turns out to be Customs, and the young man there is very apologetic when it takes ten minutes to write up a temp import for the Jeep. For the now standard price of 10,000 CFA (about $15 USD) I am issued a one month permit and a very official-looking receipt.
A little further down the highway the story repeats at Immigration, though this time the boss (big man) has a helper. The big man does all the questioning and interrogation, while the helper tries his best to appease him. The big man is very formal and proud when he points to the list of countries that require a visa, and looks a little deflated when I show him mine in my passport. After a lot of careful inspection he accepts it, and has the helper write all the details into the obligatory massive ledger. At one point the helper makes a minor mistake (I think he can’t write very well – and I’m certain the big man can’t at all) and the big man goes absolutely berserk at him. I’m extremely uncomfortable to be in the same room during the belittling, but there is nothing I can do.
Waiting outside a young lady is waiting for a ride in the direction I’m going. Before stamping my passport, the big man asks if I can take her half an hour down the highway. I feel backed into a corner, although I would have said yes anyway, I always enjoy the company.
With a flash new stamp in my passport and the young lady in the front seat, we set off further into Congo. I ask all the questions I can think of about the country, and the young lady is happy to oblige me. She is a student, and although there is an elementary school here, there is no high school or University here. (In French I didn’t completely understand if she attends a kind of University, or some kind of school after high school). She happily waves at her ten classmates walking on the highway as we pass by.
The amazingly good highway continues, and I am shocked to keep driving through open grassland and rolling hills. Again, I had always imagined Congo to be pure jungle. The heat and humidity ratchet up a notch, solidly into “unbearable”. After chatting back and forth we arrive at Congo’s North-South highway – the biggest road in Congo. I drop off my passenger before turning North, excited to be setting out to explore the Congo, country number fifteen.
For all the details to drive your own vehicle in and around Congo, including obtaining a tourist visa, gas and diesel prices, border procedures, paperwork, insurance, prices, camping and more, see http://wikioverland.org/Congo