Out of Loango
Reluctantly I bid farewell and pry myself away from the paradise at Loango Lodge. It is a truly unforgettable place. The massive rains in the last couple of days have changed things considerably, though the manager assures me the water crossings won’t be over the hood of the Jeep. I certainly squirm in my seat as I drop into a couple of them, wondering when I will hit bottom.
I backtrack to the Shell Oil Field, where I again talk to the guys guarding the entrance. They mentioned the possibility of catching a Shell ferry which would massively reduce the distance I have to drive all the way out and around to see the Southern end of Loango National Park. The guys make a few phone calls and assure me it is no problem to register on the ferry, which leaves tomorrow morning.
The escort through the oil field drops me at the Southern end where I am free to drive the hundred or so miles down to where the ferry docks. The road is breathtaking, winding through small mountains, thick jungle and occasionally open grassland.
I come around a corner and am startled to see a massive elephant right on the side of the road. I stop and stare, not really understanding what I am looking at as he stares right back at me. It is a surreal moment, and I wind up watching for about ten minutes. At first the big guy is a little uneasy and keeps a close eye on me, though he calms down and settles into stripping the leaves from a tree. I am shocked how much power he seems to have in his trunk, and how loudly he snaps branches and eats greenery. Because he is a forest elephant he is smaller than the huge Savannah variety, and his skin and tusks are much darker in color, almost dirty and discolored.
Years ago when I dreamed of Africa, this is what I dreamed of!
I continue South for the rest of the day, eventually arriving at the ferry terminal right on dusk. A few other drivers a milling around and also plan to camp right there in the big parking lot. I’m amused to see a few take a swim, while others warn me of crocodiles.
I park near the dense forest, and during the night I am certain I hear an elephant eating noisily. In the morning I find fresh footprints and massive piles of dung on the ground less than ten yards from the Jeep.
When the ferry arrives the captain introduces himself, then after checking his paperwork says he is sorry to say I am not registered to catch the ferry. Unfortunately I mis-understood the guys at the gate in French when they said they were registering me – apparently they were saying I *can* register, but not that they were doing it for me.
The captain is extremely friendly, and eventually I am up in the bridge of the ship where we call multiple people in an attempt to get me on last minute. I wind up speaking to a very high-up French man who runs the ferry company, and much to my relief he is happy to speak English on the phone rather than tolerate my French.
Although he does his best to help, he says I simply can’t get on without Shell’s approval, and that takes at least 48 hours from the submission of a written request. If I want to sail next week, he’d love to have me aboard.
It was worth a shot.
The captain the drivers even offer me food, water and gas to make sure I have enough, before wishing me all the best on my journey. As they wave and sail away I transfer gas from my auxiliary tank into the main tank, and stout to retrace my steps all the way back to the highway.
Again the drive is spectacular, and again I camp a couple of nights off the side of the road, throughly enjoying the dense jungle.
Gabon is amazing!