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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
I move South, retracing my steps on the main highway running the length of The Congo. I continually stop and ask at gas stations, and all are completely empty. About half way to Brazzaville I pull over and transfer everything in my Titan Tank into the main Jeep tank, then continue on my way.
I struggle to find even a tiny road off the main highway, and eventually find a small track that dead-ends at a farm. It’s not ideal, though it will have to do for camping for the night. Just on dusk a couple of local farmers walk by, and they are eager to shake hands. I start to ask permission to camp there in French, and they immediately wave me down. These old men don’t speak a word of French, and I realize they are both pygmies. Both men must be well over 60 years old, and both have the height and build of a ten year old. I am amazed they are both shorter than my chest.
Using hand gestures I manage to show I intend to camp, and they both seem happy with that.
In the morning I move on, passing through a couple of interesting road blocks. It seems the Police, Military and Customs have not figured out a way to work together, and so at each road block I must have my details entered into separate massive ledgers. Again, one officer takes my documents and the others immediately demand to see them – and again I have to explain they will simply have to wait. A couple of the guys ask for money, I simply stand my ground and ask why, which is enough to make them back down.
As is traditional in this part of the world the president has spent an insane amount of money in his home town, and I am shocked to see a beautiful monument and grounds in front of a huge modern-looking hospital.
I continue on and on, with the gauge on the Jeep getting lower and lower. Somehow I convince myself there will be gas in the capital city of Brazzaville, and so set my sights on making it there. On the edge of the city at a road block one officer talks to another in a local language, before looking straight at me and saying “That will be $20 for our services”. It’s already been a long day, so I immediately start laughing loudly. In English I say “that’s a good one” as I pick up my passport and walk out. Neither says anything more to me.
In the city the gas gauge pegs well below zero – the lowest I have ever seen it. All gas stations have at least fifty cars waiting, and again none have a single drop of gas or diesel. I start to really worry about running out, and so I turn off the Jeep at every red light and intersection.
Expecting the Jeep to die at any moment, I am relieved to drive into the gates of Hippocampe – one of the most famous Overland hangouts in all of West Africa. This restaurant has offered free camping for Overlanders in their parking lot for decades, and virtually everyone driving this side of the continent makes a stop here.
When the wheels stop I have driven 569 miles (910km) without a gas station. The computer shows an average of 19.9mpg. Most of that was on a flat highway with the cruise set at 50mph.
I am now in a huge city that has zero gas.
I have no idea what I am going to do now.