République du Congo - Brazzaville
Day 151 (5 March) – Brazzaville
We come to the oasis of Hippocampe Hotel and Vietnamese Restaurant. The very hospitable Olivier allows overlanders to stay in the parking lot and a large unused banquette room for free! Which is fine but Julia is really excited about the Vietnamese buffet. Olivier’s wife is Vietnamese and her family are running the kitchen so it is real Vietnamese food. Again, Stefan and Haike had told us about it in Benin and we have been looking forward to it ever since. On Friday and Saturday evening (from 7 till 10 PM) they even have an ‘All You Can Eat-Buffet’! And we can tell you,it does not disappoint!! Even if you come back on the Saturday for another time stuffing yourself full with delicious Vietnamese food, it is not disappointing…
The idea in Brazza is to cross by ferry to Kinshasa and drive from Kinshasa to Matadi, where there is a good paved road that takes about 4 hours before you reach the Angolan border. However, due to too much sand in the river (or at least that is as much as we understood for the locals) the normal (cheap) ferries cannot go. There are other ferries for cars and trucks, but as it turns out they are on strike and the costs you dearly (depending on your negotiation skills). We aren’t in a hurry to leave Brazza but we watch daily as other overlanders pack up their things with the intent of leaving and return each evening after a long day of hassling at the port. It is becoming clear that getting a ferry to Kinshasa will take a while and will be very expensive if and when it happens. So we start looking for alternatives…
Day 152 (6 March) – The day before…
In the meantime we are preparing for Eowyn’s 5th birthday tomorrow!! With all the stranded overlanders around we are able to put together quite a party. Unfortunately the day before her birthday Eowyn fell and cut open her head. It is a deep gash on her forehead and the ever nonchalant Olivier didn’t seem to bat an eye as we laid her out screaming and dripping with blood on the nearest table (in the middle of his restaurant). Naturally, such an event must take place on a Sunday. Olivier gave Eowyn a lollypop and directed us to a private clinic where they were able to call in a doctor to give her 7 stitches! Poor thing. She took it like a champ although Julia almost fainted… The rest of the day everyone really helped us out making decorations for Eowyn’s party the next day.
Day 153 (7 March) – Eowyn’s 5th Birthday!
Eowyn is up early! One corner of the hotel patio is covered in streamers and flags with a decorated birthday chair and two different birthday hats to choose from. There are princess plates and cups, juice and best of all – PRESENTS. When she sees it all she can hardly believe it – she slowly walks around touching everything. She has invited everyone for a morning coffee and cake (since a fair number of people need to go to the port although they will be back at the end of the day again!). We managed to find a microphone (which is what she really wanted) in Yaounde, Cameroon, of all places, and Niels has been hauling it around. There is also a puzzle, princess purfume and brush, face paint and some other things. She spends the rest of the day dancing around and singing into her new microphone, applying perfume and covering everyone with face paint. A great birthday and thanks to Ruben and Renee, Birte and Sebastian, Daniel and Anika, Darren and Russel and of course Olivier and the staff at Hippocampe for making it such a great day for Eowyn!! In Eowyns own words: “The best day ever!”
Day 154 (8 March) – Finding Alternatives for the ferry
After the birthday celebrations we can again turn our attention to leaving Brazza. Olivier received an e-mail from another overlander about a bush route into DRC. The route sounds challenging and you must first pass through an illadvised stretch of road which heads west out of Brazza. The Poole region west of Brazza has a rebel group called the Ninjas. The roads are also terrible making driving slow and attacks easier. It is advised to travel with a military convoy but even then it is not guaranteed to be secure.
Two other couples gave up their efforts at the port, even after paying already CFA 60.000 from putting their car on and off a barge, are willing to travel with us on the overland route. We decided to try yet another route West of Brazzaville, crossing the Congo river at Luozi. Unfortunately, no-one knows how feasible this route is and there seems to be no reports from other overlanders. But this was the same thing as with our route from Cameroon into Congo and our road was much much smoother and easier than via Gabon to Brazza. Will we be lucky again with our ‘alternative’ route?