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Republic of Congo & DRC

Border Crossing Gabon – Republic of Congo. The road to the border, like that from Franceville to Lekoni, is good tar, which ends at a dead end by what might be in time a new border post. Turn left 300m before to get to Kabala. Having completed customs and immigration in Lekoni, the only post at the border at Kabala is the police post and they are no problem. After the border, the road is a reasonable sandy piste through rolling savannah. Stay on this for about 30 kms and you eventually come to the police, immigration and gendarmerie posts grouped together on the Gabon side of Mbie. They were no problem, if a little long winded. The customs post is at Leketi a further 40 kms or so along the piste; here they are no problem but expect to pay 2k cfa per vehicle. They have a government letter to explain this and, though it seems to refer to Laissez Passer only, they insist on the payment – others before you with a carnet will have paid, so it is difficult to avoid payment.

Bush Camp. GPS S01 24.769’ E015 04.153’. Turn right off the sandy piste before a wood and go along a short bit of wide track , take the next right turn and head to the edge of the wood ahead.

Bush Camp. GPS S01 15.194’ E015 51.194’. In the middle of Ollombo (south of Oyo where there is a nice riverside bar by the bridge) take the right turn signposted to Abala. Continue along the piste over a bridge and into savannah; turn right along a track after a group of huts on the right. Possibly this is not an option in the rainy season.

Projet-Gorille /Bush Camp. GPS S03 06.024’ E015 31.442’. Go through the village of Mpoumako on the main road (N2), look out for a blank red painted sign at a track leading off to the right, on the southern side/Brazzaville facing side of the sign there is on it ‘Site d’Abio’ and a restriction on entry. Take this track and follow the main yellow sandy piste (there are a couple of insignificant tracks leading off as you pass through cultivated land) to open savannah, continue and follow a red sign indicating a ‘visitors’ route to a staff accommodation area and guest ‘house’. You can camp by the lake, having apologised for arriving unannounced! There is a loo but no water and no food provided.

Brazzaville. Hotel Hyppocampe. GPS S04 16.410’ E015 16.663’. Not signposted, nothing is in Brazzaville! Best to head for the centre/Congo River area and then ask for the Cathedral which is reasonably close by. We didn’t stay here, but companions camped here for free and used the good restaurant (excellent Vietnamese food) and were allowed the use of washroom etc. It is a regular overlander’s stop and the French owner is a great source of related advice and information. It has an internet connection, slow but not too expensive. (Better bet is the cyber shop in the grounds of the Maya Maya / Meridien hotel).

Border Crossing: Republic of Congo – Democratic Republic of Congo. A battle of wits and a potential nightmare! At present it is only feasible to attempt the crossing of the River Congo if you have a transit visa for Angola in your passport (from the Angolan Embassy in Brazzaville and see the journal for detail), or sufficient DRC immigration officer impressing paperwork to show that you will be leaving the country and crossing into Zambia (however improbable that is in view of the road connection) i.e. a letter of invitation from an NGO countersigned and stamped by the regional director of immigration and any other letter with a suitably heavy weight letter heading saying/implying that you are visiting and then exiting the DRC to Zambia, or a Zambian visa in your passport (this option has not been tried to date (Aug 2008) but is evidence of your next country destination).

The port in central Brazzaville is easy to find, but I found it useful to recce the route the day before and double check the earliest ferry sailing time; the port is at
GPS S04 16.222’ E015 17.791’. There are money changers on the main road just before the turn off for the port, but you can also change CFA on the ferry boat – don’t worry someone will come to you on board! Go down the side road to the port entrance where you pay an entrance fee, retain the tickets that prove you have paid. You then enter the port, bear left past the ‘Duty Free’ building (!) and park opposite a long single storey building that is to your right. Here you choose the DIY option or employ a ‘helper’, we used a helper and found him good value.

If on the DIY option, then you will find immigration on the riverside of the building and both customs and police on the side of the building where you are parked; this was the order we used and seemed the most practical. Once these have been cleared then drive/continue to the far end of the roadway where there is an open area on your left where you should park as close to the front right (as you look towards the river) of this area as possible; not that easy in the chaos that surrounds you. Your next task is to buy the ferry tickets – AFTER an official of the ferry company has visited you (you may have to seek him out) to take down the driver, passenger and vehicle details and given you the small piece of paper this detail is written on. With this paper as proof of your the validity of your request, go to the ticket office(in the building opposite and to the centre-left) to buy the tickets and confirm the loading time.

You then wait to be called forward, in the African sense of the word, so be on your guard! In our case, one of the officials loading the boat sought us out and would have called us forward had we not jumped the gun – much to his annoyance! Total time taken from arrival at the port to getting the tickets in our hands: 1hr 40 mins; cost of entrance fee 11,000 cfa and the ferry tickets (1x TLC and passenger, driver is free) 31,500 cfa. Be very wary of any overt photography, it will lead to serious trouble.

On arrival at ‘The Beach’ a DRC official in plain clothes will come on board and take your passports and carnet for processing, it is very unnerving to hand theses over! Once on shore and in the car park, you should go to the immigration office to argue your case/provide more impressive paperwork and speed the process. Before clearing the car park you may be told by an officious and overzealous health official to undergo a decontamination process at your expense; we were and it cost $60. We asked for documentary evidence of this requirement and the charge, this was produced and it looked a genuine copy of a government document. We may have brought this about because the vehicle was very dirty!

We stayed with friends in Kinshasa and ate at a fabulous restaurant, Le Chateau Margot; very good value, fantastic ambience and by eating on the large patio under the trees it is cheaper than indoors but the same menu!

Chutes de Zongo Campsite. After about 2 – 3 hours on the main Kinshasa-Matadi road, the turn off to the falls is at GPS S04 54.057’ E015 10.016’. It takes up to 2hrs along a sandy piste in bad condition to reach the falls and the riverside campsite at GPS S04 46.663’ E014 54.471’. The popular campsite is virtually on the lip of the falls, it has a shower and toilets and a basic but reasonable restaurant.

Matadi. Sisters of Charity Mission. GPS S05 36.316’ E014 19.358’. Not sign posted, once in the centre of Matadi, ask if unsure. There is a bath/shower room with toilet, but no refectory for the use of those camping in the inner quadrangle.

Border crossing: Democratic Republic of Congo – Angola

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