Patrick's Postings

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Home Again

After 27 hours of travel, I made it home safe and sound.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Gabon...

I decided it was time to come home. The truck problems have kept us in Cameroon, and the parts still haven't arrived yet to repair the engine. Even with the best case scenerio of getting the parts on Monday and leaving on Tuesday, we still may not make the Angola-Namibia border until the beginning of April. To fly home either from Angola or to Nairobi to catch my flight would have been too expensive, especially since the next few weeks would be spent in the back of the truck for 14 hours a day. Add into that the fact that the part of Angola that we are going to has bad roads with land mines located just off the road and the fact that Congo has been rated as the most dangerous place to travel in the world (yes, apparently more dangerous than Iraq and Afghanistan) and the decision was a no brainer.

If all goes well I will be home Monday at 1pm.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

False Start

So we didn't leave Cameroon today due to engine problems. I guess it was only a matter of time before the truck gave us problems, so better in a big city than in the middle of Angola. At the moment we are waiting for either a new head gasket to arrive from somewhere else (the UK, Tanzania or Germany, none of which are close) or for a new one to be machine here in Cameroon. I think I would rather wait for a new one, but I'm not a mechanic and I go with what Paul, our driver, decides on.

To quickly fill in the gaps, we have spent the last week or so in Kribi, a beautiful seaside town, and Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon. It has been very hot, but you would expect that as we make our way ever closer to the equator. We have all of our visas in hand (or at least the ones you need in advance) and don't have to make a stop in Libreville, Gabon, like the rest of the trucks doing the route (it is only two others at this point). We have bid them both adieu and won't likely see them again. That is unless it takes a long time to get our part, as we are about 6 days ahead of them at this point.

No new posts means that we have gotten the part and are on our way...keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Into the Dark Heart of Africa

Tomorrow we head out of Cameroon and into Gabon. We will only stop in a handful of cities in the next few weeks, so there won't be much chance for internet or email. The roads will be rough and the weather hot and wet (we should run into the real rains soon). From Gabon we will head into Congo, the DRC and into Angola. Angola alone should take almost 2 weeks to cross. All plans have us in Namibia sometime around March 21, though it could be earlier or it could be later.

I'll post when I can, but there won't be many more before I head home on March 31st.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


This is the view of the watering hole that we had outside from our tents in Mole National Park in Ghana. Throughout the day different groups of elephants would visit to bath, drink and wrestle. There would usually be a few elephants in the water and several feeding on the grasses and trees just beyond the water. One morning someone spotted a croc take an antelope near where the elephant is in the water. I heard the sound of the death roll but was too late to see the actual event.

The coastline of Ghana is full of beautiful sites and beaches, as well as a lot of historical landmarks. The lighthouse below is in the harbor of Dix Cove, a vibrant fishing village. The lighthouse is a remnant from the British fort that still stands high over the harbor.

The harbor at Dix Cove itself is full of fishing boats that are constantly coming in and going back out. They catch large numbers of tuna, swordfish and sharks, all of which can be bought fresh. The boats themselves are all brilliant colors and are loaded to the top with men and gear.

Kakum National Park in Ghana boasts one of the great canopy walks in Africa, if not the world. It is over 500m long and is suspended high in the canopy of the massive jungle trees. It is quite high and the bridges sway back and forth. It is basically just a net that is suspended with a ladder for you to walk on. Not the best thing for someone who doesn't like heights to do (I have done another canopy walk in Nigeria with better results, thankfully).

A little bit east of Dix Cove is Cape Coast, another former British controlled port. It was once the slave trading base for the Brits, and the doorway below is known as the "Door of No Return" and is located in the Cape Coast Castle. Through it went hundreds of thousands of slaves that were then loaded on ships to be sent to the New World. Once through they would never set foot on African soil again. The conditions were horrific in the holding cells and the death rate was extremely high before even reaching the boats.

Togo and Benin are the center of the voodoo world. In Lome, the capital of Togo, we went to a voodoo market. On sale were an enormous amount of dried animals, some endangered. It is said that voodoo deals only with positives (you can increase your memory or sleep better with some of the potions). It was an interesting tour, one that I don't know if I am glad I went on though. On one hand it was a great insight into the culture, but on the other hand I was appalled to see dried lion heads and elephant feet.

The village of Ganvie in Benin is touted as the Venice of Africa. The entire village is located in the middle of a lake and is only accessible by boat. It is remarkable in that it truly is (in its simplest form, of course) just a typical African village raised up on stilts.

In Nigeria, one of the highlights was hiking to the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary. It was a several hour hike up the mountain through dense jungle vegetation. It was hot and steamy, just as you would expect. We spent the night at the base camp under only our mosquito nets. The blackness of the night was complete and the sounds the animals made incredible.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Our 2+ week trip through Nigeria has come to an end and we are now in Cameroon. We were lucky to get our Angolan visas in Abuja (the tour leader flew back to Abuja from Calabar in order to go to the recently opened Angolan embassy there). The Angolan visa is the most unpredictable of the countries that we are visiting, and other trucks in the past had to fly over Angola (at the cost of the passengers) and get on a new truck in either South Africa or Kenya. So to have them in hand makes the path forward a little easier.

The roads, however, have just begun to get bad. Either there are huge potholes in the pavement (no more than 25mph on the roads to avoid them) or there are huge ruts in the dirt roads from when cars and trucks went through and got stuck during the rainy season. It took 15 hours to go about 200 miles, with the last 30 miles taking 4 hours. And the roads will only get worse when we hit the rain. Fun, fun, fun.

I have decided not to try and trek to the summit of Mt. Cameroon, but will instead do a trek at the lower elavations. The overnight trek at Afi Mountain raised some concerns with my lack of fitness, and I thought it would be best not to try and push it too hard. The other treks are no cake walk, but at least they are only 6-8 hours (or less) and not as strenuous.

Will be in Cameroon for the next week and a half before heading to Gabon. By that time we will have all of our visas that we will need to get in advance, so we will be tackling the roads of Gabon, the Congo, the DRC and Angola in as little time as possible in order to get to Namibia. There are no places to stop in most of the places we are heading to, so there will be 10-20 days of bush camps in the rain before we get through. More fun.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Cruising through Nigeria

We've spent the last 2 weeks making our way from Abuja to Calabar, in the southeastern corner of Nigeria. A few days were spent at Yankari National Park, where we saw some animals on game drives and on walking safari. I thought that the previous encounter with an elephant at Mole NP in Ghana was scary until we came upon a hippo on one of the walks. We thought we had accidentally cornered it in a rock formation, which could have been dangerous. We just slowly walked back to the truck and headed on our way. There were also elephants, bushbucks, waterbucks and roan antelope in the park.

After Yankari we headed to the Obudu Cattle Ranch, a 5 star resort high up in the mountains. They let us camp on their lawn and use the showers in the gym (we had a similar setup at the Sheraton in Abuja). There were some really nice hikes around the area, and it was just a nice relaxing (and cold!) stop to recharge a little bit.

From Obudu we headed to the Drill Ranch and Rescue Center. The ranch is run by an American couple and its main goal is to provide a sanctuary for drill monkeys with the aim to one day introduce some of the captive bred animals back into the wild. They also house chimps in large enclosures. Behind the ranch is the Afi Mountain Sanctuary, which is a protected area that is home to wild drills and chimps. Three of us made the hike over the mountain to the base camp, where we spent the night. I have never sweated so much as we went through the jungle and then was never plunged into darkness like that night. It was impossible to see your hand in front of your face. This made all of the sounds of the jungle that much more intense. Falling trees make it a very eerie experience.

We are now sitting in Calabar as we try to get our Cameroon visas and, potentially, our Angolan visas. I would imagine that we will be in Nigeria for another 3 days before entering Cameroon. That is where the fun stops and the hard work of getting through the horrible roads of West Africa in the wet season. Unfortunately the rains are starting early this year, so the estimated 12 transit through Gabon, the Congo, DRC and Angola may take twice as long. 8km a day may be the norm in some parts.

The only other major attraction that is looming on the horizon is Mt. Cameroon. After all of the hikes recently I am not sure if climbing a mountain is the best thing for me or if I am capable of doing it even. But I think I will give it a try. Stay tuned...