Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Departures... sadly (part I)

So, the name of this blog is "Arrivals and Departures"... signifying many things... mostly it's about people that come and go, in and out of our lives, in some way or another. We get a lot of that in our lives. Being expats who run a guest house and small aviation service means having to say plenty of "hello's" and "goodbye's".

As most of you know, our family has driven 15 hours, from Libreville, Gabon to Yaounde, Cameroon, to deliver Joe and Meg, our two oldest children, to boarding school. In a way, this marks a "departure" event. Joe and Meg have both had some extended stays away from us, and we from them, but never to this magnitude. As you may
suspect, this is a very difficult time for us. We really appreciate your prayers.


The alarm clock woke us at 4am, this past Sunday, the 1st of August. About an hour later we were all packed and on the road to Cameroon. Leaving LBV (Libre
ville) at that hour is a little eerie. We're used to the streets being full of people and taxis and having to dodge here and there to make progress. Early in the morning, however, there is almost no one on the streets... just look out for the dogs!

The kilometers clicked by... Libreville, then Ntoume, Kango, then the left turn at the round about in Bifoun to start heading Northbound. I fired up my portable aviation GPS (Garmin GPSmap 96C- see picture)- the database covers Europe and Africa. I wasn't sure if it would depict the any ground based info (other than airports), so I was surprised to see that it did paint the "route nationale 2". At times it appeared that we were paralleling the road to the west- perhaps I wasn't tracking enough satellites to keep it accurate. However, for the most part it was very accurate and we were able to anticipate turns in the road and arrival into major towns. It's a great tool to have.

After Bifoun, Ndjole and then the roads start to stink... really bad. Well, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being excellent and 1 being impassable, here's how they rate:

Libreville to 10 km out of LBV: 7 (watch out for the open drainage culverts lining some roads)

10km from LBV to Kango: 5 (it's paved, but with the occasional wash out- you speed down the road thinking you've got a nice stretch when "WOOMP! THERE IT IS!!!)

Kango to Bifoun: 7 (watch out for the chickens & goats meandering on the roads!)

Bifoun to Ndjole: 5 (high grass at the sides makes foot traffic almost impossible to see and then the seemingly limitless "S" turns make you want to ask if they were getting paid per kilometer and if they found a way to make the road as long as possible!?!)

Ndjole to 20km S. of Mitzic: 3 (I actually saw a 4 door Toyota 2 wheel drive making this trek- they were lucky it is dry season. On this section of road, you can occasionally here a "thump" of passengers heads as they hit the roof- this is
somewhat humorous... if it's not YOUR head).

10k S. of Mitzic to Yaounde: 7 (There are a
ctually parts of this road where you can really haul- about 80 mph in the middle of the central African rainforest! See picture.)

(In some other post, I'll go into road rating systems in greater detail.)


AIRPORT CONST'N: In the town of Mitzic, there used to be an airport. It paralleled the main street through town and, like most towns, they used it as the towns' by-pass. Due to very little airplane traffic, the taxis (and foot traffic) had taken to use it to get quickly to the other side of town. I have landed at this particular airport and, during takeoff, had to wait until traffic cleared the runway... and it wasn't airplane traffic! Well, upon entering town, we were stopped at a control and, in the course of the conversation, found out that the town had started to construct another landing strip that paralleled the old strip, that is now a road. I think we can all see where this
is heading...

STREET FOOD: In Mitzic, we pulled off to the left side of the road (going N-bound) when we saw some smoke rising from one of the store-front shops. We thought that may indicate some street food for sale, and we were right. We got 5 chicken "leg/thigh" pieces ("cuisse de poulet") cut up in individual sacs. I was the only one that opted for the powdered piment. We took this on the road and were very pleased with it. Some in our family referred to the chicken as "the best they have ever eaten". Did I mention some in our fam are prone to exaggeration? Well, they were right... it was pretty darn good chicken for the middle of nowhere Africa. I recommend this place.

BOARDER CROSSING: Here's my take on the Gabon/Cameroon boarder. You've got two choices that are about the same in terms of distance driven. So, if you like a bit of chaos and dodging vast amount of motorcycles, then Kye-Ossi is your crossi
ng. If you like things a bit less chaotic and tranquil, may I present to you Eboro. This is my choice. Now... that said, let me add this caveat... you will run across those that have had experiences at both locations that range from "nightmarish" to "smooth sailing". I just think of it like this... do you like a "nightmare" set in a peaceful environment? ...or in a more chaotic environment? ... to each his own.


We rolled into Yaounde, and to a delicious meal with our friends, Randy and Jill, and their two wonderful kids, Amy and Tim. This sweet family will be playing host to our Joe and Meg for the next 10 months of their school- Rain Forest Int'l School.

Alace, Sam, and I are staying in the guest house above Randy and Jill's. It's called the "Peach Palace Guesthouse". Joe and Meg are already moved into their
new rooms and getting to know their "adopted" brother and sister and "fill-in" mom and dad.

We're also working to equip their rooms with 220v to 110v
transformers (see picture), fans, mirrors, etc. It's like moving your kid into their college dorm room. To get all these necessary items as well as all the folders, papers, pens, pencils, protractors, etc. we've had to do some runs into town.

The first morning, as we woke, we were informed that we had incurred a flat tire! WOW! We were so thankful that this happened after we had made it our destination. So, we added that to our "to do" list.

YDE seems soo much bigger than LBV.

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