Gabon is great! The circumstances less so.

Isn't it just wonderful when life takes over?
So, I was advised that if I got up at 06:00am and left the house in Cameroon soon after, then I could be at the border to Gabon around midday and in Libreville (the capital) later that day. Sure?! I got up at 06:00am and was at the bus terminal before 07:00am. Bought a ticket to Kye-Ossi and never got further. The bus left at 10:22am and took 7 hours to reach Kye-Ossi at the border. The road was good but there where a great deal of checkpoints. On one occasion I was the only one ordered out of the bus while everyone waited for the police to write down my particulars. I think that's a first? ;)
I negotiated a price for a driver to cross the Kye River and get me into Gabon. Off we went but I was turned back at immigration because it was now 5:30pm and the police had gone home. Come back tomorrow...
Somewhat irritated I walked around in small circles for a while and then stopped the first car I saw heading back to Kye-Ossi (the Cameroon border town). In that car I met Anouar who is from Gabon and was happy to help. He was heading to Yaoundé and was in a taxi with no one else than the driver. As we entered Kye-Ossi the front left wheel exploded but luckily near a repair shop...and a small place where they sold beer. After a few beers Anouar decided to spend the night in Kye-Ossi which is a place without electricity - unless you have a generator.
Then we went out for dinner along with the driver and the drivers friend Stephen. More beer and loud music at the "Kennedy Prestige" which I first thought had live music. But that turned out to be playback? It was quite dark except for a number of pink, blue and green lights and the full moon shining above. The playback artist were interesting and one of them looked a great deal like Rihanna. I wonder what the real Rihanna would think if she knew that a Cameroonian "Rihanna" is playing playback at a small border town near Gabon?
Nothing ever really goes as planned here in Central Africa. It's a really tough region to travel in but it's full of wonderful people and great adventures. It's worth it...but not easy :)
Some of the police and immigration guys were also at the "Kennedy Prestige" and so was a guy who walked around with a camera and offered to deliver "instant photos". It seemed that this would be a day of many "firsts"? Suddenly it became a thing to have a photo done with me? So I posed together various people and 5 minutes later the photographer would show up with the photos printed out and envelopes to protect them. The police and immigration guys were now in civilian clothing and bought a set of pictures too :)
Oh well, another night at a border. I'm not aiming for it but I sort of like the atmosphere in some strange kind of way. 
The following day started out good. I got up early as usual and proceeded to the border. No problem. I even received a "welcome to Gabon" from a policeman which made me feel good. From the border I proceeded to the nearest village only 30 km away. So far I had seen nothing but forest. Beautiful. Breathtaking.
Bitam is a quiet but nice place. It's the first or the last village of Gabon depending on which way you are going ;) I had met a fellow from Cameroon who is now a resident of Gabon through 8 years. He normally flies between Yaoundé and Libreville which takes 45 minutes. With 622 km to Libreville we were looking at a 12 hour drive!
Daniel, the Cameroonian, and I found the bus to Libreville (which is the capital of Gabon). But we were late and they had no room for our luggage. Gabon follows some rules more closely than other countries. You will be fined heavily for sitting on the front seat without wearing your seatbelt and they don't stack cargo on top of the buses.
The next bus would leave at 2pm. Wow! This was taking so much more time than what I had anticipated!? Daniel and I opted to go and look for any random vehicles which might be able to take us. We quickly found an independent minibus.
Don't take this minibus! :) 
That turned out to be a mistake. It was around 10:00am when we bought our tickets. Around 11:00am they had miraculously been able to get all the cargo inside. I don't know how they managed to fit it all? Magic perhaps?
Then the minibus took off - without us...any of us...
We speculated that they might have gone for gas? Although that was unlikely because until this day I have never experienced a minibus or a shared long distance taxi which didn't wait to fuel, until all passengers were inside. The minibus was gone...and didn't return until 2 hours later!!
Okay, let's go? Nope! Now they went to a nearby workshop to change the tires. What was going on here? The tires looked fine. Someone had ordered that the front wheels would be switched with the back wheels. For whatever reason? It took an hour! Then the minibus took off again and left all the passengers angry and confused. Apparently they went to get the driver. 30 minutes later it returned and we finally got in. I noticed that it was only half full. Strange? We figured that we might be picking someone up somewhere else?
We drove for 5 minutes before the driver pulled over and went out to look at the tires. He was clearly unhappy. He wanted the front tires switched with the rear tires?!? So we went back to the shop...and spent another hour on that!!
We finally left Bitam around 4pm!! With 12 hours ahead I was looking at a late arrival. In fact when you think about it then I spent 7 hours getting to the border and then another 12 getting to Libreville; how on earth did anyone imagine that it could all have been done in less than a day? That's kind of one of the difficult aspects of this project. It's really hard to get good reliable information for most things.
As I mentioned we started out with 622 kilometers to Libreville. After the first 9 checkpoints we still had 523 kilometers to go!! But in all fairness the checkpoints in Gabon were much easier for me than the ones in Cameroon. In Cameroon (and many other countries) they would frequently spend time noting down where I was coming from and where I was going. They would note down my passport number and other particulars... In Gabon, at most checkpoints, someone would approach the minibus and say "Good evening everyone, can I please see your identification?" And after checking we would often hear "thank you - have a good onward journey". We passed 21 checkpoints before we finally reached Libreville around 04:00am...
At this point I texted my couchsurfing host to say sorry that it was so late and that I wouldn't call him due to the late hour. I received a text back saying: "Don't worry, I'm still up, I'm expecting you". When I reached my host, Nav, then I apologized and he replied with a: "Can I offer you some water or juice?" That is the kind of guy Nav is. He is very considerate and during the coming days I would struggle to assist with anything. He would cook for me and refuse me to help with the dishes afterwards. So I bought him some chocolate ice cream just to say thank you somehow :)
Downtown Libreville
That first night I went straight to sleep but got up early to investigate when and where I could find a boat to São Tomé & Príncipe. I quickly found out that the boat I was counting on had been cancelled. And from chasing around between different ports I learned that my only option would be a cargo/passenger ship sometime towards the end of October. Bad news :(
So the country which I had a visa for and was welcome to visit was now unreachable. That made Guinea Equatorial(EG) look like a better option. But ironically it hadn't looked like I was welcome in EG thus far?
That all changed when I spoke to Aminata who has a cousin who knows the consul of EG. At this point I should probably mention that I had already spoken to a thousand Gabonese people and they have all been really friendly and forthcoming. Anyway, Aminata ensured me that I could easily get an "entry letter" if only I backtracked nearly all the way up north to Bitam. No problem...that was only 12 hours and 21 checkpoints away?! Actually I would "only" need to go to Oyem which isn't all that far. But close enough.
Aminata had recently been on vacation in EG and it was easy for her to get the document. Since I was only planing on two days across the border it would be "no problem" she said. I sincerely doubted that this would work so Aminata called her cousin who she referred to as "Seneteur". He confirmed that it would be no problem even though I was European, with a Danish passport and wasn't a resident of Gabon. I didn't quite know what to think at this point. I had heard nothing else than that I definitely needed a visa to visit EG and even so I might be denied access! But I was willing to give this a try. I figured that the bus ride would be around 10 hours but Aminata ensured me that it was more like 7-8. So I found a bus and 10 hours later I had reached Oyem. It was around 04:00am...again. I walked the streets for a while and found a hotel. I didn't bargain on the price...I just wanted to sleep...
Consulado General de La Republic de Guinea Ecuatorial, Oyem
The next morning I met with Seneteur and his friend "the electrician" who speaks English. Together we headed to the consulate and to make a longer story short: There was no way that this would work since I wasn't a resident. I had to go back to Libreville and get a visa at the embassy and then return to Oyem to cross the border. Aaarrrggghhh! Oh well...
This waiting room completely took me by surprise. The standard as you can see is quite high. I quickly adapted to the surroundings and watched "The bridge over the River Kwai" along with everyone else while we waited for the bus.
I found a bus that could take me back. But before I could buy my ticket I was invited into the managers office. And 2 men followed us into the room. The 2 men turned out to be undercover policemen and they wanted to question me. Having been through hundreds of checkpoints this couldn't even raise my pulse by an extra heartbeat. I remained completely calm and presented them with the required documents and an explanation for my rapid visit to Oyem. They ended up shaking my hand and wishing me good luck. What surprised me most about that "mini interrogation" was that I felt it was completely normal is hardly something I will even remember. We adapt so quickly to our environments.
I know the road between Oyem and Libreville pretty well by now.
Apart from that first horrible minibus all transportation in Gabon has been pleasant and efficient. Taxis in Libreville operate similar to the ones in Yaoundé (Cameroon). In Yaoundé you would stand at the side of the road and wait for a taxi to drive by. While doing so you, and everyone else, shouts out destinations. If the driver isn't going that way then he will ignore you. But if he is heading to your destination then he will honk the horn and stop while you swiftly get in. The difference in Libreville is however that you don't only shout out a destination. You also add what you are willing to pay. It could go like this: "500 franc - Centre Ville?" Now the driver has 2 things to think about: Is he going that way and is the price worth it? I kind of like that system. Because if I'm in a hurry I can shout: "2,000 franc - Centre Ville" even though I know that it is far too much...but then I'm assured a taxi right away...
The buses I have been going with to and from Oyem have been spacious and comfortable and they have been managed professionally. And they more or less leave on time. Besides the main roads in Gabon have all been quite good, ranging to superb!
I couldn't say anything negative about Gabon even if I wanted too. I genuinely like it here. I'm completely stressed out about the administrative difficulties of reaching 100 countries within 2 years. And I'm sleep deprived. But at least I'm not starving myself. The food here is great and available :)
We don't really know much about Gabon's history. Everything was largely passed on orally in the past. But we do know that the area was largely inhabited by pygmy tribes back in the day. Today the relatively large country has less than 2 million inhabitants and is covered by roughly 85% rainforest. Outside of the city the roads are generally accompanied by dense and wild forest on each side. It looks remarkably adventurous and untouched. I haven't seen any monkeys or apes for a long time. But they are evidently present because I did see a few dead ones (bushmeat) for sale on a stick at the roadside. I guess they generally try to stay away from humans ;)
Gabon is much cleaner than many other countries. There are campaigns to ensure that it becomes cleaner and if you have children then you can get ID cards for free which offer that the government pays 95% in case of decease. Or so I have been told.
Besides, Gabon has unexplored caves, gorgeous beaches, mountains, gorillas and an abundance of other wildlife. What's not to love?
Ivy works for the Red Cross in Libreville. She has been amazing and has done what she could to help me. So has the Secretary General Dr. Amal. They both read the amazing article that the Moroccan journalist, Sara, wrote when I met her. That's so long ago that it feels like years. Apparently the article is really good because I get a great response every time. Thank you Sara!
Ivy went with me to the EG embassy where they made it very clear to us that I would need an invitation letter to enter. Very clear! So I kind of feel that I have tried a lot of options without much result. Apparently Thomas Edison once told a journalist that he never had any failed attempts when he was working on inventing the lightbulb. He told the journalist that he simply invented a lot of ways NOT to make a functional lightbulb. If that's the case then I have now discovered a lot of ways NOT to enter EG.
For whatever reason I have spotted a large amount of people in Gabon wearing t-shirts from Denmark. Like this one: "Hængerøv" :)
This is a very hard part of the journey. I'm in a lovely country (one I could live in) and all my thoughts go towards solving this problem. I should be enjoying the journey much more but I am extraordinary focused on the task at hand. This is by far not the first time the Saga has been difficult. But this is especially irritating given the nature of the problem.
I have been trying to get a visa for EG for more than a month now. I have no doubt that I will succeed. I will certainly enter EG. But why does it have to be later and not sooner? Why is everything last minute around here? Is it the joy of traveling...seeing everything in a new light? Discovering different cultures and ways of doing things?
While the administration of EG is certainly a head case for me...I don't believe it represents the people I will find there. I'm sure that people in EG will be as friendly and forthcoming as people everywhere else. I'll even show you ;) Whatever reasons EG has had to make it so difficult have been discussed in meetings where I wasn't present. So I have no way to know. To be continued...
Nav, who I'm staying with, is from India and said to tell you this: "If you enjoy reading the blog then why not share the happiness?" 
He's right :) Feel free to share the blog.

Best regards
Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - Someday we'll all look back at this and laugh.
Once Upon A Saga
Once Upon a Saga
Made by Kameli