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8th Nov 12’ Bifoun – Ngounie , Gabon

November 12, 2012

I continue along the perfect smooth tarmac roads with not even a tricky diversion to contend with.

Emerging from the forests I see local hunters proudly showing off their catch swung over their shoulders, normally monkeys.

Dogs snap at my ankles and goats casually walk across the road undeterred from the roar of my engine.

The twisting forest road eventually straightens and villages are sparse. It’s the first time since Mali I’m able to reach speeds in excess of seventy mph, I can hear the bike clearing its injectors and airways as it growls along exhilaratingly.

Exiting Mouila, I turn right at the roundabout sign posted for Ndjende. The road suddenly turns to gravel which is manageable at slow speeds. The corrugation from the hard packed ground is enough to shake out my fillings and after only a short ride my jaw is aching from the vibration. The bike and I feel every stone, pot hole and slide. The suspension feels too hard so I reset it to off road using the handle bar switch (posh ay). That’s better. Along the way, I cross several temporary bridges which are four loose planks of wood bind together with reeds. I slow down and balance precariously trying not to look down into the swollen river below.

Up ahead I see bulldozers flattening the corrugations which are caused by the huge trucks thundering along and breaking hard. After crossing the final bridge and passed the bulldozers the dirt track levels out and feels as smooth as tarmac. I stand tall on the motorcycle pegs and open the throttle as I skate professionally along the tracks leaving a cloud of dust behind me.

Amazingly, there is a total garage, just there almost in the middle a field but later realise I’m entering a town called Njende. In the garage, I find chocolate so eat it savagely but its already melted so just end up squeezing the contents in to my mouth not realising it remained in the corner of my mouth but I didn’t care. I smell, my clothes smell, everything smells, I’m hot, I’m sticky, I just don’t care. This is how things are when you’re on the road and I love the Congo.

I find a hotel for 7000 CFA per night, just behind the Total garage so take the opportunity whilst it’s still light. I take a bar of chocolate with me, well used to be a bar.

Opposite my chalet is a mechanic working on a generator. I ask if he would like to help me maintain the bike, he accepts.

Even though I had to show him what to do, we both changed the oil, oil filter, air filter and checked fluid levels and brakes, all were ok. I thought I come prepared but find I’m short of some tools. The mechanic accommodates and brings what I need from his friend. Foolishly, we drain the oil before checking if the garage next door has the correct specification. They don’t, and I now have a dry engine. After a few phone calls to a bmw mechanic who reluctantly helped so not too make him responsible for any breakdowns, we communally decide which oil to use from the available stock. I used 20W 50 and its run fine since, if not better.

His wife stays inside whilst we work on the bike. Eventually she summons for his help with their new born baby. Noticing this, I offer to take a family photo of them using my Polaroid camera. The mechanic stands proudly with his wife and baby, then suddenly darts inside to put on his best polished shoes. Funnily enough he wanted the photo to be taken next to my bike and still wore his oily overcoat showing the pride for his job.

As I continue with the maintenance, the mechanic opens a beer. Soon after, he loses interest and leaves me to it. Unfortunately, a thunderstorm is forming; I could even hear the rain in the distance. The mechanic sits back lazily as I hurriedly reassemble the bike. I’m too late and with seconds there are streams running around my body as I lay on the floor beneath the bike. I then loose the light and have to continue by torch light and in the rain. Eventually the rain stops just in time for bed where I slept with the fan on to blow the mosquitos away.