The Congo is undoubtedly one of the least traveled countries in Africa. Guest poster Helen Lloyd tells us why this troubled country is well worth the ride.
1. The Road from Gabon
You know you’re entering the Congo when the Gabonese tarmac road ends and a ‘Republic of Congo’ signpost directs you down a sandy track. The Congo has the very best and very worst roads you will find in the whole of Africa.
If you’re after adventure and a physical challenge, take the road from the Gabon border, eastwards to Okoyo. But to call it a road, is like referring to a Big Mac as a Sirloin Steak.
For the most part, you’ll be pushing or dragging your bike through one of the many deep sandy tracks that scar the land. But the satisfaction of making it through and knowledge that you got there quicker than any truck could go, make it all worthwhile!
And just when you’re wondering why you’re travelling by bike, when you’re going no faster than walking pace, you reach the smooth tarmac road…
2. To see the village of Oyo
Oyo was the birthplace to the current president Sassou. It is now well connected to the capital by a beautifully smooth tarmac road (which is heaven compared to the road you’ve just travelled). Surreal as it sounds, as you pass through Oyo, you’ll see the grandiose airport, olympic-size sports facilities and imposing government buildings. But leave this village, and once again you’re in the real Congo…. nothing but nature and modest hut villages. If you ever wondered where all the government funds go, look no further than that Oyo.
3. Chicken and Beer
As you cycle along through the villages and small towns, you’ll find plenty to eat…. if you’re willing to eat what the locals eat that is. Bush meat and manioc is often all there is. But up on the Bateke plateau the smell of grilling chicken in tasty marinades by the roadside will be impossible to cycle past. They go down especially well with a Primus, the local beer in large 750ml bottles.
Chances are, that if you are going to cycle through the Congo, you will have cycled through several other African countries to get there. It will be a pleasant surprise, therefore, to arrive in the country’s capital, Brazzaville.
With it’s wide avenues, clean streets and plentiful cafes, pizzarias and ice-cream parlours, you could be mistaken for thinking you’re back in Europe. It doesn’t feel like Africa at all. And that is it’s charm. Life on the African road can be hard, but here, life becomes simple again.
5. The Congo River
The country is named after the mighty Congo River. From Brazzaville, you can look out over the lower reaches of the river. The Congo River is in the heart of Africa, a myriad of arteries that is the region’s lifeline. No visit to the Congo is complete without travelling on the river. So take the 20-minute boat ride to Kinshasa, the DR Congo’s capital and experience life on the other side of the river. These are very definitely non-identical-twin cities.
Ready to take on the Congo? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Her next journey will be to cycle the Great Divide, from Canda to Mexico. She will be packing a raft, so she can paddle some of America’s greatest rivers as well.
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