Print this page

Central African Republic

Central African Republic

(167 800 km)

*Day 120:*
Saturday February 3. 2007
Cameroon to Nola
Arriving at the CAR's side of the border, we were welcomed by a smiling
policeman. He was probably pleased to se his monthly salary arriving We
have been warned that all police, army and customs in CAR are extremely
corrupt, so even though we have not had to bribe anyone anywhere else in
Africa, we would probably not escape it here. As the police man was doing
the formalities we had a nice little chat, but when he was finished, the
question we all were waiting for came: 'Give me money! 30 000 FCFA.''
We answered with our usual phrases at borders:''For what?'', 'We have
already paid for the visa!'', 'Can you show us the price list?''; 'Can you
give us an official receipt?'' etc. We ended the discussion telling him that
we didn't want to pay anything. This was not what he wanted to hear. It was
Saturday afternoon and the guys were very eager to get money to buy beers
and cigarettes and here where three probably very rich 'les blanches''
denying to pay anything! Merde! Not good! So here we sat playing a new game
of waiting, with the frequent usual eyeballing and stubborn faces. In these
situations we always ensure to smile a lot and joke a little around, to make
the game more fun and pleasant for everyone. This has worked so far and is a
good way of breaking the ice and eventually ease them up a bit. However we
knew we had to pay something and we were ready to do so (we had been told
that even the locals had to pay 5000 FCFA). After about 15 minutes the
demand was down to 20 000 FCFA. To make some more progress we told him we
could pay 5000 FCFA. 'Not possible, no less than 20 000!'' he grinned. But
some minutes later we agreed on 7000 FCFA. Obviously he was not satisfied
with the result, but once the bargaining was over, his happy face returned.
One out of three was finished. Still remaining were the gendarmerie (army)
and the customs. Coming to the other offices they had already heard about
our stubbornness, and when we entered, the police guy shouted to them that
we were 'trs dure'' (very difficult people) and laughed. Amazingly - and
luckily for us - the army and the customs didn't want to start the same
negotiations and agreed on letting us pass without demanding anything. The
whole border crossing process was over in one and a half hour, which is not
bad.
We continued on the dirt tracks, which was obviously less used than those on
the Cameroonian side, due to the lack of corrugation and motorised
transport. We drove the rest of the day without seeing a single vehicle.
Once we passed the border, there was also a clear shift in the buildings and
the villages. The people here are far poorer than in Cameroon, and the
houses, or more precisely huts, were mostly very primitive compared to what
you see in Cameroon. But they all seemed very happy to see some white
tourists driving in their country as there are not many of us. According to
a German missionary we met in Doala, there are only about 200 non-Africans
living in the whole country. The war, bandits and rebellions have made the
country a not much visited one... As we later discovered, the national park
we were heading for had not yet seen a tourist this year, but - hopefully -
four persons would come in the end of February.
When we pass people they are all waving at us, and when we waiwe back they
always shout 'Merci!'' (thanks!) - the same they'll reply if you say 'bon
jour'' to them. But even though the people here smile a lot, it is obvious
that they struggle to get food at the table, and they all seem tired of the
situation in the country. If you ask 'Ca ca?'' to a person from CAR your are
most likely to get back: 'Ca va un peut''.
Arriving in Nola, it was getting dark and we needed a place to camp. We
decided to go back to a police/army/custom checkpoint which we had passed
just outside the town to ask if we could park there. That was no problem.
They had earlier asked for money when we passed them (which we refused)
telling us they were hungry. Therefore we decided to treat them with a
dinner. Jens got one of the locals to accompany him to the market to buy
some food. It was quite an experience! To get to the market he had to cross
a river in a dug out tree-canoe. Before reaching the market, the sun had set
and it was very dark. At the market there were many people, but they had
almost no food there at all. After some searching (they had no lights there)
he found a woman selling some fish and another one selling cassava (a local
mashed vegetable similar to fou-fou). They had enough for the eight of us so
they bought it all and returned, this time crossing the river in completely
darkness.
We had a nice meal with the guys and when we went to bed there were lots of
drumming, singing and partying just over the road. It lasted the whole night
and they were singing and drumming even more when we woke up at six. We
learned that it was a funeral ritual and that they would keep on going until
they were going to the church at noon


*Day 121:*
Sunday February 4. 2007
Nola to Bayanga
As it was impossible to sleep any longer due to all the drumming and
chanting from the funeral party we headed off for Bayanga and the Dzanga
Sanga National park in the middle of pygmy country. However we only got
about 300 meters before the road ended in a large river, off course this
ended up in a long wait and negotiations for the ferry to get us across. We
had been told in Youkadouma that the price was 5000 FCFA's, but were off
course asked for much more than that... After about an hour we agreed on
5000 and off we went.
The closer we came Bayanga the denser became the rainforest surrounding us.
Every now and then we passed villages of pygmies.
We arrived at Bayanga at noon and went straight to the park visitor centre
to book our different activities. There were lots of things to do and see
but we started with booking elephant watching today and Gorilla
watching/tracking tomorrow.
The Ndoki park is part of the Tri-national trans-boundary Dzanga Sanga
national park called the Tsanga Sanga NP, a tri-state cooperation between
Cameroon, CAR and Congo establishing a forest eco-region of some 28 000km2.
The area is famous for its pygmies and variety of animals, among them large
herds of forest elephants and western lowland gorillas. There are also a
large number of chimpanzees, monkeys, antelopes and so on. But the park
don't have many visitors. Erica, the American lady in charge of the WWF
park, told us that they had 1042 visitors last year. It seems like it will
be hard to keep up the numbers this year, as we were the first tourists in
2007 and not anyone expected arriving before the four people coming at
24th.of February.
Until now the park hasn't done any marketing and they don't have a web-site,
so people get to know about the park mainly by the word of mouth. And those
mouths have mostly belonged to very rich people from France, Russia and the
States, who all come to the park by charging airplanes from Bangui or
Cameroon.to land on the small airstrip outside the park.
The prices for living at the Dolilodge were far beyond our budgets, so we
found an auberge in the village that would let us put up the tents in their
yard, before going on the elephant watching. It was an hour drive before we
entered the forest together with our guide, Anicet. Going on a path for 35
minutes we entered a natural, open field in the middle of the thick forest.
Here, at the saltlicks, more than 3000-4000 forest elephants migrate and go
to lick some salts and have a nice bath. On good days you can see more than
120 elephants at the same time from the man made plateau overlooking the
field. We sat there for two hours watching the big animals: 45 elephants, 20
buffalos, one warthog and three antelopes. Nice!

Some information about the park can be found here:
www.worldwildlife.org/expeditions/car/aboutexp.html.
www.dzanga-sangha.org/en/index.php


*Day 122:*
Monday February 5. 2007
Gorilla safari
Our guide, Anicet, showed up at agreed time and off we went to se the
western lowland gorilla, or so we thought. Here as every were else in Africa
bureaucracy and formalities must be done, and so we had to go and se
Anicet's supervisor to tell him we were going to see the Gorillas That done
we headed out into the thickest bush, a two and a half hour drive on bad
tracks into the surveyor camp and then an hours walk with a Bayaka (pygmy)
tracker to find where the gorillas were located. At the surveyor camp they
were surprised to see us as no one had told them we were coming?! However
this was easily solved, fortunately for us, and we were set up with a small
pygmy tracker to take us to the gorillas. Finding the gorillas was easy, at
least for our tracker. We lost all bearings after about 100 meters. At the
spot where the gorillas were a team of surveyors/scientist sat and made
notes, as we approach two of them had to leave as park policy was maximum 5
people with the gorillas at a time. Sneaking in on the gorillas was exciting
as we could hear them around us but not seeing anything except from green
bush. Finally we sat down and got a peek at some black dark fur. ?!?! Was
that it? Fortunately the gorillas after an hour or so started to move around
a little and at one point we had 4-5 of them moving around us, some as close
as 5 meters. However the forest was so dense it was difficult to get a clear
view even at that short distance. This is what makes spotting western
lowland gorillas so difficult in comparison to the mountain gorillas.

*Day 123:*
Tuesday February 6. 2007
Net hunting with Bayakas (pygmies)

Today we went hunting with the Bayaka people. They actually hunt in the
forest with nets!?? It's kind of like fishing, setting up nets in a half
circle in the dense forest and then trying to scare off the different
antelopes into the net

The Bayakas has been hunting with nets as long as any one can remember, and
supposedly it is effective. The most usual catch are a small antelope called
blue duiker, one antelope may feed 4 adults at the most we think and the
hunting is hard work taking the nets up and down all the time

We stayed out with them for several hours but unfortunately got nothing. Two
blue duiker's and a larger antelope escaped from the trap, we off course saw
none of them as the forest is so thick and dense that your line of sight is
at the most 10 meters the experience however was great and when the Bayakas
went tired of hunting, bad luck were following them, they started gathering
leaves, nuts and other stuff from the forest which they use as food,
medicine and so on. All in all a great day!! For dinner we are off course
having grilled blue diker, unfortunately not our own catch; but what the
heck.

* *

*Day 124:*
Wednesday February 7. 2007
Bayanga - Bush camp outside Yaound, Cameroon
Leaving Bayanga we made god progress and eventually decided to try and go
for Yaound without stop... 19 hours later we stopped exhausted and tired
without having reached Yaound. However we got through all border
formalities without any trouble as they didn't discover that we didn't have
a multiple entry visa for Cameroon


Previous page: Cameroon
Next page: Cameroon 2