The morning after devouring snake for supper, I continued to the Gabon border to leave Cameroon. Getting stamped out of Cameroon was easy enough. However, entering Gabon at Woleu Ntem was entirely different.
The immigration police turned me away because I didn't have a hotel reservation despite having a valid passport and visa. Visa applications sometimes require hotel reservations; however, my Gabon visa application did not (in Cotonou, Benin). Seemed strange, but there was nothing I could do. It was the first time I was denied entry to a country; I was gutted.
I rode the short distance to the bridge that separates Gabon and Cameroon, and tried booking a hotel online. No mobile phone signal. I rode to the other end of the bridge. No mobile phone signal. I rode to the Cameroon border control. No mobile phone signal. I explained my predicament to the Cameroon police. They allowed me to stay the night in a nearby town to book a hotel and return the following day. I had an exit stamp for Cameroon, so it could have been easy for officials to raise issues.
The hotel I found had some interesting features, such as condoms for sale at reception, and a battery-powered light (charged from solar) that was permanently on at night because the building had no electricity. I added credit to my phone, made a reservation, printed it, and photocopied my passport.
Doing some more research in to the border post, I found that the person who denied me entry to Gabon is notorious. That evening, I made backup plans for two other routes into Gabon, and also a route into the Republic of Congo, which allows me to enter Gabon from the East.
After a filling breakfast of plantain and kidney beans (super tasty; super filling), I returned to the border. A wave of relief hit me as I spotted a different person at the Gabon border post. They asked a few questions and called the hotel to check my reservation. The crazy thing is the nearest hotel I could book online was nearly 400 miles away, which is an extremely long day riding for me when my maximum speed is 50 mph. After he completed the documentation, he let me in!
After various checkpoints, the first miles in Gabon were cool. People waved and smiled! It's often me who initiates waves, but that morning, lots of people waved at me. I felt welcome, which was completely different to yesterday.