Ride Report: Gabon RN5

· 4 min read · gabon ride-report water mud camping

After crossing the border into Gabon, the roads swerve through the forest and it's a very scenic route. Thrilling and good fun; however, I had an insatiable thirst for something more adventurous! I joined the RN5 at Bibasse (South of Oyem) heading to Kougouleu.

Slow progress for the first 15-20 miles through numerous large puddles that remained from a previous downpour. Murky puddles can harbour hidden nasties for a motorcyclist. Stopping and walking through each puddle, I checked for obscured obstacles and planned the best route through. Must have been at least 10 inches in the deepest puddle, which meant stagnant water breached the top of my waterproof boots. The puddles were a breeze compared to the previous I'd encountered crossing Guinea-Bissau into Guinea.

Large muddy puddle on RN5 in Gabon.
Large muddy puddle on RN5 in Gabon.

During the last 20 miles, sunset was approaching and I battled my temptation to twist the throttle. My planned destination was a disused logging quarry. There weren't many other wild camping possibilities around. Arriving safe and sound, I setup camp. Evening meals when camping are quick and tasty. My favourite is pasta and sardines in a chilli tomato sauce. Through experimentation and optimisation, cooking has become cheap, reasonably healthy, makes efficient usage of mess tins, and consumes minimal water. Top tip: drink the washing up water if soap was not used.

Camping in disused logging quarry along RN5 in Gabon.

That evening, the night's sky was broken by bursts of lightning. Repeated flashes looked violent. Faint rumbles suggested it was far away. Exciting to watch the beauty of nature at work, but slightly unnerving about the condition of the track tomorrow.

It rained throughout the night and I woke at sunrise (0600) to rain. Rain continued until late morning, so I stayed another night to give the route a chance to dry. Pleased to say I always carry reserves for food and water.

A very peaceful spot for camping with very few vehicles passing by. Lying down in my tent, I had the displeasure of observing a cricket (that flies) eat a 2 mm diameter hole in my tent.

A new day emerged. Despite the night's rain, which was less than before, the route was challenging in places, particularly where rain had eroded the track. The fissures could be disastrous with careless handling of my motorcycle. Sometimes, the only route through the track was an 8-inch wide ledge with fissures either side. It's difficult not to tense up, but I remember to look where I am going and not at my front wheel.

Comparatively small fissures to what I

RN5 is a curious route as the map shows a brief crossing into Equatorial Guinea. A country renowned for being fiendishly difficult to obtain a visa and enter. I was unsure on the correctness of the map, but I definitely crossed the border into Medouneu.

I rode over many small bridges that were typically 4 metal/wooden struts per track for 4+ wheels. There are no rails and the largest drop was easily 4 metres. Super important to focus and look where you're going. The largest bridge crossed the river leading to Lac Mbei. It was running high after the rain.

River leading to Lake Mbei after rainfall along RN5 in Gabon.
Bridge over river leading to Lake Mbei after rainfall along RN5 in Gabon.

The track became muddier. Slow felt good because the it was easy to feel the motorcycle move underneath me when riding mud.

First bit of mud I encountered that was very wide. RN5, Gabon.

I encountered a really tricky stretch where there was no route around it. To my left, the mud was the consistency of porridge; I didn't walk through it to find a route.

Lots of mud, no way around, and best route was straight through. Dropped my bike in this :) RN5, Gabon.

I chose the middle route through a small rut left from a previous vehicle. Over half way through, I dropped the motorcycle. Although in mud, my motorcycle and I weren't caked in the stuff, thankfully. I managed to lift the bike, but the rear wheel slipped into a larger rut. Pulling away, I was rotating on the spot as the rear wheel spewed mud. A Toyota Hilux arrived, devoured the mud section, and watched on the other side in case assistance was needed. Bouncing up and down on the seat momentarily regained traction allowing an escape. Thumbs up to the Hilux and I rode away feeling proud that I'd overcome a technical and potentially sticky situation by myself.

Progress was brought to a halt by heavy machinery clearing earth from the route. I waited 5 minutes while the vehicle danced on the mud. At one point, it looked like the one of the vehicle's tracks lost traction in deep mud. No problem; instantly corrected! The driver gave me the thumbs up, so I traversed the freshly roughed up mud.

Heavy machinery clearing the track. RN5, Gabon.
Heavy machinery clearing the track. RN5, Gabon.

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