My rear tyre had little tread left and I'd heard the route into Republic of Congo could be very muddy. So, I changed my rear tyre in Lambéréne to the one that had been slung on top of my motorcycle since Lomé, Togo.
The last town with a fuel station before the border had no fuel. Thankfully, I'd filled up my tank, auxiliary 1L bottle, and auxiliary 4L container in the previous town. The journey from Ndendé, Gabon to Dolisie, Republic of Congo is 220 miles on a track. Known for being tricky in the wet, I expected to use more fuel than if I was riding a road, so the extra fuel was essential.
After a small delay with waiting for the police to open their office to get a stamp in my passport, I left Ndendé. The track immediately offered many large puddles, and I thought to myself "OK, here we go". My routine commenced: see a puddle, get off, wade through it on foot to inspect it, choose a route, and ride. Time consuming as there were many, as well as mucky, but it means I reduce risk riding solo in remote areas.
Having said that... I was approaching a wet bank at an angle to avoid the depth of a puddle. Too much gas, and a slip could lead to an off at speed; too little gas, and I wouldn't get up the bank. The latter happened! Accelerating with my rear wheel in the mud, I was at angle on the bank with my front wheel higher. The result was the bike rotated on the spot and was not pointed away from the track and into the long grass. Happened fairly quick and my feet couldn't keep up, which led me to dropping the bike.
Unfortunately, I didn't take photos. I was too concerned about getting stuck and being on my own!
I pushed the front wheel into the puddle, so both wheels were lower than the engine. It was now an easy lift.
Despite these puddles, it hadn't rained recently. The route was mostly dry. I considered myself lucky!
After a short ride, I was at the border. My passport was stamped in the last town before the border, so I just needed to stamp my carnet (importation document). Customs were not at the border. They were in the previous town. I'd made a big mistake! Didn't want to ride back as it was challenging. This is something I will need to sort out with the carnet company in the UK who require stamps in and out of each country before they return my very large deposit.
Arriving at the Republic of Congo border, the officials were very friendly and relaxed. One was very chilled and oozed an aroma of alcohol. He was sound.
At one muddy stretch, I was stopped by a group of men. One stood in front of my bike and immediately demanded money in an aggressive manner. Why?! I saw a taxi bouncing down from the grassy side of the track and revving hard to skate over the mud. It seems the guys had diverted traffic onto the very long but now trodden and trampled grass that avoided the muddy section of track. I walked the muddy track and there was a suitable route for a motorcycle. I went for it! It was fine, except one section where the mud was a foot deep and required a bit of work to keep churning through it. Very pleased I changed my rear tyre before!
Arriving at yet another puddle, there was a smell of petrol. I got off the motorcycle to check the puddle. The cap to the 4L container had unscrewed itself and was no longer there. I refuelled the tank immediately. An estimated 1L of fuel was lost. This was really dangerous and I didn't feel good about it.
I was about an hour away from Dolisie and it was 17:00. Sun sets about 18:00. Fatigue was affecting my concentration and riding. It was time to stop riding for the day.
A small clearing emerged at the side of the track. I found an overgrown path running parallel with the track, but was well hidden by a very large bank of earth. All was good.
After dark, I heard a logging truck sputter to a stop and the engine cut out. They restarted before it cut out again, directly opposite me on the other side of the bank. I was finishing dinner and was trying to be quiet to evade revealing my presence!
The next morning, I started my engine and rode off. All was fine.
In Dolisie, I searched high and low for fuel. All stations were out of petrol/essence. This was a good opportunity to get a cheap hotel and wash myself and clothes! Will try my luck tomorrow with fuel.