Thursday, June 30, 2011


entered Gabon after crossing the bridge over the Ntem River by walking. We knew about Gabon that it is 2 times larger than Bulgaria, but had only 1.4 million inhabitants. 80% of the country is covered by dense equatorial forest. The second largest forest after the Amazon. There's oil, uranium, magnesium, and enough water for all. We felt the difference right after the border. The grass along the road was carefully cut like in Switzerland. We intended to sleep just after the border, but cars began to stop and ask us where we are going, and we were not even hitching. So we reached the first village and slept before the village in a wide clearing in the woods. Finding a place for camping in the dense jungle was not easy. The vegetation is too big and without a path it is impossible to walk in. The biggest problem were the small flies called furu, that bite all over any uncovered place of your body. Then numerous red spots appear that are itching unbearably the next 2 days. Now we realized that this was the cause of our rash in Togo. In the morning a woman shouting: "Ko-ko-ko" woke us up. We peeked from the tent, but she fled in panic. Not long after she returned with the whole village, armed with a rifle and machetes. It turned out that we were lying on her field of peanuts. Fortunately, the plants were not damaged, we explained who we are and what we do here and everything ended with laughter. We continued to hitch to the capital Libreville and  after another night in the forest  we arrived. The trip was relatively quick and easy, but because of humid climate or insects every little scratch or wound we had became a huge festering infection. Many wounds appeared on our feet and soon they became swollen and hurt as we walked. In the pharmacy they gave us some antibacterial powder, which slightly calmed things down, but the infections continued to grow.
We arrived in Libreville on the Monday of Easter. The city was like sleeping - nothing worked and there were almost no people. Only a few Arab shops and bakeries were open. Otherwise Libreville looks like a European city. There were big expensive buildings and shops, wide boulevards with traffic lights and traffic jams and a board walk with benches and cut green grass. Overall in Gabon was 4-5 times more expensive than other African countries. We had nowhere to sleep, so we stayed on a bench on the board walk, where it was safe and there were even other people sleeping. The next day we had to get visas for the next countries. Our plans, however, suddenly collapsed. It turned out that visas for Angola and South Africa we can get only from Bulgaria and the Congo visa costs 110 Euro for 2 weeks per person. Under these conditions it appears that with our Bulgarian passports it is impossible to get to South Africa over land. For other Anglophone countries maybe the conditions were the same, but there were no embassies here to check. Traveling in Africa by land turned out to be difficult and too expensive. We did not want to invest so much money in visas to cross the Congos and finally find ourselves stuck there. Everything indicated that it is time to change the continent. We checked the ports for ships, but there were no ships over the Atlantic from here. We didn’t want to fly but this was the best option from here. And even more – we had to go to a country where they grant visas on the spot. Our initial plan was South America, but the tickets were terribly expensive. The best option we found for the evacuation from Africa was Nepal. A place we both dreamed to see. A place without mosquitoes, furus and unbearable heat. We’ve had enough of Africa and we were longing for a change. The eastern and southern coast we will leave for another time, when the visa conditions are better. In the last 2 days the wide-angle lens and computer stopped working. Another reason to leave Africa - there were no reliable service here, and all parts are very expensive.
streets of Mayumba
So – we bought a tickets to Nepal and Evgeny would fly for the first time in his life. But before we say goodbye to Africa we had to go around Gabon and feel the complete wilderness of this continent. Luckily a French couple living in Libreville hosted us for two days and we tasted a little civilization with shower, clean sheets and even laundry. Then again we hit the road through the forest. We decided to go on a wild beach and relax from the insects and jungle. To get there, however, we had to travel more than 1000 km on dirt roads through dense forests. Fortunately the hitch-hiking was super fast and after 2 nights we were 200 km from the beaches of Mayumba. We hitched many foreigners – Burkinabe, Malians, Lebanese...They explained to us that Gabonese people drink a lot and work a little. That’s why foreigners had to come to do all the work. On the way every little village had at least 2-3 bars which were usually filled with people drinking beer from the morning. Even women drank beer all day. Finding something to eat was hard in smaller villages, but there was beer everywhere. People were quite different from other west African countries. Nobody wanted a gift - rather the opposite – they gave us fruits, drinks and even a bottle of yogurt. Instead of we asking them for a photo, they came and wanted to take a picture of us. They took out cameras, expensive phones and even laptops to shoot us. There were no tourists here, especially ones with big backpacks and no car.

our home in Mayumba

the picturesque village named "Junk Ville"
view from Mount Braza

the road that we hitched and the train

But our wounds worsened. Lora ran temperature, her ankles were swollen and she was hardly walking. We decided it was time to go to the doctor. For more than 10 days the wounds didn’t heal and even became worse. We knew that there was an American hospital 32 km in the direction of Congo. There we can at least talk in English. The road was dirt and there was almost no traffic, except Chinese, whio made the road and when hitching them they just waved at us smiling. A Lebanese cutting the forest nearby picked us for 5km and then a truck took us almost to the hospital and it was not even his destination. With another car we passed the last 2 km. A U.S. doctor saw us. She did not say exactly what provoked the infection, there were so many things and insects in the forest. She gave us antibiotics, creams, patches and painkillers and said that all this was a gift from her. She had not seen other people coming to Gabon by hitch-hiking so she decided to help us. She recommend us to rest with elevated feet for several days. We thanked her for her kindness and already felt better. We had just to get to the beach and rest. With two trucks we returned to the main road and almost immediately we hitched and Italian guy for 100 km to the next town with the funny name Tchibanga. He had a wife and a child there and invited us to sleep in the yard of his house. They treated us with pasta and a wonderful breakfast in the morning. We continued with to Mayumba аfter a detailed check by the police post in Chibanga. The police here viously had nothing else to do, and 4-5 times a day they checked our documents and wrote in thick notebooks our names. Soon after we hitched a SUV of the local telecom Airtel directly to Mayumba. There again we were stopped by a local policeman who said we need to register in his office. He wanted to know how long we would stay in Mayumba, where we would sleep and such difficult questions. Apparently we were the only tourists and he was glad that he have work to do. We told him that we are tired of the road and we want to relax, we don’t know where and for how long. If he wants to register us now and leave us in peace. He drove us to his office where he copied our passports. Then we drove back to where we were and he even made a phone call to the chief of the nearby national park to tell him that two Bulgarian tourists have arrived and can probably visit the park. We bought some food from the village and went to the long, endless white sand beach, so fine that creaked under our feet. There was not one person on the beach as far as our eyes could see. We found a perfect place for camping under a thick tree and stayed there with legs raised in the next 6 days. We rested well and our wounds gradually healed. On the fifth day a bunch of kids came and asked to photograph us, and on the sixth day after long hesitation two kids came and greeted us in English: "Hello". Then they took out a paper and started reading: "How are you. Fine. Thank you. Good Bye" and left. There were no other people on the beach. We’ve never stayed in one place for so long time and it became a little boring. We are not made to rest, we have to do something to feel fulfilled.

We decided to move to Central Gabon - Lope Park. We were hoping to see elephants or gorillas somewhere. Everybody said there were many in the forests. Hitching back from Mayumba proved difficult. We waited for 3-4 hours after the ferry and only crowded pickup-taxis passed. Finally one such pickup decided to take us in the back with another 7-8 people and luggage to the sky. We got to Chibanga and slept after the town. The next day we were rewarded with one of the best hitch-hiking. We travelled more than 700 km with 4 -5 cars on dirt roads. First we took a car of the Gabonese Red Cross, then a family that was going to kill elephants in the forest and finally even the Chinese stopped. A SUV with two Chinese and one Gabonese working on the road passed us by, but then slowed down and returned. We rode 30 km with them, but we could not understand eachother at all. They knew neither French nor English, and in Chinese it was difficult to make any association. They couldn’t even understand what is Bulgaria. Soon after them two more Chinese with one Gabonese picked us up. One of them was the boss of the company building the road and they were going all the way to Libreville. We travelled more than 300 km together to the junction for Lope. One of them spoke some French with a cute Chinese accent and we had fun all the way through. Hey were happy and laughing at everything. They laughed even when the police fined them 5,000 francs because their air condition drips.
When we were looking for a place to sleep unexpectedly a Tunisian guy picked us to the next town N'djole. We slept there in the tent and in the morning we rode a SUV of the telecom directly to Lope. Lope is a large national park with hills and forests where we hoper to see gorillas, chimpanzees and elephants. No money for a safari in the park, so we bent our tent and  waited to see some animals. Our first night was raining heavily. Tent was already too old and was dripping. This was the smallest problem, because after a while the floor was filled with 15 cm of water and we were sitting in a huge puddle. All the luggage was also wet. Well, we had waterproof bag and saved the documents and the  electronics. The night was long and wet. We sat in the water and prayed to stop raining when we were hit quite strong by a lightning nearby. After an hour - two the rain stopped, the water drained and we survived until the morning. We already counted our last days in Africa. Flies, ants, wasps attacked us with hundreds every day and at night came the mosquitoes. We saved ourselves in the river and walking the hills. We climbed Mount Braza twice, which had a wonderful view over the park and a slight breeze that was chasing the insects away. We didn’t see almost any animals (only one monkey and some elephant shit) For two days we hitched back to Libreville and so ended our African journey.

panorama of the beautiful beach near Mayumba

Cameroon 2

The last two weeks in Cameroon slipped by really fast. We stayed three days in Limbe in the small room of Bantu. Bantu was one of the coolest rastaman we met in Africa. He made beautiful things with natural materials and was preparing his art cafe named 'Bantu Coffee Nzimbistic Art Garden' with enthusiasm. Unlike most people here, he was not obsessed with money, he had never tried alcohol or cigarettes. We could honestly talk to him about many things. We met also a rasta policeman (already retired after 30 years service) who smoked big blunts, rolled in notebook paper all day longHe was a big reggae fan and had a huge collection of DVD-s, more than 10 different pairs of Nike trainers and a red sports convertible. We visited a reggae concert and a funeral in the house of Bantu. Here funerals are done every year after the death and usually are big feasts with music, drinking and eating all night. 
Limbe is a beautiful town with many beaches around. People speak English in this part of Cameroon which was wonderful for us. Here, unlike other countries, no one is bothering us for money and gifts. People are just smiling and greeting us and almost everybody is shouting to Evgeni: 'Jesus! Jesus! '. In some villages the children stared with long drooping jaw, as if they had seen a ghost, wondering whether this is really Jesus. Otherwise people live better lives here. Land is fertile, there is water, there are many fruits and fish and there are not really hungry people. However, the extremely popular 'bush meat' or wild animals meat is being sold everywhere along the road cooked or as a whole animal.There were many poachers and people are eating everything that moves in the forest - monkeys, antelopes, squirrels and even elephants. There was no control over this
God with us communications. Similar inscriptions are common here - on shops,cars or buses. 
We headed back to Yaounde to get our passports from the Gabonese embassy. The hitching was relatively good on the main road Limbe - Douala - Yaoundé. A Mercedes 320 with a businessman working with oil picked us.  After we explained that we travel from Bulgaria to here by hitch-hiking, he asked us the usual questions: 'Why? What is your profit from this?". We replied that our profit is experience, knowledge and wonderful еmotionsThis is the difference between white man and black man - he replied: A white man can do many things without money, but the black man will do nothing if there is no profit." Unfortunately a lot of people here were thinking this way which made us wonder why he was giving us a ride for free and wouldn’t he ask for money after all, although he drives a new, shiny Mercedes. The hitching up to now actually went quickly and we never paid. Usually we asked whether it is free beforehand and if they want money, we just kindly refuse. Most people, however, could never understand what was hitchhiking, although they picked us themselves. When we explained in details how we came to here from Bulgaria for free –without bus, taxi or airplane they thought we were lying, or we were crazy.Free? In Africa? It is not possible! " 
The conversation with the businessman continued like this: 'I want to take a woman from Bulgaria' - he said. He already had one, but wanted to have at least 4-5. Although people here are Christians, polygamy is very popular and there is no limit of women one man can 'take'. There were enough rich men having 50 women. 'How much a woman in Bulgaria costs? " - Asked the businessman. 'It’s free' – we answered - 'Love does not cost money'. This really confused him, he thought for a moment how it is possible and said - 'But if you didn’t pay for your wife, then how would you know that she belongs to you?" '”She doesn’t belong to anybody. She is a completely free individual just like you'. This surprised him even more and he concluded that white women and black women are different.  After some time, as we expected, the businessman asked for money. We told him once again that we travel only by hitch-hiking and if he does not want us, he’d better stop to get off and continue with someone else. He did not want to stop and said we would pay less than normal. We insisted that we would not give a single franc. Despite all our explanations he hadn’t understood that we came all the way to here by hitch-hiking, for free. He asked us: 'If I leave you here, how will you continue? By walking? " Finally, after we patiently explained to him once again that we travel everywhere like this, he agreed not to take money from us. The rest of our trip he was talking about God and his church. Here, everybody attended some church different than any other, with different perception of Christianity. Most people were very religious, prayed regularly in their church and we were asked about our religion almost every day. According to the businessman God loves only us, the people and everything  else he made for us to use it. He gave us the animals to kill and the forest to cut it down. The idea that animals can finish and that some of them are already extinct or endangered due to human activity, was totally unknown here. The same applies for the large hundreds of years old tropical trees that are being cut every day. Equatorial forests seem so vast and endless, that people don’t see anything wrong in cutting them. Almost no one has even heard about the importance of these forests for our planet. But when people are hungry, they dont think about endangered animals and forests. The sad thing is that even rich businessmen dont think about it. Everyone thinks only about money.

with Tita in Yaounde
With another car we reached Yaounde and when we got the passports the next day, we were unpleasantly surprised. It turned out that our monthly visa for Gabon, for which we paid 80euro per person had almost expired. It started from the day we applied not the dates we had requested. The visa for Cameroon was also not enough. There were so many beautiful places here, and our visa already ended. We tried to extend it, but it was too expensive.
In Yaoundé, we
stayed at Tita a Portuguese, working in the European Commission here. She received us hospitably in her home and even helped us change the dates of Gabonese visa. She had traveled a lot and we shared a lot of experiences. We visited a three-day reggae festival, a djembe party and celebrated the birthday of Evgeni with Tita and and her friend Rizbo at home with homemade cake. Rizbo was a hip-hop singer and was very funny. We met also many reggae artists and reggae fans here. Yaounde attracted us like a magnet and without noticing 5-6 days have passed. We had great fun here, but the visa has almost expired and we had to head to Gabon. 

First we went to Kribi for a few days where the best beaches here are. A number of beautiful lagoons with mango trees, palm trees and other plants growing from the sand. The most amazing thing here is the waterfall Lope near Kribi, which falls directly into the ocean from the flowing river. For the first time we saw a river ending with a waterfall into the ocean. We slept a few days in different bays in the tent and from time to time we walked for water and food to the village. There were many 'campsites', which represented a wooden shed without water or electricity where some local people live offering food and security. We met a rastaman with a beard who invited us for free to pitch our tent in his garden on the beach. He had made a paradise place with lots of flowers, fruits, palm trees and a small wooden cottage just a few meters from the ocean. He was living real simple life and looked very happy. He said he did not want to travel anywhere – here is his place. He brought us mangoes from the forest and a strange fruit, tasting like a potato but growing on a tree in the form of a big green ball.

Lope Waterfall

in the magic garden on the beach
some of the flowers in the rastaman's garden
С нежелание си тръгнахме от градината на растата, но от визите ни оставаха 2 дни и имахме труден път до границата. Трябваше да изминем 170 км черен път преди да се включим в главния път за Габон. Първата нощ спахме в началото на черния път в гъстата, тъмна гора, пълна с комари и насекоми. На другия ден след цял ден стопиране успяхме да изминем 80 км с няколко коли и камиони. От време на време имаше някое малко селце в гората. Видяхме пигмеи и други месни племена. На следващия ден визата ни изтичаше и трябваше до 18 часа да сме минали границата. А ние бяхме на безлюден черен път на 100 км от главния път и на 200 км от границата. Станахме рано, но до 10 часа не беше минала нито една кола. Бяхме решени да хванем какъвто и да е транспорт - платен или не, за да не изпуснем визите. Пътят беше бавен и трябваха поне 3 часа до разклона. Накрая мина bush taxi (така наричат споделените таксита в Африка) с 9 човека вътре, един на покрива и толкова претъпкан багажник, че стоеше отворен. И все пак спряха и настояха да ни качат. Казахме им, че няма място, но за bush taxi-тата винаги имаше място за още един. В случая бяхме двама с две големи раници. Казаха, че няма да има друга кола до вечерта и решихме да се натоварим. В горката Toyota Corolla станахме общо 10 души вътре и двама на покрива. Евгени отиде на покрива, където пътуването беше най-комфортно. Вътре бяха 4-ма отпред и 6-ма отзад. Шофьорът седеше в ъгълчето на седалката си и се присягаше вдясно за волана и скоростите. Багажникът беше отворен докрай с нашите раници, вързани с въжета и на това отгоре качихме още двама души по пътя. Така станаха 4-ма на покрива и 10 вътре - абсолютен рекорд за една кола и при това пътят беше брутален. Преди полицейския пост за града слязохме да преминем пеша, за да останат в колата само 5-6 души. Разбира се, всичко това ставаше пред очите на полицаите, но такива бяха правилата тук. С облекчение слязохме от Тoйота-та в Еболова, където се включихме в асфалтовия път за границата и продължихме да стопираме. За пореден път се убедихме, че стопът е много по-удобен и бърз от платения транспорт в Африка. В Eболова напазарувахме и хапнахме набързо и продължихме да чакаме на пътя. Чакахме повече от час, но накрая стопът се отпуши и с две коли стигнахме на границата точно на време- към 16 часа - 2 часа преди да ни изтекат визите.We left the garden of the rastaman unwillingly, but we had two days left and we had a long way to the border. We had to travel 170 km dirt road before we joined the main road to Gabon. The first night we slept at the beginning of the dirt road in a dense, dark forest, full of mosquitoes and insects. The day after we were hitching all day to travel 80 km with several cars and trucks. Occasionally there was a small village in the woods. We saw pygmies and other tribes. The next day our visa expired and we had 18 hours to cross the border.  And we were on a deserted dirt road 100 km from the main road and 200 km from the border. We started earlier, but up to 10o’clock not one car has passed. We were determined to catch any kind of transport - paid or not, in order not to miss the visa. The road was slow and we had at least 3 hours driving to the main road. Finally a bush taxi (shared taxi) with 9 people inside and one on the roof stoppedThey were completely packed up with luggage and people but still they demanded to take us. We told them that there is no place, but the bush taxis always had room for one more. In our case we were two with two large backpacks. They said no other car will come until the evening and we decided to jump in. In the poor Toyota Corolla we became 10 people inside and two on the roof. Evgeni went on the roof where the journey was much more comfortable. Inside there were 4 people in front and 6 at the back. The driver was sitting in the corner of his seat stretching his hands to the right to reach for the wheel and the gears.The boot was fully open with our backpacks, tied with ropes and on top of that we picked two more men on the road. Thus we became 4 people on the roof and 10 inside - an absolute record for a normal car and the road was brutal. Before the city at the police post we had to get out of the car and walk while only 5-6 people remain in the car. Of course, all this was happening  in front of the eyes of the police, but such were the rules here. Finally after three hours we reached Ebolova and got off the taxi with relief. Here the paved road started and we continued hitching. Once again, we were convinced that hitch-hiking is much more convenient and faster than the paid transport in Africa. In Ebolova we waited a long time on the road, but eventually two cars took us to the border at 16,00 o’clock - just in time - two hours before our visas expire.

Free Rototom Reggae Festival, Udine, Italy, June 2010