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Gabon: The long trail to Gamba

We arrived in Gamba last night after 20 hours of driving most of the length of Gabon. Of the whole trip, only 6 hours of it was on paved road (albeit with huge potholes), the rest was sand tracks across the savannah, driving down riverbeds through the forest, flooded elephant paths and 2 tiny one-car-at-a-time ferries.

On the paved road near Lambarene, only 500 km to go!The car was stuffed with an incredible amount of gear including my new boat engine, 500m of manatee net, 5 trunks of equipment, a centrifuge, all our personal bags, coolers of food, cameras, 2 propane tanks, and 8 people. We were crammed in like sardines, but there was still room for gear to fly around as we jolted across a zillion potholes- I go hit in the head by flying objects 3 times and the driver was almost knocked unconscious by a flying spare car air filter at one point! I wish I had more photos, but most of the time I was holding on for dear life. I did take a video of the car “swimming” through one flooded area, but it’s too big a file to attach here.

The car on the savannah. The “snorkel” can be seen on the passenger side, just in front of the door. This allows the car to drive through water that completely covers the hood, without flooding the engine. The driver and another passenger test the depth of water before we drive through it

The first night we arrived at the place we had reserved to stay, after 12 hot & dusty hours on the road, only to find out there were only 3 beds for 8 people. I was lucky enough to get one of the beds, but it was poor planning and most people had to sleep on the tile floor. The next day we had trouble finding food before we left the town so we went all day on 1 soda and a few crackers each. Every small town had a “security checkpoint” (apparently due to the recent elections all the local police are flexing their muscles) so I also had the pleasure of paying a $10 bribe to get our car through one checkpoint. At least it wasn’t worse!

The car loaded onto the do-it-yourself ferry to cross the Panga River. A couple guys pulled ropes to get us across. While waiting for the second/motorized ferry, Stephane (right) discovered the villagers had a brand new manatee net. Hopefully we can talk to them at a later point to understand where they are hunting.

Uzoma and Stephane relax on the motorized ferry as it takes us upriver to Mayonami, on the last leg of our trip. We arrived, battered and bruised, at sunset last night, and as we pulled into Gamba there were 25 elephants feeding at the edge of town, which was a nice welcome! Luckily the 3 guys who came with me (Stephane and Patrice from Gabon and Uzoma from Nigeria) are all very easy going and helpful, so they remained cheerful throughout it all. Now we are here for 3 days to put the new boat engine on the boat & break it in, buy gas, food and other supplies, and to await the last 2 members of our team, Ken and Tom, who arrive by plane later this week. On Thursday morning we’ll boat up the lagoon to our base at Sette Cama, my favorite place in Gabon. After a day of set up we should finally be ready to start captures on Friday or Saturday!

Elephants at sunset just outside Gamba (sorry, I know they look like blobs, the telephoto lens was buried somewhere in the car!)
1 Comment
  • Anonymous

    December 15, 2009 at 1:12 pm Reply

    An incredible journey, Lucy!! You and the team you've assembled are totally amazing!!! High five and a big HUGS on making it to Sette Cama with all that gear.

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