The Road Chose Me – The Republic of Congo, Pt. 2
Pointe-Noire: Highway to the Danger Zone
I re-trace my steps north out of Brazzaville, aiming for the new highway that connects the capital to Pointe-Noire on the coast. I know I have entered the region of danger when both the frequency of military roadblocks and the firepower the men are carrying take a big step up.
Soon all the new bridges have a military presence, with men actually camping out 24/7 on them to deter anti-government protestors from bombing them. The one that sustained damage is down to one lane, and I make a point to keep moving. Soon afterward I pass a few burned-out vehicles that have been pushed off the road. I can only imagine there are casualties.
After about five hours of this, I’m happy to arrive at an immaculate and new gas station, and even more pleased when the attendant says they have plenty of gas. I fill the jeep and my auxiliary tank to the brim, which is a huge relief. While doing so I get to chatting with the attendant, who assures me I am now past the danger zone and I should not be worried anymore. He points in the direction I am going and says “In that direction, you could camp on the side of the road, and nobody would bother you.” This information adds to my now excellent mood.
Pointe-Noire is a massive city. As I get closer to the center, I am shocked to find a very modern city. There are glittery high-rises, supermarkets, cinemas, and bowling alleys. When I squint my eyes, I could easily be in a big city in Canada or the United States.
Traversing the west coast of Africa requires crossing the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) one way or another. It is indeed not the most stable of countries and is renowned for being one of the least-functional in terms of government infrastructure, roads, electricity, etc.
That is despite – or because of – having probably the most valuable mineral reserves on earth, which are being heavily exploited by absolutely everyone.
Whatever I do, I must enter the DRC, and I must cross the mighty Congo River. I am expecting hundreds of miles on virtually non-existent roads, a ferry that may or may not operate to cross the river and then many more miles of still-nightmarish muddy roads. I am told if it rains, all bets are off. It is entirely possible no vehicles will get through for months.
Onwards then, into the DRC!
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