The Road Chose Me – Central Gabon & the Highlands
A Gabonese goodbye
Gabon is a stunning country – quite possibly my favorite on the West Coast of Africa – and I can’t bring myself to leave just yet. I’m very close to the Southern border with the Republic of Congo, but choose to swing north and east, aiming to cut directly through the middle of the country.
Over the following three days I bump along a potholed and muddy gravel track, cutting right through the central mountainous region of Gabon. Each night I simply drive until I am exhausted, and find a space off the road to set up camp. Over the three days, I only see a handful of vehicles, always clustered around the little villages I pass through.
At more than a few river crossings, I wonder if I will be able to continue and always find a way across on everything from concrete bridges built with a major highway in mind all the way down to a pile of sticks and logs that bend ominously under the weight of the jeep.
Finally, I pop out onto a major east-west highway, and after passing through the large city of Franceville, I aim for Lekoni, just before the border with the Congo. At a military checkpoint outside of town, I am a little shocked to see the guy trying to stamp my passport – he wants to stamp me out of Gabon! After some back and forth I explain I would like to explore the whole area and stay for a few more days, and he is more than happy to let me go without an exit stamp. He just asks that I come back to see him when I’m ready to leave. Great!
This highlands region of Gabon is utterly different than my expectations – it’s green rolling hills with open grassland as far as I can see. In the little town, I stock up on supplies and am delighted to find meat being cooked on a grill. I am always a fan of street meat, and the chicken and pork are delicious. When I realize it comes with grilled hot peppers, onion and mayo, I immediately order more and put it on the fresh bread I just bought across the street.
I fill up water from a community tap in the village, and the local kids are bursting with excitement to meet me and ask one thousand questions about where I come from and where I am going. It’s obvious the parents have sent them over to get water, and it’s funny to see the children rush forward to chat while the parents stand back, eyeing me cautiously.
I find my way out to Léconi Canyon, which is supremely beautiful. It’s later in the afternoon by the time I have finished walking all around, and so I decide to camp right there on the rim. A massive lightning display in the distance keeps me entertained long into the night. Staring at the sky, I attempt to locate the Southern Cross, a familiar sight I have not seen for a long time.
Gabon has been absolutely brilliant, and I’m a little sad to be leaving.
Now, it’s Congo Time!
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