It would have been a shame to have missed this chance to visit a part of equatorial Africa. My brother Ru is probably coming to the end of that particular tour with Shell, and this was an ideal time to visit. Cristina, his wife, had taken their daughter Serena back to Chile and was waiting to give birth to their second child (a boy called James as it turned out), so Ru was free to be my chaperone and to do some exploring. I couldn't have left it any later, and in fact we both left the area on the same flight to Libreville. I flew home the next day, and he had a meeting in Libreville, a day of rest and then a flight to Chile in time for the birth.
These two maps show the area covered during the two weeks.
It's hard to see the difference in colour between forest areas and savannah areas in the second map, but I estimate it to be about 25% lagoon, about 10% savannah and 65% forest.
The first day was meant to be a long, tedious day of travelling, but thanks to an unlucky coincidence, the lack of a vital bit of information and my own stupidity (I blame lack of sleep and Larium), it turned into quite an adventure with a very lucky escape.
There were two flights, Heathrow to Zurich and then Zurich to Libreville, both of which seemed to go alright. The plane landed, to lots of applause from the travellers, at exactly the time my itinerary said it would arrive at Libreville, and I followed most of the passengers off into the sauna.
The corridors sparsely lined with people wearing several different military type uniforms didn't match Ru's description of what to expect, and about twenty minutes later I found out why.
I was the last to try and get through imigration because they hadn't liked the card I had filled in on the plane and they had given me another which I took to the back of the queue.
It took quite a bit of Franglais with me trying to say that I did have a visa before we realised that I had got off the plane in the wrong African country! I did remember an announcement about the plane being late, which I thought was a bit odd at the time, but I didn't know that the plane stopped at Douala in the Cameroon.
Luckily for me, the plane hadn't taken off again yet, so I had a quick sprint back and got there soaked with sweat. They weren't quite sure what to do with me, but I found the stub of my boarding pass and they decided I could get back on after another search.
At Libreville, I managed to ignore all the people wanting to be my porter, and carried my bags over the road to the Hotel, where checking in turned out to be another problem.
They were showing me the reservation Ru had made on my behalf and trying to tell me something I couldn't understand. After a little looking around they found someone who spoke English and told me that they had got the reservation, but they were fully booked anyway.
The taxi ride to another hotel was quite long and "interesting". The driver didn't understand my limited French and was enjoying himself playing reckless games with friends in other cars.
I felt a very long way from home that night.
The second day was much more relaxed and started with a quick hop over the
equator in a pretty empty Shell flight to Gamba airport, where Ru was waiting
for me. I caught Ru's house on video as we were coming in to land (2'nd from the
left on the bottom row).
Ru went back to work, so I made myself at home and had a look round. Here's a small selection of the interesting figures and masks in his study:
Our daily routine of looking for creatures in the evening started on the first day, and Nightjars illuminated by our headlamps were a common sight. We got closer to this one than most though.