February 25 1953 (Wednesday) Land Mileage 4383
We started later than usual, due to the fact that we had been late the night before and we were definitely less rested than in previous days! It was 07h00 before we got going, only to find after a short distance that we needed to stop again, as the petrol line was choked. Dad removed it and used the air line to try to get it clear, but in the end he had to give it a really good clean out, with the result we lost another hour before we were moving once more. David, meanwhile, had found some bananas; they were very green and never did ripen, but it was exciting to think that we had found bananas straight from the tree, even if inedible! We were used, of course, to getting our bananas from the supermarket!
We passed several of the locals, who all appeared to be out hunting, carrying spears, bows and arrows. They seemed to be following a fire, which we later found out that they had lit purposely. They followed along behind the fire and collected the dead animals caught up in its wake for food; this we understood included things like rats and snakes. I must say we found the whole idea pretty revolting, but presumably it was an easy way for them to get a meal.
At 11h30, we went through the village of Kembe and crossed the Kotto River; here we stopped to enjoy the view and take some photographs. There were some really stunning rapids where we stopped; they were quite lovely and sparkling in the bright sunshine, as the water rushed over the rocks.
|Kotto River Falls|
After a brief break, we were on the road once more. Passing through the village of Gambo, we saw a Citroën with a Cape to London sticker on it. We discovered later that it was a man from Bulawayo, Rhodesia, who was in the process of breaking the record for this trip. He had no idea how lucky he was to pass us by where he did! Only a few minutes later, we were crossing a wooden bridge over the M'Bari River, when one of the planks collapsed underneath us, leaving us tilted at a pretty precarious angle.
|Apologies for the lousy quality of this photo; however, I am surprised that Mum even remembered to take it! Looks like my Dad on the right of the photo..... thankfully the Land Rover did not roll over on to him!|
David, Mum and I scrambled out over the driver's seat to safety and fortunately the water level was very low, though very smelly and unpleasant. Dozens of locals suddenly appeared on the scene and said they would help to get us out for the equivalent of £2. We had very little choice but to go along with them and with much chanting, the four of us doing most of the work, we finally got the vehicle on an even keel again, but on the wrong side of the bridge! By this time, more reinforcements had arrived and we seemed to be surrounded with people demanding more money. Dad gave us a wink to get back in the vehicle and after parting with the promised £2, (a vast sum in that part of Africa in those days) he started up and before they realised what we were about to do, we had shot across the bridge missing the broken plank. David looked back and said they obviously thought it was a big joke, as they were all laughing and waving to us.
At 14h30, it started to rain, not too heavily, but the first we had seen since leaving France and it was enough to make it an unpleasant driving experience. We carried on for another one and a half hours, until we arrived at Bangassou. This was on the border between French Equatorial Africa and the Belgian Congo, and we had to cross by ferry over the River M'Bomu. We also needed to fill up with fuel; this we discovered was very expensive there and we did not have enough cash on us! We found another very helpful Frenchman, who extricated us from a difficult situation by cashing a traveller's cheque and he then invited us to his house for a drink.
Having decided to stay the night, we managed to arrange a room at the local rest house. This had stand-up baths, which we found quite unique, but loads of hot water, so we managed to have really enjoyable clean up. We then cooked our own supper and had the privilege of sitting at a table to eat it! David slept on our own camp bed in the room, but Dad, Mum and I slept in the Land Rover. The room had no beds, and as we only had the one camp bed, David was the only one who slept indoors.
To be continued :-)
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