Friday, 1 February 2013

French Equatorial Africa

February 23 1953 Land Mileage 3883
We were up early to see a crowd of 'spectators' and we were on the road by 06h50.   We again passed through several villages and the road certainly had not improved!  The countryside comprised pretty thick forest, with many birds and small insects, but not very much else to see until we reached the ferry over the Bahr Sara river.   Twenty three miles later, we drove into Fort Archambault, a small village with a store and even a post office!   We tried to find a garage where we hoped to repair the spring, but this was an impossible mission, so we just had to hope that the spare that was on the vehicle would hold out.   We did manage to replenish some of our food stores and fill up with petrol before moving on.

On leaving Fort Archambault, we saw large crowds of baboons crossing the road; this caused a certain amount of excitement with the four of us.    There were some huge animals in the troop and with a lot of babies they would not have liked any interference.  I have since seen how much damage baboons are capable of with their teeth. During the time that I worked for a vet in later years, three dogs were brought in that had been attacked by baboons and it was not a pleasant sight.  Dad drove on for another hundred miles before we managed to find anywhere suitable to pull off, simply because of the thick vegetation; by then it was almost 22h00.   The road was very narrow and in very bad condition.  This had been our longest day on the road and the first time that we had difficulty in finding anywhere to stop.   Even then we were still parked very close to the road and not really in a proper clearing.   While getting supper, we were suddenly joined by a woman with a small baby and three men!    It never ceased to amaze us how people seemed to find us within minutes of us stopping; we had not seen a human being for many miles except at two small villages that we had passed since leaving the Fort.   When we went to bed we still had company, but we were all very tired after the very long day and we hoped that they would just disappear back to their own homes.
Mum cleaning the dust off the camera!
February 24 (Tuesday) 1953 Land Mileage 4103
We got up early, but our 'neighbours' were already sitting on one side waiting for us.  Perhaps they had been there all night!  The woman now had a 'wrap around' on, presumably in our honour, or so we thought!  She seemed to be very friendly, although of course we could not understand her any more than she could us.   We took a few photographs and by 06h45 we were on the road again.
Our visitors.  On the ground you can see his small tom tom or drum that he was carrying.  Our equivalent today of a mobile perhaps :-)
The road continued to be very bad, thick forest and the occasional small village.  We arrived at Fort Crampel at 09h30; this really only consisted of a rest house!   We carried on straight through the Fort towards Dékoua and Fort Sibut; the latter also only consisted of a rest house and a small store and again we just kept on going until noon.    We then came across a very quiet lonely spot, which was ideal to pull off the road, have a break and some lunch.   There was thick jungle and forest all around, but this was a particularly pretty little clearing that looked as if it had been made especially for us.    We had not seen a living soul for miles other than near the villages, but the moment we had stopped, the locals seemed to appear as if dropped from the skies!!    We were starting to get used to having an audience every time we stopped to have a meal or go to bed.    They were fascinated by the tins that we put down and they happily cleaned out the jam and the condensed milk.   The usual photograph was taken and we were back on the road again.

We drove for only a short distance when we came across a lovely clear, bubbling brook.  Temptation got the better of us and we all decided this was the ideal spot to do some washing and have a good clean up.   It was too early to stay overnight, so once more we went back on the road.   We covered quite a distance in thick forest until we crossed a bridge over the River Kouango, then a further two miles on, we arrived at the village of Bambari at 16h45.    This village was quite a lot larger than any we had seen for some time and consisted of a rest house, store and petrol station.    We managed to get the broken spring leaf  welded, and this gave us a temporary spare once again, but by the time we had managed to do this job, the petrol station had already closed.   We then discovered the worst; not only was the petrol station closed, but they also had no supplies and their tanks were dry!   This left us in a bit of a quandary and they apparently had no idea when the next petrol tanker was likely to arrive.   Eventually we were taken to an American missionary who thought that he might be able to help us out.   Meanwhile we were invited into his home where we could have a good wash and we were asked to join him for supper.   We all felt pretty scruffy, but no one seemed to notice except ourselves.    We were given pancakes, ham and eggs which were quite delicious, followed by a cup of excellent coffee.  While there, we saw our first scorpion; the missionary took it all quite calmly, but I have to admit we all got out of the way in a hurry as it scurried across the dining room floor.   Meanwhile the fuel had been arranged and we had enough in our tanks to get us to the next fuel stop.  We left at 21h00 and managed another hour on the road before finding a place where we could bed down for the night.    We were all very tired, especially myself and we settled down very quickly, only to find we had to do a quick change around in our sleeping habits; we could hear lions roaring not very far away!    David moved into the Land Rover and Dad moved to the outside, gun at the ready.   The missionary had warned us that it was lion country, but it was only when we heard them, that the fact actually sank in!!   Thankfully, we had no need of the rifle and we were careful not to stray too far from the vehicle.
Mum, gun in hand, just in case........

To be continued :-) 


I have put this section of my life story on Kindle if you should be interested:-


  1. I'm thoroughly enjoying your travels, marveling at the ambitious planning you all did. This last picture says it all: "Young family in the heart of Africa."

    1. rosaria I am very fond of that last photo, as you say, it says it all :-)) Thanks for the comment Diane

  2. One more chapter of a fascinating odissey!

    1. JM I am enjoying reliving the trip all over again, it is great fun for me finding more photos than I ever published in the book. Diane

  3. Just reading this puts my heart in my mouth. It must have been eerie hearing the lions roar. I am constantly blown away with the gumption of your family.

  4. I saw baboons in South Africa in a national park and they are used to tourists driving past them so often. We were lucky to have a guide who also told us that baboons can get quite aggressive and just go for any kind of food.

    This particular chapter of your story is gripping with the dangerous animals and insect, knowing that you are in a car, trying to sleep. It gives me the shivers. You had a lot of courage to tolerate sleeping in the car despite such danger near you. I understand that you had no other option, though....
    It's a good job that you got petrol in the end after a good meal!


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