Friday, April 29, 2011

Leaving Yaounde

The visa for the Republic of Congo, or Congo-Brazzaville, was a bargain at $140. Compared to the $267 I paid for the five seconds I was going to be in Congo-Kinshasa, this seemed like a steal.

I'd walked my passport back up to the Gabonese embassy on Wednesday afternoon. The visa officer visibly pulled back when he saw me.


"The boss isn't back yet."

"I know. I just want to get my passport in for processing."

Relieved, he took it and gave me a receipt.

"Come back Friday at 2."

"How about tomorrow? Any chance?" I couldn't afford to keep hanging around Yaounde unless I changed hotels. And I was lazy.

He laughed. "No."

"A little earlier on Friday then?"

"Maybe. Probably not."


On Friday, I optimistically packed and left my bags in storage at the hotel. I showed up at 1:30 at the Embassy of Gabon, thinking I could smile sweetly and waltz in through the gates. 

And that's exactly how it went. In my imagination. 

Instead, when I showed up, I found a group of about 20 others waiting for their chance to smile sweetly and waltz in through the gates. I was, unsurprisingly, the only white person waiting, but I was surprised to see that I was the only woman outside the gate aside from the snack vendor. 

I stole glances at my fellow applicants. It was impossible to tell their countries of origin. People were dressed like slightly nerdy versions of urban US high school students, with jeans that featured a few too many studs and zippers to be considered cool at home. We all waited. 

At 3, the embassy security guard came outside the gates with a box. He lifted passports from the box one at a time. He opened each, paged through to the names and photos, then called out each name. The passport-owner would then claim his passport. 

I could see mine way down in the pile. Mine is double-sized and stands out. I wanted to point and ask for it, but I forced myself to be patient. 

He didn't call my name anyway. He saw the US stamp on the front and handed it over without opening it.

And I was off! Back to the hotel, where the driver who hung around the gate put me in his taxi and drove me clear across town to Bucavoyages, where after an hour's wait, I boarded a crowded minibus headed south.

I wanted to get as far south as I could before dark, and the guidebook listed lots of hotels in Ebolowa, and then a few hotels in Ambam. Buses were leaving to both, so I chose Ambam.

And regretted it later, as the bus wound around winding roads in the rainy darkness.

At Ambam, I hired a motorcycle taxi to take me to the hotel I'd chosen out of the guidebook.

It turned out to be a filthy shithole in a family house, without any food on offer.  Oh well. 

I wasn't likely to starve. I didn't bother unpacking, just pulled out my pajamas and went to sleep. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Marie,

    Glad to be able to catch up with you on your further travels.

    Hope to read more soon.

    Best Regards
    Terrylin, Johannesburg