When Joe and I moved to Gabon almost 2 years ago we had high hopes of exploring this country and all it had to offer. Then reality set in - police hassles, Joe working weekends and 12 hour days, the sheer difficulty in trying to get anything done here, etc. Aside from a few stays in Libreville, the capital city, we haven't seen anything other than Port Gentil. With our departure looming and perhaps feeling adventurous, we agreed to take a trip inland with some friends for the long weekend.
From the moment we said yes I had heart palpitations and minor panic attacks. Life in our comfortable home in Port Gentil can be difficult let alone a trip into the jungle where amenities are scarce. Venomous snakes, giant bugs, and sketchy accommodation popped in and out of my mind while we prepared for our trip but I figured that if I've lasted this long in Gabon, I can probably do just about anything.
Port Gentil is kind of like an island because it's surrounded by sea and swamps meaning we can't actually access the mainland by car. This trip required us to take a boat through the intricate river system that spreads throughout the country. We were told the journey would take somewhere between 3 and 4 hours however, due to overcrowding and extra baggage, it ended up stretching to 6 hours and included a mid-trip stop in the middle of the river to transfer excess baggage to a small fishing boat also headed to our destination.
We were the only non-local, English speakers on the boat and I don't think the other passengers knew that I speak and understand French. When the boat stopped, the other passengers began joking about what was happening when I heard someone yell out, "On va déposer les anglophones ici" and laughter overtook the boat. I smiled and laughed along however, a joke about dropping us off in the middle of nowhere did make me feel a tad uneasy.
In any case, we arrived in Omboué later that afternoon and checked in to our hotel. The accommodation was basic and clean enough but fairly good for Gabon. (I've stayed in a lot of shady hotels here and this was perfectly acceptable even given my standards.) Aside from a few mosquitoes there didn't appear to be any cockroaches or other creatures that would be sharing the room with us so I was relieved however, we were greeted by a large bucket of water and a cup sitting in the shower which can only mean one thing - no running water.
This is a common problem in Gabon and we've spent many a days without running water and I can assure you, there is nothing worse. I'd even take an electricity cut over a water cut (most likely because we have a generator) but in this situation, there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. The entire town was out of water and everyone was using the murky lake water as a substitution. Apparently the plumber was supposed to be on our boat but he didn't show. It certainly was not ideal and I'm sure we were a great smelling group upon our return to Port Gentil.
After checking in, we set out on foot to explore the town. Omboué is a small fishing village located South of Port Gentil on a fresh water lagoon. The infrastructure is minimal with most houses made from scrap pieces of metal and wood.
There wasn't a lot to do in town so we didn't end up spending a lot of time there as we had excursions planned taking us first to Loango National Park to spot elephants & hippos and then down the river to find crocodiles - but that's another post...