The Republic of Congo on the west coast of Africa was prior to independence in 1960, part of French Equatorial Africa and was known as the Middle Congo. During the 1960’s it came to be known as Congo Brazzaville, after its capital, to distinguish it from the neighbouring then Republic of the Congo (now called Democratic Republic of the Congo – or DRC in short). Congo Brazzaville is a very interesting country to visit and out in the country is still to a large extent ‘unspoilt’ and ‘undeveloped’.
After a brief visit to the group of South Afican farmers, farming north of Dolisie, we continued our journey towards Brazzaville and then to the north in search of Gorillas. It was with a sense of adventure that we continued into the unknown on some very tricky roads and terrain, making it an experience second to none! The season in which you go into this area is important as the roads could become very difficult and dangerous in the mud but the Chinese construction companies are everywhere in Congo Brazzaville, and the roads are improving every month by the looks of it. Ending an ‘extreme 4×4 adventure’ taking us 18hours of driving on the national N1 route we arrived at Brazzaville (280km travelled).
The city Brazzaville was founded in 1880 by a Franco-Italian explorer named Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, and it still retains much of its French heritage. In the area closer to the Congo River, tree-lined boulevards give way to pastel-coloured colonial buildings next to grand Catholic churches and Memorials, whereas on the outskirts of the city, where the majority of people live, Brazzaville looks very different compared to the centre (like most cities I suppose). Brazzaville may lack a large amount of traditional tourist attractions, but it surely makes up for it in charm.
One of the things that stands out for me travelling in the South-Western countries of Africa (Angola and the Congo’s) is that in general the people are very friendly and smiling, the courtesy to road users and the extend to what the ‘organised chaos’ of traffic works is definitely worth mentioning. There are few traffic lights, stop streets and other road signs but by some miracle it seems to work even in and around the big cities where there is heavy traffic on any given day. Taxis seems to be the preferred mode of transport and it was interesting to see that the taxis in the different bigger cities are painted all the same colour by city (we experienced green, blue, yellow and red cities)
The economy is a mixture of subsistence hunting and agriculture; an industrial sector based largely on oil and support services. The Oil and Forestry industries make up the bulk of the economy, whereas Natural gas is increasingly being converted to electricity rather than being flared. New mining projects, particularly iron ore will also contribute largely to the countries revenue.
Despite both Congo’s being among the least-toured countries in Africa, they have to my mind tremendous tourist potential with the dense forest areas, numerous rivers and waterfalls, and unique wildlife. For the 4×4 off-road travellers some of the most spectacular scenery and a real adventure are on offer!
We went in search of the Western Lowland Gorilla. The Western Lowland Gorilla is threatened with extinction due to the illegal baby trade, habitat destruction, the threat of the Ebola virus, and the illegal bush meat trade. We visited the Lefini game reserve but we unfortunately did not have the luxury of enough time to really do justice to the park. It needs good planning and plenty of days to be able to see the reserve properly and see lowland gorillas in the wild. In Lefeni gorillas that have been freed from captivity and re-leased on islands in die Lefini river live in family groups in their natural habitat. The sight of Gorillas in the wild is an unforgettable event! A group of gorilla infants that have been saved from the illegal trade are being looked after close to the main campsite before they would be released at an appropriate age to a safe location. Although it initially did not appeal to me to see ‘semi captive animals’ the experience of seeing the baby gorillas being fed proved me wrong, as one could only be happy for them. They have been given a second change at life and will be released in an environment were they could grow up in the ‘wild’ – free and among their kind.
Patrol turning 50! -that is 50 000 km’s!
We ended back home in Walvis Bay with the odometer just short of 50 000km’s. In our case this was really a 50 00 km worth mentioning as we went through almost any imaginable off-road condition and challenge. From the Namib Sand–Sea, crossing the ‘monster dunes’ of the Namib to the off-road tracks of Damaraland and Kaokoland. The vehicle took on the dry rivers of the Namib and crossing van Zyl’s pass in its stride. Further afield after crossing the Caprivi strip we went onto the sand tracks of Barotste land in Zambia and did unbelievable slippery and ‘extreme’ mud driving up north in Angola and the DRC border. This we achieved whilst being loaded with more than the average as we where carrying supplies and camping equipment for the convoys in line of duty and we did a fair amount of towing (off road caravan and trailers).
At the end of the day the Patrol came through with flying colours and over this distance and in the circumstances I am happy with the 5.5km average fuel consumption we achieved!
We had to replace shock absorbers and coils springs as the original ones did last the distance in the extrem operating conditions. These we replaced with EFS aftermarket suspension at a total cost of R 18 385.00. Apart from a single globe in the rear tail light, the only other costs were the replacement of the front disc brake pads (R 1260.00).
To me the fuel consumption is fair given the sheer size and weight of the Patrol and the load we were carrying. The standard configuration of fuel tanks (90 + 45 litres) is not ideal for our type of application,however we managed to source a replacement from Northern Off-road in Randburg that we would enable one to carry an extra 40l on board setting one back R 8299.30.