Traveling Bugs Around the World

Today we want to send our best regards to fellow “Travel Bugs” around the world!

To Victoria Ondarza and Federico Cáneva, who are right now touring the Pan-American Highway on a trip from Argentina to Florida in their Volkswagen Bug from 1981.

To Dirk Dahmer and Torsten Schmitz from Germany, who traveled the entire “Panamericana” in their green Volkswagen Bug named “Erbse” from 1952.

To Janet and Ed Howle, who participated in the “World Race 2011” from NYC to Paris and the “Trans-America-Rally 2012” from NYC to Alaska in “Stewball” from 1967.

To Vincent Loos, who drove his 1974 Volkswagen Beetle called “Foxy Shahzadi”, painted with unique Pakistani truck art, from Islamabad, Pakistan, to Paris in 2009.

The Nightly Car Crash

Last night a car accident happened right in front of Herbie and the camper QEK. Luckily we spent this night at the apartment of Tony and his friend Pedro.

However, also the Love Bug and the caravan have been untroubled by the car crash. Today we asked, if there is a safer place for our two travel companions.

Fortunately we were able to park our Travel Bug and the trailer in the backyard of our friend’s flat. Now they are safe! And very soon they’ll be continuing their trip!

As the shipping procedure takes a little longer, we are so glad that Pedro and Tony are offering us and our vehicles such a great accommodation here in Cabinda.

Bypassing the DRC

We tried to get visas for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) twice – in Rabat, Morocco, and Yaoundé, Cameroon. Both times, the embassies declined our applications. Of course we could have tried it another time in Brazzaville, Congo, but we’ve chosen a completely different path down south.

As we’ve been reading about many bad experiences concerning the DRC as well as the ferry boat crossing the Congo River from Brazzaville to Kinshasa, we decided to bypass this part of Africa and headed towards the coast. We entered Angola’s exclave, Cabinda, in order to take a ship directly to Luanda.

Boosting Angola’s Tourism

Antonio “Tony” Diaz is not only our generous host here in Cabinda, he became a good friend of ours and also a passionate supporter of Herbie’s World Tour. As an Angolan native, Tony speaks fluently Portuguese, which helps a lot.

Tony strongly believes that Angola should profit from tourism, just as countries like South Africa or Botswana – instead it is very hard to obtain a tourist visa these days.

Herbie and his companion QEK are still parked in front of Antonio’s flat, where we’re spending the nights, when the traffic is not as bad anymore.

Unfortunately we’ve just missed a boat leaving for Luanda. The local port authorities told us that we weren’t supposed to go on that vessel. So, we have to wait.

The departure of another ship is scheduled for the beginning of next week. Hopefully it will be worthy that we’ve taken this route instead of the hassle traveling through the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo).

Obrigado, Senhor Diaz!

As we were driving into Angola the day before yesterday, a guy wanted to overtake us with his truck. But when he saw Herbie towing the camper, he pulled back following us up to the next police check point, where he got the chance to talk to us.

His name is Antonio Diaz and it turned out that he lives in Cabinda, from where we are planning to take a ship to Luanda. Antonio, aka “Tony”, is originally from a small village called Lutete, nearby Cacuso in Malanje. His ancestors are from Portugal.

Tony’s helping us in dealing with the the whole shipping procedure and also offered us his warm hospitality. Herbie and the camper are parking just in front of his apartment in downtown Cabinda, in which we’re hanging out with Tony during the day.

Herbie’s Exclave

Due to those bad roads in Congo and Cameroon, we still had to get some things done on Herbie and the camper just as welding broken parts, flushing the gear fluid and getting rid of all the muddy water. However, Herbie’s back on track exploring Africa and we’ve just left Congo by crossing the border to Angola’s exclave, Cabinda.

Originally we were planning to travel through the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire) by crossing the Congo River from Brazzaville to Kinshasa, but we got another idea: Entering Angola’s exclave, Cabinda, and trying to find a boat shipping Herbie, the camper and us directly to Luanda, Angola’s capital.

Herbie’s Rebirth

The impossible became possible! Domi was able to get Herbie back to life. Although there is still water in the interior parts of the chassis and body, the most important thing is that Herbie’s back on the “road” (earth track) again.

Today we made it all the way to Dolisie, Congo, where we’re spending the night. Tomorrow we’ll do further repairs on Herbie, before we’ll be heading towards Brazzaville – our final destination within the Republic of the Congo.

Reanimating Herbie

The consequences of Herbie floating in the water were fatal! “Rien ne va plus!” – Nothing worked anymore! Needless to mention that there is no mechanic you can rely on, in the middle of Congo’s jungle.

We had to keep a cool head! Domi dedicated a whole day of work to repair the most important damages such as flushing the motor oil which included almost a quart of water, dismantling and cleaning out the mud of the starter as well as changing spark plugs, distributor cap and rotor.

During the work we had an audience of the local people who were sitting just in front of us and watching this exciting event like an amusing “television program”.

The Last Pond

The only connecting route between Gabon and the Republic of Congo is just an earth track with countless mud holes filled with more than knee-high water due to the current rain season (in Congo). Domi attached snow chains on Herbie’s rear wheels and then we had to willy-nilly rise to this frightening challenge.

Before every “mud hole”, we had to find out where the shallowest part of the water was. We were glad that Herbie won the battle against all these gigantic ponds on a stretch of 140 miles (230 km) – except the last one, which was the result of our own miscalculation as we chose the wrong path through the water. It all went so quickly and suddenly Herbie was floating in the water.

The water level went up above the seats. We had to carry our most important belongings to a dry place and luckily after a while some men came to help pushing Herbie and the camper onshore again. Out of question, these were horrible moments we were going through, not knowing what the consequences would be…

Vous Franchissez L’Équateur

In Gabon we crossed the Equator once again on Herbie’s World Tour. To capture this moment, we stopped in front of the sign and took some photos. At this point, we’d like to say regards to Mick from “Mick Motors” in Australia.

Double Is Better!

As we were loosing motor oil while driving through Cameroon, but had to leave the country because of our expiring visas, we stopped by at the next garage in Bitam, Gabon. In order to change the flywheel seal, Domi had to remove the engine.

There was no car lift, so couple of men helped lifting the car bare-handed. Unfortunately the first gasket didn’t fit, so he had to pull out the motor twice. Now everything’s working great again and Herbie is ready to tour Gabon!

The Nightly Car Wash

Last night, at 2 a.m., Domi suddenly woke up. Our bed was shaking and Domi thought, somebody’s trying to break into Herbie, who’s connected with our camper by the hitch. Immediately he jumped up and looked out the window to see what’s going on there. Domi couldn’t believe what he saw…

Somebody was cleaning the Love Bug! This nightly car wash went on for more than an hour. We didn’t want to interrupt the man at work, so we kept silent, while the guy got Herbie as well as our trailer, QEK, real shiny. In the morning we thanked the young man, who’s working for the hotel we were parking at (Hotel “La Solution”, right before Yaoundé) and gave him a generous tip. This was the first car wash since Morocco.

Tonight we’re staying at a gas station, right in the middle of Bastos, a district of Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé. We already enjoyed a cold and refreshing shower. Tomorrow morning we’ll go to the embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to apply for visas. After that we’ll be heading further south in direction of Gabon.

Herbie’s Defeating the Mud!

Today we finally entered Cameroon, where we were confronted with the worst road we’ve driven on Herbie’s World Tour so far. Thank God it is dry season! But anyway, Herbie prevailed, although he had to carry more than 120 liters (31 gallons) of gas.

Nigeria is Africa’s gas haven. One liter cost just 50 Euro-Cent (60 US-Cent). Therefore we spent all the rest of our Nigerian money for fuel. And just before reached the border to Cameroon we spotted also a jack fruit for sale on the side of the road.

The “road” (earth track) between the Nigerian boundary and the town Bamenda, in which we’re staying tonight, is in a catastrophic condition. Chinese corporations are already building a tarmac road through this jungle of western Cameroon.

Even though Cameroon’s forest is really beautiful, all our eyes were on the track and its condition. Meters high mud surrounded us while going through the jungle. This route is still the only connecting road between Nigeria and Cameroon.

The Very Special Nigeria!

Honestly, we are very pleased that we’ve already passed Nigeria. It all started when we reached its border, coming from Benin. From the moment Domi entered the Nigerian immigration office in order to get our entry stamps, we had to hear unbelievable things:

“Why did you obtain your visa in Mali? You should get them in Austria!”
“Your first time here!? What do you bring for our table?”
“Give us something and you are free to go!”

The hassle continued and became even worse while we were touring through Nigeria. Police, military and highway patrols stopped us countless times bothering us:

“You are not supposed to tow a trailer with this car!”
”This is your driver’s license? You look fat on this picture!”
”Anything! Just give me anything and I’ll let you go!”
”Why do you drive such an old car? You should have a new one!”
”Give me your camera or telephone! Just give me something!”
”Happy New Year! Where is your present for us?”

The Nigerian border crossing was without any doubt the most upsetting we experienced in Africa so far. And people’s behavior varied from weird to simply rude. We’re trying to handle such situations with a certain kind of humor. Anyway we are happy that we left this very “special” country, Nigeria!

“Braking” News!

In the past six days we had two major brake failures while touring across West Africa. The problem started in Togo. It turned out to be Herbie’s master brake cylinder.

The owners of “Chez Alice” in Lomé, Togo, who are by the way from Switzerland, helped us finding a mechanic. He replaced the seals of the master brake cylinder.

But something went wrong! The mechanic apparently damaged the plug for the brake fluid, when he reassembled the cylinder. We lost all the fluid within a day.

Suddenly, while driving in Onitsha, a bigger town in central Nigeria, the brakes failed a second time. We stopped at a gas station, asking for help and a parking spot.

Thanks to some police men and security officers as well as others, we were able to get hold of a used plug for our leaking master brake cylinder. Back on the road again!

Meanwhile we crossed the border to Cameroon and are resting in a town called Bamenda. The sad news are, we’re still loosing brake fluid. Hopefully we’ll find out why!

100,000 Miles: The Gulf of Guinea

After driving Herbie more than 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometers) around the globe, we reached the Gulf of Guinea today. We arrived in Lomé, Togo, spending the night at a lodge called “Chez Alice” in Avepozo, just a couple miles east of Togo’s capital.

Thanks to Herbie, our beloved little car, who has driven us all around the world! After 100,000 miles we start giving the Love Bug even better motor oil. Today Domi filled in a fully synthetic 10W-60, instead of 15 or 5W-50 so far.

Togo

We entered this small but very nice and idyllic country coming from Burkina Faso. Our dear friend Serge, who lives now back in Vienna, is originally from here. Therefore we visited his family home in Niamtougou and stayed there for the night. Herbie and the camper were parked under a mango tree.

Burkina Faso – Land of Upright People

In this country, formally called the “Republic of Upper Volta”, we had no single check-point by the police or military so far. People are very, very friendly, even though Burkina Faso (understood as the “fatherland of upright people”) is one of the poorest countries on earth. The landscape is changing as we’re heading further east. We passed Ouagadougou and are spending the night in Koupéla.

Leaving Mali

Yesterday we left Bamako and crossed the border to Burkina Faso. We had to say “good-bye” to Harald, who stayed with us in Mali’s capital. On the highway we stopped for taking some pictures and as usual we were suddenly surrounded by a bunch of kids and we gave a granola bar to each one of them.

Nigerian Visa Update

Actually we planned to leave Bamako today in the morning. At the last moment we thought, “Let’s see, maybe there is also a Nigerian embassy in Bamako!?”. And yes, there it was, even in walking distance from our camp. So we went there…

We filled out the application form, handed out passport photos as well as copies of our passports and the Mali visas. We paid about 125 US-Dollar each, but we got multiple entry visas and these on the very same day. Domi just picked them up!

Herbie is a Citroën?!

Since we entered Africa, almost everybody has been asking us, “Deux chevaux?” (referring to the French classic car, Citroën 2CV), whenever they saw our Love Bug. Moreover we’ve never seen so many admirer for our little car.

Maybe also because we’ve never spotted a VW Bug in Africa so far, but we got tons of serious offers to buy Herbie. Generally there is still a lack of vehicles in Africa. Therefore the prices for used cars are about double as high as in Europe.

The Sleeping Camel at the Niger River

Yesterday we safely arrived in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Harald, a German traveler, who we’ve met during the whole border crossing procedure, showed us the perfect spot to stay. We’re staying for two nights. Tomorrow we’ll take off again.

It is great to have a safe place to stay in the seventh largest West African city. We also enjoyed having fresh showers, internet access and doing laundry.

Our harborage is “The Sleeping Camel” just besides the Niger River and around the corner of the German Embassy. The city center is in walking distance.

After leaving the Sahara Desert, Domi serviced Herbie a little bit, just as adjusting the brakes, greasing the axle, cleaning the oil bath filter and changing the fuel filter.

The Kalashnikov On The Passenger Seat

Yesterday we entered Mali. As the political situation is critical at the moment, we were forced to get escorted by the Malian police and military. We had to drive all the way from the Mauritanian border to Mali’s capital, Bamako, in one day.

You got a weird feeling, when a heavy-armed soldier is sitting next to you in your car and you’re driving twelve hours in order to reach the mandated destination: Bamako, Mali.

Three other tourists, a Polish couple and Harald from Germany (next to Zainab), crossed the border by car on the same day. None of us knew that we’d get an escort.

We all had to stay overnight at the military fort of Nioro, a bigger town close to the frontier. In the evening we were asked to meet the local chiefs of police and military.

There we had to pay a high-handed amount of money for all together two police men and two soldiers, who escorted us on our way hundreds of miles through Mali.

All men, armed with Kalashnikov rifles (also known as “AK-47”) and carrying a bunch of magazines, were sitting next to us in our cars, telling us not to stop. Finally, right before sunset, we reached the required destination, Mali’s capital, Bamako.