Above the clouds
Cruising at altitude
I arrived in Pointe Noire on the 30th April 2012, after a fairly event free flight on Interair
, a South African airline.
My mission was to do an electrical installation on a ship.
The clouds were fantastic as we cruised at 10 000m above Mother Africa.
After touching down, going through customs and immigration was fairly easy. I had a LOI (letter of invitation) and was met at the arrivals hall by and agent from GETMA
It was about a 10 minute drive to Hotel Elais
, which is a 4 star hotel in the centre of town.
It has a pool, and outdoor restaurant, as well as a nice, but expensive bar.
The following morning, it was 1st May, Worker's Day, and what better way to spend the day sitting at the pool, with an ice bucket and several cold beers.
The beers were quite costly, at 2 000 francs. At other pubs, they cost 1 000 francs.
From my room, which was newly renovated, with good airconditioning, I could look out on the busy street below. It was jolly noisy, with the taxis tooting their hooters, with lots of interesting sights.
Cool by the pool
'Ngok, a beer for crocodiles!
In the hotel lounge, a local artist had some interesting pieces on display. There was a cute carving of Tin-Tin in a canoe, but at US$ 125.00, I preferred to admire it, and rather spend the money on beer.
For US$ 100.00 the exchange rate was about CFA 40 000.00. That would buy about 20 beers in 640 ml bottles. The nice local beers, 'Ngok, Mutzig and Primus were very good, and half the price of a Heineken.
The entry to the port is fairly strictly controlled. One needs a permit and a passport to enter the harbour area. Whatever you do, don not get seen with a camera, or get caught taking photographs in the port. The police are completely paranoid, and will confiscate your camera. You could even end up languishing in the cells of the Hotel du Police!
One of the saddest sights I saw in the port were thousands of logs that obviously came from the local forests. Logging is going on at an enormous rate in the Congo. The trees must be hundreds of years old, and are huge. The logs are systematically chipped into little pieces, or loaded onto ships
and sent overseas to manufacture furniture.
The port is fairly busy, and there are quite a number of ships lying at anchor, awaiting assignments.
The old railway station building in Pointe Noire is quite impressive, but is in dire need of a facelift.
I saw a passenger train on the way to the airport as it crossed the road at a level crossing, and it was packed with people.
Malaria is still a problem here. One night I killed twenty mosquitoes in my room. I took Malanil® tablets, one a day, and for seven days after leaving the Congo.
I had a rather unpleasant gastric episode after ingesting something. Luckily I had some instant setting cement in the form of Cipla-Loperamide tablets to sort out the diarrhoea. A few other first aid items include some plasters for minor scrapes and scratches, iodine ointment, and some glue to repair my shoes.
There is a BIG MARKET on the outskirts of Pointe Noire, where one can buy almost anything, from generators to freezers, furniture to clothing. I would avoid eating anything on offer though. It's a congested shanty town where the roads are awfully congested and
Tin-Tin in the Congo
A cute carving of Tin-Tin in a canoe.
Other enterprising folks had barrows, from which they sold baguettes, drinks and other goodies.
While most Congolese folks wore Western garb, there were some stunning women in traditional dress.
Leaving the country had its own challenges. As usual, the customs and immigration officials make it quite clear that they are in need of financial assistance. The one actually rubbed his thumb and forefinger together as I handed over my passport and boarding pass. I would like to see him spend that ZAR 20.00 bill I gave him.
On the whole, a fairly pleasant stay. When I mentioned that I was South African, I always got a big smile, followed by the words: "Bafana-Bafana" (our soccer team), or "Nelson Mandela" our national icon.
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