Day 243: Pining For The Moon

31.08.09: Monday began like most days here in Libreville – although now I have Jean-from-the-Andrea’s phone number I don’t need to pack up all my things and head down to the port to be told what I suspected from the start. Yeah, now he’s saying Thursday. The boat will be leaving Thursday. What could I do? Highlight of today was setting Justin on fire. As part of the cleansing ritual he must undergo before his big initiation on Friday, he had to dig a hole, light a fire, throw a load of nice smelling leaves on it, sit over the damn thing wearing a large black cape and, well, roast for half an hour. With smoke emanating from his black cloak, it was seriously the best impression of Satan I’ve ever seen. If I could have just affixed little plastic horns to his head, it would…

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Day 242: The King Is Dead, Long Live The King

30.08.09: Oo eck – Election Day! So here’s the situation – Omar Bongo, the former longest standing African president (since 1967 no less!) died a couple of months ago, so the tiny oil-rich nation of Gabon (population 1.4 million, 800,000 registered to vote) has its first chance in over four decades to choose a leader that might not turn the country upside down by its ankles and shake it until all its money falls out of its pockets. Although the pickings are somewhat slim. Out of the 23 candidates running for the post of El Presidente (a simple majority is all they need to win – ie. The winning candidate could get 10% of the vote) there are only three front runners, Ali Bongo, Omar’s son and heir to his utterly IMMENSE personal fortune (we’re talking BILLONS baby, BILLIONS) some guy who’s a bit of a…

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Day 241: Going Nowhere, Fast!

29.08.09: It was a extremely short sleep before I was up and at ’em. First up I rang Jean, the contact I have for the ‘Andrea, the cargo boat for Sao Tome that was supposed to leave last Monday but is currently still residing dockside at Port Mole here in Libreville. Jean said Monday or Tuesday. Ha! Is he on crack? There’s a small matter of the first election without Omar Bongo (he croaked it last June) for 42 years which is being held tomorrow. He thinks the borders will be open? He thinks there will be no civil unrest, no riots, no general African-style post-election insanity? I beg to differ my good chap. That boat ain’t going NOWHERE. Desperate for a Plan B, I managed to persuade Alex the Yank to come to town with me and hang out at Marc the Belgian Yacht Guy’s…

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Day 240: The Temple of Boom!

28.08.09: I woke somewhat perplexed to find myself in a hammock in a Bwiti temple, but then I remembered I was in Gabon and all was good. I said my hearty goodbyes to Mobengo, Tatayo, Justin and Alex and headed to the port. I needn’t have bothered. These guys have no intention of going anywhere. They say they’re waiting for a shipment of gas. I’ve offered to pay for the price of the shipment so we can go right away and they can pick up the gas on the next run. But ah, that would be too simple. Sorry Graham, you’re staying here until… well, the shipping agent said tomorrow, the woman on the boat said Monday, the captain chuckled and said Wednesday. I don’t believe any of them. I keep saying it, but talk about Cape Verde all over again. Frustrated, I returned to the…

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Day 239: Why Africa Why???

27.08.09: Awoke at 6am, eager and excited to get going today even if I did have that early morning sickly feeling. I zipped up my backpack and marvelled at how light it felt… Oh, hang on… Where are my clothes? Oh, for the love of God……………. I search the hotel room at the Tropicana (where the drinks aren’t free) but they were nowhere to be found. I asked at reception and was led to a grotty room around the back where I found my t-shirts sitting in a bucket, sopping wet. WHY AFRICA WHY???????? Did I request a laundry service? Did I leave my clothes out with a note saying ‘please wash’? No. The idiotic maid just took my stuff (most of which was clean and didn’t require cleaning anyhoo) and threw it in a bucket of cold water for the night. They had a dryer,…

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Day 238: The Dirty Mac Brigade

26.08.09: The ‘Andrea’ was originally scheduled to leave last Monday, but TIA, so you can forget about that flight of fancy. Today was whiled away at the little café in Port Mole (only €3 for a gritty coffee with powdered milk – cheap for Libreville) where Alex and I cadged the free wi-fi access that one of the shipping offices around here courteously (but no doubt unintentionally) provides. Alex, to his eternal shame, is lumbered with a MacinTOSH computer (the clue is in the title), the least portable portable computer in the world. While he was walking up and down the street waving it about trying to get it to pick up a signal,I was happily sitting the an air-conditioned café chatting to my favourite pole-dancer on Skype. Now apart from the obvious draw-backs of owning one of these Early Learning Centre-style ‘Macs’(ie. You can say…

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Day 237: Er… Do I Get a Lifejacket?

25.08.09: Ha! You want to see the Steamboat-Willie style affair that I’ve got to get on to Sao Tome on Thursday. Plus I’ve just been told that there may be up to 20 other passengers (where we’re all going to sit I have no idea) and that the cargo is going to be highly explosive gas canisters. Huzzah!! Why does my life feel like one long Road Runner cartoon? Oh well, while The African Queen awaits her departure I’m stuck twiddling my thumbs. Spent the day writing, editing, Skyping, the usual stuff – nought to report except that when I returned to my hotel at midnight (the wonderfully named Club Tropicana, but the drinks, alas, are not free) I met a fellow intrepid television show maker from America called Alex – he’s hosting a show called ‘The Cure’ (mmm, I love the definite article) about ‘alternative’…

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Day 236: The English Disease

24.08.09: One of the more remarkable things about my journey thus far is that I haven’t had a day off sick. Flu of the Swine, Bird or Man variety don’t seem to have made inroads and I managed to get through the entirety of West Africa with not even a dicky tummy. But I am ill. It’s a bit like home sickness, but that’s not what it is. It’s a unrequited pining, a deep-down feeling of grief at the loss of something intangible... the loss of something that possibly never existed, but that now teases us with its remnants… the loss of beauty: the exquisite, the gorgeous, the splendid, the magnificent. In short, I’ve got a rather bad case of what Brett Anderson called ‘the English Disease’ – I seem to belong to a world that’s gone. Not that I want to belong to the past.…

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Day 228-35: Listless In Libreville

16.08.09-23.08.09: A week in one blog entry? Lazy I know, but whatchagonnado? Quick rundown of the last week: no boats leaving for the island nation of Sao Tome, so I just have to wait here in Libreville. Libreville is dull. Dull, dull dull. I’ve spoken to yachties, cargo boat owners and (even!) fishermen, but nothing is going before the “Andrea” on Thursday 27th. STUCK HERE TIL THEN! Cape Verde Part II: This Time It’s Personal. Rocco left on Friday but before then we met with Yaz’s friend Estelle who was lovely and had been living in Liverpool for the past few years so we chatted about John Moores, Smithdown Road and my old haunts. This weekend I met with a girl from CouchSurfing but I couldn’t stay the night and was left wandering about downtown Libreville at 10pm because all the hotels were full. Wasn’t too…

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Day 227: The Spanish Whiskey

15.08.09: Last night we made friends with a girl called Vivian who said she would help us do the old border hop into Equatorial Guinea (the border wasn’t closed, the lying tykes). And true to her word, this morning we bribed the guards and got in as far as the local supermarket were we bought a big bottle of Spanish Whiskey to celebrate. When we got back, Vivian’s little brother, Kamikaze (I’m guessing that’s his nickname) entertained us with a bit of his comedy routine, which involved him pretending to have a mental illness. Hmm… could do with a bit of work if he’s going to run with that one in the West, but then again Mr. Bean is improbably popular in France and Germany, so who knows? So after a fun morning we headed to the frontier with Gabon. I managed a successful crossover of…

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