AFRICA: Bon and Mari/Laxmi Can't Get Enough! Solar Eclipse in Gabon no Less! travel blog

From Bonnie:


The next day we easily found both offices (in Malabo), they had moved, and our Spanish made all the difference. The tourist permit turned out to be 20,000 cfa ($40 usd) - too much for the 3 days we would be in EG, but the tourism fellow assured us that if we didn't take photos we didn't need the permit even on the mainland. I was a bit nervous about that idea because Mari doesn't have a good track record with this kind of thing. On at least two occasions she has almost gotten the group in trouble with the police for taking pictures when she knew they weren't permitted. But she promised to be good, and we decided to trust what he was telling us. (We did get out of EG without being thrown in jail, but not because she kept her promise, she just snuck pic's when I didn't know it, and she - we! - were lucky.) At 5:30 our plane left for Bata.

Bata is described in the 2010 LP as an up and coming city, but it appears to be anything but - at least in the center where we were. During our flight the "shade" had come down - i.e. sunset had come and gone - and we arrived in the dark. We headed for the Hotel Central that the LP (again, 2010) recommends as the best centrally located budget hotel. It looked tired and run down, but it was dark so we decided to check it out anyway. It turned out to be a Very Bizarre experience! The man at the desk clearly had 3 rooms available but he wouldn't even show us a room. He kept looking at us in a very strange way, and told us, asked us if we wanted one bed or two (Mari said two), and then he told us he had no rooms. We said it looked to us like he had at least three, and then he started yelling at us and told us to "get out!", NOW! I asked where he'd recommend we look, and he replied "Pan Afrique". I asked where that was and he replied "down the

street - that way ... GO!" We went.

Mari thought his behavior was because the Central was now a flop house. I thought it was because he thought we were a gay couple, even though Mari had told him we were sisters, and he wasn't very enlightened in that regard yet. (this was probably the case as we came to realize, and we started making a point of telling people we were sisters, i.e. same mother, same father, because in Africa people routinely call women "sister") We started walking down the street. It was dark, but there was just enough light to see where we were going. The road was rather broken up in spots, and the "sidewalk" was in all kinds of conditions from virtually non-existent to ok (and with gaping holes here and there). There weren't many people on the street, but there were just enough little shops that we could continue asking "Pan Afrique Hotel" and they kept motioning us on down the road. Despite this, neither of us were nervous; it felt ok.

We finally found Pan Afrique and got a room, 42,000 cfa ($85 usd). One bed of course, but AC, hot water, and TV, plus - we realized in the morning, it was right on the oceanfront, (though not a beach you'd want to spend time on). We were hungry, and the folks at the hotel directed us back the way we had come to a Cafeteria I had seen on our walk to the hotel. It wasn't far. The Cafeteria was closed, but a chicken & fries place (that also had omelettes for us) was open as was the gelateria/patisserie shop next door that had a big outside TV screen going with the soccer game. Mari was in her element.

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