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


11/1

From Bonnie:

The border town is Coco Beach, a very small village right on the waterway. It consists of a few shops around a roundabout that serves as the transport hub. Otherwise there are the very simple houses scattered around - the bare wood, totally simple houses typical of rural areas in EG, Gabon, and - as it turned out - Rep. of Congo as well. We went to the roundabout to find transport to Libreville, and had waited for an hour or so when Sally came and said she was going to Libreville as well, though Edward was going to stay in Coco Beach another night and come to Libreville the following day in time for his plane home. We waited some more. Finally a couple of cars - shared taxis - came and we negotiated a fare we could live with, 5,000 cfa ($5); higher than we would have liked, but it was getting later and we needed to get going. We piled in and were off. Libreville is about 3 hours from Coco Beach. The scenery is quite open, rolling hills

and flat grassland with scattered trees much of the way and, of course, the occasional small village. We arrived in Libreville about 5:30 in the afternoon.

Sally had met a local woman, Louise, through a guide she had become friends with in the south, and though Sally was leaving the next day to head back south to see her friend, she and Louise helped us immensely in getting situated in Libreville. Sally and Edward had found a good hotel when they were in Libreville previously, Hotel Eclipse, and that first night, Nov. 1 we shared a room for 3 with Sally. Hotel Eclipse is in the Quartier Louis, an area just north of city center that is both convenient and affordable, and it was better value than anything listed in our 2010 LP. Rooms had hot water, TV, AC, wifi (up to 11:30 or so at night), only one bed (as usual), but queen or king size, for 29,000 cfa ($60). They were booked for the next night so we had to move to Hotel Louis, about 75m up the road & in the LP for a night, then were able to move back to Hotel Eclipse for Nov. 3 (Eclipse day!), and Nov. 4 & 5 while we waited for our Republic of Congo visa. Hotel Louis was less expensive, 25,000 cfa, and the room was ok though not as large as the Eclipse but, as the LP said, they have a problem with water - they don't have any! So they give you a bucket of water each day. The 4,000 cfa extra for the Eclipse was a bargain.

Libreville is very different from Bata, as is Gabon from Equitaorial Guinea. Although oil is as important to the economy here as in EG, the spread of wealth to the people seems to be a bit better. At least for the most part people - even in the country - seem to have enough of life's essentials to not be in abject poverty. The atmosphere, the attitude of the majority of people we met anyway, seemed to be positive; one with reason to have ambitions and hope. The people were friendly and helpful, proud of their country, and interested in who we were, why we were there, and what we thought of Gabon. Though French is the language, we could always find someone who spoke enough English to get us by - even way to the east in Leconi. Libreville itself is - unlike Bata - a true big city. The central downtown area is not huge, and is walkable, though with the heat and humidity 3-4 km distance seems a lot! All the big city trappings are here: high rise

office buildings, the President's Palace, large hotels, and loads of eateries. It is situated right on the seaboard with a nice boardwalk along much of the shore. There are, however, oil rigs in the harbor along with numerous big tankers waiting to be filled. We found a good boulangerie that became our food, drink, and "chill" headquarters (literally since they had good AC); we usually stopped there on our walk back to our hotel each day.

Our first order of business was to figure out where we were going to see the eclipse - i.e. what location. Mari thought Bifun - to the east and a bit south from Libreville and right on the centerline for totality - looked likely, but knowing nothing about the area we didn't really know if it would, or not. Mari also knew one of the eclipse tour groups would be staying at the Hotel Meridian - a high end hotel - before the eclipse. Maybe we could find out where they were going - they had probably researched sites. So on Nov. 2, we went to the Meridian to see if we could meet somebody from the group and find out where they were going to be. At first it looked like a dead end; the group hadn't arrived, they had been delayed. We were about to give up when up drove their bus and an extremely haggared, clearly exhausted group of people began to straggle out and into the hotel where their buffet dinner was ready. Most of them didn't even see us

they were so tired. Finally I made eye contact with one of the men, quickly told him who we were and what we wanted, and asked who we might talk to. He very nicely introduced us to the group coordinator, who called the group guide and got the information for us: the schoolyard in Benguie, just a bit south of Bifun, and we could easily get there by local bus. Success!

From Mari:

We went to Libreville on Nov.1, All Saints Day, when most everything was closed. We were there until Nov. 3. Bonnie and I arrived here today from Cocobeach after a hair raising journey across the border waterway from Eq. Guinea. More on that when I have a REAL computer to write with, not this tablet. (Back to Cocobeach entry to read)

> We plan to take transport to a little place called Bifoun, which is inside the totality lines. I will try to make contact with a tour group tomorrow to find out where they are going and if we might join them. Transport is expensive and difficult off the main roads. My concern other than clouds is tall trees. Lots of jungle here! Won't know that til we get to Bifoun, so cross fingers on both.

Good luck on your viewing conditions, Kryss, and enjoy the gorillas! Will send you a post report, cheers, Mari Laxmi

From Bonnie:

Now in Libreville, Gabon, after a border crossing yesterday that both Mare and I thought was a great adventure - a border not to be forgotten to be sure - but that by the end we were both sure you (Tim) would have just been freaking out about (!), and therefore thankfully were missing. Haha! The shared taxi ride today from the border to Libreville took me/us right back to similar rides in West Africa ... The oh so red earth, all around, the lush green vegetation, the bare bones wood houses scattered here and there, and the driving on one side of the road or the other to try to avoid the potholes (impossible of course), though these were baby potholes in comparison to most other places thank heavens. We only had to stop twice for the driver to tweek whatever it was he had to tweek under the car to keep us going - haha! (Yesterday one driver was constantly fighting with his clutch that was going out ... Felt pretty happy that it hung in there till we got to where we were going, i.e. the frontera! So, yep! This is west Africa all right - haha! Now we have to figure out how/where we're going to see the eclipse on Sunday, get our Rep of Congo visa, and then how we're going to get to the one border where we can probably get a transit visa for Angola. It was All Saints Day today so the Embassy and everything else was closed unfortunately. Oh well - it will all come around I'm sure. We met an American man last night who had just gotten a transit at that border, so wish us luck.

11/4

From Bon:

Hardly any wifi here as it turns out - really just at this overnight place, and even here it was out all day yesterday, & up till just a bit ago ( a drag!) and no internet cafés either. Will try to keep in touch as I can, but please do keep sending me any/all info about anything - I've found I can download stuff at times even if signal not good enough to send. So send away! Haha!

We should get our visas for Republic of Congo tomorrow and cross over in 2-3 days. Who knows re wifi there (?!), or between here and there for that matter, but I'll keep the faith - haha!

From Bonnie's journal:

The next morning, Nov. 4, we went to the Republic of Congo Embassy to apply for our tourist visas.

It turned out to be very easy. The visa officer spoke a bit of English, and though not really friendly per se, was helpful and agreed to give us a full tourist, 30 day visa readily enough. We could pick it up at 2 pm the next day. Cost: 55,000cfa ($112). The afternoon pickup meant one more day in Libreville, but nothing for it but to wait. The visas were ready as promised the next day.

More from Mari after the event:

Hi from stormy Libreville. We went to the center line site yesterday with a thick cloud cover. Had met the group from the San Jose company and went to the place they selected. Been raining hard for many hours now. How lucky we were to have had clear skies yesterday!

I looked at S&T site and they haven't had any contact with anyone from our viewing site yet. Strange because it was a relatively easy place to get to and the President of Gabon came for the show! S&T reported on chasers from really remote places that had much less view and time than we did. I don't know if you can, but maybe you can pass the word to S&T that Chris Cannon, a first timer, took some fabulous pictures yesterday. His email is chris@empowerplaygrounds.org He is from Utah, but works in Ghana.

The picture from Uganda was good, but what we saw was so much better. There were many well set up photographers there. A Japanese group, some Euros, and the group from the San Jose company MTW Associates, www.melitatrips.com, Daniel was their leader and he lives in Truckee!

I think the Nat. Geo. group in Lope got similar shots being not far from where we were on the N1 road. It will be interesting to see them. Our British friend Kryss saw 22 seconds in Uganda and it probably looked like the one S&T has on their site. Our pink prominences were taller and they shifted from top to bottom as the moon moved across.

Oh! I forgot to mention the director of Brisbane, Australia, planetarium was also there! It was such fun talking with him and other umbraphiles while we sat on pins and needles hoping the sky would clear and then to share the thrill of when it did! All for now. We get our Congo visas tomorrow and plan to head for the town where Albert Schweitzer set up his hospital.

Trying to figure out how we can get thru the DRC safely and into Angola. Will keep you posted. Hi to all.

>Laxmi - the best photos so far are at skyandtelescope.com. Click on the eclipse link if they still have the link. Shows the pink prominences all around the sun and the inner corona. But a bit blurry. Looking for more photos.

>Hi,again: I didn't take any pictures because it was only 1 minute and others were more set up for it: I have asked some to forward them to me: I haven't been able to find any from where we were (Benegiue south of Bifoun on that main north south highway N1). Mostly I have only seen partials: Have you found any total pictures? We saw pink prominenses that covered the upper half first and then the lower half before diamond ring at 5 o'clock: Great stuff live and now I want to see pictures!

>I will pass on any I get to you: Cheers!

That's it for now the place here in Pointe Noire is closing: The mosquitoes are as annoyin11/4g as this French keyboard: Forgive the typos due to that: Flying to Brazzaville in the morning: We cant get the Angola visa so are flying to Windhoek via Addis Ababa and J-burg! Lots of sky miles, but that is the only way to move on. Cheers; Mari

11/5

Dropped off our passports at the Republic of Congo embassy this morning: Can't get them until tomorrow. They were closed on Friday (All Saints Day), so had to stay here longer: Hope to get to Lambergene for tomorrow night: That is where Albert Schweitzer's hospital is: Told we can stay there: All for now.



More After the Event:


To See Kryss' Eclipse Photos

Email from a fellow eclipse chaser:

It was a blast to have you and Mari along for the exciting eclipse festivities and learn about your crazy trip. Hope you’ve made it safely to wherever your next stop is or are enjoying more of Gabon. Please find attached my favorite four photos from the eclipse.

Best of luck,

From Bon:

Chris Cannon

Hi Chris,

It was so fun to meet you and share the eclipse a bit with you! From what Mari and I have been able to see online so far, your pics of "our" eclipse are far better than all of them. So kudos to you, and I hope you might send them or post them online so everyone can enjoy the Benquie experience - haha!

And ... If you can send some my way that would be really terrific - would

Really appreciate it! Thanks a bunch, and hope to see you at another eclipse ... It's addictive you know - hah!

Bon

Mari sent:

That's it for now the place here in Pointe Noire is closing: The mosquitoes are as annoyin11/4g as this French keyboard: Forgive the typos due to that: Flying to Brazzaville in the morning: We cant get the Angola visa so are flying to Windhoek via Addis Ababa and J-burg! Lots of sky miles, but that is the only way to move on. Cheers; Mari

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