The other day I took Calli and Andrew’s dog, Hunwick, for a walk. We went to the golf course and as we walking down the road that leads out of it I noticed Hunwick locked onto to something in the grass and was slowly heading toward it. As I stared in the same direction and thought to myself “hmmm that look a little bit like a snake”. A second later I was quickly pulling the dog back towards me before it reached the head of the maybe snake. And indeed it was a snake.
From my internet research I think it’s a Rhinoceros Horned Viper. (Still need to double check with someone who would know for sure) Venomous, but pretty timid, luckily for us. Keeping a safe distance (and trying to hold back the dog that wanted nothing more than to get the snake) I watched it cross the road and head into the jungle. Pretty cool.
We definitely experienced a lot of new things our first few weeks here…
I’ve found 2 main types of critters that like to call our house home as well… Ants (who I fight tooth and nail to be rid of) and geckos. The geckos I don’t mind so much, but it is quite surprising to grab and broom and find one hiding in it. I do my best to catch them and put them outside, but I think it’s a loosing battle (with both the geckos and the ants…).
We have a bamboo tree right outside of our patio that weaver birds have built nests in. Almost every morning I sit on the patio watching and listening to them.
There’s a beautiful beach called Colas that isn’t too far from our house and isn’t too difficult to get to (i.e. doesn’t require off road driving, that has to wait until we get our own car). The Friday after Teun and I arrived we went there in the late afternoon. As we were walking toward the beach Teun spotted some movement a ways off by the trees…it was a mother and baby elephant!They were headed toward the beach, but soon spotted us and headed back to forest, too bad, but it was a magical moment.
We spent a couple of hours at the beach enjoying the cool breeze and beautiful scenery. It’s truly amazing to have these huge stretches of stunning, white sand beaches all to yourself.
We spotted two more elephants on the drive home.
The first Saturday night we were in Yenzi there was the “Les Bal Des Majestes” where everyone was encouraged to come wearing traditional clothes made in town by a local tailor. At first Teun and weren’t planning on going because we didn’t have any attire, but after meeting Christina at the open water sports day earlier in the day and having her offer to let us borrow a skirt and shirt from her and her husband, we decided it would be a good chance to meet people. So off we went to experience our first Yenzi night out. Christina and Calli had matching dresses made just the day before the event (aren’t they cute?!). Teun (much to my chagrin) even entered us into the competition for king and queen (even though we had no chance of winning, but we did get awarded the “judges prize” because we participated in the event after only 3 days of arriving). It was a fun night and great to see so many nationalities celebrating together. Close to the end of the event the king and queen were crowned and sat on their thrones in front of the whole crowd.
The next week I was invited to picnic lunch on the beach (Colas) with Cali and Michelle and their kids. It was a beautiful day, bright blue skies.
And we can’t forget about all of the elephants!
The first two weeks we were here we saw elephants almost every day! It helped that we were seeking them out 😉 we would take drives in the evening before sunset trying to spot wildlife. Some we saw just across the road from the housing camp, some in tall grass as we drove to or from the beach and some in our own yard!
Elephant family staring suspiciously at me as they decide when to cross the street and wander through Yenzi.
Then there was the afternoon that I received a telephone call from my neighbor that there was an elephant outside. I jumped up from my computer and looked out the window, there was a huge bull elephant 10 feet away, walking toward the bamboo tree!
He spent 10 minutes munching on it while I snapped pictures (from the safety of my house and patio, not that the mosquito netting would stophim) and then he wandered away to find food at other houses. I spotted him again a while later around the corner helping himself to someone garbage.
And I’ve spotted other beautiful creatures just walking around camp.
The birds here are amazing! Usually I’m too slow to get a decent picture, but sometimes I’m lucky.
There are lizards everywhere!
Haven’t seen too many creepy insects (yet), but a few big grasshoppers, butteflies, dragon flies, and a praying mantis.
The jungle is just a few minutes walk from my doorstep (and literally on the doorstep of some of the houses). We’ve seen monkeys several times, but I haven’t been able to get a good picture yet.
One of the, many, things we wanted to do while here in Gabon was to go camping. And we just did our first trip! We went with a group of 9 people (6 adults and 3 children) to Pointe Pedras. A scenic beach right next to the jungle. The ladies went earlier during the day and set up the campsite, the men joined after work. The drive to the campsite is a bit different, first some tarmac, then laterite and finally sand. Going from a plain landscape through dense bushes which try to hide the path going to the beach. Soon after our arrival and some walks on the beach the prep work for dinner started which actually means gathering wood to build a fire for BBQing (and keeping the elephants away). Everyone brought some delicious items which were BBQ’d and accompanied by various salads etc. Then the night falls and a beautiful sky full of stars appeared. Also making it pitch black dark and very difficult to see your surroundings. This is not a bad thing if there weren’t any elephant tracks and manure around us….they are around us and are very difficult to spot but before you know they are right in front of you! Before bedtime we did a little walk on the beach and found fresh hippo tracks but didn’t hear anything. Unfortunately the hippo had set off, probably annoyed about the people sitting around in his spot….. Before we all gracefully retired we put some extra wood on the fire, just to make sure we wouldn’t be surprised by a nightly visit of an elephant which will start shaking the tent, or trampling us. That is the reason we bought a roof tent….
After a hot and some what humid night, resulting in a sweaty night of some sleeping and mostly avoiding touching each other. We don’t need more body heat! The true beauty is when the sun rises and you can hear the monkeys in the trees jumping around with some parrot noises here and there.
We decided to get up early and walk to the lagoon and hope to see a surfing hippo or maybe an elephant. They tend to go out early to avoid the direct sunlight, or for that matter the people trying to spot them…. unfortunately no signs of wildlife at this lagoon. After a delicious breakfast containing fresh coffee, cinnamon rolls and scrambled eggs and some monkey entertainment we decided to walk over to the other side. There was a breakthrough where the river flows into the ocean this provides an interesting interaction between the salt and freshwater and brings in nutrients for the saltwater species. Usually a good fishing spot or an easy way for wildlife to hop between the two. We spotted elephant and hippo tracks, but again the animals were probably hiding in the woods. Unfortunately no wildlife, most likely because of the sun starting to burn quite hot, it is the equator after all. We knew they were around, fresh tracks gave away their presence but didn’t reveal them as the tracks ended in the water where they wandered off…
After the walk we sat down and watched the children play. The little girl in the photo, Liefie started to practice her surfing skills and balance. She must have some Australian bloodlines.
There will always be an end, also for this trip. We packed up the stuff and only needed to take down the swing, which was knotted up to the tree….
On Wednesday the 4th of March we flew an hour south from Libreville down to our new home in Yenzi Camp in Gamba.
We fly over one of the most beautiful national parks in Gabon, Loango national park, on our way down to Gamba. (When it’s a clear enough day) You can see the beautiful coast, lagoons, marshes, and jungles of the national park and the area we’ll be living in from the plane. It’s pretty awesome.
The first view we had of our house was from the plane. Of course at the time we didn’t know which house was ours, but looking back on it we can see in the pictures we took while flying.
We were very lucky that we were able to move into our new home the day we arrived, most people get stuck in a studio or other temporary accommodations when they first arrive because their house isn’t ready yet. There’s a few different types of houses in Yenzi, but we’re in one of the newest built of houses. It’s a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house. Since we don’t have any children we technically should be in a 2 bedroom house, but this was what was available so that’s what they gave us. Although we may end up moving to a two bedroom still.
This is a video I made of our house the day we moved in, so excuse the mess and for filming in the wrong angle 😉 All of the furniture is temporary, provided by the company until our shipping container arrives.
“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” ― L. Frank Baum
After a 7 hour flight from Paris to the capital of Gabon, Libreville, we disembarked the plane and got in line. Before leaving The Netherlands we had been sent a fairly detailed information about what was about to happen. We would enter the airport and head towards the line for people without a visa (we had to get it at the airport), there would be someone behind a glass window (at some place the line went by) who would hand us the original copy of Teun’s work permit and money to pay for it, and we would present this to the person who gave out the visas. Oh and everything is in French (and my 3 lessons so far aren’t really that helpful with real life situations…). Sounds simple. Getting in the line was easy enough. We showed proof of our yellow fever vaccine and followed the line until it stopped around 30 feet in front of the visa office. A few feet in front of us was an office, behind the desk in the office was a glass window with a bunch of people holding signs and shouting at the glass. Bingo, this where we need to get our paperwork and money from. So did another lady standing just in front of us. There was no one in the office and the door was slightly ajar. So the woman started to walk into the office. Then there was shouting (well more shouting than the normal level that was already ongoing). An armed guard standing next to the visa counter was yelling at the lady and looking very serious. I can only assume it was something along the lines of “get out of the office!” A minute later an airport worker walked by and locked the office door as the lady tried to explain about needing to collect something from behind the glass, which was ignored. Interesting, but the line wasn’t moving anyways so we waited. A lady holding paperwork and a piece of paper with Teun’s name on it spotted us looking anxiously at the glass and indicated she had our stuff. 10 minutes later someone else came and unlocked the door. The lady in front of us told her story to this person and after some discussion was allowed to come in and collect her documents from someone behind the glass. As this happened the the lady with our documents banged on the glass and got the attention of the airport worker indicating she had documents for us. Teun was ushered in to collect everything. Success! We then pushed our way closer to the visa booth, lines aren’t really a thing here. After standing around in front of the booth for a while an seemingly overwhelmed official called Teun over (he probably wasn’t next in “line”, but oh well), stamps were issued, photos were taken and we were sent on our way. Woo hoo, we’re allowed in Gabon!
We entered the baggage area and waited to collect our 6 checked bags (which miraculously all showed up). We met up with another family who lives in Yenzi and already knew the ropes. We arranged for some airport employed porters to take some of our bags (because sometimes this makes it easier to get through the luggage check with less questions) and as a large group (because sometime kids also make it easier and they have two of them, score!) we exited. We had to show our luggage tags, but no bags were opened (which is good ’cause we had a lot of food and things that probably could be “taxed”).
We’re released into the city of Libreville
Libreville is interesting. It’s part large modern city, part crumbling apart ghetto, but it’s supposed to be quite safe and have many very nice (and expensive) restaurants.
After getting settled in our hotel we decided to go have dinner at the hotel restaurant that overlooked the pool and the ocean. Not too shabby. I ordered one of the Gabonese dishes, chicken with a palm nut sauce, but was repeatedly asked/warned that it was “local meat” (which from what I can tell means its one of the chickens that normally runs around the streets), but I was all in. It was really delicious.
The next day we had an appointment to apply for our “carte de sejour” (residence permit). We were picked up 30 minutes late and first taken to a local market where we would get our pictures taken, which was literally a wooden booth and a guy with a digital camera and small canon photo printer. Photos done we walked a couple minutes down the street to the government building. We were taken by a guy from HR and our driver. We stood with a group of about 50 other people in a larger covered area, after about 20 minutes we were called and walked into a large non-air conditioned government building with rows of wooden benches surrounded by desks and booths. We sat for a while while the workers slowly trickled into their desks and chatted with each other. Then our HR guy took all of documents and passports and started talking to the workers. He would go back and forth between us and the workers at their desks, I guess until he got the signatures/stamps that were required and we moved to the benches on the other side of the room and waited. We waiting for at least an hour or so in the warm, stuffy room. At some point we were told to move to another section of benches and a large group of people were ushered into the spots we were sitting. After more waiting, my name was called. I went into the booth and had my picture and fingerprints taken, then a signature and it was done. I sat back down on the bench while Teun and another woman with us went through the same process. Then we were done. We would have to return a week later to collect our cards.
We had the afternoon free to do what we wished. We asked at reception if there was a nice beach nearby we could go to (as the beach at the hotel was covered in large rocks and garbage. They recommended Tropicana, so we hopped in a taxi and away we went. We had no idea where we were going or how far away this beach was. We drove through the center of town, past the airport, and after 25 minutes and down a little alley we arrived. It was really nice. It’s a hotel/bar/restaurant/”beach club”. White sand and palm trees, pretty idyllic. It would have been even nicer if I hadn’t realized after a few minutes of being there that I didn’t have my iphone. I was 100% sure I had it at the hotel. Ugh. I’ve never lost a phone before in my life. Of course it has to happen the day after I move to a country where I can’t replace it. So after we somberly drank our drinks and discussed what happened to my phone (conclusion after checking back at the hotel and all around and calling/texting it a million times, it must have fallen out of my pocket in the taxi, never to be seen (by me) again). I decided we shouldn’t let this ruin our time so we set off to walk down the beach as far as we could get. We walked for 40 or so minutes and ended up a dead end where there was an outlet from some channel/canal into the ocean. Hmmm, what to do? We could walk back. A local who was trying to catch something(?) in the outlet saw us pondering and called out to us. He indicated that we could walk through the shallow part of the water next to a wall and could climb up some rocks to get back up to the street. I was eager to try, but the look on Teun’s face was not too eager. The man indicated to take off our shoes and then led the way. Before Teun had time to protest I had slipped off my shoes and was the following the guy. He took my hand to help me balance as we crossed the underwater rocks. He showed us the way up to the street and with a wave and “merci” he was gone. It was a nice welcome to Gabon.
We took a taxi back to the hotel and had dinner by the pool again. We left early the next morning to catch our flight down to our new home in Gamba.
After the months of preparing, thinking, shopping, planning…
What a crazy week it was….
The week started with our house looking like a combination of a hoarders home and the aftermath of an explosion. We spent the last couple of months trying to figure out everything we may “need” for the next four years (because we were told it is very difficult/impossible to get most things (i.e. everything, but bare necessities) where we will be moving. It’s a strange thing to try and decide what you may “need” (or rather want) for the next four years of your life, especially when you’re moving to a place where it’s hard to fully comprehend what your life will be like at. We know it’s on the coast of Central Africa, it’s a tropical climate, the road system is….in some cases non-existent, we’ll be living in a company run housing camp (in a proper house, with plumbing and air conditioning, etc. LOL), there’s tropical diseases, we want to do a lot of outdoor activities…. but what will life really be like? There were lists, lists of items that other people thought were the necessities of life, or wish they had brought with them, in our new home. So we went shopping, we must have been to Ikea a half a dozen times in the 2 month before we moved, and at least as many trips were made to the hardware store. And the amount of packages from online retailers that arrived at our house during that same time period was just ridiculous. So our house was overflowing with an array of boxes and random bits and bobs. Then we had to decide what was essential to take with us on the plane because it could take 6 months before we saw anything that gets packed into the shipping container. So our house was a little chaotic…
Then the packers arrived… our house was filled with bodies and boxes and brown wrapping paper. At a certain point it became impossible to keep an eye on everything to make sure everything that was packed was supposed to be packed, so I’m pretty sure we’re going to find some boxes full of trash when we see them again in a few months… A day and a half later our whole life was neatly laid out in boxes all over our living room. 334 pieces to be exact. Our walls were bare, our cupboards empty, our windows uncovered. And soon everything was gone, taken down our (steep) stairs or out our window, packed into the shipping container. The container was sealed and it was done. It was funny seeing our house like that, the same way as we saw it for the first time when decided to buy it, completely empty, a shell of what it was/could be.
And of course there were the goodbyes… We planned a “borrel” to say goodbye/see you again later to all of our friends and family in the Netherlands. It was emotional… happy and sad at the same time… so happy to spend time with everyone we love… so sad to say goodbye and have no idea when you would see them again. Sad to see people hurting… happy to reminisce about all of the good times we’ve had together…. The day before we left we spent with Teun’s family…our family…
Our first flight to Paris was at at 7:15am so we spent our last night at an airport hotel
We some how managed to get all of our luggage on the plane….
We started this website to share with our family and friends (and who ever else decides to read this) all of the adventures and struggles we (Andrea and Teun) will experience during our time living in Gabon. We’re very excited to explore and enjoy our new home.
Our house in Gabon the day we moved in (March 4, 2014)
“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.”
― Emily Dickinson