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Rio Muni (Bata) Visit: 2012-4
2012-04-20 - A very troublesome trip to organize and complete! First of all, to get the visa I had to submit among other things a copy of my criminal record officially translated and certified in English. Then I had to courier-forward all materials to Brussels only to collect a flat denial and the instruction to resend everything to Rome as they were the ones more responsible for visa issuance in my case. Then, I had to collect every travel agency's refusal in Libreville to organise a trip to Cocobeach and on to EG across Rio Mitimele because they would just not do it! Only one of them indicated that they did not work that option but that they could istead take me to Isla Corisco through Cap Esterias using a Bengha fisherman with his boat but they asked for 700 euro for an overnight trip of two days not including single night's accomodation on the island or any meals! Once in Libreville I bulldozed all travel agencies again to receive blank faces and indifference. The astute hotel taxi driver I was using in the city offered to get a friend's 4X4 (this is the rain season after all and many dirt roads are in terrible if passable condition)for a rental fee of 200,000 CFA and add another 100,000 CFA as his fee for a total of approx. 470 euro just for car/driver return fees to Cocobeach! You have to consider that Avis rents 4WD vehicles with driver for outside Libreville usage for 120,000 CFA per day or about 180 euro, but there was nothing available at the time. Just when I was thinking that his risky proposal was my last chance I entered, in my desperation and by chance, in yet another TA in the Downtown area I stumbled across and my persistence paid off: They of course would not do it but a very helpful and (thank God) English- speaking manager offered to call a friend of his who might accept. The friend showed up a little later, his vehicle was in fine condition and the price for the allez retours trip was negotiated at slightly more than the above mentioned reference price. Next morning at 5:30 the driver showed up with an English translator and a co-pilot! A gruelling muddy and hole-ridden 3 hr ride later we zipped through the immigration post in Cocobeach and after a hard negotiation with the pirogue owner, though compromised as I had endured a lot already and I had to do this trip, we settled at 12,500 CFA each way ( he initially insisted on exactly twice that amount!) for a supposedly nominal 5,000 CFA fee per person when the pirogue was full (10 to 12 people). You must consider that two Americans who crossed along in the same pirogue had to spend the previous night at Cocobeach because no other passengers were present and they did not wish to pay the high price to cross by themselves. They negotiated independently and succeded, as I found out later by them, a fee of 7,500 CFA per person. The crossing was fantastic - a great 30 minute boat ride under misty skies. On the Equatorial Guinea side we had to submit into paying a series of various fees to different people - a marine fee of 2,500 CFA, an administration fee of 4,500 CFA, a police fee of 2,500 and clerks' fees of another 4,000. No receipts were given. The Americans refused to pay the clerks fees and asked for receipts. We all waited for the Comissar to come and stamp our passports. He accepted us all together in his office, he was business-like and thorough in our interview. He stamped my passport as it was OK but refused to admit the Americans in the country (after making phone calls to his superiors for instructions) as they had no visa. It is known that American citizens do not need a visa to enter EG but he said that this applied only for international airports in his country with organized foreign reception facilities. Finally, after some time in Cogo enjoying the town and its beautiful old wooden church, neglected and unfortunately closed, joined the Americans on the same boat back to Gabon. Took them along in the 4WD back to Libreville. It was a day trip to remember!
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