We really felt like going away - after all, Jandro had been working too much and I'd been sick all the time; it had been a tough month. In short, we needed to take a break from the daily grind. For our destination we chose Nyonié: just above three hours away from Libreville, known for its wonderful savannahs, easily spotted animals and a paradise beach. Expensive, clearly, but what isn't in Gabon. We set off last Friday and were supposed to enjoy the wildlife until Sunday afternoon. Three days, two nights and a deep breath outside of Libreville. Or so we'd thought.
The reality, however, decided to hit us right between the eyes: from the very beginning we felt that something was wrong. Namely, the boat that was supposed to carry us to the village was occupied not only by us and three other tourists but also by a group of sixteen French soldiers and their wives, all of whom showed inexplicable liking of cigarettes, tiny shorts and shouting.
It shocked us a little that so many people were heading for the place, as we were used to calm bungalow villages which could take up to fifteen people at a time. When we got to Nyonié our worst fears were confirmed: it was a huge holiday resort, providing accomodation for fifty/sixty (or maybe more) and, given that it was a four-day L'Ascension weekend, it was absolutely packed (with more French soldiers and also several of my students, but the latter I had expected).
Fine, we thought, we'll just get away from these people during the trips and we'll still have a good time, right? Wrong! But to understand why, you need to know how Nyonié works. The first night costs 150 euros (price to go up 15 euros next month) and this includes: transport (boat and 4x4), accomodation (wooden bungalow - no lock - containing two beds, two pictures, four hangers and a window), food (three meals a day), drinks (water, coke, beer available all day with no limits, open bar with all kinds of alcohol starting before lunch) and trips (trekking with a guide in the morning, 4x4 safari in the afternoon). Every following night costs 60 euros.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the young Belgian responsible for the place. He addressed us as Konjee... Konjee (damn-what do I do with this C before the K-I'd better skip it-problem solved)... Konjee-ka, which he later adopted as a general group noun, which meant Ms Kasia Koniecka and Mr Alexandre Giráldez Soage (Ahh, Konjeka, there you are, your lunch is ready! or Konjeka, you go in the white pick-up.). He told us that only one 4x4 trip will be available for us, as there were too many guests on the premises. And that the morning trekking started at six am.
Our first Nyonié experience was lunch. Open bar. French soldiers. French soldiers. Open bar. Can you imagine what it adds up to? The military men, together with their ladies, occupied a large table. The talking was loud, the laughing was loud, but all this I consider normal in large groups of friends. They did, however, go way over the line when they thought it appropriate to sing, shout and bang their fists on the table, making it impossible for anyone to have a conversation.
It is with them that we went on our 4x4 safari (What is a termite mound? Is it made of wood? Is it edible?), during which we found an elephant and molested it brutally by cutting off the poor thing's way with our big truck. I must admit that the views were lovely: the picturesque savannah, the undulating terrain, the forest, the birds... Of course, we didn't get to properly enjoy any of this, because the driver would never stop and let us admire the nature. Instead, he was driving like crazy in order to deliver what people had paid for: at least one elephant.
At dinner we decided we were going to leave the next day (a day early, that is): it was impossible to stand the shouting of the merry group, who kept drinking green things and singing idiotic songs, led by some kind of cultural animator, who seemed to have taken it upon himself to organise games and passtimes. It was then that we found out from my boss (who, accidentally, was also there) that it is nearly impossible to enjoy a tranquil weekend at Nyonié, as it is always full of French military men, whose main objective is to win their money back by drinking as much as they can.
Our last hope was the morning trek: we knew that getting up at five am may be discouraging. We had hiked in the jungle many times and we knew the procedures: you leave early, two guides, up to five tourists, you walk silently, you follow the elephant paths... Not this time, however. We left the village a happy group of twenty-one (!) with one (!) guide. From the very beginning we knew we would not see any animals. We did not even enter the jungle properly, we simply took the forest roads. A bunch of people were ahead of the guide, who didn't bother to check if anybody was missing anyway. Oh sweet Lord.
The Belgian guy never asked why we left early or if we had enjoyed our stay. He just took the money. Conclusion: Nyonié is your place if what you're looking for are free drinks, the beach and an extension of Libreville nightlife. If, however, you want to spend a quiet weekend enjoying the nature, hiking and tracking animals, you will be highly disappointed. As were we.
The pictures from our trip are here.