Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Last weekend we went on a little road trip. Our final destination was Fougamou, well over 300 kilometres from Libreville. Once again, we came to the conclusion that travelling by car can be, well, extremely cool. You get to see lots of things on the way, you meet very nice people and, in my particular case, you take plenty of pictures to torture all you friends with as soon as you come home.

The road to Fougamou is in a surprisingly good condition. Apart from huge holes around Kango and an unasphalted bit between Lambaréné and Fougamou, the quality is absolutely European (leaving Poland far behind, I'm sad to say). All this thanks to the Chinese and a Spanish construction company Acciona, which is based in Fougamou itself (they actually went as far as putting road signs on the bit of the motorway they built!).

The nice, asphalted, holeless road made driving much more relaxing - this coming from the eternal co-pilot - and we could focus on observing our surroundings. All along the road, which is normally rather busy and leads to the very south of the country (Mayumba), there are villages and, consequently, villagers and village life. Merry anthropologists that we are, we were glad to be able to take a look at the Gabonese reality away from Libreville.

The first thing you notice when driving through the countless villages, is that nearly every house has a little wooden stand (or just a metal barrel), where they present whatever it is that they currently want to sell. The goods vary: it may be just fruit, palm wine, a basket or a traditional instrument, but it may also be the very popular viande de brousse, venison also known as the thing I managed to kill last night. This could be a gazelle (8000 CFA = 12 euro), a python (15000 CFA = 22,5 euro), an antelope (40000 CFA = 60 euro), a porcupine (10000 CFA = 15 euro), a crocodile (15000 CFA = 22,5 euro), but also little things, such as turtles, squirrels and dried monkeys, which accidentally look like dried babies. Yum!

Of course, I wouldn't have been myself if I hadn't taken pictures, even if it is of smelly dead animals (the lack of a fridge doesn't help...). Instead of just stopping the car and stealing the photo before anybody could react, we took a different approach: each time we would get out of the car and ask the hunters for their permission. At first, we were slightly uneasy: half of the village is usually sitting outside, extremely fond of any distraction that might make the day different from all the other ones, and there we were, two whites with their camera.

While some villagers were open and laughed good-naturedly at our curiosity, explaining how you hunt for a python and letting us take the pictures, others must have felt our nervousness and were not as kind at first. When we approached a group of men selling a particularly impressive selection of game, they looked defensive. We asked if we could take a photo and they said no. Disappointed, we asked if they were the hunters. They confirmed and their attitude started changing: now it was 1000 CFA for a photo. We told them that we respected the effort that hunting constituted and thus were ready to pay for the pictures. As I turned to the car to get some money, they stopped me and said: You were very polite and talked to us. You didn't just steal the photo. Due to all this, you don't have to pay. Jandro continued chatting with them while I took a few pictures, and they said that it would be their pleasure to take us hunting whenever we felt like it. They made sure I took pictures of all the animals and we exchanged phone numbers in case we felt like hunting one of these days. We parted as friends.

I must say that we really enjoyed breaking the invisible wall between us and the villagers. Both parties distrustful at first, after a short conversation we would all smile at each other. I think they enjoyed our interest, our silly questions about how to cook a crocodile or catch a python, and we definitely had fun talking to everybody.

On our way back, as we passed through the village of Agricole, the hunters who'd offered to be our guides were sitting at the very same table. They eagerly waved at us and I waved back, smiling. Jandro, however, did not notice them and felt guilty. The following exchange of text messages followed:
Hello! I'm sorry I haven't noticed you! But my wife did wave. Have a good day! Alexandre, Union Européenne

No problem, you were concentrated on your driving. Have a good day, too! Etienne, bridge of Agricole
I can only tell you one thing: we are seriously considering going on that hunting trip!

More photos of viande the brousse are here.

1 comment:

  1. Incredible post, did you try the viande de brousse while you were there?

    I have created a facebook page, called J'aime Libreville, It would be nice to have you with us. Please share with us images or blog post. [www.facebook.com/jaimelbv]