As a rule, it is said that people from the capital are more haughty and mean and obnoxious - and about ten more negative adjectives - than your regular citizen. Being a capital-city girl myself, I always used to say that it was a big fat lie. Here in Gabon, however, this old superstition gains a new meaning. And I can only say that it is absolutely, utterly and completely... well, true.
Whenever we travelled outside of Libreville, we noticed that the people changed. They would smile, they would be cordial and helpful, and the racist comments where almost non-existent. While the usual librevillois response to Hello tends to be Mhm, the country people are very fond of talking to you. And this was the case in Tchibanga and Mayumba as well.
We had been warned by a Gabonese friend: People in the south are completely different. They are famous for their hospitality! And I must say that we were not disappointed. In Tchibanga, and above all in Mayumba, nearly every passer-by would say Bonjour. The Mauritanian hotel owner (we do recommend Hotel Golfe in Tchibanga) was adorable. Always smiling, he recommended an excellent restaurant and even offered to call and book us a table. To those of you who live in Europe, this might be the most natural behaviour in the case of a person who runs a hotel but do not be deceived - in Gabon in it extraordinary. We politely declined his offer to make the call but we did follow his suggestion and ended up in Les Palmiers (again, we recommend!) for a lovely dinner.
In the restaurant, we were confronted with even more surprises. Namely, the service was excellent. The waiter was quick, smiling and efficient. When we expressed the wish to change our order, he did not frown, he did not complain and just did what he was asked to do. When we were done with our meal, the chef himself appeared to have a chat with us, and he also called us a taxi (again, let me stress that very few people out here will spend their own money for somebody else's benefit). Finally, yet another person came to greet us. We were shocked to find out that we had just shaken hands with the governor of the province, who was dining in the same restaurant. Seeing a group of white people, he decided to welcome them to Nyanga.
We received the same warm treatment from the taxi driver who took us to Mayumba, and his bosses, based in Tchibanga, with whom we had a drink in the Consensus bar (Nous sommes ensemble jour et nuit) before leaving for Libreville. After only a short conversation we became intimate friends, which does not usually happen in the capital.
The only grumpy person we met throughout the trip was the lady who ran the hotel in Mayumba. She was almost caricaturally arrogant, which did not, however, prevent her from openly listening in on the conversation we had with the other hotel guests (she would actually stare and lean on a table to hear better). She was also kind enough to inform us that she had no idea whether there were any turtles in Mayumba, for she'd never went to see them. Here I must tell you that Mayumba is the third most popular place in the world for the majestic luth turtles, and everyone in Gabon knows that. Moreover, the hotel had a little area surrounded by a low fence, which, as we later found out, served as a little incubator for turtles (eggs from destroyed nests were transported there by eco-guards). How could the hotel lady have missed that?
But here I am, telling you about luth turtles... and that's a story for a completely different post. For now, let me just assure you that, if you decide to visit the Nyanga province, you will receive excellent treatment. Moreover, as long as you ask for permission, you may take as many photos as you please. The result of which you will find here (Tchibanga) and here (Mayumba). Enjoy!