Saturday, August 10, 2013

Buffalo, Monkeys and Elephants...Oh My!

This past weekend Landry and I took the train out to Lope National Park for the weekend.  Our train was scheduled to leave at 7:30 on Friday night, so we left promptly at 9am on Saturday  J  There was actually a cargo train derailment during the day on Friday that had to be cleared before any trains could leave the station.  Their system is set up so that there are several tracks at each station, but only one track between stations, so there’s no way to pass an accident or stalled train unless it’s at a station.  But I digress.

Lope National Park is one of many national parks in Gabon and it has both forest and savannah.  We were supposed to arrive in the early morning hours of Saturday, but since our train didn’t leave the city until 9am we decided to extend our trip for a day and come back on Monday night instead of Sunday night.  This gave us a little extra time to enjoy all that Lope has to offer. 

There’s an incredibly nice hotel in Lope that’s pretty affordable, but it’s completely isolated from the town.  We decided to stay in a motel, also owned by the hotel, but that sits right in the center of town.  This allowed us to take advantage of all of the hotel amenities, but we could eat local and explore the town a bit.  We signed up for four excursions while we were in Lope.  We did a forest walk, a boat ride down the Oogue River, a 4x4 safari, and we climbed Mont Brazza, a mountain that overlooks the river.  Local fare was a lot of chicken and rice, but it was good, and the locals were incredibly friendly, trying to give us tips on where to see elephants.  Apparently, seeing an elephant in their backyard is like us waking up to see a deer or squirrel!

The excursions were wonderful.  We saw buffalo several times, which look very different from the buffalo we have in the states.  We got to see TONS of elephants, some monkeys, and the views from the top of Mont Brazza were amazing.  My bag still has not been located, so I was pretty limited in what I had to wear for these excursions and I ended up climbing the mountain in my flip flops.  I was proud about climbing a mountain period, but in my flops?!  Put an extra check mark next to climbing a mountain on the bucket list!

Our return home was another adventure.  We had taken the express train up to Lope, but they only run every other day.  They offer first class seating for a minimal upgrade price and the seats are spacious, plus there’s air conditioning.  The local was running on Monday, so that was our only choice.  No option for upgrading seats, no air conditioning, and I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty certain the toilets runneth over because when we stopped the smell at times was almost unbearable.  Water had leaked in between the two panes of glass in my window and an aquarium of algae was beginning to grow.  We were delayed at two stations on the way waiting for the train going in the other direction to pass us and we arrived at 11am instead of the scheduled 8:30. 

Despite the travel bumps, this was definitely the highlight of our vacation.  Just the right combination of adventure and relaxation.  I’m really looking forward to returning to Lope some day and maybe showing some of our friends around…any takers??

The train station in Owendo, the town next to Libreville

Our car on the train

Getting ready to depart Owendo

Finally arrived! 

Getting off the train in Lope

The sign for our motel
Motel rooms are a bit simpler in Lope, but the bed was comfy, the room had AC, and we were so busy we barely saw the room but to sleep in it!

The grounds of our motel.
I know this looks like a dirt road running through town, but it's actually National 1, the highway that runs across the whole country.    
Landry holding up the roots of a fallen tree

On our forest walk

Me climbing vines in the forest.  Our guide said that in the event an elephant should charge us we would need to find vines like these and climb them quickly to escape.  Kinda glad we didn't see any elephants this day!

Wandering through the savannah.

Monkey in the trees during our forest walk.
Buffaloes we spotted while driving to the forest.
View of Mont Brazza and the Oogue River from the pool at the Lope Hotel.  All of the rocks you see are completely underwater during the rainy season.

Likely the most relaxing moment of my vacation

On our boat ride down the Oogue River

On the boat

Having a National Treasure moment.  There are prehistoric engravings on these rocks, but they're hard to see.  Pouring water on them makes them more visible.

Rock engravings.

Climbing back down to the beach and boat after our hike to see the rock writing.
A chimpanzee our guide spotted on the mountainside while returning from our boat ride.
On the bank of the Oogue River.

Had to document our feet in the waters of the Oogue
Date night!

The water tower in Lope

Half way up the climb to the peak of Mont Brazza

Steep climb!
So steep!
Top of the world!
Celebrating our achievement
When we got to the top of the mountain there was a cement block with several pieces of slate engraved with the names of people who have climbed Mont Brazza.
Here's our addition, L+S '13
Heading back down the mountain
This is one of the restaurants in town.  The whole interior was paneled in tree bark...pretty cool.

Another local restaurant.

Breakfast at Maison Mere, omelets, fresh bread, and coffee.  Yum!
Elephant behind the restaurant where we ate breakfast
Elephants playing in the savannah during our 4x4 ride
A family of elephants!
Love this shot with the elephants in the background.  And look at us reppin' Philly hard!
Monkeys in the trees during our 4x4 ride.  There were so many, but they moved too fast to catch!

Monkeys jumping from one tree to another from a distance.

Our sweet ride

VERY tired after a long ride back on the local train.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty cool! Do you mind sharing the prices of the tours in Lope?