Tuesday, August 31, 2010

26 - Of Dumps and Gorgeous Gorges

Pointe Noire's main drag, Avenue du General de Gaulle
 Pointe Noire is the original dump. The guidebook says Congo's second city has beautifully paved streets and beautifully painted mansions. But the overall impression is that of a dump. Untarred streets and the pavements of those that are tarred are like mini-sand dunes. A taxi has just got itself marooned in one, mudguard deep. There are some nice tiled villas behind high walls, the train station built in the early 20th century is in a moderately attractive Swiss or German town hall style, and the only really nice streets are literally on the other side of the rail tracks (which are covered with trash) by the ocean, doubtless the expat oil workers’ bubble. Off-shore rigs mar the view from the beach.

Oil rig view from Pointe Noire's beach
 The main drag, Avenue Charles de Gaulle, is seedy in the extreme, with large oil company complexes, a big ugly, depressing grey Atlantic Palace hotel, and just a couple of very tatty pavement cafes to recall that this was once a French domain. The guide writer was clearly smoking some excellent stuff, which I must get my hands on. Anyway, it doesn't matter as this is only a way station to visit a chimpanzee rescue centre run by Jane Goodall, go to a reputedly spectacular gorge, and move on to the mountainous hinterland.
Railway station

Meanwhile a worker at the exceedingly seedy hotel (it still costs $64 a night) has latched on to me - my Passepartout. He's taken me to the central market to change money, found a way to do all my laundry for $20, instead of $2 a shirt, and now he's offering me his sister 'for special price.'

But the gorge at Diosso, a few miles north of Pointe Noire, is indeed spectacular - jagged red cliffs several hundred feet high amid luxuriant green rain forest, with smaller ridges and pinnacles in the huge bowl beneath. Kids of course block off the track to the viewing point to get a dollar – and why not? They don`t have many other opportunities to make a buck. Diosso is where the kings of the Loango kingdom are buried and there`s a scruffy tin-roofed museum that is closed anyway on weekdays. On the way back, a police checkpoint tries to stop the taxi for the regulation bribe but the driver just speeds through, shouting that he has already coughed up on the way going - not true, but they don`t shoot.
Pointe Noire-Brazzaville railway line as rubbish dup

Diosso Gorge

1 comment:

  1. Cool insight on an obscure country! I'm glad I came across your page.