Before entering Equatorial Guinea, I had several wishes of things I wanted to see. Some villages in the interior, going to Isla Corisco, and hiking in Monte Alén national park: the territorial part of the country (it also has an island off the coast of Cameroon, on which the capital Malabo is located), has a several opportunities to explore. But after the encounter with the authorities, and their scary and unreliable way of thinking, reading horror stories online of people who were caught in a "wrong" part of the country, ending up in jail, and the warnings I got from the very helpful staff of the Spanish consulate (who told me Monte Alén had been declared forbidden territory), I decided I did not want to risk ending up in jail. I could well imagine the only way out would be some high payments to the police, and that was the last thing I wanted to do.
Moreover, I visited to the department of tourism made me realize once again that the country is just not ready for tourism. After the guarantees by both the embassy in Libreville, and the comisario of Kogo, that I would be free to travel anywhere in the country with my visa and entry stamp (contrasting with the information I had, which said that you need permits for visiting and for taking pictures), I asked about the things I could do around the country, as a visitor. But the guy took me inside, and informed me unpolitely that before going anywhere, I should apply for a special permit, allowing me to visit as a tourist: separate permits for different areas in the country. Taking pictures was out of the question without a permit. After the ridiculous amount of money I had paid at the embassy, and at the border, I was determined not to give any more to this beautiful country with its crooked regime.
Talking with the staff of the consulate, they advised me to go to Mbini. It had been on my mind, too, and the security guy at the consulate turned out to know the owner of a resort, who happened to be shopping in town, and kind enough to take me along to Mbini. He told me that, even though he drives between the two several times a week, he gets harassed regularly, but this time around, it turned out to be easy. The Chinese have built a modern bridge, making the drive some 45 minutes; it also cuts out the river crossing by pirogue. The owner was so kind to ask one of his workers to take me around in a van, allowing me to get an idea of town; after that, I went for a long walk. I covered the beach, saw the church, walked through most of the streets of the town, reached the shores of the mouth of the Benito river, walked the bridge, which allowed me views of the mountains of Monte Alén I had so much wanted to visit. It also gave me an opportunity to make new friends in the streets, talk about their lives, ask them about the police, and it strengthened the anger I felt at the system and the way the population was being treated by its own leaders and police officers. Several kids I met, called after me: "Chino!" - for them, the foreigners they knew were the Chinese who had been working on the bridge and who are doing more projects in the neighbourhood. I felt freer here than I had felt before in the country, and was happy I had come. The next day, when I took a taxi back to Bata, I was hanging out of the window, shouting "Bata, Bata" to help the driver fill up his car.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Mbini (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Mbini.
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