First days in Equatorial Guinea!

Arriving in Equatorial Guinea has been surreal; the idea that I’m in Africa hasn’t even sunk in yet. If you want to plan your own trip to Africa but lack the funds you could look into a cheap cash advance to help cover the cost of airplane tickets, clothes, cameras, and anything else you’d like to take on your trip. Flying over Africa was probably my coolest flying experience yet. I don’t know if it was the allure of the “dark continent”, the fact that it seemed to be all desert, or just my jet lag…either way, it was really fun to watch it roll away underneath us.

Mandatory travel picture: my first view of Africa.

Quite honestly, I’ve spent most of my time on the MEGI compound which is just like a micro-copy of an upper-class Floridian or Texas community; all the American comforts stuffed into a small, guarded community. Holding about thirty to fifty Exxon Mobile expats, the compound is surrounded mostly by a guarded, thick, cement wall and barbed wire. Although I won’t be able to walk around the outside of the compound, I have been told that locals do live in the surrounding area; I have certainly been hearing them usher in the New Year with all-night singing and (presumably) dancing. Unfortunately, drinking is a problem here, and many of the people seem to think that the locals will probably celebrate the New Year by being continuously intoxicated until the 3rd of the year. In fact, this was the cause behind a driving ban which started at 10pm last night (New Year’s Eve), for all people except those with applicable permits. While driving to an expat event today I realized that we were literally the only car on the road, and upon further questioning, I found out that the driving ban was also in effect for today.

It’s difficult to see what is around the compound. Near our tents (which are situated in the back corner of the community), there is a break in the cement wall, but other than apartment buildings and (one of) the President’s houses, there is not much to see. It’s also difficult for me to make any conclusions about the Malabo population since the road from the airport to our compound (and into the Malabo city center) has a lot of walls or vegetation, blocking the view.

The MEGI compound isn’t the only of its kind. Many of the larger hotels and embassies have guarded entrances, and today I got to visit the Marathon compound which is even more American than its MEGI counterpart. Visiting Marathon was like visiting a high-class American resort; the kind that I would never be able to afford, even in my wildest dreams. A clear, blue clubhouse pool overlooks the harbor and bay area of the island. Lush vegetation is managed within the compound and borders the outer edges, and wives and daughters of expats sunbathe by the pool. Despite working for differing oil corporations, many expats seem to know each other, and they even organize local events with each other. The expats are extremely friendly to us, and to each other; it’s truly a unique environment to experience.

As far as I can tell, Malabo is not unsafe, per se, as the main issue about walking off alone is robbery (instead of worse alternatives such as assault, etc.). I have yet to decide whether the individuals guarding compounds in this area are just for show, or if they are truly guarding against some menacing, unseen threat. As far as I can tell, they are unarmed – so I don’t really know what they would do if someone just didn’t abide by their request for ID, etc.

Anyway, my first impressions of Equatorial Guinea have been interesting. I am hesitant to elaborate further because: (1) I’ve only been in the country for less than two days and it would be foolish to make any conclusions, and (2) evaluation of the country and my political/human rights observations are better left until after I leave. For now, the blog will focus on my personal experiences camping and hiking through the southern end of the island.

My two nights in a tent have been surprisingly comfortable. For now, I have the luxury of having a four person tent all to myself, and my trusty sleeping bag and blow-up camping pillow have been excellent replacements for my American bedding comforts. Other than the heat, there are no discomforts – not even a single bug bite…yet. :-)

Anyway, for now I’m in Malabo until the 6th, when we are starting our expedition. Like I mentioned before, internet access will be limited or non-existent (most likely the former). I’ll keep posting when I can, and hopefully I’ll have lots of funny, interesting, and touching stories to share when I come back out of the jungle!

P.S. Loading pictures is ridiculously slow…I’ll try again later, but for now my beautiful words will have to suffice :-)