Democratic Republic of Congo: Lubumbashi to Kinshasa
and our trusty steed:
Map of congo. Lubumbashi in the bottom right corner. Kinshasa on the left.
Or as depicted on our Michelin 746 map
The Michelin is a pretty good map but it has a few known flaws. One of the biggest flaws is probably the "Route National 1" in DRC.. as we are soon to find out...
I will be posting this report as I write it.. please be patient ;-)
Looking forward to more.
2002 Double Cab Bakkie
/1997 LX450 Imvubu
/2004 Pontiac Vibe/2012 Royal Enfield C5 Pippa
If we attend continually and promptly to the little that we can do, we shall ere long be surprised to find how little remains that we cannot do. -Samuel Butler
Thanks for finally posting this! You know how long I have been waiting...
Sorry for the delay, I had some problems logging in.
Thanks Taco & Christian for the enthousiasm :-)
The story starts in Pionee... No, that's not true, it actually starts 2 years earlier, but I will come back to that later. So for now let's start this story at in Pioneer campsite just outside Lusaka where we treat ourselves on some home made French fries (but as you all know, French fries have got nothing to do with France, as they have been invented by the Belgians!)
We deserved it as it had been about 600 days since we last seen set foot in our home country and we missed the food! The other reason was that we were not expecting to be eating good in the next month or two. After all we were about to go deep into the Congo (Democtratic Republic of Congo, Congo-Kinshasa or Congo-Zaire, all the same but I will refer to it simply as "Congo").
As supplies would be very hard to get we decided to stock up on supplies. I know that for South Africans it very normal to transport an entire pick&pay to your destination :twisted: but for us this was very unusual as we usually eat what we can find. But not so in this case, we bought food for an entire month. 3 meals a day. This would prove to be a very good decision
I also gave the Landcruiser a last service, everything was working pretty much as expected, so just the regular oil/filter change. I also stocked up on some good oil (diff + engine) as this would also be hard to get there.
Fully loaded we left Lusaka. We always had a strange anxious/nervous feeling when entering a new country. But this time the feeling was much stronger. Was this the first time we were actualy nervous for entering a country?
The border at Kasumbalesa was the usual chaotic affair. Especially the Zambian side proved to be an annoying experience. Many pushy touts and very crowded. The Congolese side on the other hand had very little touts. It was chaotic too, but much smoother then their neighbours.
We were warned about the "5$ dollar first entry" bribe at the Congolese side.
This conversation was in French ofcourse:
Customs Officer: "Hi, that'll be 5$US"
- Me: "Ofcourse,but what is it for exactly?"
CO: "Tourist tax"
- Me: "Oh, I was not aware of the existance of a tourist tax?"
CO: "Yes, but only on the first entry"
- Me: "Aaaah, ofcourse how could I forget. I already paid this when I entered at by boat in Kinshasa a few months ago" <-- I lied, there is no such tax and I never paid such tax. But I did have the proof of my previous entry in Congo in my passport
Co: *long silence*
Co: *hesitating* "You still have to pay..."
He lost, I won. He knew it but he would not give in ofcourse. I sat there for another 10 minutes before I was let go without any further words. This went smoothyl... very smoothly! I was starting to think that all these corruption stories about Congo were overrated. Little did I know at that time...
We actually bougt insurance at the border. Not that we believe that it would be of any use in case of an accident. But just to avoid the bribes associated with not having any insurance.
Next obstacle was the road tax for the short distance between the border and Lubumbashi. 50US$ for foreigners! I waited until a lorry was waiting at the barrier and then just drove past it and floored it. 50$ in the pocket :-)
We are normally very principle about official (!!!) taxes, we just pay them as they usually benefit the roads, etc.. . In this case it is known that all of the money for this road toll goes directly to Kinsahsa. Nothing ever returns to the maintenance of these roads, or anything remotely related to the province it is in. It shows:
We arrived in Lubumbashi - "Capital du cuivre" (Capital of Copper) and were instantly stopped by the police. Checked all papers, checked vehicle, asked for "Un jus" (cold drink). Very pushy and aggressive. We got rid of them but two blocks further we got stopped again. Same story. This was getting tiring!
We just stopped stopping altogether after a while. It was obvious that our white skin and strange number plates attracted a lot of unwanted attention!
At the border we had been lucky to bump into a Belgian lady. She was living in Lubumbashi together with Soeur Bernadette, a Congolese "Maman" (literally translated = mother). She invited us to stay at her place.
They lived in a lovely little villa called "Bonne Esperance". They take of orphans and constantly have 3 or 4 children living in the house. There was no room in the house, but we could stay in our rtt in the driveway. They were wonderful people, we really enjoyed staying there.
They also had no electricity when we where there. When we inquired about this (after all, this was central Lubumbashi) we were told about the odd system in Lubumbashi. Because the electricy factory is in such a bad state it cannot cope with the demand. Therefore there is always one area that gets no electricity. They change the area every week or so.
The next few days we spent in Lubumbashi arranging all sorts of things. Money, Permits, information, ... The word went round quickly that Belgian tourists had arrived and our network of contact grew by the minute. Soon we were welcome guests in the Belgian Consulate and we moved to another house of Belgians working in Lubumbashi. They worked for CTB, the Belgian aid organisation. These contacts would prove extremely valuable during our trip.
We also got in touch with the director of the big coper mine in Lubumbashi and were invited for a tour of the factory
Congo must be one of the richest countries in the world. They could have been the Dubai of Africa with what they have in the ground. Ever since their independance the biggest mining company in Congo is Gécamines. Once a hugely profitable company it is now only a shadow of its former self. Years of corruption and mismanagement have left Gécamines in a state of defacto bankrupt. All their mines are nothing more but ruins.
Info about Gécamines: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%A9camines
The ruins of these mines are now home to many "creuseurs". Usually young children who are digging in the remains of the mines for whatever is left. They work long days and have to give most of their profit to organised gangs.
The mine in Lubumbashi also has a huge pile of mining waste. The pile is actually still so rich in cobalt and copper that a foreign company (Forest) is running a production factory.
And ofcourse the company car of the director was..
A major showstopper for our trip was a Permit to travel trough Congo.
Nobody really know what kind of permit one needs, let alone where to apply for it. But everybody agrees that a permit is required. Officially it has got something to do with the many mining areas to be crossed. We contacted the few people who have attempted travelling trough congo but they too never managed to get hold of the permit. One of these guys did get arrested and deported because he could not provide a permit.
Our Belgian Consulate really tried hard to get this stupid little piece of paper for us, but to no avail. They even managed to get us invited with the governer of Katanga, but he too could not give it to us. After many days of trying we asked the consulate to give us some sort of official looking letter with an official looking stamp. We would chance it without the permit!
The permit is on the right. It has no real value, it basicly says no more then "There are tourist from Belgium and they are travelling trough congo, please assist them in their travels". But then in official speak.
On the left are copies of all sorts of other official documents. We had aout 30 copies of all of these.
This is our DRC visa:
It's time to hit the road!