Democratic Republic of Congo: Lubumbashi to Kinshasa

UK4X4

Expedition Leader
Awsome thread and so true to the areas and atmospheres in Africa.

I only hope they are posting from home after the fact !

or else we may be left hanging ..................

The shrill call of "muzungu give me money" still haunts me !
 

jpvm

Explorer
I'm reading this and thinking damnit, turn around and get the hell out of there and then you just keep going in further and further! Way too risky for me, but this is one hell of an adventure I don't want to end!!!

Has my adrenaline pumping as I'm reading it....
x2 , I love adventure, but in your case guys, if you are passing through this type of country where there is actually no established order, nor behaving of the order forces (say, police, customs agents, etc. asking tolls or raising tolls for tourists), there is nowhere to run since you don't really know if what comes ahead is friendly or not. If you don't know if you are driving through friendly or hostile cities or neighborhoods (was there any way of knowing this before?) like in almost every part of the world, especially if you are harrassed with knives by an entire town ... :Wow1::Wow1::Wow1:
 

RadioBaobab

Adventurer
Once again thanks for all the great comments. Seeing people enjoying the report sure makes up for all the work it takes to type it out.

How were you managing your stress levels?
So-so. The initial nervousness when entering Congo remained with us for the rest of our trip. We were hoping it would go away as it always did before but it didn't. It is a great feeling not knowing what you are up to next, but up until now almost all of the 'surprises' were not so pleasant. The anticipation for the next 'bad' thing to happen made sure that our adrenaline levels were always high.

In Josephine's case that resulted in a sort of insomnia. She really slept bad all trough Congo. Always on the lookout I guess. Our leaking tent did not help either.

In my case it resulted in a lack of apetite. My stomach felt like I was desperatly in love. I really had to force myself to eat something.

In both our cases this meant we were getting physically exhausted.

I love Belgium beers :sombrero:,
Me too :friday:

I know English is your 3rd language (puts to shame us “English speaking”!!) I especially love the little typo of biting your tongue and not “thong” :bike_rider: being underwear, or maybe that's what you really meant :).
That was the kinky side of me popping up ;-)

I just reread the report and I am a bit embarrased about the amount spelling mistakes and typo's. I can do a better job. I make these reports during breaks at work or in between other things, so it's always a quick write-up and I post it immediately, without spellchecking. Sorry, but I am sure the message gets along.

Absolutely great to read you ! Belgians in the Congo ! You must be nuts ! :sombrero:
I presume you are referring to the "not so nice" role Belgium has had in the history of Congo. For a while I thought that would be a problem as well, but it isn't. Just about anything that still exists in Congo is made by the Belgians. The older generation who had their education from the Belgians really have fond memories of that era. And at the moment Belgium is still one of the main funders of the country (via aid). The dark pages of history during the Leopold 2 era is not what the Congolese people think about. All in all I think being Belgian was actually a plus. As a matter of fact, a lot of people asked how things were going with the "war" in Belgium :-o
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I travelled in Zaire in the early 80s. I guess things were better under the rule of Mobutu, but just barely !
Better is a relative term ofcourse. Infrastructure wise it was pobably a lot better. Nothing constructive happened since the 80's. I would have loved to see the country then. And even more so in 50's when it must have been really easy (relative) to travel in the country.

there is nowhere to run since you don't really know if what comes ahead is friendly or not. If you don't know if you are driving through friendly or hostile cities or neighborhoods (was there any way of knowing this before?)
Same could be said about the "bad" areas all major cities in the world have. You are quite right about the fact that we had nowhere to run, we were really on our own. That also leaves you with just one option: continue.. and that's what we did :)

When this report is done I will post some aftertoughts about the various aspects of this trip.
 

UK4X4

Expedition Leader
"I just reread the report and I am a bit embarrased about the amount spelling mistakes and typo's."

don't worry about this ! its a non issue everyone is enjoying your adventure and thankfully its past tence and not present ! as if you stopped posting
I'm not sure who would go looking for you !
 

RadioBaobab

Adventurer
Now seems like a good time to pause the report :twisted: and have a little flashback to the period before we entered the DRC.

We made the decision to tackle this part of DRC when we were in Egypt. It would take us about 4 months to drive from Cairo down to the Zambia/DRC border. We immediately started our quest for information. It would soon become clear that very little information was available. We did not know of a single traveller that did this traject in the lat 20 years. We knew of two who tried (both on motorbikes) in recent years. One crashed after a few days and got evacuated. The other got arrested and deported. Both didn't get very far.

So we had to be creative and think of other sources of information. A small overview of some of the responses we received from different instances we contacted

1) MONUC. The UN mission in DRC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Mission_in_the_Democratic_Republic_of_Congo ). They have almost 20.000 people on the ground, they must have some information. Actualy their website has some useful information.

We contacted the "Cellule Infrastructure" and received the following reply (excerpts):

MONUC said:
Malheureusement, le tronçon que vous mentionnez: Likasi - Mwene Ditu est considéré à notre niveau comme impraticable. Nous n'avons pas eu d'informations détaillée depuis longtemps, mais il faut considérer que depuis environ 15 ans il n'y a pas eu d'opération importante d'entretien sur cet axe.
"Unfortunately, the stretch between Likasi-Mwene Ditu is, from our part, considered impossible. We did not receive any detailed information for a long time. One has to consider that no maintenace has been done on this traject in the last 15 years."

This stretch we already passed by now.

MONUC said:
Concernant la rivière Loange, le bac n'est pas en service et il n'y a pas de pont. Les infos dont nous disposons mentionnent que la traversée de quelques marchandises se fait en pirogue. Peut être est il possible de faire traverser un véhicule en faisant un radeau avec qq pirogues, mais rien n'est moins sûr.
"Concering the Loange river, the ferry is not operational and there is no bridge. According to our latest information the transport of goods is done by pirogue (canoe?). Maybe there is a possibiliy to cross with a vehicle by buidling a vessel with several pirogues. But nothing is certain"

We still haven't reached the Loange river... great prospect ;-)

And then the most worrying bit:

Certains tronçons sont infestés des coupeurs de route, il s’agit des tronçons : Likasi-Kolwezi et Tshikapa-Kananga
"Certain parts are infested with 'coupeurs de route' (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coupeur_de_route), especially the following parts: Likasi-Kolwezi and Tshikapa-Kananga"

These 'Coupeurs de route' are lawless gangs. 'Road bandits'. They have a nasty reputation in that they have little value for human life. Rape is a common working method for them.

These people I wanted to avoid. On the other hand, one has to read between the lines here, and it was pretty obvious to me: monuc did not have a clue what was going on in the area. They just did not have reliable and up to date information. Do note that monuc is mostly active in East Congo (Goma, Kisangani,..) not in the more 'stable' south/south-west were we are travelling trough.

2) Coca-cola company: If there is ony thing you can find anywhere in the world it is Coca-Cola. They should know how to get their goods in the country. We had no response on mails, so we called them up. Their answer was pretty short: They do not have a distribution network outside the major cities in Congo 8O And it proved to be true, Congo is the first country we have visited were Coca-cola is hard to get once you leave the major cities.

3) About a dozen of NGO's, all answers were negative: they did not have any information

4) Journalists from press agencies and the author from the only guidebooks that exists on the DRC (Sean Rorison): We received a few interesting adresses and contacts in cities, but nothing on the roads. They only travel by air. From a few journalist we received warning on recent events of aggressive attacke by "coupeurs de route" in the area between Kananga and Tshikapa.

5) Foreign affairs office of our own country and several other countries (US, France, ..): they told us we would die if we only thought about the DRC ;-)

6) The Congolese "Office des routes". I was not expecting an answer from them, but they did reply! From a personal mailadres somebody from the Congolese ministry told me that they had no information whatsoever on the condition of their road network. But they would appreciate any information that we could obtain!

The moral of the story was: nobody knew anything about the road conditions. The worrying bit were the "coupeurs de route". Different sources talked about them, and always in the Kananga-Tshikapi area. This seemed like the area to avoid. We had already decided to drive to Kananga but then go north from there to Ilebo as to avoid the Kananga-Tshikapi area.

In my last post I told we had to make a detour because a bridge was out. Guess in what area that brought us?
 

taco2go

Explorer
I agree. With an exploded view of the truck spread across 2 pages- like in the first issue, I think it was Graham Jackson's LR.
 

deadly99

Explorer
Looking forward to the next instalement. Thanks for taking the time to write this up, gives me and others something to do at work :ylsmoke:
 

Overland Hadley

on a journey
Yes, I would like to know more about the vehicle. But I am so wrapped up in the story of the travels that I can wait for information on the equipment.
 

RadioBaobab

Adventurer
With our hearts racing we neared another village.

We tried to sneak in the village but failed miserably. Same thing happened again, confused looks at first, as soon as they saw us they shouted at eachother and then came storming after us.

What did we do to these people that they wanted us so badly?

Like thieves in the night we raced trough the bush and stopped as soon as we had cell phone reception. We sent our coordinates home and called our Belgian friends in Lubumbashi to see if they could give us a contact in Kananga. They responded quickly (Thanks Valérie!) with a phone number of the "procure" (mission) in Kananga. But no answer there... :-(

From what we saw on the GPS it would be at least another 2 hours before we would arrive in Kananga. It was getting really dark by now. We had no choice, we had to reach Kananga!

These were some of the scariest moments in my life. Everybody we crossed here was mad at us. We sent our coordinates to the home front every 10 minutes or so.

Relentlesly we continued. It got pitch dark and the road was really difficult. We could not afford to make mistakes now, but we also did not feel like getting out of the car to inspect any obstacles. The dark was actually good for us as people would not see that we are white. This seemed to make a major difference in the reaction of the people.

But we made it. We were so happy to reach Kananga and at the same time scared to death that people would react the same here. Fortunately the town was quiet and actually looked friendly in the moonlight. Due to pure luck we drove straight into the compound of the procure and at that into safety.

The friendly father-abt allowed us to camp in the garden. He looked genuinely surprised if we told him about our bad experience but at the same time it was as if he was avoiding the subject too.

We put up the tent, got out our chairs and opened one of our "emergency beers". We just sat there a long time without saying a word to eachother. The sky was beautiful and the sounds of all the insects was magnificent.
 

RadioBaobab

Adventurer
So, what was that all about?

In all honesty, we don't have a clue! I only know that this ranks very high in my top 10 scariest moments. Everybody has their limits, well this was over mine. I do not want this to happen to me again.

- Where we just panicking for no reason, paranoid by all the (mis)information we received? Did we create the danger in our minds?

Maybe, I really can't tell. We discussed this afterwards, and we did not make up those mobs that charged at us. They had machetes. They did chase us.

We have a few theories though:

- These villages were on a newly created "detour". Normally no motorized traffic would pass trough here. Bicycles only. Maybe they saw this as new way to generate money, and they wanted their part of the cake. Although somebody should explain to them that this is not a good way to ask for a toll fee.

- We had the feeling that they were focussing on us, not only because we were in a vehicle, but because of our skin color. Did a white person do something wrong here? Where they trying to seek vengeance? I wouldn't surprise me if a white person in car ran somebody over, or destroyed something and then fled away.

- Some fetish reason. Witchdoctors have a lot of influence here. If they had casted a spell of some sorts. Or predicted that something bad would happend if a white person would pass trough here.

- ...

I guess we will never know.
 

Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
Frederick,

I know exactly what you means.
This remains me of our experience when we went to Goma to track the gorillas.


http://2aroundtheworld.com/?p=332


Even for that area, which is most closer and populated with NGO, it was extremely hard to get information.
Before entering the country, we did not really know what to expect and we had the same exact nervosity as you were reffering. And it never went away.

The place is hard to imagine and describe. I have travelled a lot in Africa but the DRC is like nothing else. And I have only spend a few days there....

The look on people's face is different. The vibe on the street is intense. It seems like everything is on the verge of exploding. I had never seen that many guns in one place. There is no bank, no guidebooks, no backpackers, no tour bus, no hotels, nothing. It truly still is the dark side.

What you have done is unique, crazy, adventurous, insane and beautiful at the same time. It takes a lot of guts. All the time I was there I tried to find out about people who may have done that route or any other but as far as i know you are the only one who has done it.

Bravo.
 

RadioBaobab

Adventurer
Thanks for the kind words Christian and others.

Regarding OLJ, how does one get an article in there? Not sure if this story is apropriate for publishing in magazines, I have no idea how to make this any shorter without it losing the 'vibe' it requires.
 
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