DRC – aka – The Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Despite finishing my Angola blog saying I’d be in the DRC the following day, the road quickly deteriorated and we averaged about 6khr for all the following day, eventually arriving the Congo border town of Matadi on the 21 June and entering country number 5 of 50, the DRC.
With surrounding borders closed, the crossing was ‘Congolese chaotic’ with an endless line of trucks and goods crossing northward. After negotiating our way through the Congolese officials we headed downhill towards the noisy pumping bordertown of Matadi.
After a kilometer I had my first views of the brown snake that winds it’s way across the heart of Africa for 3400km and in parts is twenty kilometers wide. The Congo River is my third big African river and I’ve only now the Niger River to see but that’s still two months away.
After a month of savannah it was great to finally cross into the much more vibrant Central Africa. With two nights in Matadi we explored the port town and spent our nights at a local roadside eatery with the local street meat venders cooking us a sensational goat stew.
I arrived in the DRC capital city, Kinshasa on the 24 June.
Kinshasa is the second biggest French speaking city in the World. It’s nestled on the shores of the Congo River directly opposite Brazzaville, the capital city of The Republic of Congo. It’s the only location in the World where two countries capital cities look at each across a river.
When I was in Uganda I met a guy who had been working for the United Nations in Kishahsa and when I asked him what it was like, he said it was “a big nasty city that you’re best to avoid”.
I’ve read that Kinshasa defies description but my Brandt Guide describes the city as an ever-shifting huge disorderly mass of people, chaos, squalor and maddening traffic on pot-holed streets, which at night becomes a never sleeping city of lights, bars, huge evening markets with throngs of street sellers and beggers. Traffic still clogs the streets with thousands of people moving in every direction. Despite all this I’m really enjoying my time in the city.
On the outskirts of the city lies Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary, where young Bonobos are rescued usually from the bush meat trade and later re-released in a remote part of the northern Congo.
Bonobo’s are our nearest relatives and different to Chimps in that they have longer legs, spend more time walking upright, have pink lips and are less aggressive. Only found in the remote swamp forests of the Northern Congo, they’re very difficult to see in the wild.
I spent a morning watching about twenty in their jungle home.
We also visited Serpents du Congo and spent a couple of hours watching and handling some Central African snakes, which included Green & Black Mamba and a couple of groovy vipers.
Exploring the city we visited a couple of local markets and made our way East to Chez Tin Tin Café, which sits aside the mighty Livingstone Falls and rapids which stretch for over 300km downstream and have for centuries made the river impenetrable into the country’s centre.
We had lunch at Chez Tin Tin and stood besides the rapids where an insane amount of brown water descended over the rocks with waves as high as five meters. Easily the most powerful rapids I’ve ever seen.
We drove to President Kabila’s Palace and managed to talk our way into an unannounced tour of the grounds as well as a visit to the former presidents mausoleum with accompanying history lesson from one of the guards.
A visit to the local port resulted in being detained by the local authorities for a couple of hours. Our guide asked if we could have a look around to see the barges that depart on the month long river journey to Kisangani and our guide was arrested by the local police and army and dragged away. While we were waiting for him to return one of the guys with me took a photo of the port area and then we were all detained and taken to an unmarked building for questioning. After explaining we were tourists, we had to wait to see the Commander. The Commander was busy in his office with two young ladies and had other things on his mind. We were free to go.
So far on my African journey I’ve experienced many of the different sights and sounds of the real Africa trying to avoid the well trodden tourists routes. Over the next six weeks I’ll travel the full length of the Congo Republic and north to West Africa across Cameroon and Nigeria, along remote roads and across land few travellers have yet discovered.
….but first there’s a short Congo River cruise.
Bye till then.