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Into the DRC

D.R.C. 11/12 – 19/12 (and sort of hmmm… illegal)

In N’Kundi we were now local gods, so changing money, refueling and finding food was a child’s play. In DRC everybody “eats” the dollar, or the Congolese franc. DRC aka Congo Kinshasa already feels like a parallel universe: while nobody outside here gives a damn about the US currency, here they only take and use crisp banknotes that look like they just came out of the printer. And the prices are quite paranormal, compared to the rest of West and Central Africa: we don’t know how will we afford to even transit this country, food, fuel, everything is expensive, and low quality. At least we are being told that the road will start to get better from here on, but how can we trust such an information?

Should we have made the journey across DRC by boat?

Our semi-amphibian vehicles suffer a lot. Some flooded passages are so deep that my front like is completely submerged. The Toyo is having even a harder time coping with the immense pools, due to the extreme back load.

Every other pool of water we have to stop and check the depth and discuss how to approach it. Sometimes I ride in front, right through the moddle of the ponds, to help Alper assess the water level.

In between drama we take a breather on the sandy rocky patches. Our boots are filled with dirty water, we are soaking wet and no more dry clothes in the sacks!

We cannot help but miss the beauty of this charming part of DRC, totally stressed out and worn out.

Disaster strikes: trying to avaid the deep middle, Toyo ends up with both differentials stuck in the mud. We try everything; we push…

We fight…

We dig with shovels, hammers, our bear hands…

Then we push again…

Finally, 3 long hours later, we manage to extract the car from the mosquito infested marsh. We are totally exhausted, wet and in despair, but we decide it’s impossible to stop now. There is no place to camp, we have nothing to change into and we have to push it to Luozi, where we hope to catch the ferry tomorrow. Two more times the Toyota gets stuck: once a providential Rover comes to the rescue. At almost midnight we arrive, and almost faint asleep, at the catholic mission in Luozi, where we are hosted for free. With the usual visit of the DRC secret police, off course.

We were on the ferry the next day at 11, but we crossed the mighty Congo only 5 hours later. The very drunk ferry worker that has squinted to see the rain coming made everybody leave the deck and wait and wait and wait. The rain came indeed, an hour later, then there was nothing else to do, but drink, talk and hope the rain will stop. On the other side of Congo the road was almost impassable after all that water had fallen over for hours: I don’t even know how we managed to get through. Every meter of that road was pure hell, alternating rocky steep inclines with deep ravines, deep soapy mud with sandy tracks, punctuated by abyssal holes filled with sticking water. To make our ride even harder, rain started once again: small drops, cold, unrelenting. I couldn’t believe it when at 21 hrs, after 6 days of riding over 700 km off-road through western DRC, I finally hit tarmac again. We had to stop and cheer, then we decided to splurge on a room for the night. In Kimpese we found a catholic mission, not so catholic after all, as they wanted to charge us 100 USD for two not so functional rooms. Finally we settled for 40 and got some salty goat brochettes and beer to celebrate our success.

Back to our fav breakfast in the mo’

We fill up our tanks under the electoral posters. In the background, the opposition candidate for the presidency of DRC, who had announced organized riots after the voting.

The 140 km to Matadi are a  breeze as the sun is shining for the first time in days and we have perfect tar road under our wheels.

By 11 we were knocking at the Angolan Consulate in DRC. But here we had another shocking news: the consul had fled to Angola on an early Xmas holiday, under the pretext of potential civil unrest before, during and after the DRC elections. There is nobody here to make our visas, only the bodyguard and a secretary remain, the consulate is closed until at least the 15th of January! Our hopes are shattered, we have made it here in time, in spite of all the hardships, only to knock at a closed door….What will happen now? Was all this that we have been through in vain, or will we somehow find a way out?

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