Congo Crossing

From Kinshasa to Lubumbashi



Two weeks before Christmas of 2011 and 200 days into our tour of Africa by Yamaha XT660Z Ténéré , we arrived in Matadi, a dusty border town in the south-west of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly known as Zaïre. Our main business there was shopping for a transit visa across Angola. But what should have been an easy deal, quickly escalated into a life-shifting event.

Hours from learning that in the aftermath of highly contested presidential elections in DRC, violent clashes had erupted in Kinshasa causing all Angolan consular services to be suspended indefinitely, Ana was diagnosed with malaria.Did we mention that our Congo visas were set to expire in 48 hours? That Christmas Eve was definitely not our lucky day.
Or was it?
Stuck in limbo, about to become illegals in one of world's least understood countries just as it was having one of its hottest political moments, we realized that there was one possible way out: riding towards Zambia, a country that allowed visa on arrival for Romanian citizens. To do that we would have to traverse a territory roughly the size of Western Europe on what is effectively the only route connecting the Western coast of Africa to the East. We started out by grossly underestimating how long and how hard such a journey can be. "La Nationale 1" - Congo's artery - is even today a spongy, unsealed quagmire spanning 2,500 kilometers. The local trucks drive it in 3 to 4 months. We would have to do it in one, smack in the middle of the equatorial rainy season, which unloads into the Congo basin the mightiest thunderstorms anywhere on earth.

Jump To

Kinshasa to Tchikapa 

Tchikapa to disaster

The End is Near

The Decision

It's been over 10 days of failed attempts at figuring our way out: we tried Muanda, we tried Dolisie, we've been to the border where we couldn't sweet-talk the police on neither sides, we emailed embassies, tour agencies and visa services. We interviewed truck drivers, shipping companies and private car dealers who do Angola visa runs all the time. We even got the chief of Matadi Immigration on our side. The man mobilized his connections, made dozens of phone calls and granted us a DRC visa extension -now we had not 48 hours, but a whopping 2 months to figure this mess out. As Ana was already feeling strong enough to travel, we decided to ride to Kinshasa and seek advice from the Angolan embassy or the many EU missions in town. We found a capital under siege: protesters on the fringes, tanks and troupes in downtown, as the nation prepared for the impending presidential inauguration. Just like the Consulate in Matadi and like most diplomatic offices worldwide, the Angolan Embassy in Kinshasa had closed for the holidays. However they agreed to bend the rules and see us, only to confirm that even on regular hours they don't issue visas for tourists traveling overland. The French consul was even less helpful - we can forgive him, he was busy hosting a wedding - and he suggested we applied at an Angolan embassy in Europe instead. OK, an option, but even that would only be possible in January. 

So, we'll go to Zambia. Let the Congo crossing begin!

P.S. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

Stage 1: Kinshasa - Tchikapa

Day 1 - 23/12

Km: 530
Route: Kinshasa - Kikwit
Road: good tarmac
Weather: 36°C/ sunny & hot

Last day in Kishasa was day of shopping for the road ahead in the scruffy central market, watching the inauguration of Joseph Kabila on TV while the capital was in freeze mode under the watchful eye of heavily armed forces. By night though we were enjoying our Congo Kiese moment, with barbecued meats and bear and music and Congolese friends.

Time to leave our camp in the catholic mission. Our German friends, Alper & Esther, had left 2 days earlier. We were hoping for an easy drive on the tarmac, but we were slowed down by the village crossings and many police checkpoints, even if the bike riding in front of the jeep helped a lot with the ever inquisitive officials and non-officials. There seems to be a general conviction that tourists are being sponsored by their governments to travel, I don’t’ think we were able to clear people mind on that matter! As African domestic animals are usually roaming the streets unattended for, eventually a cock, two chickens, a duck and a bat ended up under the wheels of the Land Rover.

Just as we had done in Cameroon, we were rolling on the kids’ schedule, so we would be stopping for lunch and to allow them regular play and nap time. Soon though, we would realize that we had underestimated the duration of our trip and the availability of food along the piste, so we would face hunger and thirst, while our supplies quickly finished.

50 km before Kikwit - where the tarmac ends - my front tire gave up. Luckily Alper had agreed to sell me his spare Pirelli MT21 in Matadi, so one hour later I had mounted the new rubber, confident that this will make the offroad drive ahead much easier. But this is not how the Congo crossing would play out…
It was almost midnight when we rolled in the catholic mission of Kikwit. While we started to set up the camp, Jacques went on a scooter with a priest to register our passports with the police. Just like in Congo Brazzaville, here tourists cannot just show up and go, people would inform the officials of our presence then we would have to submit our papers for registration. Sometimes they would just write down our data on pieces of paper or into handbooks, another reminder of the communist era in Romania.

With the tent pitched we were about to cook dinner, when Jacques returned with bleak news: we had to pack everything up and go, the mayor had given us an ultimatum; sleep at his place or leave town. Jacques had tried to explain that we had children sleeping, we were too tired to move and it was late, offering to visit in the morning, but we either accepted to be “supervised” or took off. It was like an army drill: completely burned off we dismantled and packed up everything, then set them up again on a football field at the outskirts of Kikwit. Some Indomie instant noodles for the men - the girls opted out - and off to sleep.

 It was our most violent morning yet: at 5.30 a.m. we heard people screaming and by 6 we were dressed, we had packed our stuff inside the tent and were ready to unzip and face the crowd.
This story was featured in Upshift Online magazine. Click to read. 
The Congolese were shouting at us to come out and show ourselves. We could hear them jostling from inside our flimsy shelter. At some point someone stepped on the tent and almost tumbled over. So we got out. It was quite a scene. There must have been over 100 people, standing shoulder to shoulder right from where the tent's edge, not an inch away. We had to push some of them away in order to be able to get to the bike and back, and just like a wave, the crowd opened and shut behind us. We tried to be as fast as we could, and in the frantic madness someone pulled Ana’s hair - probably just checking if it was real or fake - and we snapped. Tension rose. There was no room left for smiles or friendly handshakes. We left pissed, stressed and hungry, worried about what this part of Africa had in store for us.

For the first time in six months we were not very excited. What were we doing there? Would we be able to cope with everything while crossing some of the most remote regions of the continent?

Mud Surfing on Christmas

Day 2 - 24/12 Christmas Eve

Km: 94
Route: Kikwit towards Idiofa
Road: deep wet sand
Weather: 37°C/ sunny & hot

The truck drivers from Kinshasa advised us to take the Kikwit - Idiofa - Ilebo - Kananga route, much faster and better than the treacherous N1 via Tchikapa. So 40 km outside Kikwit we turned left, finally exiting on the wet sandy piste, the beginning of our offroad escape to Zambia. Soon I was struggling to find the perfect line, no way I could cut through the deep sand, forced to balance the hefty load of the bike on the narrow sides where no vehicle had passed yet. Hot savanna landscape was punctuated by palm trees and the eventual village where we shopped for pineapple, welcomed by some villager and his strangely beautiful handcrafted sort of guitar. As the road turned uphill, we met with a truck that had been unloaded, so that it could drive up. The merchandise is then back-carried to the top and re-loaded on the truck. This painstaking maneuver is standard routine for these heavily loaded vehicles that carry manioc, crisps and palm oil to the next towns and villages from KIN.

At some point Ana climbed the roof of the Landie, you can see her boots in the photo :) It was Xmas Eve, an incentive to quickly set up camp and cook our cabbage for dinner. We had promised the kids a big fire to help Santa find us in the middle of nowhere. We lit a glorious pile of wood and waited for the flying sleigh to magically show up on the tropical sky.
Day 3 - 25/12 Christmas Day

Km: 82
Road: deep wet black sand
Weather: 37°C/ sunny & hot

In the morning the kids had plenty of gifts to unwrap: Barbies, books, candy, sunglasses. We gave Jacques a Brie and Camembert to Delphine, and Cadbury toffees to the kiddies. We got almond candy for ourselves. :) Happy days!

As we were packing up, an unsettling text from Alper arrived: we had 2 ferry crossing ahead of us and the first required 15000 francs, 10 liters of diesel and a 24V battery to start up the engine. We had researched before departure and were aware of the epic story of a Belgian couple who struggled on the route from Lubumbashi to KIN a couple of years back. They had done the Congo crossing in dry season and still had barely made it with the car in one piece. They had mentioned this dreaded ferry crossing, when they got stuck in the middle of the river, battery dead, having to push start the jeep on the ferry to recharge the battery and be able to keep going. A horror story and we were dead sure we were not on the same route, but we were wrong. So we wondered: are we prepared to face such a situation or should be try to go back and follow the alternate route via N1? After much deliberation, we opted against the ferry gamble and we spend the rest of the day going back to the tarmac, which 20 km off the junction became un-passable due to a broken bridge. The new piste was here: a narrow path hardly visible from the main road, but this was the path that we had chosen to follow 2000 km east to Lubumbashi.

A Dakar-style Stunt

Day 4 - 26/12 

Km: 113
Road: deep wet black sand
Weather: 38°C, morning storm followed by sun

Rainy season is in full swing, but luckily we are spared from the impressive storm. The moist sand is not so bad, but soon the sun dries up the road and I am reminded of the Mali to Burkina day of hell. Elisa doesn’t miss a single chance to walk barefoot on the warm soft sand, a true free spirit! At lunch we have a new birthday celebration in our little group: Lea is turning 5 and Delphine had improvised a yummy cake, breakfast cereals and chocolate truffles. Lea gets the classic French “1000 Bornes” and Cadbury chocolate from us. Happy B-Day, Lea!

The unsealed National 1 is routinely crossed by surreally charged trucks and lorries. The scarred body of sand, mud and water could be more accurately described as a piece of land art, rather than a national road. Torrential downpours transform the pits dug by the truck people into massive craters. Green murky waters fill them, rotting, smelling, glistening like puss on a corpse. I should know, because the next day I fell into one...
This unimaginable road is where hundreds of bike-people spend their lives. They push their modified bikes, loaded with over 100 liters of fuel, for days and days under the scorching sun, through the deep muddy sand, supplying petrol and diesel throughout the region. This in turn yields record prices for fuel: 2600 francs/liter!!!!!

In this difficult terrain even finding a bush camp can be tricky…
Day 5 - 27/12 

Km: 30
Road: deep sand
Weather: 38°C, hot

Some 50 people arrive in the early hours to see the strangers who slept in the bush. They were hoping we can give them some jobs, but they had to settle with an ordinary session of white watching… followed by a hoot shoot.
Our day was to be remembered for 3 crucial moments when the Landie got badly stuck. We were becoming experts at lifting, cabling, digging, but we were still novices in tracing the hidden water under the sandy tracks, the moving sand patches, the traps. In Congo you are never alone, even in the apparent middle of nowhere people would start pouring in from the bush, asking for money to help or even to just watch us struggle. We discovered that communication was difficult, and that people’s minds are sometimes fogged by confusion and lack of correlation with the real world.
Then we hit rock bottom: it was my turn to get stuck, and it was to be the most spectacular moto event of the whole trip. If you have seen what happened to Cyril Despres during Dakar 2012, you get the idea. I tried to avoid the murky parts and I knew I could not balance the bike on the slender path for bicycles, so I took my chances and rev it up through what appeared to be a puddle. And I got stuck waist deep in mud, like in wet cement.
We got help from the 2 truck people we were helping to reach the next village. I was out, but I was also sure that I had to take some more load of the bike if we were to continue.
Day 6 - 28/12 

Km: 30
Road:  deep sand
Weather: 38°C, hot

Wild orchids in the bush where we slept over night. A good sign for the new day ahead of us! But it was a deceitful one: this road was tougher than us, curving our every attempt to play it. The Defender got stock over and over again and the rescue tools started to get jammed with sand.
In the extreme heat the right front tyre was loose from the rim, so sand got in, and the tire deflated. We soon learnt that the air conditioning compressor from the car, that Jacques also used to power some handy tools, was no longer working. We would investigate that later at the bivouac. My chain was also looking bad… I was worried that we were heading for disaster. 3 km before the bridge in Luange we got stopped by the police again: we were crossing from one county to another, so they wanted to write down on their notebooks our passport and visa info. But they could hardly read or write, so after we beard with them 30 min., we just left. But after the bridge the others were waiting. One more hour of lame chatter, while Ana and Jacques were buying food and water from the villagers. Then we got the bad news: the trucks were stuck, blocking the deviation for the small vehicles, so we had to go through the enormous mud trenches. I got out through some villager’s yard, but of course the car got stuck and the riot began: people gone berserk at the situation, and we struggled to cope with the stress, noise, heat and difficult operation. We somehow managed to get out of that madness and find a calm bush camp for our worn out souls.
But the night didn’t spare us: a huge storm started, with massive thunders and lightening that struck so close they made us cuddle in fear. Our tent was leaking water, we folded our mattresses, laid towels and t-shirts on the puddles that dribbled in, and tried to get some sleep.
Day 7 - 29/12 
Km: 0
Weather: 36°C/hot
We out a much needed pause on our mad Congo crossing, because we had to try to fix the compressor and inflate the tires, so got to work. We oiled it and tried many things, but it was too late. So we greased the elevator and inflated the tires with my small compressor. In the meantime the girls did the laundry with rain water from last night.

Day 8 - 30/12

Day 8 - 30/12 
Km: 37
Road: bad deep sand
Weather: 34°C cloudy

Our most difficult moment will remain unphotographed. In the morning of our 200th day on African adventure, we had our toughest climb: a hilly, muddy track with huge holes dug by downpours. The kids and girls climbed on foot, but the car was inevitably stuck and later dug out. We had to dug away to cut our way, because the road was too narrow ahead to continue.
Before noon I was stuck in deep sand and I had to put the bike on one side and pull it away into the right track. Jacques jumped in to give me a hand, but slipped and fell onto his back, hitting the hardened roadside. For a few seconds he could not breathe: we knew we had to stop and lay the mat for him to rest. He took some anti-inflammatory drug and a pain killer, but we were all shaken by the event. 
After lunch he was not feeling any better and was too tired and too stressed  to cope with the innumerable people that chased the car like hyenas a wounded elephant. After another breakdown we knew the day should come to an end: we got out of the mud and searched for a place. Unfortunately we ended up in a fly infested plane, the bloody beast were biting really badly so we wasted no time to look for shelter in our tents.
Day 9 - 31/12  New Years Eve

Km: 15
Road: deep sand
Weather: 34°C, shot

Jack woke up all stiff in the back: I was facing the potential dead-ends alone. The road continued to keep us guessing, alternating steaming swamps with flat sandy patches, narrow paths or hilly ravines. And navigation was confusing: in some villages, people would stare as if we were freaks, and we tried all day to keep our poker faces on. We were struggling to make sense of the contradictory information we could harvest from the locals. Finding the deviations and avoiding at all costs the dreaded N1 was imperative if we were to arrive at the end of this trip.
Sometimes you don’t find the providential tree where you want it to be. One time we mount the winch on a palm stub, and Delphine keeps a watchful eye on the fable wood screeching and threatening to give up. Ducks swim in the rainwater ponds and pigs enjoy a mud bath. If not for the excited crowds, the whites stuck in deep shit and covered in sweat and dirt, this would make a lovely photo subject. But this is no serene scene from some travel magazine. We bump again into familiar faces: over the coming days we would meet several times with the same trucks. These people are the real deal. We may have been pushed into driving on this road but we only have to do it once in our life. But for them, their life is this road.
Every mistake can have cruel repercussions on this cathartic trip: we find the car suspended, centimeters from tumbling into a big hole. Villagers rush to enjoy the show, kids occupying the better “seats”. We could picture them with the bags of popcorn and Coke cups, munching on.

We struggle in vain, only to finally attempt a desperate solution: pulling the 3.5 tone jeep using only man power. And it works: dozens of villagers jump at the opportunity to participate in the event and then ask to mount the bike and get their photos taken. We spot a strange beauty: an African woman with clear green eyes.
Its the last day of the year. We feel the exhaustion and stress in every cell of our bodies, but what a way and what a place to spend it really. We have the comfort of a shower, a table to spread a lovely New Year dinner and the beauty of our bush camp under the most amazing sky. We feel far away from anything familiar, but we are among friends and we drink our champagne to our dear friends and to you who are supporting us and keeping us virtual company in this cathartic trip. Happy 2012!
Day 10 - 01/01/2012 

Km: 12
Road: deep sand
Weather: 34°C, hot

Without the winch it was no way we could go on on these roads, so the target of the day was to fix it. While working on it, villagers pour in to investigate. Some brought ridiculous human rights activate badges. Some claim they are village chiefs, regional guards or all kind of operatives entitled to check on us. As we try politely to explain why we need some space, they get cheeky, asking for some ID. One even says we’d camped in a cemetery. It’s laughable, but annoying. We tell them how we spend all day long with local people in villages and towns, and that at night and in the morning it’s important to have some privacy and peace to attend to our vehicles and the kids, it’s in vain. They have nothing else to do with their time, besides it’s the first day of the new year, so they expect us to cheer them up with some gifts. Let’s say that we managed to define some private space around the camp, but as we leave it, we understand that these visitors were actually quite permissive. We have camped almost next to a village, the homes are visible as we get back to the road, no wonder they came to meet us; it’s amazing that they left us alone during the new year night!

But maybe we should not have celebrated the humane nature of Kashitu villagers quite yet, cause it was here where our group was to receive the most surprising blow yet.
Entering the village we are eventually trapped in the usual watery trenches left behind by some truck that got stuck and had to dig its way out. So we get digging too, and the enthusiasm among the 200 plus attendees to the show is high. For some moments we forget to watch the bike, but this is our 12th country in Africa, and people have shown nothing but respect for our property so far. But not these people. As I return to the bike to get ready to drive, I see the radio is missing. We have been using a pair of walkie-talkies to communicate - car and motorbike - while on this route with many separate deviations that sometimes force us to drive alone. Mine is now gone, and all hell brakes loose.

We try everything we can think of: mobilize the villagers, ask questions, shout at them, threaten them with the army and police in Kinshasa. The so called activists and chiefs have disappeared, nowhere to be seen. No one assumes responsibility for this village and community, the Vidals are on the brink of a nervous breakdown. And hours pass with a sea of people around us. We attempt to communicate, it’s useless, they’re useless. And suddenly, rumor that someone is coming with the radio. East to the village, a large group is making its way towards where we stand. And they have the lost radio. Minutes later we get moving, while ransom requests pour in from every direction. We feel disappointed, ashamed. It’s not how we were hoping the Congo crossing to work, not why we made all the way, all the sacrifices. We don’t want to be these angry people, shouting, threatening, fighting, pushing kids away. We know these are not the most friendly of all places, but there are reasons for it and we don't want to get sucked into them. And we understand why we almost have. 

We left KIN with an unrealistic target, in an attempt to exit the high risk malaria zone and spend the holidays as close as possible to Zambia. But this road is tougher than us, we cannot beat it by force, we must use other skills to get there.

We have been accumulating frustration and despair and we have been acting on impulse, allowing stress to get to us. And on this road every mistake costs. Not carrying enough water or food supplies, going too fast or too slow, it all matters. And even if we can all speak french, communication is difficult.

So in the next village the French agree to spend their first night at a chief’s compound: we set camp behind the mud house and we kind of get to dine in peace, after shopping for some groceries (bananas, pineapple, drinking water). We throw what other goodies we have on the table - a last tomato, a cucumber, some bulgur and corn on a cob, and that’s dinner! Soon after that, we hit the sack, anticipating an early morning.
Day 11 - 02/01

Km: 68
Road: deep sand
Weather: 34°C,  hot

Our host asks us to charge a jeep battery, so we oblige, while he leaves to bring more drinking water. But he veneer comes back, so after packing our stuff, Lea says good bye to the many kids she has been playing ball with all morning and Ana to the villagers she has been visiting to discuss traditional gastronomy and what not. 
 Then we pack our stuff and start moving, in the roar of a large audience. We are ready to face the roads again.
Parts of this story were featured in Overland Magazine issue #10
The National Road of DRC
Enthusiasm and desperation will be the mood of the day, once again… This time not our own: as we pass a Congolese 4x4 we notice that the people are stuck, so we tow the car and its passengers out of the moving sand, where stagnant waters form deep underground pools, impossible to predict, too easy to sink in. But on a light bike, with no luggage and no pillion, I'm discovering that even a Congo crossing can be a fun ride! I am learning a lot on this difficult ever changing terrain, I wonder how will I make us of all these newly acquired skills when we are out. We got tougher during the last couple of days, so we drive more calmly, more focused. The most important new rule: every time we are not sure about the best way to pass through a place, we stop and someone walk on foot until the next stable area. Then we discuss whatever was observed and decide on a strategy. Only after this process is completed we start driving.

By late evening we finally arrive in Tshikapa. We are in Kasai Occidental province, but what a disappointed is this place! We find in the decrepit market bread, some tomatoes, canned corned beef, manioc, doughnuts. And we roll into the “main avenue”, as the police officers at the check point pompously inform. What a joke: this was a tarred road sometime in the 60’s, but since the colonists left there was no maintenance other then the torrential rains that sunk the tarmac. The avenue is a canyon, filled with metal leftovers from trucks that had mechanical breakdowns and of course nobody cared to clear the way from the debris. One of this archaeological souvenirs gets in the way of the Landie’s differential, and we are forced to work hard to be able to drive back and then out of the road. Because while we were sweating it out, no less than 3 trucks formed a queue, blocking the one lane “avenue” of hell. Kind of in a bad mood we slide our way through the deep wet sand up to yet another catholic mission, where we celebrate the achievement with a cold lager.
Day 12 - 03/01 

Km: 0
Weather: torrential downpour

Today it’s my birthday. Believe me, Tchikapa is not an obvious place to party. During the night we got soaked with rain, water dribbling at corners into the worn out tent. A bit disappointed in this North Face design, comfy, light, but not so strong. We slept again on folded mattresses in the center. Rain stops at noon, and the rest of the day we wash our stuff with rain water ad tend to our vehicles. We decide to move the tent under a roof, on a veranda, where later we have a small party. Beer, ground nuts, rice and my surprise b-day cake: minuscule Belgian waffles that Ana found in the market. She has coated the cookies with roasted nuts in a brown sugar caramel, a sweet improvised delight in a cruel world.

Stage 2: Tchikapa to Disaster

Day 13 - 04/01

Km: 94
Road:  sand
Weather: 38°C, hot

40 bucks for 2 nights of camping and some rain water? Way too much, we said, when father Sylvain-Desire Munzombo decided to show his mercantile side on our departure. We had asked on arrival about money and we thought it was understood that they wanted none. We had spent hours discussing politics and his desire to come to Europe, we exchange contacts and gave him coordinates of friends who might intermediate a scholarship. He seemed a bit off is some regards, but I guess it’s hard to read people. We negotiated the amount, and he looked happy to take any money we were willing to pay…very christian, indeed.

The day had begun on a negative tune, and unfortunately it ended just as bad. Few Ks outside Tchikapa we get lost from each other. We were now 2 groups: the car with the 4 frenchies plus Ana, and me. Besides N1 there is one more “main” road, a deviation, really, leading to Kananga. I have no idea we are driving on different routes, neither does Jacques, so we both take advantage of the almost dry piste. A crunchy layer of sand can be a blessing or a curse, it all depends on there is if a murky swamp under the crust. I can go 50km/hour and Jacques 30-35, so, unawares, the distance between us grows, way beyond the radio coverage. When we realize the situation, it’s too late: asking around in villages we’re told that the variant will return to the N1 only in some 70 Ks. I have less than 4 dollars, a bottle of water and every chance to run out of gas before reuniting with the 4 wheeled group. In the meantime the others try to investigate and ran into a guy who tells them that he has spotted a white on a big bike taking the N1. So we push it, skipping lunch, hoping that we will make to the junction before it got dark.

The road when it’s not raining is indeed better, probably in dry season is even less challenging. But this time we cannot enjoy the good pace, cause we are running out of time: night is approaching and we start imagining all kind of creepy scenarios where I would have to spend the night alone, asking for shelter and food from some villagers, out of gas, out of money, maybe rain will come…you know…silly things like that. I arrive the first at the junction, but I can see no tire tracks and no one has seen any car passing by today. So I wait, and I wait. Two hours run by, a cold evening rain pouring rivers of orange waters on the cracked surface of sand. after offering me a chair in exchange for my story, the locals let be to be. But there’s no point to stay here any longer: the car may be stuck, I could be here for days or something, I have got to go back on the deviation and try to find them, it’s my only chance.

And sometime around 6 p.m. I see them, the Landie’s fog lights rendering a ghostly apparition. We hug, we comfort each other, we tell our stories. They were indeed stuck in a swampy deviation of the deviation, right before meeting me. I buy some very pricey gas at 2600 francs/liter from a small stand. It is already pitch black, we must go for an emergency camping spot.

Not a very calm spot though: minutes after we lie in our tents, tired and unsatisfied after another spartan dinner, we hear voices and people approaching. I ponder staying put and ignoring them, but these ones are determined like the Kikwit group, to go full retard. They are very loud and they start poking around at vehicles. The car is more protected, but I have to do something, I must intervene. I guess I don’t look so menacing in my knickers and all, so I do my best to make it clear that we are exhausted, we are tourists and we need to rest, alone. Of course that soon after the fort group leaves the second arrives, and this time they are more cunning: they have summoned the police dude from the barrier, telling him them strangers are nearby and that they are afraid! The dude knows about us, I have chatted with him some hours back, but it takes a lot of convincing to make them all go. Disappointed that we are in no mood for socializing and that they got no souvenirs or money from the mundele. So they don’t go far, just by the side of the road, enough to allow us to fall asleep, their voices still debating angrily the unsatisfying outcome of their visit.
 Day 14 - 05/01

Km: 161
Road: tarmac + good sand
Weather: 33°C,  warm and cloudy

At 5.30 a.m. sharp the villagers are back. Group after group we try to keep them at bay, while shoving the breakfast into our mouths and packing in the same time. The yesterday rain left behind a topping of sand that is easier to ride on. This is small beer compared to what we’ve lived before Tshikapa. In Kananga we hit tarmac for the first time since we left KIN, a chickenpox-ed shadow of a once acceptable road, which has long collapsed under the rain, trucks and lorries. Pit stop at the market for some groceries: not much to buy though, platy of charcoal, bread, pineapple, dried fish, tomatoes the size of cherries (but not cherry tomato) and piles of ants and termites, some still moving. Everything is not cheap, and gas is 2600 francs for a liter!
Sometimes the lorry tracks become narrower and my foot pegs get stuck in the sand, my rear wheel digging a sticky trench in the pocket of wet mud underneath. Tilt the bike, pull it out of the trench, twist it back into upright position - under the scorching heat I sweat a river at every move, so by lunch I am too happy to eat the cold salad of rice, tomatoes and avocado.
Of the bag of money we exchanged in KIN we have maybe 20% left. The biggest bill is 500 francs, so at a 900 francs to the dollar rate, you can imagine how it looks when people buy gas, for example (and yeah, as always in Africa, the money business is Lebanese). Most of the Congo crossing is a trickle of traffic between settlements, made on foot - no wonder we stand out.
After the picnic we keep on rolling some 80 Ks east of Kananga, desperately looking for a reasonable camping spot. Villages and villagers line the road, finally at 8 p.m. we enter the woods and we take a sharp right straight into the bush, where we set camp under a menacing sky of charcoal clouds.
Day 15 - 06/01

Km: 115
Road:  good sand
Weather: 29°C, rain

Torrential rain. We cannot make a move until 10.30 a.m., when the storm becomes more tame. Under the drizzle we pack the tent, from inside towards outside, but our stuff got drenched anyways. 21 degrees, freaking cold, man. We are in no mood to roll, but our French side of the team has discovered their visa will expire in 5 days, so we’ve got to run. Ana gums in the car, sheltered from the cold rain, but depressed to spend hours in a moving cage. She sits on the bench behind, where normally the seats can be rolled down, to create arresting and playing platform for the kids. But due to the noise it’s hardly possible to communicate with anybody in the car and there’s a constant shift of falling objects knocking on her head: bags of food, potty, games, shoes, luggage.
After one hour the rain stops, but the sandy clay is so spongy, no wonder we are the first man men to venture on the road this morning. As the rain is still raging behind us, rivers of muddy water flow under our wheels, and we struggle to maintain a steady pace, while shivering and with the boots drenched up to my ankle. But we are moving forward, so that’s good enough for me.
We lunch at the Mukamba lake, where we run into the first bikers since we entered Africa (Julien and Franck were moving about by Taxi in Abuja, so we never got a chance to see them with the bikes). These two are from Belgium, and they travel quite differently: they fly from home to ride a determined stage, like this time they arrived in Lusaka and will fly back home from Kinshasa. I guess the bikes stay on the continent, so they don’t need to carry spares and food, they travel light, sleeping mostly in hotels when they have a chance, eating local food….sounds like great fun. They have arrived here via N1 and they have met Alper a couple of days ago in Kamina.
20 km before Mbuji Mayi - our target for the day - we hit the final test, at least that’s what the villagers say. The rains have carved the road into a real canyon, but on the bottom the mud is as slippery and wet as everywhere, so eventually we get stuck, twice.
Out from the trench at the mouth of the canyon, we get stuck the second time right before rejoining the flat. The crowds rejoice in the sweat and blood show, even if disappointed that we are not rewarding their presence with money and souvenirs. On top of the hill, Ana spots the village “de luxe” boutique.
At midnight we reach our target: after 2 weeks of hardships we are in Mbuji Mayi, where we are welcomed by brother Richard, Hungarian ophthalmologist, and brother Jerome, a French doctor. They are living here for over 20 years, running one of the most extraordinary and successful projects in Africa, the Saint Raphael Clinic of Ophthalmology. Here they offer medical services at the highest standards, using the latest technology, thanks to donors from Europe and North America; they also offer educational programs alined to the Congolese psyche: theater plays, musicals, teaching them about personal health, trust in professional care, life. One of the focus is on continuous training and in  producing Congolese specialists that will take the project further. Our generous and altruist hosts offer us a warm dinner and a real bed to rest after a long and cold day.
Day 16 - 07/01

Km: 0
Weather: 30°C, sunny, evening rain

Ana’s motto has always been: “I choose cheese”. Cheese, what a wonder creation: we appreciate it on buttered bread this morning more than ever. The lovely breakfast is followed by a day of washing, drying, visiting the clinic and generally getting ready for the next leg of our adventure. The brothers are incredible sources of information about the true Congo, so little known outside projects and communities like this. 
This great team of dedicated people are sharing with us not only the party, but also the activity report of the year and their ambitions for 2012. Read more about the project at:

Meanwhile, I discover that I have accidentally “organized” things brilliantly: for my St. John celebration we get to party with the clinic staff, who are throwing a new year encore. It’s a yummy spread: goat stomach in tomato sauce, manioc and garlic stew, grilled goat, roasted chicken, tomato and onion beef stew, fried tilapia, manioc and maize fluff, rice, pasta, onion sauce, chillies, popcorn, roasted peanuts, beer, sodas. All followed by dancing to the sensual rhythms of Congolese rumba.
Day 17 - 08/01

Km: 150
Road: good sand and dirt track
Weather: 29°C, sunny

We say good bye to our new friends in great mood and great shape: showered, clean gear and all, an encouraging debut to the second stage of our own rally to Zambia. For the second time on this trip we were to take a different route, less travelled, but one that we were advised by the clinic driver that is better than the National 1. The route is a bit longer, crossing to Kamina via Kabinda, Mission Kalonda and Grelika Farm. We have no map, just a list of the villages we will pass, like we did it in Congo with team Alper & Esther. On the way to Mission Kalonda I stock on fruits at every chance I have got. Halfway, we run into our hosts for tonight: brother Richard has already called the sisters at the mission to inform about our arrival.
The Beatitude Sisters insist that we sleep in two of their lovely huts, for free. We are lucky to be in yet another special community that is dedicated to doing good for the locals while working to preserve traditions. They bake bread, prepare homemade jams and fruit distillates. Tonight they celebrate the Epiphany, and we enjoy a lot their African interpretation of the biblical story, happy to catch a glimpse of the Congolese way of living with God.
Day 18 - 09/01

Km: 156
Road: laterite
Weather: 30°C, sunny

Our idea to entitle this post “No days without getting stuck” was rendered useless by today's events. This portion of the trip is a breeze to us, after toughening it the other days. So we roll at the catholic house in Mission Kalonga, after spending the day driving through a picturesque rural wonderland of small mud huts covered in dry grass, where people weave ingenious baskets to fish, carry their crops, or to filter a presumably taste enhancer distilled by mixing water with a black bicarbonate palm dust. Food has become a rare and expensive commodity on this trip. With dwindling supplies, we are happy to find some pretty good tomatoes and beer on the small stands in town. Delphine improvises a French dish: farcos, using almost exclusively local ingredients: leafy greens, canned corned beef, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, maize flour, a dash of milk. The gallettes are lightly browned, then served with boiled potatoes and local beer.

Disaster Strikes

Day 19 - 10/01

Km: 150

Road: good sand
Weather: 34°C, hot, then rain

In the morning we pack our tent pitched under the chicken house roof, where goats use to sleep. Jacques & Delphine ask us to allow the playing space to the girls, as the piste seems to be improving, so today we are riding 2up on the Tenere. Brilliant sun, good sand under the wheels, bright colors in at the rural landscape, a regained freedom to ride, to be.

But it was a brief joy.

After 80 Ks our Dakar proves more merciless than theirs. Our bike's chain link breaks in two, under the increased weight, worn out by sand and bumpy rides. I try to fit a temporary wire, but there is no way. My heart sinks, I have no choice but to do it like in Cameroon. So we start the tow, and to make things worse, rain comes back upon us, soaking me and the laterite piste that becomes once again dangerously soapy. In the stress of the moment, we make a mistake with the longer towing cord, so the first tumble is inevitable. Then I fall again, and again, and again: sliding like a toy on ice, being thrown into a tree, losing rear grip in a pool of water. My rear brake lever gets bent each time, so eventually it breaks, forcing me to use only front brakes to tension the tow cable. 70 more km of hell, to realize that this is to dangerous to do, we are risking a serious injury and we are some 200 km from any town. We have seen nobody in the last couple of hours, we are alone here. We must stop.
We set camp after the 4th fall, right on the road, because let's face it, there’s no chance someone will pass by. The place is stunning, but we are too broken inside to see it. Soon we discover that our troubles are even bigger than we've thought: the Rover has been leaking oil from the engine for the whole afternoon, the level is on minimum and there is no spare oil to replace the lost one. I have some 10W40, but using motorbike oil may damage the turbo. We are desperate. We have to find a way, we must do something to get ourselves out of this forsaken place, and we must do it with whatever we have got.
Day 20 - 11/01

Km: 206
Road: good sand
Weather: 19°C, cold rain

Let's go through it again:

We have one broken chain. One missing brake lever. One Land Rover with a badly leaking engine. No spare change of oil.

Also, the compressor is broken, so we improvise a way to cut some holes into a piece of metal that I found laying in Jacques trunk: a cord wrapped around the drill and a few hours of hard work later I have a handmade link for my chain, that I fit with 2 bolts. Then a little bit cold welding for the Defender later, and bum, our vehicles are fixed, African style. The Congo crossing is back on.
Ana returns to her cage, and off we go, nervous at every bump, at every curve. Luckily the patched chain hangs in there, feeding my hopes to escape from this place in one piece. As we reunited with the village road, where some bicycles do pass from time to time, our efforts were rewarded by a tasty Congolese meal from the road-side stands: beef in palm oil stew and hot fluff. Delish! Hunger and meat cravings behind us, we were in the mood to notice the changing landscape: more vivid colors, more wildlife, maybe we would see some African beasts after all!
Whipped by the torrential rain, we rush into Kamina, tent, sleeping bag and mattresses soaked. Our dry sacks no longer can be call as such, worn out by the tough weather. We pitch our wet home under a roof and we grill some fluff. We need to call Alper and check on him, but the news are not good at all. They are in Kolwesi, after 6 (six!) days of hell. The road is flooded, dozens of trucks are stuck along the way and there are 2 difficult river crossings. Alper, who has a lot of experience with off road bikes, tells me that one of the rivers is impossible to cross on a motorbike, with the water level above 1m! They have broken the lamellar suspension of the Toyota and are dealing with that. The nightmare begins all over again.
Day 21 - 12/01

Km: 0
Weather: 26°C, rainy with periods of sun

Our tent pitched on the premises of Kamina catholic mission becomes a play house for the kids, who are, like all humans at this age, oblivious to the torment of the adults.
Our hosts, Gaby in particular, boast an infectious optimism, for a moment we forget about our troubles. I take some time to tend to the bike. In a nearby shop I find a welder to fix my brake lever and someone who own an old Honda. He agrees to sell me for 20 bucks his used chain (only 104 links), an insurance for me for the road ahead, as there is no way I can replace my broken part here, or even in Kolwesi.
We find out that there is a train station in Kamina and we start dreaming to finish the last stretch to Lubumbashi by train. Alper senates us some text messages and the situation of the road through Sokele is not really easy; the constant rain made some parts really difficult, there are two river crossings, one is impossible with the Tenere as the water is more than 1m deep the current is really strong and there are big stones all over the 50-60m long crossing. Could the train be our way out? We start our investigation at the Station. Feels like Sunday, a laid-back atmosphere. We take a couple of pics of the guards.
We lose a whole day going back and forth,  visiting different offices, trying to find a solution. Everything from the interior decor, to the rusty dialogue with the socialist managers remind us of communist Romania; same bureaucracy, same “meaningful” wording, same approach. Finally we get the whole picture: 1350 dollars to rent a merchandise open platform, the minimum fee for a 7 tone load (even if we have 3.7). And the prospect of 4 to 7 days by train to Lubumbashi, unless there is a serious, but quite possible power cut, in which case we would be waiting for a diesel locomotive to pull us out.
Day 22 - 13/01

Km: 0
Weather: 26°C, rainy with periods of sun

We are still in Kamina, negotiations for the train alternative going strong. We scale down the options to tree: 1. send the women, kids and bike by regular train and make an all men team to drive the Rover to Lubumbashi; 2. share the ridiculous cost for the train with another car and travel by train up for 400 km for 500 bucks; 3. continue by road. For us, the train option is an uncomfortable option: pitch the tent on an open moving dirty platform, exposed to rain and sun, not a lot of room to move about. But it could work. So we decide to take this chance and skip the bumpy nightmare that claimed Alper’s suspension and nerves. We pack up and fill the car with supplies: beer, goat black pudding and sausage, goat steak, deep fried manioc, veggies, bread.

With butterflies in our stomachs we puled by the train station in high spirit. In a few days we will arrive safe and sound in Lubumbashi!

But life in Africa is a certain uncertainty: the train has been delayed… it'll be here tomorrow, maybe... or on some other day, they’ll let us know. And the price has changed, 550 bucks, up from the 500 quoted in the morning (not to mention the 480 promised). What a blow, but in a way, what a relief! We are overlanders, so we must overland. We will hit the road, then, but as the day comes to an end we go back to celebrate our reclaimed courage with black pudding, sausage, caramelized pineapple, rice and whisky, together with the lovely people from the Catholic mission.
Day 23 - 14/01

Km: 55
Road: good sand
Weather: 29°C, sunny

And we drove away. Where the road became a narrow path lined by vegetation and stumps, the car hit a tree with the upper luggage support. In the impact, one of our aluminum boxes was totaled, along with our 5l jerrycan! What a nightmare… we collected our stuff in plastic bags and wondered how we would fix this new problem. We could not ride with only one box, but aluminum is hard to weld and a new set would be too expensive, if not impossible to buy or ship in the next town. But we had no time to mourn our box, we had to keep moving.

50 km further we hit a new low: the right rear wheel of the car gets stuck in some trench and we discover what was the strange metallic noise that Jacques heard during the morning drive. The winch is not working, again. We scramble to find a way out, at some point a 4x4 arrives and the dudes pull us out, but then we get stuck again, 1 meter down the road. One of the dudes start shoveling away and punctures a tire, and in the heat of the moment they decide to take off and leave us there. This was a new challenge: the day had started with the car stuck in a trench, and it would end in yet another. Rain pour over, rivers of dirt flooding the trenches, but we no longer care. We are tired, dirty and have had enough. Our French friends decide to sleep in the car as it is, the roof tent impossible to lift. We pitch our tent in the wet grass. And try to sleep.
Day 24 - 15/01

Km: 65
Road: good sand
Weather: 29°C, sunny

The uncomfortable rest worked: in the morning we realize that we can use the winch after all. A truck has arrived in the evening and is waiting 100m down the road for the rainwater to dry off. We borrow a chain from them and we manually winch ourselves out of the hole. In the meantime my Tenere is ready for new adventures, while the girls watch some Disney character’s adventures under the shade.
We arrive at a river crossing, where we wait for the trucks to pass. The truck people have been working for days to fix a huge hole right after the bridge: sand bags, wood, the works. Later we find ourselves at yet another river crossing, but this time there is no bridge.
While then humans are spent, I am happy to say that my African chain-fix is still holding on pretty well. We debate, and decide that we are all too tired to attempt the crossing, and I suggest to set camp on the soft sand some 200 m off the river. It’s one of the loveliest camping spots so far, almost like a bai, where you would imagine elephants passing by.


Our book about the tour of Africa

The End is Near

Day 25 - 16/01

Km: 30
Road: good sand with potholes
Weather: 29°C, sunny
Crossing the river proves ridiculously easy, but little do we know that the heavy part is yet to come.
The road is all potholes filed with a murky pus of stagnant waters and sand. We are told to follow the deviations, the deep holes can be fatal. Suddenly we are out of the woods, where an incredible scene unfolds.
Welcome to infamous Sokele! Lovely warm weather, a mild breeze, a pleasant summer rain about to fall. Take a seat in the shadow, and if you’re still hot, soak your feet in the cool waters. Hungry much? There’s plenty of sweet bananas, 3 for 100 francs. Cheap food, beautiful scenery, sensual rumba music in the background. An enchanting place, if you can ignore the flooded river, the 2 trucks stuck in deep sand and the 20 people desperately working to build a passage and to get their vehicles out. There are dozens of trees missing from the picture, cut since 3 days ago to level the river bed and allow passage. One truck driver tells us he knows Alper, whom he towed out of a pothole about a week ago.

Up to our knees in the infested waters, the Defender defenseless in the sticky sand, the kids hungry and bored to tears, we have to get our shit together and find a way out of this. At a closer inspection, Jacques discovers that we can fix the winch after all. And we get the job done, this time in the blind, feeling with our hands under the water. The kids get a cheese sandwich and cartoons for desert, and we know how lucky we are to be able to do this. Life is tough in Congo, and even after living on the road and in the bush for weeks, we are far from understanding what life is like for the ordinary truck drivers with whom we shared food, hope and tools. We may feel pity for ourselves at times, we may consider this adventure some kind of martyrdom, but, seriously, how can we even compare our own misery to the black and white reality of this place?
Once the winch is fixed, we tow ourselves out of the river in no time. But we soon find out that the real crossing was ahead of us. The dreaded river was 2 km before Sokele. The villagers have built a passage for the cars: stones piled on the river bed, so that the depth of the crossing is about 1.2 meters. Impossible by bike, indeed. But I am told there is a collapsed bridge where I could pass, and some kilometers away I find it. No problems, I quickly reach the other side, only to arrive in time for one of the most spectacular moments of our adventure. Unfortunately there I was with no camera, watching the incredible: hood covered by strong current, the Defender swam over. If it wasn’t so scary even the idea of taking another shot at this, I would have suggested to go back and cross again for the camera. 
Luckily Alper snap the river crossing right before he went for it (Copyright Alper).
Day 26 - 17/01

Km: 7.5 
Road: mud
Weather: 18°C, humid, rainy

Ah, the smell of freshly baked bread in the morning! The Vidal bakery delivers once again, this time a wheat, soy and maize bread.
Anticipating the daily rain, we set off in a hurry. But we hardly drove some 7 km from the bush camp, when the infamous road teaches us yet another hard lesson. The Rover is once again trapped in the mud. We figured this time we were not in very deep shit, so we chose to not double the cord, as we normally would. And something went wrong: the winch broke, leaving us with almost nothing left to do.
We tried to dig, desperate to do something, anything. To make things even more difficult, the car would not start. We were out of diesel. Because the car was sitting at an angle and with the secondary tank mounted before the principal, the injection pomp was failing. This time we were unable to take fuel from the secondary to the principal tank, as we had done before. This time even the secondary tank was empty. I had no other choice but take my bike and start searching for a village where I could buy diesel. I was risking a broken chain, and the radios were no longer effective since we were rolling through the forest. But as the rain kept going, we knew no trucks or other vehicles would dare the lava of soaking mud for days. We could be stuck in this place for a long time, and that was not an option.

11 km towards Sokele I strike gold: a village where they have diesel, and at a reasonable price, just 40 dollars for 20 liters. I return to the sunken Defender, and everybody is relieved. In the meantime Jacques kept digging, so after we fill up the tank we finally get the car out of the mud. Congo is Congo: minutes later a heavy storm starts pouring its furious waters upon us, drenching us, freezing us. I appreciate now more than ever the comfort of a car: the frenchies seek refuge in the heated car and get to change the wet clothes for dry ones. After a short wait we decide that we’ve got to set camp, and we drive just a bit out of the road, onto a field of high grasses. And the car is swamped, we feel stupid, incapable to dig more, to winch more.

There is nothing to do. It is raining too much, we are too cold and it’s just too damn late. One more night with the car stuck and the tent soaked. It's the coldest, darkest, most terrible night so far.

Ziua/ Day 27 - 18/01

Km: 120
Road: clay
Weather: 29°C, sunny

Seriously, these photo are taken on the next day. Look at the glorious sun, at the green meadow! Who cares how we got out of that doomed place? Jacques fixed the winch - it just needed some cleaning, some grease and a new washer- we dug a bit, and we got out. The swampy roads behind us, 36 km later we hit the solid laterite of N38.
 Ziua/ Day 28 - 19/01

Km: 306
Road: clay, then tarmac
Weather: 25°C, cloudy

Later we camped at 17 degrees Celsius in the parking of the Kolwesi catholic mission. But who cares. The next photo is a more consequential one for our 28 day Congo crossing. We had stopped by chance in front of that supermarket in Kolwesi, we actually crossed the street to shop for some veg at the market. The guy in white t-shirt next to my right is John, and he would be instrumental for our subsequent happiness. He spotted the bike and the heavily loaded car and he knew something was off. So he came to meet us. John and his friends were the first whites we were seeing in weeks. And these white people were different: they offered us the true reward at the end of a hard and testing adventure. They assured us their friends in Lubumbashi would help us find a place to camp and one to fix the vehicles. Even the supermarket owner came to hand us a bag of snacks for the road.
But the road ahead was too easy, even under the cold rain. Just 150 km left of laterite, and after Likasi we were back on tarmac. And the night was epic: wonderfully received by the Belgian community, we feasted on a gourmet dinner of shrimps and beef, and moelleux aux chocolat, and Bordeaux. And to top the feast, Caramel Votca, the latest in fancy drinking straight from the pubs of South Africa. People were disputing where to host us, and Shams, John’s wife, won. Late in the night we arrived at the house: a real house, with real beds. A home.

We were at the end of the road. After 28 days of mud, sweat, and tears, our Congo crossing challenge was over.

Epilogue in Lushi

Lubumbashi 19-22/01 - A Home Away From Home

We had plenty to do in order to get our vehicles to run properly. Luckily we were in the best place for the job: Amze car shop (Toyota specialist), where together with Patrick and his team of mechanics we would launch a 24 hrs major operation. I fitted the bike with a new Tsubaki chain, I replaced the gear change lever and the back wheel bearings, I repaired the deformed engine shield and handlebar mounting piece, I cleaned the air filter and did what we could to fix the damaged aluminum box. I am still in awe that our makeshift chain link held over 700 km of hard roads! The alu box was hammered back into an approximate shape that would allow us to kind of close it. And the final fix: now we could mount it, but it was no longer waterproof, just like some of our camping gear.
Patrick’s garage occupied by the Romanian/French team. Jacques replaced all oils, fitted the spare tyre on the rim and put the Defender back in shape. Thank you, guys!
And finally a word from the heart about some incredible people. The fact is that we had found in Lubumbashi much more than the needed help to fix our bike and the car. We had regained here the warm feeling of belonging - even for a brief while - to a community, a family. Special shout outs go to John, Shams, and Madi, the head of the Belgian Club and moto club, who welcomed us in the place that became for a while our own meeting spot, and who invited us to give a talk. 

Interested to hear more or to inspire your team with our adventure stories?

24 hrs later the French were already in Zambia, their RD Congo papers renewed thanks to Shams. We had spent together quite intense, tough moments. Thank you and see you soon. Bon voyage, les amis!
While the Vidals pushed on, we were still in Lubumbashi, partying at the best place in town, Bush Camp, with our foodie gang, feasting on local Chanterelle mushrooms, so delicate and fragrant, sausages, barbecued beef, grilled endives, veggies, even the green salad we had been raving about for months. But the star of the show was indubitably the amazing t-bone beef steak. The world renowned Congolese beef is a melt in your mouth piece of perfection. The delicious food was completed by an aromatic Bordeaux, Belgian chocolate mousse and vanilla float in Kahlua. We had a hard time saying good bye to Patrick, Carnine, Doc, Gilbert, John & Shams. Thank you, friends, and hope to see you again, in Europe, even Romania. Or, why not, in Congo.
Look at us, clean, healthy, rejuvenated. Ready for whichever adventure awaits beyond the next bend.
We thank Laurent for all the info and GPS track. Laurent traveled from Lubumbashi to Kinshasa in July 2011. Also we found useful the blog of Isabella & Nicolas which paints a more accurate image of this difficult route. They traveled from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi on 2 Tenere in June 2011.