Day 13 - 04/01
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.