DRC

Matadi and Stan's Health

in

We finally made the border crossing in a record time of 1hr45min, and entered the DRC at Matadi with trepidation. Other than slow motion officials, we had no problems at the border with the officials. Great was our surprise to see the amazing Congo river and low and behold……for the first time since before Angola, a huge BRIDGE !!!!,  and an amazing one to boot.

 PLEASE can someone teach the Angolans to do this

The most amazing thing was that we both felt completely at ease and relaxed for the first time in a while. We realized that we were never really at ease in Angola (I think due to the bad roads and never knowing whether you will get to your destination) and here, the last place we expected to feel good in, we felt at home! We quickly changed a few dollars to DRC Francs, and off we went after filling up Stan only to realize pretty soon that something is seriously wrong with Stan.

 Welcome to DRC!How is it possible he is still going and Stan not?

Somehow we learned to adopt the attitude that we are imagining things if it could be bad, as what can be a worse nightmare than your car breaking down in the middle of nowhere in a country that you only heard bad things about. But as Joleen said, we live on an Ubuntu continent and once again the angel of mercy smiled upon us. We had turned around by now, but 22kms short of Matadi, Stan finally refused to even move as there were neither gears nor a clutch. Needless to say, we got a bit concerned but the angels were there and I flagged down the first car that I saw. Mercifully the driver could understand a bit of English and he made a call. He then, in sign language, explained that we should just wait and gave Stew the number that he phoned. After about 1 hr we weren’t sure whether we got it right and Stew phoned the number only to be told by “Henri” that the car is on its way.

 All the broken partsThe conventMother                                                                                                                                                                                             Superior

We could not believe our eyes when a carload full of guys arrived, jumped out of the car, got the tools out and started inspecting Stan. The language is a problem but we finally agreed that Stan needed to be towed to Matadi, the nearest town. At that stage we had no idea what was happening, but as we had no choice, went with them. They towed us to a place that looked like a hostel and still we had no idea where we were and what was happening. Turned out that this place was a convent and they were prepared to put us up for US$20 per night in a tiny little room with a single bed, which at that stage felt like a palace.   We met   a large group of fellow travelers at the Convent, on their way down to SA from Ghana, and we were able to swap a few notes before they left the next morning.

 A cleaner stan at the workshop ..well have to keep busy whilst waiting for 3 days !!!

The guys then promptly started taking Stan apart and all we could do was to stand and watch as communication is non existent. After at least 5 hours, in the dark, they decided to call it a day and with a smile indicated that they will be back in the morning. We were once again blown away by the openhearted kindness shown by these people. They had no idea who we are, they do not even know if we have any money, they cannot understand our language, but yet they slogged away till dark to try and get to the problem on the car. Just blows your mind.

 

We were so sad to hear on the same day about the recent horrible attacks on foreigners and refugees in SA. How sad is that, we have only experienced kindness everywhere and then we hear about the bad way our countrymen treat strangers.

 Kingsley Wannabe!!!!!  The new look Stew YEAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

The next morning they found the problem once everything was taken apart and it turned out that the part would have to be ordered from Kinshasa. The whole process thus far has been based on trust , so we handed over the dollars and now we are waiting to see what will happen. We do know it sounds crazy, but in a situation like this, there is nothing else to do. Thank you to all of you for all the sms’s the messages and invitation to stay with you if we have to go back. We were once again reminded that we have the best friends and family in the whole wide world and there are no words to convey how much we miss and love you all.

 It is now Saturday afternoon 5.30 and unfortunately NO NEWS ! Watch this space

 

From Matadi to Kinshasa

in

As you will notice, our site was not updated for a while and this was due partly to non availability of connections and partly to the fact that we had a hard time surviving. But, at the end, we are well and ready for the next chapter.

Stan was partly (at the time we thought fully) fixed on Monday afternoon. At that stage we realized that we cannot continue on our planned route as it included a portion of Angola (Cabinda) situated in the middle of DRC and our Angolan visas expired. We therefore had no option but to travel to Kinshasa, take the ferry to Brazzaville Congo and then on to Gabon from there. What complicated matters even further is that our Congo visas also expired soon so we had 3 days to get out of Congo.

A typical truck transport for humans and whatever fits!! All along the way we saw lots of burnt out trucks, had no idea why, now we know!!

Once again the women do all the hard work the men

                                                                                                                                                                                use bicycles!!!
 

We were told that the trip to Kinshasa will take 4 hrs at the most so we were under the mistaken impression that we will easily make it before sunset. No so, at 6 we have been driving for 4hrs30min and were nowhere near Kinshasa. We therefore had to find a place to stay for the night ASAP. We found a “hotel” which was nothing more than a mosquito infected, urine smelling hole, but at least it had a double bed( Yeah!! after spending 4 nights on the floor in the convent with a snoring/coughing nun right next door and only a cardboard wall in between) Unfortunately this village was not on the garmin nor on the map so I do not know the name.

Early morning market along the wayIt looks great onthe pic!!! Note the smal door

We left at sunrise the next morning and just as well as it took another 2hrs 30 min to Kinshasa. This capital city of DRC is a madhouse, the 3rd biggest city in Africa with 6 million inhabitants and in fact only place for about 3 mill. Nevertheless we still noticed the friendly spirits of the people and were helped on our way to the ferry by a very helpful garage owner who gave us a map of the city. The garmin was absolutely useless here as was our guidebook as it seems that whoever loaded the info has never set foot in DRC, so not much help.

DRC Hairdo!!! No idea what this is but it is everywhere and seem to be very popular food

We rushed to the “Beach” the area where we had to board the ferry as we have been warned that the ferries are very irregular so we wanted to get as much info as possible due to our expiring visas. Got there and discovered after a lot of sign language and shouting that the next ferry left at 2 O’Clock that same day ! We quickly got the tickets, bloody expensive at US$ 60, but beggars can’t be choosers. The next 4 hours were hard as we sat I the blazing sun, in temp of 40 degrees with me nursing a hectic migraine and with hawkers harassing you every 2 seconds selling everything from water to plastic chairs.

The officials were for some reason not too pleased to have us there and it was hard to establish exactly where and when to go, but at 1.15 we decided to push through the gate despite verbal abuse, a lot of shouting and finger pointing and finally got onto the ferry. Not a moment too soon as what followed was complete mayhem. The whole population of Kinshasa as well as all their possessions including their furniture stormed to the ferry whilst the workers started loading uncountable bags of foodstuff, sugar, flour etc at the same time. Absolute mayhem!!! Fun to watch from the top as we made sure to get outside as soon as possible due to the heat. After at least 1hr45min the last truck was pushed on with the last 1000 bags of foodstuff and we were off !!

This was goodbye to DRC and hectic madness of Kinshasa. Despite setbacks and a few unpleasant experiences, we enjoyed this friendly, disorganized country. The people were so good to us and we do hope that they will be able to sort out their problems as it has so much potential.

Just as a warning, we discovered later that we truly have guardian angels as the road from Matadi to Kinshasa is considered extremely dangerous due to highjackings as well as robbing and shooting in as late as August last year ! It seems that our case is one of “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” but we are still not sure whether it is better or worse to know about all the dangers. As we since tried to keep up with info on safety but if you listen to the advice, there is in fact nowhere you can travel

Stats and Helpful Info

in

The following are some stats as well as some info that might be helpful to future travelers:

 

(Please note that the prices are relevant at the time that we traveled and should therefore be adjusted. The cost of the accommodation does not include some “freebies” like staying at friends or bushcamping, and the amount reflected is per couple per night)

 

Country :                              DRC

 

Dates:                                    22nd  May to 26th May 2008

 

Exchange rate:                   R1 = 70 DRC francs

 

Number of Nights:                         5

 

Distance traveled:              441 kms

 

Average distance per day:88,2 kms

 

Cost of Diesel:                    R10 per litre

 

Average fuel consumption:9,2kms per litre

 

Diesel used:                                    48 litres

 

Worst Road/s:                     None, just the Drivers!                     

 

Best Road/s:                       All (Though warning that the road between Matadi and Kinshasa is unsafe due to highjackings and  recent muggings as late as March 2008)

 

Favourite new destination: Matadi

 

Average cost of accommodation: R144 per night

 

Number of Bushcamps:               “Camping” at Convent for US$ 20 per night

 

Cheapest Acommodation:          Unknown mosquito hotel 130 kms W of Kinshasa at R120 ! BUT you do not want to stay there

Most enjoyable:                              Leaving Kinshasa