Road Trip Journal - Democratic Republic of Congo Pt. 2
This is the second part of my road trip journal when I was commissioned to document the difficulties Congolese people face when needing medical transport. It shows you just how bad it is to go from point A to B in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We traveled across the country in a 4WD.
I could already hear the rain pouring down when waking up but I didn’t think too much of it. Later at breakfast, though, our driver told us he was worried. Rain means washed out roads, blocked roads or no roads at all and probably arriving hours late or in some cases days. We decided to go after all.
We took off and the first part didn’t seem too bad. Our destination: Djuma and Sia. Two little villages in the middle of nowhere. It was still cloudy and raining but the roads were still in good shape and our driver was having fun so we covered a lot of distance. A few hours later we arrived at a river crossing. It was a lot less entertaining than before, so, we made it across pretty fast and without the weird bureaucratic protocols that Congo and Africa are famous for.
When roads turned into rivers
It stopped raining after a while but I could feel that the road was getting really muddy. It must have rained a lot here last night and the further we went, the worse it got until I wasn’t sure anymore if we were driving on a road or in a river. It felt nerve wrecking at times.
The truck didn’t seem to have any problems ploughing through but our driver had the hardest time trying to avoid rocks and potholes. He could only guess what was below the water and I was already imagining us disappearing in a sinkhole. Relying on his experience and knowledge of the roads he did an amazing job. These guys know how to handle a 4WD like no one else and after hours of ploughing through mud and water we arrived at our destination; battered but in one piece.
Fear of the dark
A few days later we left for Kinzamba. The weather was nice and nobody was expecting any problems that day… Oh boy, were we wrong…
After an hour driving on asphalt the driver suddenly made a quick turn. In a split second, there was no road anymore. I asked if he knew where to go. He nodded with a big grin on his face. We drove through savanna with grass at least 5 feet high slamming on the hood for an hour or two. Then, a road appeared again. Well, not really, it felt more like a rollercoaster and on top of that, it was about to get dark soon.
Now, if there’s one thing we wanted to avoid; it was driving -in the dark- on a messed-up dirt road in the middle of nowhere. A few times we encountered other people blocking the road trying to dig out their truck. It slowed us down even more but we could only help to dig them out every time they got stuck because there was no way of passing by. It was clear that we were not going to make to Kinzamba before dark.
Hours later, after a lot of digging and already having made peace with the idea of sleeping in the truck, we arrived at our destination. Again, battered, sweating and hungry. Luckily, I was appointed a nice bed in some shack that looked like a stable, complete with rats and cockroaches.