Last Days in the Congo

Just a short note on my last days in the DR Congo.
(Will write about Zambia and Botswana shortly as will happily hole up here in Namibia somewhere just to get out of the rain… but today I’m pedalling on towards Otjiwaronga – good name huh!)

Leaving Congo

I planned to leave Lumbumbashi sooner. But some things you can never plan for. Food poisoning and malaria. Double-whammy. Some timely medication from my well-stocked first-aid kit soon stopped the shakes and fever. But a couple of days recovery was called for.

After a weekend in Likasi I took to the road. Sad to be leaving the DR Congo. Hard to say exactly why I enjoyed the country so much. Perhaps best to compare it to Marmite – you either love it or you hate. I love Marmite. And I love the Congo too. It’s hard to describe the taste, but it’s definitely full of flavour. How, I wondered, could southern Africa live up to it? So I cycled towards the border town Kasumbalesa, cheering myself up with some Reggae music.

Kasumbalesa. With all the noise and bustle and dirt and dubious characters that a busy border town brings. Unwilling to get the exit stamp, I stumbled into a bar. Might as well put those last grubby Congolese francs to good use. A Simba for old-time’s sake. But it never is just one beer… A loud group of locals were celebrating the latest football result – Lubumbashi’s team, Mazembe, had made it through to the FIFA clubs semi-final. They made it through a couple of days earlier. But why stop celebrating. Music beat and beer flowed and a fat lady danced. From the corner I looked on in quiet amusement. For five minutes. Then another Simba bottle appeared in front of me. And the fat lady put her arm around me. Of course I had heard of Mazembe. I had heard the entire country erupt into celebrations when Mazembe scored the winning goal just a couple of days earlier. That, apparently, made us best friends. And so yet another Simba bottle appeared in front of me…

Dark and about to rain. Best find a hotel. No shortage here. A cheap one. Done. But don’t expect any sleep. The nightclub music grated and reverberated round the four whitish walls of my room. Somehow I could still hear the mosquitoes’ high-pitched buzzing round my head. For every one I killed, smearing blood (presumably mine) over the sheet and less white walls, another took it’s place. I couldn’t sleep anyway. My heart was racing. A resting heart-rate of 95 is not normal. Not when it’s normally 55. Perhaps I should have rested longer. Too late now.

So I waited to morning. Packed my bags and walked to the border. Summoned to the front of the queue I soon had an exit stamp. No going back now. Pushing my bike through the mud, between the endless queue of lorries, I eventually got to Zambia immigration. With a little help from the bike boys. The narrow space between the lorries was filled with bikes, loaded with goods, being pushed by local boys. Deadlock. Nobody going forward. Nobody going back. Nobody, that is, except me. Before I knew it my fully-loaded bike was moving through the air. Two boys now carrying it above head height. I followed behind, bike and bag-less. All I had to do was answer the endless flow of questions from the motionless transporters. From Congo – yes. To Zambia – yes. That, I thought, was obvious.

Zambian immigration. Visa paid. Entry stamp done. And off I cycled. On the smooth tarmac road past the 10km line of stationary lorries waiting to cross the border into the Congo. It’s not just me then that wanted to go there.

2 Responses to “ Last Days in the Congo ”

  1. Messages have been passed since you entered Zambia, so thanks for the update. Really sorry to hear of the ill-health but you’re young and strong. I’m really looking forward to reading about ‘The Girl on a bike through Africa.’ You will never settle down in England again.
    Good Luck and Good Health in 2011.

  2. How about a poem ?
    The heavy african clouds deserve it.

Leave a Reply