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Camel World  

A.A.A. Kinshasa
Tel. +243 99 11 669



Travel Diary - 2003
5 January | Senegal
22 January |Gambia
18 January |Guinea
9 February | Mali
22 February | Burkina Faso
3 March | Ghana
19 March | Togo
20 March | Benin
25 March | Niger
12 April | Chad
15 April | Cameroon
16 April | Nigeria
30 April | Congo
24 May | RDC
31 May | Angola
5 June | Namibia
27 June | South Africa
30 August | Lesotho
10 September | Swaziland
9 October | Botswana
17 October | Namibia
19 October |
29 October | Malawi
4 November |Mozambique
16 November | Tanzania
12 December | Rwanda
16 December | RDC
18 December | Uganda
24 December | Kenya

Travel Diary - 2004
9 January | Ethiopia
6 February | Sudan
21 February | Saudi Arabia
23 February | Jordan
3 March | Syria
5 March | Turkey
12 March | Greece
21 March | ...And Home


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17 months, 43 countries, and 2 vehicles

Democratic Republic of Congo


I just can't stay away - just seven months after my last visit I find myself driving through Goma, city of volcano fame, and more recently the site of yet more African genocide.

The crossing was pretty simple - no charges, except for the $30 visa fee, and then I was off towards the city centre. After a few hundred meters I was flagged town by the yellow shirted traffic cops. Unbelievably, although I was five minutes from the border, they were trying to fine me for having no insurance (I admit that I'd hoped to avoid getting any, but still....). I reluctantly parted with two bucks and then spent half an hour haggling the $50 for 15 days down to $10 for two at the local insurance office.

Back on the road again I reflected on how well Goma had recovered from the deluge of lava and ash that had enveloped the town in 2000. Apart from the lava streams that still lie at the edge of town most of the ash has been cleared, and it seems like any other dusty African town, save for the sizeable array of derelict aircraft rotting at the airport.

Leaving town with the airport to my left I drove about 10km towards Rutshuru before seeing the sign for the Parc Nacional des Virunga on my left. I had to wait for a couple of hours before the guide arrived, and after paying the fees ($50 park entry, $15 for the guide, and $10 for the porter, as well as $3 for charcoal to keep the guides warm) we set out.

It was a hard slog up the volcano - first through hot sweaty bush, then up lava slopes past the carcasses of trees that had been burnt in the 2000 eruption, leaving holes in the lava floes like empty eye sockets. After four hours 15 minutes we arrived at the hut, and after resting for an hour or so my guide, Jean-Bosco, led me up to the crater edge half an hour away.

Along the way we passed the skeleton of an elephant that had succumbed to volcanic gasses in 1977 - Jean-Bosco assured me that we were unlikely to be so unlucky... He then took us around the crater in the dusk until we arrived at the vantage point from which I could peer straight down into the core of the earth. Or something like that. About 1000m below all hell was breaking loose - magma was being thrown hundreds of meters into the air in a fantastic display of the power that lies beneath out feet. I lay on my belly with either camera or binoculars glued to my face, as waves of acrid sulphur clouds washed over us, tasting like vinegar evaporating from chips, and covering us with a gritty black dust of the sort that's perfect for buggering up your zoom camera lens.

Eventually a far humbler man followed the guide down through the darkness to the hut where we dined on noodles and corned beef (I'm now a master of the minute meal) as well as baked potatoes supplied by my companions. Kisungu, our porter, had carried a sack of charcoal up, and this was to heat the hut, as well as to cook our meal. For some reason the locals hadn't brought blankets, and spent the cold night huddled by the fire, occasionally arguing about whose turn it was to pour on more charcoal. I was pretty snug in by sleeping bag, but the stony floor and the cold coming up from the ground combined with the smoke that filled the hut every time more charcoal was thrown on the fire conspired to rob me of sleep - instead I rolled painfully around trying to keep all my limbs supplied with blood at the same time (never quite got there) while my head throbbed, probably because of dehydration and the altitude. I was left to reflect that if the guide had a good sleeping bag I could have saved the $10 for the porter who was only carrying charcoal to keep himself and the guide warm at the top... and the air would have been more breathable to boot.

Stiff and tired, I got up at about 5:30 and put the water on to boil. After a good cup of coffee the world seemed far more bearable, and by 8pm we were back at the ranger station, where after thanking and tipping my companions I continued on to Rutshuru and the Ugandan border