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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

DRC, Continued

On Friday 30th May I set off towards Matadi along the superhighway that Michelin shows as the best road in DRC, if not the whole of Africa. It's great - massive holes that you drop into and disappear - road works that seem to be getting nowhere, and a load of mysterious Chinese overseers who for some reason are helping with the road repairs. Good old Michelin.

After a few hours I stopped at a small village and asked the village headman for permission to camp. As usual I was the centre of attention - the whole village gathered around to watch me set up my roof tent. Later we chatted about life, the universe, and Man U's chances for next season, and the elder casually let drop that I wasn't the first tourist to stay. Intrigued, I asked about the last guy who had been through - could it be the elusive Stephan the Swissie who I was later to meet in the flesh in Namibia, and whose trail I seemed to have been following for most of Central Africa? No, his name was Karl. Surely not Karl of Fez and the piste to Timbuktu, whom I had last seen in Brazzaville? When was this, I asked. They conferred for a minute or two before replying. 1987. A veritably touristic village, then.

Kidnapped in Kinshasa

At first it looks like my visa is going to be a real problem. I visit the British Consulate for advice, and they are as helpful as ever (note extreme sarcasm here). In the end Richard makes a call to the Angolan ambassador's secretary, the friendly Mme. Amelia, who arranges a five day transit visa for me; the embassy really impressed me with their friendliness and helpful attitudes.

Kinshasa itself is a strikingly cosmopolitan place. Everything here is imported - mostly by river or air as there is no road network to speak of. NGOs are visible everywhere - replete with their white 4x4s and plush compounds, and to keep them in the style they expect there are the usual spread of supermarkets and restaurants around the central Boulevard where one pays in US dollars (the local Franc is a joke - the notes are bundled into twenty fives, the largest denomination note is 100 francs, so a bundle is about $6 US). If you visit be sure to check out the great Indian restaurant in the old American Club.

As well as inviting me to stay, Richard kindly lent me his London taxi complete with chauffer to carry me around - this was probably for my own safety as I discovered on one of the few occasions I took a stroll down the Boulevard.

I was minding my own business when a car pulled up next to me and the passenger flashed a police ID and asked to see my ID. He took my passport and said he would have to check on my place of residence - this looked like an easy ride back to the garage so I wasn't to concerned - until two other guys sandwiched me in the back seat, and they took off down the Boulevard in the wrong direction. Alarm bells started ringing. As long as we stayed on the Boulevard I knew I was safe, as police are at every junction, and traffic moves very slowly, but I knew that if we left the Boulevard I could be in trouble. I demanded they stop immediately as they clearly weren't taking me to check on my residence, and a second goon - the one to my right - assured me that everything was OK as they were police. And of course he had to show me his ID, which was clearly a fake. Time to get out. As surreptitiously as possible I palmed my XDA stylus - not much to look at but it's steel, sharp, and quite capable of piercing a jugular. All very Andy McNab, but no way were we leaving the Boulevard with me still in that car.

At this point we were approaching a junction manned by a gaggle of the yellow and blue attired traffic cops; the car was turning left so I chose my moment to lean across and hammer on the window and shout - it did the trick - as the police ran towards us they pulled in - I pushed my way out - and they even handed me back my passport which I had pretty much given up on. Before the traffic police arrived they roared of into the distance. Who knows - maybe they really were police, just putting in a little 'overtime'...

While I was having my adventures Richard's mechanics were hard at work fixing all the niggling little problems that I had been unable to resolve in West Africa. It's amazing that in the place with probably the worst transport network in the world you can find a garage which stocks everything you are likely to need for a Land Rover, as well as mechanics who actually know what they are doing. I really don't know how Richard does it but he is without a doubt a credit to the marque.

So excuse the plug, but if you find yourself with a Landy in need in Central Africa make a bee-line for Anglo American Automobiles; except no substitutes.

With a new sump seal, a new door mechanism (no more climbing through the driver's window Dukes of Hazard style, alas), new rear brake protector, new slave cylinder, yet more rear break pads, and a thorough cleaning as part of the service, I am ready for the drive South.

Kinshasa 26/05/03 - 39,228km

The journey from Brazzaville to Kinshasa is a long and daunting one - despite the fact that no other capitals are as close as these two. The problem starts with a series of negotiations at the port, commencing at the gate and continuing all the way up to your arrival at the Beach at Kinshasa.

Brazzaville is run as a personal fiefdom for members of the presidents tribe, and they milk it for all its worth - I have nothing good to say about the way its run - everybody expects to get paid - the Mairie, customs and immigration all want a cut, as does every bugger with a cap and a book of photocopied receipts. I've had a chat with the British Honorary Consul (in French, as his English isn't very good), and know to ask for the protocole des affaires estrangers, which processes diplomats in transit, and I'm also in a foul mood as the Angolan Embassy didn't manage to process my Visa Application in time for my departure (plus I still haven't had a coffee). Through a combination of these as well as sheer rudeness to any sod waving a book of receipts I manage to leave without paying anybody except the ferry man - the people who do the actually stamping of my carnet and passport give me no trouble at all.

On arrival, at the moment the boat touches shore - about ten dodgy looking blokes jump aboard. These, a fellow passenger advises me, are the thieves. They mill around the car, and I get out to defend my rear end, so to speak. There's a bit of crowding as hands reach for my pockets, followed by a bit of hard shoving on my part which came perilously close to sending worst offender overboard (shame). After that, and once I'd explained that the first person to climb onto my roof would be eating and shitting with the same hand, as the other would be removed by my machete, things quietened down to a sort of grim humoured stand off until I was able to drive a shore. If that's the local welcome, I thought, what are the officials going to be like?

Kinshasa port, however,  is a pleasant surprise - especially after the money grabbing port officials in Brazzaville. Armed with instructions from Guillame, who had stamped my passport, I set off less than an hour after touching ashore.

Kinshasa is a lively city with crowded streets and massive pot holes, which tested my 2 new rear springs to their limit. It's an amazingly cosmopolitan place considering what recent events have thrown at the capital. Unlike Brazzaville which clings on to its scarred shells of buildings as a grim reminder of recent trouble, Kinshasa on the whole bears no scars, other then the odd vehicle such as the Defender I spotted with a bunch of (patched) bullet holes in the drivers door.

I spent the first couple of nights camping at the Centre Accieul Protestant (expensive at $15 but very nice), where I met Gay, an American who is working with bonobos (small chimpanzees); needless to say we weren't short of things to talk about. I set out early on Monday morning to find out that the Angolan Embassy is closed until Wednesday, and that the owner of the Land Rover garage here, Richard Wynne, is extremely friendly and has invited me to stay