Democratic Republic of Congo: Lubumbashi to Kinshasa

Overland Hadley

on a journey
There is one question that I do have lingering... I've lived in New Orleans, LA for 10 years, which has very high crime, yet I have never been robbed because I always try to look like I know exactly where I am going and that I am not a tourist, because usually the ones who rob people target the tourists...

however, in Africa, there is pretty much no escaping that you are a tourist and that by looking at you, people there will know that you do not have security and if you were robbed at gunpoint, there would be nothing you could do about it...

how is it that you went for so long without being robbed? do you think it helped that you had a woman with you and there might be some respect there somewhat not to put a woman in danger? From the stories I have read about the wars/gangs in the African forests, I would assume at some point you would run into someone with a gun, little to eat, and nothing to lose... do you think you just got lucky? or did you carry yourself in some fashion as to mitigate such an occurrence?
Good question!
 

shawnsix66

New member
This is truly an amazing Story! This is only something that I would do in my weirdest dreams!

I first found this on Jalopnik and was hooked after your first post on this site! I never even know this forum existed till I read your story and am now hooked.

I am a Trail Leader at Jeep Skool in Ohio. (Jeep Skool is a family friendly and kid safe place for people with 4x4 vehicles can come out and test what they and their vehicle can do.) This is the kid of story all of our members would love to hear!

I grew up in Heidelberg Germany so I am from your neck of the woods really. It's great to hear that people are actually taking these kind of risks and this kind of an adventure.

Being that you made it half way around the world on open diffs and no winch is an amazing feat! :Wow1:

This is a great story and will be sharing this link and story with the Jeep Skool members as well. Thank you for taking the time to right this. I truly hope you think about writing a book. I know alot of people that would be willing to buy story!

I wish you both the best of luck in your future endeavor's in life!
 

Mamontof

Explorer
Good question!
Regarding crime and aspect of danger when travel in Africa


SETUP: Overland travel through Africa suggests visions of rugged, bush travel along thousands of miles of bush tracks which last saw a vehicle not long after the passage of Livingstone and Stanley. The reality is that the majority of travel on any overland journey is along major highways which were once tarred. Tony Weaver and Liz Fish bounced their way through Africa for two years. This is their survival guide:

TEXT:

We had just spent two months in Ethiopia, where the drivers are extraordinarily courteous and well-behaved. They have to be. Anybody who kills somebody else in a road accident there is automatically charged with murder.

It was shocking to return to Kenya, where the drivers are only marginally less suicidal than lemmings. As we came over a blind rise at the foot of Mount Kenya, a heavily loaded matatu (taxi) came straight for us on the wrong side of the road, for the simple reason that his side of the road was potholed. Being bigger and tougher than us, we were forced onto the verge, nearly rolling as our wheels hooked a vicious ledge.

Ten minutes later, the same thing happened again: This time we were ready for the bastard. As he drew level with us, we hurled rotten tomatoes at the driver. This is not recommended standard operating procedure, but is useful as a stress relief measure for Third World driving.

Here are some slightly more conventional ways of dealing with those stresses:

ACCIDENTS:

The last thing you want on an overland trip is to be involved in an accident. At the least, it will involve you in weeks of bureaucracy, and the probability of having to fork out money for a bribe or fine. At worst, it could wreck your vehicle, and severely injure or kill you. In extreme instances, you run the risk of being beaten to death by a mob if somebody has been killed in an accident in which you are involved.

A friend was driving through a remote part of western Zambia when a drunk ran into the road in front of him. The man was killed, and our friend, newly arrived from Wales, stopped. Within moments, a mob had gathered and began beating him, intent on a lynching. Luckily, a bus arrived, on board were two Zambian soldiers. They fired into the air above the mob, loaded the dead body into the back of our friend's Land Rover, and escorted him to the nearest town. He was thrown into jail overnight. Fortunately for him, a doctor in town took blood samples from the corpse and established that he had been well and truly pissed. A salutary tale.

As callous as it may seem, if you are involved in an accident in a rural area involving the death of a pedestrian, or of livestock, get to the nearest police or military post, and report the incident. Don't stick around, your life may be in danger.

We heard another tale of an overlander who flipped his vehicle in the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui. As he hung upside down, dazed, bruised and bewildered, a crowd gathered around and after checking he was still alive, proceeded to strip the vehicle.

As he hung here, imprisoned by his seat belts, dazed and wounded, he saw his wheels, windshield, luggage, tools, exhaust pipe, carburetor, distributor, springs, shocks, headlights, indicator and brake lenses, cylinder head, radiator, battery, wallet and cigarettes disappear while a traffic policeman directed traffic past the accident scene.

So don't screw up: It could be disastrous.

NIGHT DRIVING:

Don't. African roads are always hazardous, and the dangers are multiplied exponentially at night. Many vehicles drive without headlights, livestock wanders onto the road unsupervised, and there is a greater chance of drunk pedestrians. This is also the time when carjackers and bandits are most active.

If you are forced to drive at night, keep your speed down, and if you have a co-driver, get them to act as a second set of eyes. On the main Thika highway heading north out of Nairobi, we twice came across vehicles driving down the wrong side of the dual carriageway with their headlights off. Evidently they were sneaking through a short cut, and left their lights off to avoid detection by the police.

ROAD SURFACES:

Although most major routes are constantly being upgraded and repaired as part of aid programmes, many roads in Africa are appallingly potholed. There is no safe way to drive through potholes at speed. The only solution is to drive slowly, however maddening this may be. If a stretch of road seems to be clear of potholes, stick in sight of another vehicle, so that you can see when they take evasive action, and slow down accordingly.

Be very careful of inadvertently driving off the shoulder of some roads: Many roads have dangerously sharp edges, and a wheel off the tarmac can flip your vehicle in seconds. If your wheels do slip off the edge -- you may be forced to do this to avoid an oncoming vehicle -- then do not try to jerk the vehicle back onto the road. Slack off your speed, keep the wheel steady, and gradually edge back onto the road.

There is an inverse law of danger on African roads -- the better the road, the more dangerous it is, because good road surfaces encourage terrifying speeds. This is particularly true on the newly resurfaced north-south Tanzam highway. Here buses, called "Video Coaches" because they boast TV sets showing non-stop kung fu movies, tear along at speeds in excess of 140km/h, swaying from side to side and cornering on the wrong side of the road.

The drivers also watch the movies.

TAXIS AND MATATUS:

One of the biggest hazards in most countries, and especially in Kenya, are the minibus taxis, and larger taxi buses called matatus. Tatu is the Swahili word for "three", and they derive their names from the days when the standard fare in Nairobi was three shillings.

Matatus are notoriously dangerous beasts, and hardly a day goes by in Kenya without a newspaper report of terrifying accidents, often with as many as 70 people killed in vehicles with a load rating of 40. Matatu drivers are a law unto themselves.

Most of the accidents involved drivers who were drunk, stoned, or had been chewing the narcotic weed, miraa, or all three. They drive at fearsome speeds, overtake in the face of oncoming traffic, bully their way through urban roads, and are always heavily overloaded. We lost track of the number of times we were forced to pull right off the road to avoid a head-on-collision with a matatu.

Never drive close behind a matatu or bus: There are very few formal bus or taxi stops, and drivers normally stop dead in traffic to load passengers. If you are approaching a matatu pulled off the road loading passengers, be aware that the drivers take it as their right to pull out into the traffic without checking for oncoming vehicles.

CITY DRIVING:

If you are unused to driving a 4X4 in heavy traffic, practice before leaving in the safety of a city you know well, where drivers are reasonably polite and traffic lights work. Once you hit a city like Dar Es Salaam, Lagos or Nairobi, it's a jungle.

Never trust traffic lights: In some cities they only get switched on when visiting heads of state are in town. When they do work, most motorists are so surprised they ignore them. So treat green lights as a yield sign. Don't be surprised if you stop at a red light and the traffic behind you starts hooting and cursing you. Ignore them, unless ten minutes pass and the light still hasn't changed.

Roundabouts are also to be treated with caution. Although the general rule of the road is that traffic from the right (in countries which drive on the left) has the right of way, this is mere theory in most cities.

If you are used to driving on the left, as is the case in all former British colonies, consider using taxis when you get to cities in countries which drive on the right, like Francophone Africa and Ethiopia and Eritrea. It will save you considerable stress.

Be very cautious when driving anywhere near the official residence of a state president or prime minister. Guards have very itchy fingers. Also be on the lookout for a phalanx of vehicles or motor cycles bearing down on you with flashing lights. It may be a visiting head of state or the president being escorted around town. Get as far off the road as possible, and never, ever, try to take a photograph. People have been shot for less.

OVERTAKING:

In most Central and East African countries, trucks and vehicles will indicate with their left indicator when it is safe for you to overtake, and with their right indicator when it is not safe. Don't take their word for it. The chances are there is a 10 ton truck approaching which the driver ahead failed to see. Always check first.

When overtaking, always check in your rearview mirror to make sure a matatu or other vehicle isn't, in turn, overtaking you, despite the fact that your indicator is on. Also make sure that no vehicles are lined up in side streets or roads ready to pull out in the path of the vehicle you are about to overtake.

Always drive very carefully into blind rises: There is a good chance you will meet a vehicle on the wrong side of the road overtaking in the face of death.

SLEEPING POLICEMEN:

Not, as the name suggests, lazy law enforcement officers, but vicious speed bumps found in most small East African towns. They are almost never signposted, are not painted, and are a particular feature of Kenyan towns. They usually have rocks piled up on either side of them to stop the matatus driving off the road and around them at 120km/h. They are sharp and high, and do terrible things to your suspension if you hit them at anything faster than a crawling speed. Be on the lookout for them when entering any town. They are often found on main highways passing through roadside villages.

LIVESTOCK AND WILD ANIMALS:

A feature of all African roads, even in the cities. Road sides are almost never fenced, and domestic animals often graze on the verges because the grass is greener there as a result of runoff from the tarmac.

Cattle are particularly dangerous, as they are totally unpredictable, apparently walking away from you, when they suddenly swing and jump straight at your vehicle. Goats are miraculous survivors, always getting out of the way, while donkeys, mules and horses will sometimes trot along in front of you ignoring all hooting and shouting. The only thing to do is stop and let them wander off the road. Chickens are also miraculous survivors, but are often followed by small children -- be very careful if a chicken runs in front of you, rural people love their chickens and their children.

In northern South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, kudu pose a special hazard. Night driving in these countries is generally safer than further north, but this is when kudu are out and about.

In Namibia, where four percent of all road accidents are caused by kudu, there are several fatalities every year caused by kudu leaping into windshields and impaling the drivers on their spiral horns. The most terrifying case we have heard of was of a man who was impaled by a kudu, with his accelerator foot pressed flat on the pedal by the weight of the animal. He finally rolled the car at nearly 200km/h (it was a Mercedes) and miraculously survived.

The best solution to this is to angle your spotlights slightly outward, so that they pick up the eyes of the kudu well in advance. According to research conducted in Namibia, 54% of kudu-related accidents happen at night, 13% in the twilight hours and 33% in the day. Kudu are twice as active on moonlit nights, and are particularly active and jumpy on full moon nights.

It is not true that kudu try and jump over headlights -- they are most likely dashing across the road to join their friends and family, and passing cars are incidental. It is also a fallacy that keeping the internal cab light on will stop kudu from jumping through your windshield -- all this does is reduces your night vision, adding to the chances of an accident.

Also be very careful of warthogs -- they can cause a fearsome amount of damage to a vehicle when hit at speed.

NOTE: Despite all these grim warnings, South Africa has probably the worst record in Africa for road fatalities. It ranks third in the world for the number of deaths per vehicle kilometres travelled. Kenya is not far behind.

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:ld_vczk3AiQJ:www.4x4community.co.za/forum/showthread.php?t=11968+africa+4x4+overlander+death+kill&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=gmail
 

JayGannon

Adventurer
Don't. African roads are always hazardous, and the dangers are multiplied exponentially at night. Many vehicles drive without headlights, livestock wanders onto the road unsupervised, and there is a greater chance of drunk pedestrians.

LIVESTOCK AND WILD ANIMALS:

Road sides are almost never fenced, and domestic animals often graze on the verges because the grass is greener there as a result of runoff from the tarmac.

Cattle are particularly dangerous, as they are totally unpredictable, apparently walking away from you, when they suddenly swing and jump straight at your vehicle. Goats are miraculous survivors, always getting out of the way, while donkeys, mules and horses will sometimes trot along in front of you ignoring all hooting and shouting. The only thing to do is stop and let them wander off the road. Chickens are also miraculous survivors, but are often followed by small children -- be very careful if a chicken runs in front of you, rural people love their chickens and their children.
Quite funnily this also describes the West of Ireland where i live.
 

Lt. Dan

New member
I found this thread from a post in another forum I am a member of.

I salute your uncompromising perseverance and your determination.

:cool:

Thank-you for taking the considerable amount of time it must have taken to share this with us. I usually hate cliff hanger endings - I am fortunate I found this when I did...

:D

Any chance you will talk about your fine Landcruiser? I am interested in the custom modifications you made in preparation for this journey.

I do hope you do consider publishing this story. You have a real talent for this! (especially considering that English is not your first language) And the photos you provided are a real treat.


You are truly brave souls. I wish you both the very best...


Thank-you for a great trip report!
 

bazzle

New member
Thank you for sharing your experiences.
No criticism from me only in awe.
I would of been scared stiff hearing the humane issues...

The driving has been similar to what I have seen here in Oz. but a few years back now and in small doses around the high country before places were closed out.
But no people issues like you experienced.
Also seen the same mechanical failures many times.
As you have read others before you now improve the weak links before big trips (even Toyota has applied some improvements)

A trick that you may wish to try is when traction lost on one side (in the air) rest foot on brake and accelerate, brake slows spinning wheel and a bit of drive is transferred to wheels on the ground, may be all you need to move that little bit.

Cheers Bazzle
 

Insanity-74

New member
This thread got linked to another forum which I am in and I just had to say Thank You

RadioBaobab that was a truely amazing account of your travels, I have spent a couple of hours reading your story.......amazing and inspiring. Earlier comments say you should write a book....I agree.
 

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RadioBaobab

Adventurer
Sorry for the lack of updates the last few days, we've been terribly busy (planing trips :sombrero: ).

Last night we had a test for the "Overland Live" session this Sunday. We will surely address some (most) of the questions asked here. Tickets are still available, but you need register in advance(free). Hope to see you then?

http://overland-live.com/podcast.htm
 

FlyNdrive

Adventurer
Thank you for sharing. Truly an epic journey and it sounds like you made the best of every possible moment.
 

badsparky

New member
Fredrik and Josephine - thanks for taking the time to write your trip report. You guys are amazing. I had a friend send me this link and I couldn't stop reading all 69 pages of it. Truely incredible what people can do when they are determined to do it. Good luck in all your future adventures.

What ever became of your Land Cruiser?
 

sandiegan

New member
This is an absolutely fantastic story. Frederik, you are an incredibly storyteller and you are both fearless adventurers. It took me a couple of days to read it in-between working. Someone I sent this to said, "that was one of the most awesome things i've ever read on the internet (and it took a LONG time)"

:victory::victory: for getting out there. Thank you for sharing.
 

alcibiades

New member
Amazing story, really. Wish I could do something like this, but know I never will.

My only question is about weapons of any kind. I know I personally would be terrified to travel in a lot of these situations without a firearm for an absolutely worst case scenario. This scenario would be compounded by the fact you have a woman with you, which could make things dramatically worse. How hard is it to travel in Africa with one, do they search you at borders etc.?
 
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