Democratic Republic of Congo: Lubumbashi to Kinshasa


As mentioned before, problems in Congo usually start here, in Mbuji-Mayi. It has the reputation of "une ville chaud" - "a hot town / a heated town". Were hot refers to both the climate, as to the atmosphere. Literally everybody we met told us to avoid the city if at all possible. It should be home to some of the worst police and is generally considered unsafe.

It is true that the climate is really hot and sticky. Tropical climate at its best. The humidity seems to drive everybody nuts.

But we needed fuel. Via the friends we made in Lubumbashi we had the phone number of a Belgian guy who works here in Mbuji-Mayi for CTB (Belgian aid). We don't know him, and he does not even know we exist.

We gave him a call and explained the situation. He agreed to help us out and we were supposed to meet eachother a the filling station in the center of town.

The atmosphere in Mbuji-Mayi is impossible to describe. It seems like nobody here has normal discussions. Only heated discussions. You can hear it in their voice, as if they are constantly angry at each other. We saw a few fights when driving trough town. We negotiated a dozen or so police checks before we arrive at the Total filling station. It's the first real 'pump' we see since leaving Lubumbashi. We fill up and leave a staggering amount of cash behind (2$US/liter).

10 minutes later a Landcruiser with a Mundele in it stops, we quickly shake hands and Christian quickly introduces himself. Equally quickly we drive off again. We follow him into the compound of CTB. They have a nice office here, with bathroom and all. Unfortunately the water system is down for two weeks now, so no water. Christian has a day off today and already made plans for the day, so he cannot stay with us. But we are free to camp in the compound and use their facilities. They have two "guardiens" (guards). Christians recommends us to stay inside.

We are thirsty so we ignore Christian's advice and go out on foot to find us a cold beer. Plenty of bars here. It takes a bit of negotiating before they let us take the beer with us. It is in glass, and they need to recover the empty bottles. We have to pay a deposit and promise to bring the glass back.

People who visited the Congo's will surely recognize the "Skol' brand. Not a bad beer actually. There is a brewery in Mbujy-Mayi and only the beers that are brewed here have the diamond in the logo.

That night we lay in our tent, looking at the stars and listening to the sound of the city. It does not sound like any other city at night. We hear heated discussions and a few fights. Also some gun shots.


Day 12

We did not want to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time when leaving Mbuji-Mayi. As "the wrong time" takes about whole day long here, we ask one of the guardiens at CTB to guide us out of town. The road to Kananga, our goal for this day, is not really connected to the city. The neverending expension of Mbuji-Mayi has swallowed the road and now one has to drive trough the kilometers of shacks to get to city end.

Once again we are asked to pay toll, we do not complain too much this time as the previous toll had brought us a nice tar road. Not so this time. The road was not horrible, but it was not exactly good either. It certainly wasn't maintained. The scenery on the other hand was stunning. It was great to finally see a bit around us as we were usually stuck in dense jungle or high grass.


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The going is though and slow. About 50km before Kananga to road is blocked. The bridge is gone.

This happened very recently. People there pointed us to a detour. We had to take bicycle tracks all the way to Kamwanda (+- 30km) where there is another bridge and then continue from there.

We set off on a much to narrow track trough dense jungle.

It was getting late already and we were not sure if we would make it to Kananga today. Depending on the state of the bicycle tracks, we would have to stay in a village again.

The first village we encountered seemed deserted at first, but as soon as we entered the village we saw people coming at us from all sides. They had machetes and sticks and were shouting. "Des Blancs. Argent!" - "White people. Money!". They were all over the place. This was not good! I floored it and sped out of the village. A rock hit the back of our car.

What in gods name was that all about?

Very few Congolese had made us feel welcome, but this was plain agression! It scared the hell out of us.

We passed another village, and once again a mob formed as soon as they heard us coming. Machetes flying round, racist slogans shanted. Once again we did not give them the chance to get near us and blasted out of the village. They tried following us. This was turning ugly, if we would get stuck here we would be in big trouble, these people did not want a chat!

With half an hour of daylight left we knew we had a problem. We tried sending our coordinates to the homefront with the instructions to call the embassy if they did not hear from us within the hour. Despite us having bought SIM cards of the two major GSM operators, we did not have reception.

With our hearts racing we neared another village.
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Absolutely great to read you ! Belgians in the Congo ! You must be nuts ! :sombrero: I travelled in Zaire in the early 80s. I guess things were better under the rule of Mobutu, but just barely ! I did have the advantage of being canadian and having big canadian flags plastered on the Land Cruiser.

Enjoy, the "tonton Skool" it is after all a belgian receipe !

Bon voyage !


What can I say. Your journey is (I have to say it again) amazing. Right now you have no choice, you have to continue, you can't turn around. Jeeeeeeezzz. Your report is like a Saturday serial at the local movie house. Only people of a particular age will know what I'm talking about.

I don't even close out this thread, just leave it and refresh to get the latest. THANKS


This is an amazing read! I am just catching up on my reading from two weeks on the road before heading out again (work related, not pleasure travel). I happened on this thread, what a fantastic adventure. Many an RTT and steel wheel has been bolted onto our rigs while we’re fantasizing about a journey like this. Classic!!! I can’t wait for more.

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I'm reading this and thinking damnit, turn around and get the hell out of there and then you just keep going in further and further! Way too risky for me, but this is one hell of an adventure I don't want to end!!!

Has my adrenaline pumping as I'm reading it....