Angola, what a country.
Whatever it was about the country, we loved it and enjoyed our time as we were blessed with sun for most of the time of our visit but all good things come to an end and so when we approached the border to cross into The Democratic Republic of the Congo, it was with a little scepticism as the heavens opened and water cascaded down the roads and pavements.
I remember watching a street vendor cooking her food with rivers of water running over her feet whilst she stirred the boiling broth she was preparing as though it was normal.
Leaving Angola was much easier than arriving and as we drove through the gates and into no man's land, the rain seemed to intensify as loud cracks of thunder all around us made us jump.
The thunder was followed by a huge thunderbolt hitting the floor quite near us - very scary.
I have attached a small video as Charlotte managed to capture the event (excuse the language).
At that stage, we didn't realise we were entering a real-life wild west show.
We had been warned not to wild camp under any circumstances. We were told, It was just not safe to do so and as we left the border post, it was already midway through the afternoon and it was a long drive to Kinshasa the Capital, our intended destination and we knew we couldn't make it that day. We needed somewhere to stay en route, but there are no campsites in the DRC at all……
It soon became obvious that the DRC had little infrastructure so options were limited so breaking one of our golden rules. DON'T DRIVE IN THE DARK. We had no choice, no factories to park up next to and no police stations, no Hotels, nothing, so on we drove.
The roads were, like much of Africa, appalling, with large potholes and areas of no tarmac at all. The driving of the cars and lorries were undoubtedly the worst we had seen anywhere in the world bar none!
Most cars had someone sitting on the bonnet or roof, as did the lorries. Cars and lorries overtook at speed regardless of anything really. It was shocking.
We soon lost count of the number of wrecks that were abandoned on the roadside. We saw at least two vehicles that had just been involved in accidents in the first two hours of driving. We saw lorry cabs smashed as two lorries had collided together.
As the night drew in we slowed right down when a minibus containing around 20 people hurtled past us at a breakneck speed. The driver, not knowing as he pulled in, there was a broken-down car just ahead. He tried to swerve out again and rolled the vehicle right in front of our eyes. The windows fell out of the vehicle but it ended up on its wheels after rolling 3 times.
We shone our headlights and everyone seemed to be alive and then the driver jumped out of the vehicle and ran at speed into the thick undergrowth at the roadside never to be seen again.
We froze for a short while and then as hard as it was to do, we drove on.
Being white and a tourist, we would have been implicated and the consequences could have been ??? Whatever it would involve us shelling out a load of money anyway and probably worse.
Eventually, we chanced upon a hotel with a walled-in area and agreed on an exorbitant fee of $40.00 to park for the night but we were happy to pay.
They use American Dollars in the DRC as their currency is so devalued, that you would need a wheelbarrow full of it to buy bread!
The next day we followed a lorry in a traffic jam up a hill and a guy followed the lorry and every time it stopped, he put a brick under one of the wheels as it had no brakes.
Getting to Kinshasha the capital came as a relief. A complete contrast to the rest of what we had seen so far. Another shinney, modern city but with an undercurrent of something sinister in the air.
The accommodation was a little easier to find, so we settled on a large 5-star hotel and paid $50.00 a night for the privilege of staying in their car park.
The Hotel had its own armed security force and several armed Policemen patrolling the fences so we felt safe.
As we settled in, the head of security for the hotel approached us with a policeman.
They enquired if we were okay and if we felt safe. We said we did and all was well.
They then asked if they could see where we kept our guns for their records. We told them we didn't have any guns and after a brief exchange between the two men, they laughed and looked at us, as though to say “Stupid tourists!”
It wasn't all bad. We spoke with most of the staff who wanted to see our truck and others visiting the hotel. Everyone was friendly and pleased to see tourists but warned us to be vigilant and not wear jewellery, take little cash and no cards and not to take our phones when we went out.
One guy we spoke with, spoke about the embarrassment of the African people at the Migrants trying to escape to Europe.
“Why do they go,” he said. Europe has few natural resources and we have Oil, Gold, Diamonds and a plethora of valuable minerals in huge quantities. Why don't they stay and benefit from what we are blessed with?
Hotel guests checking out our truck in Kinshasa - The DRC capital.
Our time in Kinshasa was short. After a taxi ride and a boy sticking his hand through the window of the Taxi, trying to steal the $4.00 taxi fare (unsuccessfully), from my hand, we decided to move on.
We wanted to take the ferry to the Congo.
The Congo is just a few hundred meters across the river. You can easily see the other side.
We were stamped out of the DRC and awaited the ferry, then came the news we couldn't use the ferry (due to our size) and needed a private barge and that was going to be $1000.00.
We weren't overly polite and we turned around and headed south, we will save the countries further north for another trip someday as we headed south.
The long slog back to the Angolan border was a long drive and we knew we needed a stopover somewhere, but where? As we drove we chanced upon a large haulage yard. Not pretty, but safe and protected by 3 armed guards and walled in. We gave it a try and pulled in and asked if we could stay the night. The answer was thankfully yes.
The manager was happy to have company for the night and gave us sweet Coffee and fruit to eat.
I have to mention this guy (Bahsoon), he was born in Sierra Leone to Lebonese parents and now lived in the DRC. Twice married and twice divorced he devoted his life to his work and his beautiful daughters of mixed race.
He was fascinating to talk to and was a wealth of knowledge. Bahsoon explained the locals have little regard for life and theft is almost mandatory due to the poverty levels caused in the main by corrupt Governments. Farming has just about ceased as the farmer will tend his/her crops only to have them stolen just as the crop is ready. Anarchy rules the DRC.
The east of the DRC is covered by vast rain forests and Oil is huge out that way. We were told these areas are totally unpoliced and not to venture out that way.
Bahsoon told us about hardwood timber being logged at an alarming rate, that was bound for China.
He said they average around 30 loads a day,7 days a week.
We counted an average of 6 trees per load on the lorries we saw - You do the maths!
A young guy tends his shop.
More Timber bound for China.
Now that's a load!
Using a brick for brakes - Tidy!
We left Bahsoon the next day and made the border unscathed, we wished we could have stayed longer.
To sum up. The DRC was an experience and not a good one. Not a place I want to return to either.
The cross over back into Angola was a great relief and we quickly headed south through Namibia to South Africa and drank Wine!
Congo River is the world's second-largest river by volume.
The DRC accounts for the majority of the Congo and the DRC’s 178 million hectares of rainforest.
Life expectancy 65 years old
Main exports - Refined copper - $11 Billion annually and Cobolt Oxide -$3 Billion.
Another wreck. One of dozens we saw.
See the legs sticking out from the Hurst.
Battsoon. A guy of great interest to us. Serving us sweet coffee in his home.
Not the prettiest, but a good safe place to stay in a haulage yard with 3 Armed guards.
Thankfully, we didn't need medical attention!
A container lost from a lorry.
Another load is bound for China.