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Republic of Congo

24July - 2 August 2008

Border Formalities

Border savannah enroute Mbie

The empty sandy piste stretched ahead of us into the distance, marking its route over the rolling savannah like a rusty yellow shoe lace. We were in ‘the Congo’ and not a tree in sight; this was not quite what we had expected! Our route would take us northwest for at least two days skirting around a complex of unbridged rivers; despite this detour, our time travelling through Congo-Brazzaville, as the Republic was known to avoid confusion with its larger neighbour the DRC, would have be the shortest of any country so far; we just had to get to Brazzaville and sort out the Angolan visas.

Helping a stranded lorry enroute to Mbei

After about 20 minutes navigating through uninhabited countryside, we came across a stationary, fully laden, seen-better-days truck. The bonnet was raised like the jaws of a shark and a very hot and bothered driver was in danger of being swallowed whole as he bent forward into the engine bay; a small group of dispirited passengers huddled in the vehicle’s shade. Being public spirited overlanders we stopped to see if we could help. Some technical chat in French ensued between the driver and Philippe, whilst Peter tried hard to look as if he understood it all! The problem was electrical and, when an attempt to jump start the lorry failed, was obviously one that we couldn’t solve so we carried on to the village of Mbie.

Border control at Mbei

Mbie, the first settlement on the Congo-Brazzaville side of the border was where we hoped we would find border officialdom. We presented ourselves to the sole policeman who immerged from a hut beside the drunken looking barrier draped over the track; he seemed rather disinterested and, without further ado, guided us to a nearby pristine and rather spartan hut, its walls and roof made from strands of palm leaves. Inside was the Immigration Officer sitting at a table, surrounded by one small dog-eared ledger and a well chewed pen! He invited us in and pointed to the row of chairs running down one side of the hut.

On seeing our passports he stopped speaking French and broke into near perfect English. As had become our habit, this was a border crossing rarely used by anyone let alone overlanders. We were the first foreigners to pass this way for nearly three months and the opportunity was too good to miss: a chat was what our officer wanted. He had a good sense of humour and not only did he seem knowledgeable about Britain and Switzerland, but he was particularly interested in international affairs, especially the upcoming American elections. He was desperate for Obama to win, and provided well reasoned opinion as to why this should be. Quite extraordinary, here we were literally in the middle of this little bit of undeveloped nowhere discussing in English the outcome of the forthcoming US elections!

The immigration hut at Mbei

Normality returned as we were saying our farewell; using sign language, a local man offered us a huge bunch of yams in exchange for some medicine to cure ailments that seemed to be centred in the head and stomach. Liz and Susanne gave him some paracetamol and Rennies and then, through the customs officer, explained what they were for and the dosage, giving the impression that they were so strong that they were virtually controlled drugs!

Leaving the nurses to hand out the medication, Peter and Philippe went across the track to the gendarmerie hut; the officer could not understand the concept of tourism and things were taking a definite turn towards a demand for a ‘payment’ when there was the sound of a lorry approaching, a squeal of breaks and into the hut came the driver of the broken down lorry. He greeted Peter and Philippe like long lost friends and explained to the officer how we had tried to help him. The atmosphere changed immediately; the frosty officer came over all smiles and shook Peter’s and Philippe’s hands. Waving them on their way he remarked how unusual it was for white travellers to stop and offer assistance; aah, the reward for being public spirited!

We continued on to the village of Lekety where there was a customs post. It was 25 miles down the same deserted sandy piste; deserted because the population of Congo-Brazzaville was small, just over 3 million, and 85% of it lived 300 miles away in the urbanised south of the country. About 2 miles from the village, we stopped to give a lift to an elderly man; there was not enough room inside Boris, so he stood on the rear bumper gripping the roof rack. All very precarious and Liz was having kittens, urging Peter to slow down to a crawl. Our passenger seemed fine, but he must have been hanging on for grim death as we bounced down the piste and, much to Peter’s alarm, every so often he would remove a hand to wave at amused pedestrians.

Peter and Susanne in the police post at Lekety Philippe and village children,Lekety

As agreed he banged on the back door at the point he wanted to be let down in Lekety. We had stopped at a police post and, whilst Peter and Susanne accompanied the cheerful policeman into the police hut to meet the demands of state bureaucracy: passport details laboriously taken down in longhand, Liz and Philippe were free to wander around meeting the local children, including a pop group with homemade wooden guitars, and a woman sitting in the doorway of her hut with a very young baby and her mother. They were delighted with our visit.

(Left) Village pop group with home made guitars,Lekety
(Right) A woman's work is never done!Village woman about to wash up.Lekety

Here too all the huts were covered with strips of palm leaves, affixed to wooden battens and secured to the wooden framework of the hut. To Liz, these remote villages; the palm covered huts; the yellow savannah and the hot sun resting in a deep blue sky were just how she had imagined Africa would be ...at last!

(left) Village hut Leketi,showing use of palm leaf strips in making the wall
(right) Grave with items for the afterlife. Roadside cemetery,Okoyo

Paperwork completed we were directed to the Customs ‘building’, where we were shown a government document that gave us no choice but to fork out 2,000 CFA to get the carnet completed. Blast! Nonetheless, we enjoyed the humour of the large, jolly and friendly customs man who, after stamping our carnet, wanted photos taken of him and his lady secretary, Liz was convinced that she was his floozy; it was hilarious! All this had taken an inordinate amount of time, but we now had the Police, Immigration and Customs formalities out of the way and were free to continue with our day.

Notice at the customs post Lekety Customs officer and 'clerk',Lekety

Okoyo and the Afterlife
Conscious of the need to press on, we continued along the sandy piste that we had followed since crossing the border, as it wound its way north up and over rolling hills and surrounded by unending savannah, broken only by the odd island of wooded green indicating a village ahead. We were lucky that it was the dry season; the piste was bad and every so often almost impassable due to award winning, deep and ravine like gashes in its surface caused by the rains.

Eroded piste enroute Leketi 'Lane' through village ,island',enroute Boundji

By late afternoon we were approaching Okoyo, only 50 miles or so from the border we had crossed some 7 hours previously; not bad, an average speed of less than 10 miles an hour! As we entered the down at heel and very sandy Okoyo, we passed a collection of unkempt graves; one, however, was recent and a perfect example of the crossover between Christianity and ancient African culture. On and beside the grave were offerings, items that would be of use to the deceased in the afterlife, they included a chair, cup, shoes, walking stick and a pair of John Lennon like spectacles.

Grave with items for the afterlife. Roadside cemetery,Okoyo

Needing to restock and, if possible, buy bread, Peter pulled in to get directions at what seemed to be the Okoyo police post, a single storey dilapidated building with no lighting, window frames or paint to cover the rough brickwork. Peter never learns! Although there was no demand for any payment, we did have to waste yet more time having our passport details written down, yet again! However at the end of all this we were directed down a street, so deep in sand the vehicles almost got stuck, to a small hut where we were able to buy baguettes baked at the rear of the hut that morning (after all this was Francophone Africa!) and some tinned food for dinner.

Children outside Okoyo police post

As always poverty, unbelievable poverty, was the constant backdrop to the idyllic scenes nature had created and that we were passing through under clear blue skies. Some of the villagers were probably the poorest we had seen since Mali, some also indicated how hungry they were by patting their stomach with one hand and holding out the other. To be frank no one looked starving, so just how hungry were they? If we stopped and handed out food, would we be reinforcing a dependency culture? Were they trying it on and should we reward begging? Our supplies were very limited; if we gave to one, what about the rest, who was the most deserving? In the end we gave nothing as we passed by, occasionally we did where we stopped, perhaps to ease the feeling of guilt. How difficult it all was, how impotent we felt.

Ancestor Worship
The next day, 25 July, the seemingly unending sandy piste, still deserted apart from the odd bicycle and pedestrian, slid through isolated villages most of whose inhabitants were away working in the nearby fields. In one, the remains of a tractor provided a sad reminder of the crass stupidity of providing developed world solutions to third world needs.

Brazzaville.Village hut in need of TLC,enroute Boundji Tractor,enroute Boundji

Slowing to a crawl to get around a truck parked in the middle of one village, we saw what we took to be some form of festival taking place. Liz ordered her driver to stop; this was too good to miss! To the right of the track and surrounded on three sides by huts and villagers was a large oblong open space in the centre of which was an island of the male variety; boys watching, with teenagers and men playing a mix of drums and horns. Around them were twirling three dancers, covered in hessian sacking that was embroidered with feathers and strips of material and plastic. The dancers crouched low, the hessian touching the ground and the speed of their non-stop spin forcing it out so that the hessian became one huge spinning cone of sacking, dust and colour.

Village ancestor ceremony,enroute Obouya Village ancestor ceremony,enroute Obouya

Each dancer, unable to see, was led by a man decorated here and there with grasses and bringing down a short wooden stick onto two metal African bells, creating a rhythmic, resonant click-clack sound. We were made welcome by the village elders who explained that we were witnessing a ceremony to bring back to the village the spirits of those ancestors who had died ‘far away’. The dancers were from another village and the only ones who could carry out the ceremony; the hand carved and painted heads atop the hessian ‘cone’ represented the god calling the ancestors home.

Village ancestor ceremony en route Obouya Village ancestor ceremony,enroute Obouya

Although the boys in the centre were obviously in some fear of the dancers, there was a rush to touch one each time an excess of spinning caused the dancer to topple over. As the exhausted dancers rested against the walls of one of the huts, allowing the male island to disperse, we took our leave. Peter spotted a collection of feathers that had fallen from a dancer’s costume; unthinkingly he picked it up and walked over to a group of villagers offering the feathers to the children there. There was absolute pandemonium! The children screamed and ran and the adults refused to touch the feathers, waving Peter away. No offence was taken, Peter’s actions, rightly, being put down to white man’s ignorance.

(left) Dancers resting,village ancestor ceremony,enroute Obouya
(right) Boy playing drums at end of ancestor ceremony,enroute Obouya

As we drew closer to Boundji, further into the Congo’s interior, the more the heat and humidity increased. The countryside became flatter and the piste was no longer deserted; the odd over laden and dilapidated bush taxi roared past, its passenger bouncing in unison. Boundji was the first town we had come across and, as we hoped, had in its sandy centre a small market. Here Liz and Susanne spent time buying fresh baguettes and some not so fresh fruit and vegetables for the evening’s meal.

Old woman carrying firewood, enroute Boundji

Market stalls,Boundji Fresh baguettes for sale,Boundji market

South at Last

By early afternoon we had reached the junction where the piste met the tarred road that led to Brazzaville, 250 miles away. South at last!

(left) Tarred road at last! N2 enroute Gamboma
(right) Lorry losing its load, live pigs strapped underneath its sides! Enroute Ngo

In need of fuel we stopped in wealthy looking Oyo, the birthplace of the President and where his daughter, the latest wife of Gabon’s President Bongo, had a huge mansion. The town had all the hallmarks of Presidential largesse: working traffic lights; an airport; clean and tidy, tarred streets and a magnificent bridge over the River Alima named after him. We also saw in Oyo an indication of the Chinese investment in mineral rich Africa and the continent’s infrastructure; a Chinese road construction depot with Chinese earth moving equipment, Chinese construction workers and a huge very Chinese looking accommodation complex, complete with signs in Chinese and Chinese bunting.

That night we bush camped very near Oyo and, much to Philippe’s relief as a deprived pyromaniac, cooked our supper on an open fire constructed by.....you know who!!

Projet Protection des Gorille
Whilst talking to the WCS staff back in Mayumba, Peter had learnt about a Gorilla Sanctuary in the Reserve de la Lefini, some 100 miles north of Brazzaville. Its full title was the Projet Protection des Gorille and was the brainchild John Aspinal (founder, eccentric millionaire, animal lover and one time owner of wild animal parks in Kent). The aim of this collaborative project between the Foundation and the Congo-Brazzaville government was to reintroduce young lowland gorillas, orphaned as a result of poaching, back into their natural environment.

Girl sitting in a box,Gamboma market Liz buying baguettes,Gamboma market

Although the reserve was only 50 miles north of Brazzaville and on our route there , we had no idea exactly where the Projet was located in the massive reserve and no way of making a booking in advance. Stopping at the small town of Gamboma, a transport hub and centre of a thriving market garden area, we spent time walking around the covered market, people watching and buying supplies for our lunchtime picnic and the next few days. Ominously no one had heard of the Projet.

Seeking Directions
A little closer to Lefini, after a good picnic lunch, we stopped to ask a gaggle of sleepy taxi drivers where the gorilla sanctuary was. It was clear they had no real idea, but were not going to admit the fact and, as is the African way, wanting to be polite and helpful, pointed down the road and said that it wasn’t far and was easy to find!

Peter then pulled in at a police post, to seek directions. Not again - will he never learn! – but after the obligatory and time consuming form filling, the police gave us perfect directions to the turning for the Projet. A narrow track took us for 8 miles over steep savannah covered hills; it was also very sandy, one particular stretch going down into a wooded valley was so steep and the sand so deep, we wondered if we would ever get back again. Cripes!

The Projet Office
In the early evening sunshine, we crested the last hill and saw savannah giving way to a broad densely wooded area, marking the course of the River Louna and the site of the Projet. We followed signs that led us to the Projet office and a clutch of staff buildings; unsurprisingly it was with some difficulty that we found someone to ask if we could take a tour to see the gorillas the next morning, despite arriving unannounced and, by the way, could we camp overnight! They couldn’t have been more helpful and after a phone call to head office, all was set and organised; including a very hefty obligatory fee! We were free to camp there and the next morning would be met at 7am by a couple of rangers, who should have located the gorillas by then and we would be taken to see them by boat. The gorillas, although living ‘free’, were kept within a reasonable distance of the river by sometimes having their natural food supplemented by fruit provided by the Projet staff. It was normally brought to them by boat and so the sound of an outboard would act somewhat like a dinner gong to any gorillas near the river!

Our camp site was perfect and overlooked a lake. We also had the use of an open sided, thatched roofed area, complete with a long solid wooden table and chairs. It was a lovely setting from which to enjoy a beautiful sunset, sip a glass of red wine from a bottle bought in Franceville and watch Philippe preparing another fire! The BBQ supper was superb and the wine excellent. Life was good!

Liz Comes a Cropper
The 27 July dawned bright and clear and as promised a ranger appeared, but much earlier than planned, to say that gorillas had been spotted near to the river bank and we should leave immediately. Gulping down the rest of our breakfast in record time, we then hurried down to the river and jumped into a motorised long boat, the bottom of which was filled with sacks of fruit. Like over excited children we could hardly keep still as we sped off to meet the gorillas.

Silverback gorilla, Projet Gorille 'Coooeee!',Projet-Gorille

After a 15 minute journey in the boat we pulled into the river bank; it was an amazing sight, on the other bank was a huge silverback male and above us a juvenile was watching our arrival from the branches of a tree. We disembarked and within minutes came across a group of 4 gorillas in open ground; not a family group in the accepted sense of the word, more a gang of juveniles, including some that had been highly traumatised in their early life.

Peter photographing gorillas,Projet Gorille

Young male gorilla,Projet-Gorille 'Not more photographs ...',Projet-Gorille

The gorillas lent forward on their knuckles and watched us, watching them; feigning indifference as we studied them and the all too human expressions that flitted across their faces. We edged to within 15 feet or so, our cameras clicking and then the gorillas became tense, looking intently at the river; a second motor boat appeared with another group on board and pulled in beside ours. As the gorillas, probably expecting fruit, made towards the newly arrived boat, one ran straight for Liz, stuck out an arm catching her leg and sending her cart wheeling into the air. We were stunned, but not as much as poor Liz who ended up on her back nursing a badly twisted knee.

Liz after being upturned,Projet-Gorille Butter wouldn't melt... the culprit,Projet Gorille

What had caused a normally placid gorilla to act this way? The conclusion was that it was either just a bit of boisterous playfulness on the gorilla’s part, or, possibly, a reaction to Liz staring (in wonder) at the gorilla for a period of time and that this was taken by the traumatised adolescent male to be a challenge. We accompanied a limping and shaken Liz back to our boat and set off in search of the silverback.

The silverback in question was on a large island surrounded by the river, in effect he was captive. This had become necessary because, once this orphan had reached maturity he started to wander and had wandered far enough to reach some villages, putting his life in danger. As there was not enough natural food on the island, his diet was heavily supplemented by fruit brought by boat. Today it was our boat!

Peter calling the silverback,Projet Gorille

There was no sign of the gorilla at the feeding point and one of our rangers began calling him. Peter joined in the calls for ‘Rene’, only to discover after a few minutes that the ranger was in fact calling out ‘venez’! Maybe it was being called Rene or the fact that there was a female gorilla in the area, whatever it was, he didn’t appear. By now it was nearly midday and the end of our time with the gorillas.

Lost in thought,Projet-Gorille Just thinking!Projet-Gorille

Amused! Projet Gorille

Paul and Amelia
Back at the Projet office we again encountered the group from the other boat. They were four young Americans from Brazzaville and were intrigued by our trip. Two of them, Paul and Amelia, a newly married couple, were on the staff of the American Embassy there and, amazingly, they offered to put all four of us up in their house in the centre of Brazzaville. Their offer was just staggering; how kind and what a stroke of luck. What serendipity! We followed them out of the reserve, only just managing to get up the steep sandy track, and followed our American hosts to Brazzaville.

Fully laden lorry! N2 enroute Brazzaville

We arrived in Brazzaville two hours later; it was a return to a sandy, dusty, dirty, fume ridden and chaotic West African capital city; how we had been spoilt by Libreville! Paul and Amelia lived not in a secure diplomatic compound, but by themselves and right in amongst the Brazzaville people. So of necessity it was a very secure set up at their bungalow, with razor wire and a 24 hour security guard. Leaving Boris outside in the unsurfaced sandy lane under the watchful eye of the security guard, we went in and set up home in a spare bedroom and the utility room. That night we had a feast of a supper of superb food left over from a dinner party Paul and Amelia had the night before and then went to bed still marvelling at the generosity and hospitality of our American hosts ... oh, and the air conditioning!

Street florist Bottled peanuts for sale

We spent five nights in total in this wonderfully located, comfortable bungalow, enjoying the company of our hospitable hosts. Brazzaville, named after the French explorer De Brazza who founded it in the late C19, began to grow on us, despite the humidity and smelly sewers! Central Brazzaville was pretty run down and still bore the marks of the 1997 war that brought the current President to power; it was a seething fascinating mass of impoverished humanity, people were selling and buying on every street corner, whilst everywhere battered green and white taxis plied their trade through a haze of dust and fumes.

Docks area building showing damage from the '97 war

The Angolan Visas

Peter and Philippe spent hours at an internet cafe in the grounds of the swanky Hotel Maya Maya (yet another family name!!) trying to resolve the Angolan visa crisis. Things gradually began to come together and all their hard work and that of others on our behalf began to bear fruit. By the end of our fourth day in Brazzaville and as a result of Philippe’s interview at the Angolan Embassy with a Madame Rosa and Peter’s emails to and from the British Embassy in Kinshasa, in particular with the Defence Attaché, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Woodman, and with Andy’s NGO contact in Lubumbashi, we had: a 6 day Angolan transit visa in our passports; a letter on British Embassy headed notepaper from the Ambassador and copied to all sorts of senior DRC government ministers, asking the DRC authorities to provide us with all the assistance possible on our entry to and passage through the country and stating that we would be visiting HE in Kinshasa for a ’reunion’, and a formal letter of invitation, supported by the Regional Director of Immigration, from the NGO in Lubumbashi. What a result; no full stop, we were on our way! Thanks everyone, in particular thank you Philippe for being born in Angola!

A Night of Encounters and Small Worlds
Whilst in Brazzaville we learnt that David and Jillian (our other American Embassy friends in Accra, Ghana.) had a baby boy on the 26 July. Many congratulations to you both, such good news. We also got a text from Johan to say that he and Ralf had arrived in Brazzaville and were staying in the car park of a popular overlanders’ hotel, The Hyppocamp. We arranged to meet up for a meal that night at the hotel’s highly regarded Vietnamese restaurant and caught up with all their news. It was good to see them again, but we were all concerned about their Angolan visa application.

Brazzaville reunion dinner (L to R= Ralf, the usual suspects and Johan)

We returned to Paul and Amelia’s to find them having dinner with an expat couple and their two daughters. We joined them for an after-dinner drink; Liz thought one of the daughters, Isobel, looked familiar and discovered that she had been a student at a school (TASIS) when Liz had been the school nurse there! Unbelievable; the Servais, a TASIS family, having dinner here in Brazzaville. We so enjoyed meeting you Oi and thanks for keeping in touch with us.

Visit to an Orphanage
Jessica, a sweet American friend of Paul and Amelia and working for the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), took Susanne and Liz to a local orphanage that she supported. It was a small place that relied totally, absolutely totally, on the charity of the local community for donations of food, clothing and so on. The circumstances of the local donors meant that donations were erratic and it was not unknown for the poor orphans to go hungry for a day or two at a time. The facilities were very simple and basic and there were about forty children in all, ranging from babies to teenagers.

Liz and Susanne at the orphanage Liz with orphaned girl

They were such a happy bunch of children, and were delighted at the arrival of the visitors. Jessica, well known to them all, was soon organising games for some and conducting a sing song for others. Liz fell in love with one little girl about two years of age, who had been left on the orphanage doorstep only six months previously. At the time she was badly malnourished and traumatised and it was only recently that she had recovered her power of speech. She took an instant shine to Liz and dearly loved the close physical contact as Liz carried her around. When it was sadly time to leave, the little orphan girl burst into tears, clinging to Liz. A heart breaking moment for them both.

Orphanage girl Orphanage children

Brazzaville Ferry Port
We said good bye to our kind Samaritans, Paul and Amelia, the day before we were due to leave on the ferry to Kinshasa; both worked extremely hard so they needed their sleep and our early departure would have been very unsettling. We transferred to rooms at the SIL compound found for us by Jessica, our other American angel! She and her friends there not only gave us lunch, but that afternoon escorted us to a superb artisan market where we bought a number of small things as presents for some lucky people!

Early morning, a main street in city centre Early morning, a back street in the docks area

Very, very early on the 2 of August and as quietly as Boris could possibly be, we left SIL and headed for the port area through near deserted streets. How wise we were to leave early, the ferry port was without doubt the most chaotic place we had encountered yet. Like Cueta in Morocco, we opted for the services of a ‘helper’ to take us through the immigration, police, custom and ticketing procedures. It all took so much time, but in the end we had our tickets and all we could do was wait in Boris, hoping against hope that the British penchant for an orderly queue was alive and well in Brazzaville. Some hope!

Brazzaville ferry port, the ticket offices The Brazzaville ferry port,river side

We sat there looking across the River Congo to Kinshasa; a unique view, this was the only place in the world where two capital cities stood in sight of one another. The closer it came to the ferry leaving, the more chaotic it got. Police were running around with long pieces of thick knotted rope, lashing out and trying to prevent people from slipping through to the ticketed queues. It was sheer pandemonium. When our ferry arrived from Kinshasa all hell broke loose! The police tried to keep some semblance of order, but everybody pushed, shoved and shouted and those disembarking the ferry could hardly get off for those getting on. To make matters worse, amongst the foot passengers leaving the ferry was a stream of men taking off lengthy, wobbling bundles of reinforced concrete rods and they were vying for space with others bent double, humping 50 kg sacks of flour to the quay side. What a muddle and a mess!

(left) Kinshasa from the Brazzaville ferry port
(right) Philippe moving to the boarding area,Brazzaville ferry port

We were waved forward into this maelstrom of humanity, urged on despite a total lack of space and any semblance of crowd control. It was at this point that a manic posse of never-say-die, aggressive, disabled Africans in homemade wheelchairs rushed the slipway and brought everything to a noisy, gesticulating halt. Our concern for the disabled around us was qualified by the knowledge that this was a daily ‘run’; those in the wheel chairs (some of whom had a disability tied to working hours only!) and their pusher-cum-minder made the most of their fare reduction by bringing, and sometimes smuggling, goods back and forth for sale at cut rate prices.

There just was simply no organization whatsoever; the police continued to thrash the unlucky ones hemmed in around them, whilst women screamed and shouted and the squashed children on their backs wailed hysterically. It was quite the most unbelievable sight. Liz longed to take photos of this scene from Dante’s Inferno and tried once or twice only to have an outstretched hand thrust in her face. We had heard stories of cameras being confiscated if photos were taken at the port or on the ferry, and so didn’t dare take the risk in such a public place. A great shame.

Once on the ferry and jammed between two trucks we gave a huge sigh of relief. It didn’t matter that it was impossible to get out of Boris, or that we couldn’t see a thing apart from a huge mound of flour sacks that lack of time had not allowed to be off loaded in Brazzaville. Sitting on top, was a flour covered individual carefully making a note of how many he had left to off load the next time round. Madness!

On the River Congo,leaving Brazzaville behind

Without warning the ferry began to edge forward, we had begun to cross the wide Congo River, the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and were on our way to Kinshasa.

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