Adventure Travel Abroad

boat trip on Congo river in 2018

boat trip on Congo river in 2018


day 1 We are leaving the harbor of the Bralima brewery in Kinshasa, Congo In the harbor itself I could not film because of too eager immigration officials We are on our way to Kisangani 1735 kilometers upstream and the only navigable stretch of the river between the rapids of Kinshasa and the those of Kisangani More boats are waiting to do the same trajectory We pass the ‘cité sans lois’ the city without laws from where people roam the city center to earn or steal some money At a distance the buildings of the city A city with 12 million inhabitants At the shore the dilapidated cranes and trading houses dating from the Belgian colonial era The ‘grand pousseur’ (big pusher) connects to the 3 barges ‘Pull, pull’! The total convoy measures 140 meters and is loaded with 700 tons of cargo and 15,000 crates of beer Meet Roland, the transport coordinator and friend The Congo river is very large here on Malebo or Stanley Pool between the two capitals Kinshasa and Brazzaville of the two Congos, the Republic and the Democratic Republic (neither one of them being democratic) In the distance, the brand new quarter la Cité du Fleuve in front the temporary huts of fishermen No problem in Congo when you only have half a boat At the horizon the tallest structure of Kinshasa l’échangeur one of ex-dictator Mobutu’s status symbols like the cars in the Cité du Fleuve where the happy few live Many less happy people however live in huts of poles and corrugated roofs On the pusher boat Maflo, the engieer and Alex, the second captain At the front deck of the first barge the water is quiet but in the afternoon clouds gather Rain, wind, thunder and lightning The waves become sea waves The convoy cannot move further against the wind and is pushed against the river bank Far away the lights of the airport We did not even leave Kinshasa This should be a boat cruise but has become a cross We had to disconnect he barges We will pick them up later day 2 We are in the harbor of Kinkole After yesterday’s storm the boat had to be repaired Some bollards broke down and the electricity got damaged ‘Do you still have electricity?’ On the shore the ‘penis of Mobutu’ and his industrial ruins ‘Hold your camera like a binocular ‘Who can bother us here?’ ‘Police’ ‘And where are they, on the shore?’ ‘Binocular is like this, isn’t it?’ The harbor of Kimpoko 60 kms from Kinshasa When I go to our animal park here it takes 2 hours by car By boat it took us one day In the middle you can see our animal park Kadima’s Pride of Africa On top you see the restaurant and education center where we receive pupils to make them aware of nature conservation and biodiversity Timber transport Congo has the one but biggest forest on earth (after the Amazon) but many wood is cut for agriculture or burnt for charcoal (‘makala’) This boat did not make it to the harbor The harbor of Maluku center of the timber industry and ‘makala’ trade After Maluku hills appear on both river banks the river gets smaller and the current stronger We enter the ‘channel’ Few trees on the shore because of the ‘makala’ trade Small islands of water hyacinth float past the boat Once introduced by a Belgian colonist now a danger for dams and ship engines Sarah prepares eggs for the crew and riverside residents Those barrels are filled with chemicals for the Kisangani brewey day 3 Freshly caught fish awaits its preparation Again trapped by bad weather We travel in the rainy season The river is high which makes the current stronger but reduces the risk of being stuck on sandbanks ‘I said use your dipstick to see how deep it is’ ‘Give me that phone!’ ‘Don’t you understand that I have to sail without river map and GPS’ ‘I depend on you!’ ‘and warn me for these floating water hyacinth. It blocks the engine’ This happens when hyacinth gets in the engine Some crew members rearrange the crates that fell down during the storm last night You need workers but also managers The ‘channel’ is narrowing the current getting stronger with even small rapids We only sail 5 km per hour The small town of Meko This boat is not sailing on land but stays near the shore to avoid the strong current The first canoes attach to our boat A raft of timber floating slowly downstream A breeding box for fish made of mosquito nets A salto mortale in the river! More and more boats struggling upstream The end of the day is the nicest time on board cool breeze music cool beer with Roland day 4 ‘Look at the S bend there the Kasai river joins the Congo then it turns and turns and the boats sink and are swallowed by the giant Ngobila turtle the water level rises At the shores it looks like sea surf The lady sells dried manioc The other river bank, Congo-Brazzaville much more prosperous than ‘our’ Congo The small town of Kwamouth The mouth of the Kasai river The cross indicates a sunken boat Egrets traveling for free on a hyacinth island A charcoal seller After Kwamouth the river is quieter less current the surface smooth day 5 The hills are gone and the river broadens More canoes join us at least they try They sell traditional medicines but mainly fish Large sandbanks appear many water hyacinth A ‘baleinière’ is constructed of several planks sawn from tree trunks it is slower than a pusher boat but faster than a canoe Canoes (‘pirogues’) are built of one tree trunk This is a modern one Very few have outboard motors The small town of Bolobo It is here that in 1929 our closest nephew was ‘discovered’: the bobobo Inhabitants doing their daily activities washing clothes, dishes and themselves Children splash and swim Another floating timber raft day 6 We are nearing the rain forest in which everyday … it rains The rain forest is not dependent on rain clouds from the sea Through the evaporation of its vegetation it generates its own rain Not always comfortable for the inhabitants Many canoes take advantage of our boat to get a ride upstream Although you have to hurry to not miss it A pusher convoy full of ‘makala’ The ‘makala’ girl helps her fellow-villager day 7 ‘A very good catfish!’ The huts are on poles because of the high waters They have thatched walls and roofs A school class on the shore My neighbor, Melanie, daughter of Maflo, watches the canoes moor River dwellers sit and stare at us but of course, we also stare at them Not much is happening in these settlements A passing boat is the only entertainment No electricity, tap water, tv, laptop No sports field, bicycle, or even road to the interior But then, brick walls and corrugated roofs and even a radio mast Unfortunately without satellite dishes No internet connection since we left A church and even a motorcycle (so roads to other places) On the other shore the last view of Congo-Brazzaville with a radio mast with dishes ‘This is the real river traffic this is great it takes them 3 months unbelievable! skinny to the bone if they were at least a bit organized then they would have an outboard engine’ Not all huts have been able to resist the current No problem, a new one is easily built day 8 Another city, this time a big one More traffic busy people a shipyard a radio mast with dishes Many activities This is Mbandaka 1 million inhabitants Last year hit by an ebola outbreak We are docking in the Bralima harbor Dareck films the maneuvers of the push boat and the barges Old fashioned but low energy timber transport Modern high energy timber transport Bralima employees in safety uniforms unload crates day 9 Full crates off board Goods from the ship’s hold go off board Morning washing ritual Empty crates get on board ‘Here’s your money’ Boxes with Heineken export beer off board Getting things ready for the performance of Roland tonight The last boats leave the harbor before sundown As do some school boys Alex adjusts the spotlight on the boat Dareck gives instructions We make a documentary about bringing back a legend to the Bangombé in Lisala Roland rehearses the story of how this tribe from Cameroon travels south and wants to cross the big river Congo The legend has a hero this time presented by our captain Moise But there is also a heroine from the audience ‘The Bangombé tribe has to fight the Mongo that live already at the river In the end the tribes come together make music and drink ‘agené’ together as we drink tonight Primus beer together! and they lived happily ever after’ day 10 ‘Give my baby to the mundèle (white)’ ‘Here, my baby’ ‘Isn’t she cute?’ Early morning haze rising from the rain forest and river The ‘school bus’ on its way ‘Machete, machete’ ‘I don’t understand. I have nothing’ Many clients Our boat has been transformed into a supermarket Public transport with passengers, young and old The river is the liquid highway Fish traps for sale A secondary school on the shore A floating timber raft, this time motorized A banner for the forthcoming elections Learned in the cradle is carried to the tomb A gad-fly troubling me in my cabin A big ‘piroque’ even one with engine A ‘baleinière’ Another one Lulonga The ferry crossing the river The tropical rain forest Three horizontal layers: blue sky, green plants, brown river day 11 Drying their few clothes shopping on the floating supermarket ‘This is sweet potato’ and this manioc ‘It is Sunday and this is the church’ and look at the solar panel Giant snails for sale Fish nets Traditional drums Sugar cane We sail between forest covered islands Our own markt with ‘friperie’ second hand clothes Fresh ground fish Dried fish More dried fish on the front deck and smoked fish More fresh fish Catfish is caught at night when flashlights attract the fish to the water surface The spotlight of the boat shining on the shore Roland, Dareck and I editing the documentary day 12 A smoked monkey (protected) is waiting for preparation Two grey parrots (protected) waiting for a life as pets Black pigs (not protected) ‘The cable broke’ ‘How can we insert a new one?’ ‘Sir, can we also watch your film?’ ‘Do we have the possibility to see it?’ ‘Euh … I will send it to Roland’ ‘after editing’ This is our cooking site on one of the barges The huts are the cooking sites on the shore Mostly people prepare ‘chikwange’ The staple food, manioc, is mashed, soaked and dried to get rid of the toxic hydrogen cyanide If available you add ‘liboke’ fish cooked in banana leaves The limousine The baby car ‘Too slow!’ The greengrocer day 13 ‘Where are all the crates gone?’ Every night the boat fills with water each morning it must be pumped out A (protected) water turtle The endless green wall of the forest A two-dimensional world, without depth impenetrable Sometimes some brown huts or a huge bamboo tree weaver bird nests in palm trees banana trees Bad weather coming up again Hastily the people go home using our exhaust waves The three horizontal layers became grey – green – grey It is busy at our market today but there is more selling than buying The riverside residents have no money That is why often the products are exchanged On the left bank lies the Bangombé village of the legend with its old catholic church In Congo the catholic belief is a thin layer upon their own traditional religions However, the church is the only strong structure outside the army Politicians fear the bishops more than they fear their opposition politicians because the bishops are not corrupt day 14 We go ashore in Lisala Full crates on board empty crates off board A new type of fishing net I am coughing because of the diesel vapor from the engine Dareck and I take a motorized canoe to return to the Bangombé village We pass the timber harbor The district chief in our boat explains what we see Here is the colonial Sancto Petro again one of the oldest churches in Congo A huge kapok tree A canoe with plastic jerrycans with ‘agené’ fermented raffia palm wine The stepping stones that play such an important role in the Bangombé legend Sugar cane for sale Dareck – in his life jacket – films the stones It was at this point that the tribe succeeded in crossing the big river Because of the high water level most stones are beneath the surface Pineapple parts for sale and a condom balloon (?) ‘Look there, that’s my friend the ‘mundèle” I take a rest in the ‘agené’ bar I don’t feel well so I abstain ‘Here’s the 500 francs (0,30 cents)’ The baby is thirsty too We leave this dynamic village to look for the stones at the other side of the river We find an uninhabited small settlement and no stones We go back to Lisala Above the trees is no volleyball net or drying fishing net This net is used to catch birds at night ‘Makala’ transport to Lisala The ferry from Lisala The village of Gundji opposite Lisala Heavy timber transport with passengers and bags ‘makala’ My phone rings for the first time on this trip I am too stunned to take it Later on I check: it was Roland He wanted to know if we were coming back In Congo deforestation for export, agriculture or makala is a big problem Our four boats lie alongside in the Bralima harbor Here is my cabin door In a local bar Roland does his performance at least he tries ‘Mundèle, give money’ One free beer was promised to the visitors The ones who got it were enthusiastic Despite the 2 microphones Roland had difficulties to make himself heard Some officials were invited but decided to leave ‘Let’s hear the story!’ ‘People, please be quiet, Roland wants to continue’ ‘Where is my free beer?!’ ‘It was promised!’ ‘There is no beer left, I’m sorry’ ‘Lady, friend, please’ In a radio interview afterwards Roland can explain the goal of his performance ‘We appreciate very much that you brought back our story. In fact, it belongs to us’ ‘We want to ask you …..’ This project was coming to Lisala and bringing back the legend. This project is finished now A giant beetle day 15 After the performance we left for Bumba with a new visitor, a huge fish ‘.. and then the fight was over and everybody understood that I had brought back the legend to the Bangombé and I had won by knock out’ In Bumba modern but non functioning cranes on the background old fashioned but functional ‘cranes’ in the foreground day 16 A new product on board a brand new car for the governor, an elections gift How did it come on board?! and how will it go from board? With the dipstick is measured how far our boat can approach the shore The motor is started The bricks removed The iron planks lay down Here we go ‘Push, push! We did it! In the push boat maneuvers we lost a barge Here it is, freely floating on the current of the river ‘We have to get it back’ OK, got it! day 17 Tonight I fell ill and Roland too He has malaria and I respiration troubles Dareck will look if there is a plane going from Bumba to Kinshasa Yes, tomorrow there is So, no more river for us One, two, three .. five barges continue to the mythic city of Kisangani Heart of Darkness, A Bend in the River I planned to buy some stuffed animals there but it is better to return to Kinshasa No health care on our boat or ashore Roland wants to do his last performance tonight It was on the boat deck Everyone got his beer before he started the story So it was less chaotic and aggressive than yesterday Although the young men found the beer more important than Roland’s story ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ Party time Farewell to the crew Farewell Congo, so rich underground, so poor above end


Reader Comments

  1. Appreciate your posting this epic river journey on the Congo river! – Vibrant people and a stunning nature, wish I could visit!⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  2. Fascinating and captivating ….Thanks for sharing this.
    One wonders why this river is brown though….might it be the thousands of towns and villages that dump their untreated waste in this mighty river ? And why don't we see any grazing wildlife or hippos , for whom this never ending greenery could be their salad bowl ? We might presume that apart from the few Europeans here with a regular supply of bottled mineral water, the regular population also drinks out of the Congo ?
    Although the Belgians themselves did too though, but a century ago before the population explosion it might've been still safe to do so..
    It's good news bytheway,..that "the bishops are not corrupt"….there once was a time ,that was a whole different story….. most organised religion is corrupt…..especially over there in "God's Own Cuntry"…….
    Docus like this should be required viewing at schools and for everybody else , so we might take our daily comforts a bit less for granted ?

  3. My Country Ghana is rich but Congo is the richest. this people are amazing hardworking with marvelous river but with stupid greedy leaders. their boats is not nicer like those in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos, perhaps they can learn from them.

  4. The Stench of those huts and stinky water…I'm glad U-Tube doesn't have SMELL-A-VISION. Don't see anyone wearing floatation devices of any kind..are those boats have numbers? –What a Shitty Mess of a country's waterfront.

  5. Very interesting to see what it is like on the Congo river, i hope they stop damaging and protect the Rainforest they must have some amazing animals there

  6. …and then @45:00 a white man came to sell fire water and "medicine" to the natives for a fistfull of diamonds, acting stupid and play an act he played many times before…and, amused, the natives accepted the trade.

  7. Fell Asleep after the first 2 min… of this video….. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  8. Dank je wel voor dit video. After travelling extensively around three continents in my VW campervan I was approaching Africa to cross the Sahara and travel up the Congo River but unfortunately I had my van stolen in Seville Spain which of course shattered my further dreams. So I watch your video and live the barge life going upriver. I had already gone down the Amazon River and worked in Holland working on the Rhine River for two years so I was really looking forward to doing this trip.

  9. wow africa is so nice shame if they would all get on the same page they could run the world cuz its so big and all its resouses

  10. guess africa dont belive in birth control lolol shit load of people everywhere but i think they are nice people and have dreams just like everyone other im telling ya if africa would come togather they can rule the world ez

  11. man crazy how quick them boys are off the jump strate off the shore to paddle 15mph with a fat woman with a baby in the middle damn i bet some usa teams want them

  12. Roland the environment issue does concern each of us in this planet you did witness the level of deforestation all along the congo river and this is the planet reserve on the hand of ignorant, the forest should be protected for the the best future of this planet

  13. Thank you for posting this, it is insightful. There is not much footage of everyday life in Congo. Westerners who know a thing or 2 about Congo assume it is war-torn like Afghanistan. This video shows how many people live relatively peaceful lives. The river is amazing and powerful.

  14. Bana mayi ….bato ba mayi the people you see along this rivered nearly 100milion people in central african's region

  15. Believe it or not, as long as the west exist in Africa there wouldn’t be hope to come out off poverty. We must replace them with China. Wake up Africa!

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