Saturday, June 23


Brett: The DRC is technically governed by Kinshasa, but it seems more like a few separate countries. The piece between Kinshasa and the coast is controlled by the government, around Lubumbashi is controlled by the mining companies, the area around Goma is at war with the spillover from Uganda and Rwanda, and the rest of the country is controlled by various warlords. We decided to keep our visit to DRC short and cut through the narrowest (Government controlled) part of the country on small roads, but avoiding Kinshasa.

The DRC Immigration was just across the border. The guys who had been escorting Roman came back to stamp our passports - they were very nice, but they took ages so we had to entertain ourselves watching the mice running everywhere. We reached Luozi in the afternoon and had to fill in the entry forms again. The guy demanded $10 each for us to fill in the same form we had before, which we weren't inclined to do again, and in return he said he would stamp our Carnets. We argued the toss (always easier as a group) and after an hour or so the chief of police eventually told us to go. As a result, we didn't get a Carnet stamp, but we weren't too bothered. We have seen a few stamped carnets from other travellers, but since these guys were police and not customs they don't have the authority to stamp it anyway.

We camped at the Catholic Mission (free but donations appreciated) (S4 56.978 E14 8.104) and chatted to the pastor, who was a really nice guy, for a while. Mary was feeling frazzled after the latest argument with the police guys so we cooked a nice dinner and had a few drinks to decompress. We woke up early to join the queue for the Luozi ferry by 7am, but it only takes 2 cars and it kept getting stuck on the sand bar, so we only crossed by 12:30. Everyone else waiting with us was very curious, polite and friendly - they really loved the Kerrs' fancy kelly kettle and our bicycles on the roof.

The Rutters were also having issues with their car overheating (more often than ours) so since we could only get one of the cars on the first ferry they went ahead in an attempt to get to a mechanic in Kinshasa before dark, and luckily made it with no issues. It was really sad to go our separate ways as we had really loved travelling with them for the last few months.

When we finally got on the ferry ($13), it was really easy and straightforward. We were at a narrower part of the river and it was still a few km wide. We spent some time on deck chatting to the locals and taking photos with them.

The roads leaving the river were slightly better than the roads leading up to it, but we saw 12+ broken down cars and everyone was asking for lifts - nobody has the money to fix their cars. We reached Songololo by late afternoon and camped at the Catholic Mission (free but donations appreciated) (S5 42.131 E14 2.42) - the choir were practising nearby and sang some awesome hymns while we played cards. We had a few curious visitors in the night which made it a bit tricky to do our usual bucket showers, but we felt very safe here - the Missions are such a haven for overlanders.

The fuel station in Songololo was the first since Brazzaville and it had diesel but no petrol, so we bought some from a guy on the side of the road with a couple of bottles. It looked clean and worked fine. The policeman in town warned us to go slowly on the road to the border - good tip because it was narrow, busy and difficult to see with the dust and oncoming cars doing the usual unsafe overtaking manouvers. We joined the queue for the border which was mostly taxis and took a few hours to get to the front with all the people queue jumping with big smiles. The girls went ahead with the passports to let the officials know we were coming and to get whatever we could done in advance. The friendly police took our passports ahead to start on the paperwork and we didn't see them again for a while (we also had to drive about 2kms til we saw them again, which made us really nervous but in retrospect since we were the only 4 white people there I doubt we could have gotten lost in the system if we had tried). We got our carnets stamped in and out at the customs building (there weren't any other customs offices on our route). Luke had a bit of fun while in the queue, play-boxing with a friendly little kid and making fun of a guy dressed in a really smart clothing asking us scruffbags for money.

Mary: The last km before the Luvo entry into Angola got really crazy - for some reason there was a massive market around the immigration building with lots of cars parked on the side, forcing two way traffic into one lane. Big busses kept coming through the gap, squeezing past us with only a few cm gap and we watched several near accidents nearby. People were walking everywhere and guys kept forcing motorbikes through the tiny gap between our car and the one in front. People on foot kept bumping into each other and getting into fights. There were a few police around keeping order but its hard to see what they would have been able to do if the crowd had turned nasty. Anyway it didn't and we had an interesting 2 hours or so of people watching. The car behind us didn't have enough space to get out, so he did a 50 point turn, alternately bumping us and the guy behind him until he got out. We finally reached immigration where we caught up with our passports. They had just finished our paperwork but it still took a little time to get stamps. The chaos suddenly stops at the border - as borders go, this one was a good chaotic border, although its probably better to not go through on a Saturday/market day.

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