Ordeal Travel – My Congo Journey

“It did not quite do it justice to call it adventure travel, and it certainly was not pleasure travel. My Congo journey deserved its own category: ordeal travel”.

|| Tim Butcher // BLOOD RIVER ||
The Terrifying Journey Through The World’s Most Dangerous Country …

Yup, I certainly get the ‘ordeal travel’ thing, but on a way smaller scale than Butcher, of course. Today, 50km of driving from Kinshasa took 4hrs, and along the way, I saw horrific things, including a violent mob beating, road rage, gridlock car crashes, and poverty so extreme you have feral street children scavenging for survival. But. And yes, there are so many buts here in the DRC…

In short, I need more time to make up my mind about this miasmic madhouse of a land mass. At 2,345 million km², it is Africa’s 3rd biggest country, and stretches across the equator to encompass Planet Earth’s second-largest forest, a ‘green lung’ critical to the survival of our human race. Plus, there is the continent’s most gargantuan river system by volume, a couple of hundred dialects to decipher, an implausibly derelict infrastructure, and at least a dozen disparate rebel armies aiming to destabilize or ‘liberate’ the vast République Democratique de’l Congo.

There’s an unpredictability to the mean streets slashing amidst Kinshasa’s urban decay, and I’m not ashamed to say it scares me, with my Western sensibilities, shitless. Don’t get me wrong: the warm-hearted bonhomie of the locals brim with broad smiles & you experience consistent moments of human connection. But one can’t help sensing this is a wafer-thin veneer, with the constant build-up of frustration of surviving in this equatorial pressure-cooker a mere millisecond from blowing the whole of this fragile status quo into a spectacular shit storm of violence.

It is arguably fair to say voodoo and fatalism hang thick in the air here on the banks of the mighty Congo, as do smog, pollution, humidity and the smell of dead dog carcass wafting up from the morass of clogged drainage canals. Kinshasa and its immediate surrounds were my main reference points on this exploratory visit, and I have no right to judge this behemoth of country – or begin to understand it’s unfathomably entangled history and diverse culture – after less than a week on the ground.

So, while I make up my mind, here are a few snatched moments mined from the past few days (in between working my day job). There were bonobos, impenetrable forests, tropical downpours, pitbull traffic, and an impromptu performance by the young musician stepping into the boots of the great Papa Wemba. These photographs will allow you a glimpse into the gut-thumping & laizzes-faire lives lived by the larger-than-life Kinois as they attempt to carve their niche within the fecund forests simmering at the epicentre of the Mother Continent 🌍

#Kinshasa #DRC #Congo #bonono #greatapes #africa #adventure #nature #babywemba #music #culture

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