vrijdag 27 juli 2012


It was quite a shock to arrive at the Congo - Zambia border, suddenly we were back into civilisation as we entered the newly build and very modern building with at least 8 desks. It was so new that they didn't have signs put up yet so we went from desk to desk to get all the formalities done, making sure we had all the right paperwork and payed all the taxes. So far we didn't bother too much, as we crossed borders and complete countries without even a visa or laisser passez, but something told us this was going to be different, with modern and educated police to fine us for every mistake. That night, after looking in amazement at all the modern shops and restaurants on the perfect asfalt road, we cooked up a celebratory dinner as next morning the group would split up. We travelled together for 4 weeks but now I would go faster and drive to Lusaka on my own. Lusaka was not too crowdy, modern but still definately African and I enjoyed 2 days at a backpackers drinking Hunters cider and updating the blog on the excellent wifi. Then Regis picked me up to make the 2 days drive towards Livingstone. I wasn't going to spend too much time in Zambia, but one thing here is a real must see, Victoria falls are worth every penny the 20 dollar entrance. We scouted the city of Livingstone for cheap accomodation and finaly found a free place at the Rapid 14 campsite of Overland Missions close to the falls. As for the falls inself, just look at the pictures.

 That same day, when driving on the road towards the border with Namibia, which is going through the national park, I saw my first big wild animal on this trip when Regis spotted a giraffe in the bush.

Later that day, just arriving in Namibia, Regis blew the turbo on his landcruiser, forcing us to stay 2 days in the border town of Katima Mulilo, where I went on a (chinese) shopping spree. I desperately needed some warmer clothing cause by now, in the South and in the middle of winter, nights were very cold, so cold in fact that I lost all interest in camping. Waking up at 4 o'clock in the night in the freezing cold is not what I had in mind when I set of to Africa. Setting of too early was no fun either, I preferred to wait till 10, when the sun was high enough in the sky to generate some heat. With my clock still on congo time I foulishly miscalculated one morning, thinking it was 6.15,  I actually set of at 5.15 in pitch black darkness and soon found myself shivering and was forced to put on all my gear, including the rain overall.

 Luckily I spotted a bushfire on which I could warm myself but one hour later I was so cold again I was thinking of starting another bushfire.
Regis split up to welcome his Chinese girlfriend May who was coming over for a holiday and I speeded up towards Swakopmund, where my girlfriend Anita was waiting for me to arrive for 4 weeks now, she crossed Angola in just 4 days as we went on the DRC detour and I was anxious to see her again.

It got even colder closer to Swakopmund and the desertlike surroundings reminded me of Mauritania, but soon I was welcomed warmly by Anita and her family. The next weeks I will check out the culture rich city and go on a trip to the Etosha national park and take my time planning my future, Europe or Africa...

zondag 8 juli 2012

Alive in Lushi

"I all became true, everybody I spoke to about the route Kinshasa - Lubumbashi said just one thing: 'You will suffer', and we did..."
Matadi, the day before we left

Congolese traffic

Lucky they are not driving very fast...

...or this happens

From Kinshasa to Kikwit is asfalt
end of the asfalt at km 622, thanks Kabila
The first days from matadi to Kinshasa and then Kikwit were spent on perfect asfalt and I tried to enjoy it to the fullest because I was fully aware of what was to come. My thoughts drifted away to Anita, who got her Angola visa and was now on her own travelling down towards home in Namibia, but  I was hopeful  to meet her in a few weeks from now.
At the end of the first day we arrived late in Kinshasa, and fueled up just before dark. We planned to camp just after Kin but got stuck in the most unpleasant city experience I ever had. Traffic was completely jammed, with 4 lanes of cars trying to leave the city over a half asfalt/half sand messed up road with some concrete blocks lying around randomly. By now it was dark and with no streetlights and thousands of pedestrians crossing the traffic in the dusty chaos, it was just scary, and a shame I have not shot any video. Regis car was rammed and I almost came of the bike driving through a sandy patch but we made it out of the city and stumbled upon a perfect camp place. Nervous first day.
Regis came close to tipping the car several times
100 km after Kikwit it all starts. When we looked at the piste just meters from the end of the asfalt it was apparent it was going to be difficult, and promply decided we would detour via Gungu, which was easier according to the locals. It was not. Pretty soon I was struggling with the fully loaded bike on the sandy truck ruts and I gladly accepted Regis offer, who is also a bike rider, to put the heavy sidecases in the car.
This made a huge difference but still I worried about the lenght of the road to come, will it all be as hard as this?
Dry season - Lots of sand
Lucky for me it was not this hard all of the time, the first 2 weeks I actually had some fun too. It was certainly harder for the car drivers, their cars too narrow to drive into the deep truck tracks, they had to negociate the terrain carefully and slowly. They got stuck many times, and we started keeping scores on the side of each vehicle. Sometimes the sand plates were used, other times Regis' winch, or we just pulled one car with the other one, but the going was slow, I was spending a great part of the day just waiting.
One of the 15 checkpoint around Tshikapa

First 1000 km were like this

The people were also a challenge, their constant demands for money, as soon as they see a white person, became irritating after just a week, and at the campsites every evening we tried another technique. When people stopped and said 'bonjour', we would just ignore them. Not nice, but it worked, because as soon as you say something to them, the demands start, donne moi si, donne moi ca,...they would go on and on without any shame or sence of privacy.
We were delighted however that after Mbuji Mayi, the people changed dramaticly, they were a lot friendlier and we could have whole conversations without any demands, the whole atmosphere in the cities changed too, we were no longer mobbed, like in Kanaga, where we literally had to flee the city, but were left alone to do our stuff, while people watched curiously from a distance.
Playfighting , we encountered no agression, just a lot of demands for money.

The real hero's, the bike pushers!

The convoy

Tshikapa repair
Tshikapa is about the worst piece on the route and for 3 days we took a guide with us to show us the detours through the villages and the bush, he prooved helpfull, but for the bike it was not realy neccesary as I mostly could follow the push bike tracks and even go driving into the truck tracks, which in the dry season proved not too hard to drive, although my feet were scraping the hard sides of the tracks, and the risk of breaking an ankle was real.
The sacks are local coffee

Regis drinking cola on his first day of malaria

At lac Mukamba Regis came down with malaria and we spent 3 days resting and washing our clothes in the cristal clean lake water on the grounds  of a de-mining company, which was a lot cheaper than the catholic mission, who asked 20 dollar for a room without electricity and running water.

Fuel prices were at an all time high by now, close to 3 dollar for a liter, this, combined with the abnormal high consumption of the vehicles, made fuel pump visits painfull. Regis got his Landcruser to consume 30 litres of gasoline per 100km, my bike saw record values of 7 litres/100km.

 Most of the bridges are in excellent shape or just newly build as part of Kabila's 'cinq chantiers' but this one was dammaged by a passing truck. It was quickly solved by placing the sandplates however.

The second part of the trip, after Luputa, the road changed into rocky ground with a different kind of sand, the kind they call 'FeshFesh' in Morocco, and is a powder like dust, which covers the whole road and leaves dustclouds that  keep suspended in the air for minutes, so we started driving with more space in between the cars to spare the airfilters. The road was following the railroad and was in bad shape, some places resembled a moto-cross circuit and were barely passable for the cars. One of the biggest dangers became concentration, one second was enough to be steering right in to a big hole, or over a big stone, like Thomas and Claus' Landrover when they hit a big one, which bent the steering bar, but the sturdy Landy was still drivable. The scores for getting stuck were by now Mercedes 20 times, Landcruser 15 times, Yamaha, 4 times and the winner, the Landy with only 2 times.

Working train between Mwenu Ditu and Lubumbashi

2750 francs congolais or 2,5 euro per litre

Waiting for the cars again
For days we were talking how dangerous lack of concentration was on the piste, and in the last stretch it almost resulted in tears for me. I had a bad nights sleep, puked out my dinner around midnight, and felt complete powerless when I started on what supposed to be the last day offroad. At km 65, I had a first warning, when a byciclist stayed in the middle of the road just staring at me, and I hit a big hole trying to avoid him. The front wheel caught air and sent the bike into the bush. The worrying thing is that I didn't see the hole at all. Just 7 km further on, at km 72 that day, and just as I was thinking how I could have easely broken my leg with that crash, I was taken out again.

Trying to avoid a bicycle rider...

I was following the main truck track going through a sandy pit, no different from the million ones I crossed allready, when in a split second the bike went down to the right, catching my ankle under the rear fork and sending me into instant pain. I broke some bones, but never felt pain in the first 30 minutes, this time, I was screaming it out. Problem was that I was pinned down and couldn't get the bike of me, but then the universe was gentle with me, and sent 3 doktors in a car just one minute later. It was the 2nd car I saw that day, and quickly they declared that they were doktors and that the leg was not broken. It was clear however I was not going anywhere anymore that day and while I waited for the painkillers to start working, I hoped I could drive the next day.
Next day I my ankle was good enough to try to drive, and at 15 km/h I started to drive the last bit of piste.. Soon the road improved and we were all extatic to reach the asfalt today, cause that would mean the end of the suffering. We did eventually reach the asfalt, but the first bit of main road towards Likasi was appaulingly bad, even worse than the piste the day before, it was the last sting this road delivered, it was over, we did it, the vehicles were still running, we were alive and well, and only 100 asfalt kilometres away from Lushi....
Never again, enjoy the video:

This is a link to a kmz file in which you can see the actual route on Google Earth:

route central-africa