Monday, June 16, 2008

Trek Through Africa: Zaire (Day 126-130)

Sunday 28th March - Brazzaville, Congo - Kinshasa, Zaire

Left the hostel quite early, and drove down to the docks, but had to wait for two hours. Found a few coins and bought an ice-cream. The ferry over the congo was an experience in itself. Parked the truck at the far end and began to walk around the ferry which was very crowded. Soon there was a lot of trouble between the passengers and uniformed paramilitary blokes. They were getting hold of people and throwing them in a jail room on a lower deck. After a beating, they then had to pay to be let out. Found it safer to stand guard around the truck, made a point of unlocking the spades and axe on the side of the truck and also having the machete?s handy. Nearing the far bank we could hear sporadic gun fire in the city, this turned out to be the police battling the army who had gone on the rampage after not being paid. Very tense all the way across. On the docks we were shunted into an immigration centre and had the now regular experience of completing countless forms. Actually completed within the hour. Drove with the truck fully covered to the Prodestant mission in the centre of the capital, here they have ample grounds for camping within a walled enclosure, so we should be relatively safe. Played football with the local kids, but it is too hot. Had a beer then fell asleep in the sun, soon got dehydrated. Had a good nights sleep on the soft lawn.

Monday 29th March - Kinshasa, Zaire

Had breakfast then we drove the truck into town to change money. Thriving black market because the banks have all but stopped operating, inflation is calculated on a daily basis. Changed 100FF for 43,000,000 Zaires which filled a whole carrier bag. Had a plate of chips and two bottles of coke in a café ˇith Charlie & Lars, cost 11 million. Walked round a large supermarche selling imported goods, spent another 13 million on two bottles of vodka. Had to guard the truck for an hour before filling it up with deisel. Engine sounding rough again, but it still seems to be going OK. Walked back to the church and spent the day lazing around the grounds, very hot and humid untill it began raining after tea. Settled my bar tab for another 100FF and sat on the truck in the evening drinking beer and whiskey with Andy.

Tuesday 30th March - Kinshasa, Zaire

Not much sleep, truck left early with most people to go into the town centre, I stayed behind with Mike, Clare and Charlotte. We are not allowed out on our own because of the civil unrest and total breakdown of law and order. I sorted a few thing out that I no longer need to barter. When the truck returned, went out with Lars and Charlie to the local outdoor market, did not have any luck swapping my leather jacket, bought a few old notes for my collection. Saw the police beating car drivers at a crossroads while trying to get money off them. Decided it was time to get back, a few minutes later we got picked up ourselves. They said they were under cover Police and wanted to see our passports, I ignored them at first telling Charlie and Lars to keep walking, but they stopped to show them their laminated copies, but they said they needed to see the real thing. The real police came but were soon bought off, at this point there were only three of them and I wanted to run, but Charlie?s leg was still bad and Lars was getting scared, so I had no choice to but to wait with them. Looking around the street was now empty, everyone must know what was going on. The standoff continued for another 15 minutes as they tried to make us get into a car but we still demanded that we would only get in a marked police car. Another car pulled up and four more guys started giving us shit. One pulled a gun and the others had knives, being totally outnumbered we were bundled into an old renault. They drove us out of the commercial area and we all knew what was comming, but for some reason I could not stop laughing. Lars was shitting himself, pleading with me to shut-up. They made us empty our pockets, but my money was hidden in a money belt and the idiots could not find it untill the guy in the front leaned over and slashed my shirt open with a flick-knife. The bastards then pushed us out while the car was still going. Luckly I did not land on my knife which was still strapped to my back and none of us were hurt. We got our bearings and walked back to the mission. Never been so glad to see a church in my life. Got pissed at night with Lars, Charlie and Patrik, laughing about how we could have got a real beating or even worse for just ?3 each.

Wednesday 31st March - Kinshasa, Zaire

Had to go out again to buy the food, went tooled up, not going to let these bastards get us again. Got the food this time OK. Spent the afternoon washing most of my clothes in the sink as we may be leaving soon. Charlie and Lars went out for a few beers and got pissed. I had just one Primary beer at night and was kept awake all night with bad guts. The idiots are not waiting for it to finish fermenting before its bottled.

Thursday 1st April - Kinshasa, heading east.

Bought 20 loaves of bread before leaving the site at 8. Passed through the outskirts of Kinshasa, past a lot big monuments and the half finished airport and railway station, what a perfect example of how not to run a country ! Road soon disintigrated back to a track after leaving the suburbs, climbed up the hills into scenery very much like the Peak District back home. Temperature cooled down as it became cloudy, made lunch of fish and corned beef. I still feel bad, only had bread and cheese. Made tea of rice, onions and tomatoes, it ran out so I had to open a tin of hot dogs for myself. Slept on the truck with Charlie, Neils and Lars. We are too high up for flies, but still got no sleep because of the shits.

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