Democratic Republic of the Congo – Travel Blog. Our short, sometimes dicey, sometimes surprisingly friendly journey on our ‘Accra to Cape Town’ trip.
Border Crossing from Cabinda
Having travelled on an overland tour for 7 weeks, through 8 countries and with 16 border crossings, we should have been used to long drawn out immigration procedures. Exiting Cabinda took 1.5 hours and entering the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) took a further 2 hours with much of the time spent waiting in the humidity in the truck. We still don’t know why it takes so long to cross a border?
The security situation in DRC had been dicey for some time. And, as a result, we only had a 3 day 2 night transit through the south-west corner of the country. The first days driving was slow, hot and dusty! The amazing sealed roads of Cabinda we’d become conditioned to, quickly disappeared.
We found ourselves being thrown around the truck again as our driver negotiated the huge crater-like potholes and channels in the roads. Dry fields surrounded us and there was no sign of jungle as we had expected. The villages were similar to those in Republic of the Congo, mud huts with tin or thatched roofs. The people in most cases, were very friendly, smiling and waving at us as we drove by.
Driving through to the town of Muanda, we stopped to food shop. On arrival, we couldn’t establish if we were welcome or not. The vibe was very different to the vibe of the villages we had passed through. Some people were very friendly, some were not so friendly. Wandering around, we eventually found our way to a market. At first, it was a bit overwhelming, with the locals shouting at us, trying to get us to buy from their stands. But after a while, we found a nice lady who after selling us some vegetables, was only too happy to have her photo taken with us. The locals were all gathered around cheering and singing, quite a fun but bizarre experience.
The journey continued along the bumpy dusty road until we came across an old quarry by the roadside, where we camped for the night.
We shared our camp with some White-Fronted Bee-Eaters who were nesting there. Their colonies holes were dug into the banks all around us. Initially, we attracted a little attention from some locals passing by, but by sunset, we and the Bee-eaters were left alone.
After an early start we pressed on to Matadi the next day. Continuing along rural dirt tracks and passing through friendly villages as we went. One source of income there was charcoal, with bulging sacks lining the roads full and ready for sale.
We then hit a city called Boma. We were supposed to stop there to shop for food, however, we were all glad when we didn’t as it was pretty hectic! The vibe wasn’t great and it was still difficult to know if we were welcome or not. Apparently many people from here and elsewhere in the DRC still associate all ‘Westerners’ with the widespread atrocities that were carried out by King Leopold II of Belgium. At one point, a man managed to jump up on the back of the truck. Making crazy faces and aggressive gesticulations at us through the back window. Meanwhile, another man was walking around the truck imitating shooting at us! It certainly wasn’t a place we would dare to take photos.
As we drove away from Boma, the dirt road became sealed. This made the rest of the drive much more pleasant. We passed lots of villages along the way and the locals again seemed quite friendly, waving and smiling at us as we passed by. We drove past beautiful wet plains with plenty of bird life around. With its bright orange head, the Bishop bird was particularly
Knowing we had to cross the Congo river to reach Matadi we were incredibly impressed when we stopped right at a viewpoint overlooking the river and the city. The Congo river was far bigger than we had anticipated and the city was far nicer as well. We spent some time taking photos before crossing the large suspension bridge over the river. We weren’t allowed photos on or near the bridge due to the large military presence, which was a shame, as it would have made a beautiful photo.
Our intended accommodation in Matadi was a Catholic Mission, attached to a school. As our tour leader went to check us in, hundreds of children who had just broken from school surrounded the truck waving, blowing kisses and screaming at us. This went on for around 20 minutes and we can truly say, we now know how Justin Bieber must feel haha!!
The Songololo-Luvo border crossing was about 100km east of Matadi and we were there by 1 pm the following day. The border was pretty hectic and it seemed like there was no law and order. We witness police beating people amongst other things, so we were pretty happy to get out of there. Exit formalities took around and hour before we left the Democratic Republic of the Congo and entered onto our next destination, Angola.
Our Oasis Overland Expedition
We travelled with Oasis Overland on the 12 week Accra-Cape Town section of their 42 Week UK-Cairo Trans Africa expedition. Doing an Overland expedition was an epic way to travel through this big and beautiful continent. It took the hassle out of travelling independently through some of most remote parts of the world. Yet, it still provided the challenges and adventures that we as well-travelled backpackers wanted. From free-camping under the stars to sweltering in the dense jungles and driving for days along dusty desolate tracks to haggling in the busy and bustling markets, this expedition had it all. We really did get a little off track!