Take me to the river
It’s 1 January 1993 in Zaire. In part one of an epic journey through what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Travel Africa’s Publication Manager Phil Clisby recounts what can only be considered the strangest New Year he’s ever had…
After a particularly heavy day and night celebrating the new year in Lisala’s Temperature 40°C Bar, we retired (reasonably early) to bed – or rather to sleeping bags inside mosquito nets tied to some trees in the grounds of a hotel. We had a very early start in the morning, as we were due to catch a boat down the Zaire River in the direction of Kisangani.
I awoke with a start at about 1am. There was shouting and people running about. Indeed, a right old commotion. Once my brain was awake enough to compute what was going on, I discovered a number of us had had our mozzie nets slashed and some of our belongings were missing. Worst off was ‘Lucky’ Martin – a man of many misfortunes during our travels, hence the nickname – who had had his passport stolen.
In a state of panic, a few of us rushed back to the bar to see if we could spot the culprits. No luck. But we did meet three Lebanese guys – who it would turn out pretty much ran the town – who agreed to meet Martin later that morning to help sort out his predicament.
I offered to stay behind with my luckless compadre, and so, while the rest of our group headed off to catch a boat to Bumba, Martin and I went to meet the Lebanese.
It was hot, damn hot. We had had no sleep. We were suffering from monumental hangovers. We had a missing passport. And we had no idea how we were going to catch up with our friends, nor how we were going to travel across the wilds of Zaire, let alone get Martin across the border and into Uganda…..
Read the full blog to learn what it was like to roll with the Lisala mafia, travel by bus perched on a stack of grain and drink palm wine aboard a Zaire River boat.