Jan 222014

Up at the crack of dawn, checked out of the hotel, and grabbed a cab to the train station. Picked up Jordan along the way, and we were there at about 5:15am for the 7am train. We’d been sternly warned that we had to be there two hours in advance…which turned out to be quite a joke. A picture of the station, waiting to get inside.  Unfortunately poor quality because of the lighting, but enough to get the idea:


A shot of the ticket window, courtesy of Jordan. He got much better pictures than I did of several parts of the train ride, and several of the pictures in this post were taken by him.


As the sun started to rise while we waited, a picture looking back onto the town from the front of the station:


…and the vendors were out in full force, selling food for the journey.  Bottled water, bread, fruit, cookies, and gum seemed to be the most common items for sale.



Soon it was 6:15, and finally time to Board.  A quick passport/ID check inside the station, and we found the car that would be our home for approximately the next 13 hours – Car #111 in First Class:



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Jan 172014

CAUTION:  This post contains nearly 40 pictures, many of which are of extreme poverty and a few are of monkeys…well, being monkeys.  You’ve been warned!  

Yeah, I know it had only been two days since the coup attempt where over 100 people were killed trying to overthrow the government, but I’d spent so much effort planning this trip, and so much money getting close, I was determined to try and at least make it to DRC for a daytrip…in daylight. Fortunately, Jordan was just as insane and was game for it. We started by grabbing a taxi over to the boat docks, and after fending off several touts, we finally found the place to buy tickets on the “fast” boat and clear immigration. It involved about 10 different stops for different papers, taxes, stamps, etc etc etc, most of which seemed above ground, but I’m sure a few of the “fees” went straight into the pockets of corrupt officials. No matter…we avoided as much as we could, and even the fees we paid were no more than $3-4 each. Eventually we were crammed onto the boat with 15 of our new best friends for the 15 minute trek across the river:


On the other side, things got a little uglier.  Lots of people doing the “wait here” and “this fee” and “that fee.”  We argued several of them, paid a few, and eventually got out the other side about $20 poorer in total.  It took about 20-30 minutes, which wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but once they have your passport they kind of have you by the balls.  Plus, we were in a bit of a hurry without much time, so we were kind of stuck. We’d hired a driver in advance for the day, and finally found him outside immigration.  Turns out we’d thought he was another tout trying to get money from us on the inside and brushed him off, lol.  Would have helped if he had a sign!  He drove us first to the travel agency he worked for, where we paid the agreed upon $250 for a day’s rental of car and driver.  The agency’s building:


After that, it was time to go.  We were driving about 30 miles outside the city first, to the Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary for Bonobos monkeys.  On the way, we passed the stadium:


Continuing the drive, we went through some quite poor parts of Kinshasa:


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Jan 172014

Quick taxi ride to my hotel, the Ledger Maya Maya, and check-in was pretty quick. Room was nice, and pretty much don’t need to say too much about it. Clean, comfortable, and definitely good enough for two days. Did have dinner in the restaurant the first night, and it was pretty tasty, and they did a fantastic beef kebab. The only thing negative I’ll say about the hotel, is that when I woke up in the morning and felt an itch…and saw a cockroach scurry across my chest, I wasn’t impressed. Yes, this is Africa and these things happen even in the cleanest place, but I still wasn’t impressed.

After check-in, I walked over to the Hotel Hippocampe to meet up with Jordan, who I’d be doing the next few segments of the trip. Congo was the 150th country visited for both of us, and we agreed to meet up and knock out some of the more challenging ones together – two heads are definitely better than one when dealing with the random unknown situations that tend to happen in Africa!

We met up at the Hippocampe, and tried the local brew while plotting the next few days.  It was already early afternoon, so we decided to walk around the city a bit, and then rest up because we were planning another shot at the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) the next day as a daytrip.



Then, it was off for a walk around the city, which seemed deserted.  Streets were all incredibly quiet, probably because it was New Year’s Day.  First stop was a cafe called La Mandarine for a quick lunch since I hadn’t eaten…delicious shwarma and then right outside was this cool fountain:


Right across the street was the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) with a cool statue in front:

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