Walk to the Congo border

Trip Start Jun 08, 2005
Trip End Aug 18, 2005

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Friday, July 8, 2005

Day the Thirty-first - in which we take a peek at the DRC, and I get rather ill for no apparent reason.


Another lie in - could get used to this. Breakfast involved real coffee much to Stef's delight. The hotel is right by the lake, only about 800 meters from the Democratic Republic of Congo border. The grounds are largish, with various plants, including cycads so we spent the morning cycad hunting [Stef] and chasing lizards [me].
Lake Kivu is pretty, though neither of us felt the urge to swim.

I read while Stef went into town and changed money. He checked out the 'fruit bat colony' that is labelled on the map, but it wasn't there. I guess they've moved, bats not being static and all.
Then we went walkies - first heading to the DRC border just for a look. I mean, why not? You can get motos to take you on a day trip to Goma which we contemplated but ended up not doing, mainly because we couldn't justify the $50 visas for just one day. We did change some money so we could add Congolese francs to our collection.

Then we headed into town along the lake shore. From here we could see the DRC shore.

Some kids approached us about making a trip into DRC [they were Congolese apparently] but we declined. They were friendly so we chatted for a while and I got them to pose with one of Fred Siwak's pictures.

Then we had an incident with some police - this seems to happen once in every country we go to, worryingly - when Stef photographed some men chopping up a large tree. Two men with guns approached us and demanded we hand the camera over. Our French and their English leave much to be desired so to begin with we couldn't figure out what we'd done. Then the word 'prisoner' [said in a French accent] was mentioned and suddenly we noticed the pink outfits the axe-wielding men were wearing. Prisoners wear pink in Rwanda. In our defence they had taken their tops off in the sun and we couldn't see the trousers of most of them because they were behind the huge tree. Also, Africans wear clothes of all colours.

Anyway, we apologised and attempted to explain that digital cameras have no film, and instead we could delete the offending photos for them. Watching the pixels disappear seemed to placate them [fortunately Stef's camera displays the photo as 'disintegrating' pixel by pixel when you delete it]. Later I found out that Stef had kept one of the photos.

Not entirely sure why taking photos of prisoners is such a bad thing - maybe they are génocidaires [perpetrators of the genocide], or maybe the cutting down of the tree is not exactly legal. Either way, the men had a right to be wondering why we were taking pictures of men cutting up a tree. They don't know that Stef is tree-mad.

Not sure what I'm looking at in this picture, possibly the approaching armed men...

After all that excitement, we headed home to do some laundry, read the Tanzania guide book and take more pictures for Fred. After doing what we plan to in Rwanda we are heading through to Tanzania via the little-used north-west. Apparently it's a bit of a slog.

So as not to get us too relaxed, Stef then declared that he couldn't find his British passport. He has dual nationality due to having a Swedish father while still being British. As Sweden is known to sit on the fence, er, I mean remain neutral, he figured it would be a good idea to travel on that and bring his British one along in case. So it's spent the trip hidden in his bag somewhere. Until now. Where could it be?

He found it later - not sure where - maybe his wash bag or something.

We hung the washing out and sat in the gardens relaxing. The palm tree in the neighbouring plot had a group of birds in it that were chattering rather loudly - on closer inspection they turned out to be the members of the relocated 'fruit bat colony' all squabbling loudly.

In the late afternoon we ordered a couple of Fantas [not hot though, please] and something about something about it didn't agree with me at all. I guess there was something on the rim, as I can't imagine the drink was bad. I hadn't eaten anything really all day so it wasn't that. Either way, not good. I spent the evening going back and forth to the bathroom. It's odd, usually when your body reacts that quickly to something - and it bounced almost immediately - the illness doesn't last that long because whatever it is is out of you quickly before it can be really absorbed. Maybe having an empty stomach meant it got into my system quickly.

This is the first real illness we've had - Moyale notwithstanding as it was over pretty quickly. Typically right before we go gorilla tracking...
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