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A Tale of Two Field Trips

November 5, 2010
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The past few weekends have been full of field trips!  Here are some highlights from one trip outside if Kinshasa, and another inside of Kinshasa.

Field Trip #1: Bombo Lumene

Bombo Lumene is a game reserve about 3 hours outside of Kinshasa, run by the national park service.  Jamie and I were invited one night over Chinese food by some of our new friends to go on camping trip there, and we couldn’t pass up such a fun opportunity to hop in the 4-wheel drive cars and get out of Kinshasa a bit.

Check out our photos on Picasa and an awesome map – click here!

We “camped” outside a lodge which looked out onto a valley with a river at the bottom.  I say “camped” with finger quotes because, although some of us did sleep in tents and we did sit around a campfire while Jamie played guitar… it was the staff on site that put the tents up for us, started our campfire, and even did the dishes… And without having to bicker over those essential camping activities, I hesitate to call our trip camping without using qualifying quotes.

Regardless, the site was beautiful and surprising.  I was expecting that we would be met with a much more jungle-ness than the grassy plains we discovered there.  The landscape was shrub savanna and gallery forest, over gently rolling hills populated apparently by antelope and water buffalo, though we didn’t see any on this trip.  We did however  have one close encounter with dangerous wildlife- a group of loudly bleating goats broke into the lodge for an early morning raid on our breakfast baguettes.  Oh, those crazy goats.

The highlight of the trip by far was the river nearby.  We hiked down to the bottom of the valley, then across a rickety-looking but actually quite sturdy woven vine bridge (check out the photos above!), to get to a small sandy bank on the river, perfect for swimming… or landing.  The real activity though was to hike upstream, jump off a low hanging tree branch into the swift river current and float downstream, past the little kids splashing around while their moms did laundry, dodging rocks and tree roots, then kicking your way back over the to the sandy bank to land.  It was really fun… and the water sure looked clean…

As a southern Californian, swimming in a river is kind of a novelty for me.  And to be perfectly honest, the closest experience I had had to this so far was summers at Raging Waters (“where the 10, 210 and 57 meet in San Dimas…”).  But now I know where they got the idea of water slides- who would have thought?

I was certainly glad to support the national park service and the rangers there, who did a great job accommodating us and seemed to maintain the park really well.  DR Congo is struggling to re-vamp its tourism industry, so if I can contribute to making the preservation of national parks a profitable industry vs. poaching or cutting down trees for charcoal (like in the gorilla parks in the east a few years ago, see this article from National Geographic), I am certainly ok with that.

Field Trip #2: Victoire

With upwards of 10 million people, Kinshasa is, needless to say, enormous.  Since Jamie and I live and work in the Gombe neighborhood, it’s nice for us to get out and see other parts of the city.  So, David has continued with our weekend tours, taking us around to see more of Kinshasa.

Most recently, we took a trip to Victoire, a bustling hub of shops and vendors, where, David tells us, “on peut acheter tous, sauf que les humains”- you can buy anything but humans.

Our first stop, however, was the the top floor of a 6 or 7 story hotel/night club/restaurant for the view.  In general, we’ve been advised that it’s not a good idea to take photos in Kinshasa…ever.  Police officers apparently like to harass photo-happy foreigners, accusing them of being spies and then confiscating their cameras (or worse).  Luckily, the only other folks on the top of this building were some ladies doing laundry, who were relatively disinterested in us and our photo-happy ways.

And so, I am happy to present to you all my first photos of Kinshasa for your viewing pleasure.

Here, you can see the roundabout of Victoire, with streets emanating from the center to the rest of the city.

Here you can see the Stade des Martyrs in the background, the big soccer stadium.

Here, we’re looking out at another hotel/night club/restaurant across the street, and you can see 3 of the biggest brands of beer advertised on billboards (Mutzig and Primus are easy to see, but can you find Turbo King??).  In the background, garlands of drying clothes hang outside apartment building windows.

And here, you can see a little closer some of the street vendors under bright primary color umbrellas.  I think these guys were selling bread (fresh baguettes!) from a nearby bakery.

My dad asked me a while ago what Kinshasa looked like, what the buildings were like and everything.  He said that in his head, he pictured it full of buildings from several decades ago, some maybe well-maintained, some not in great shape.

Is this what you pictured Kinshasa to be like?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Aunt Melodee permalink
    November 6, 2010 3:07 am

    Oddly, it is kinda what I pictured Kinshasa to look like…and I did find the Turbo King ad painted on the wall on the left of the photo. What a lovely “camping” trip you two had! It looks idyllic. Halloween was fun, we went to Shorter’s (little bar on 4th and the blvd.) to see our friends Hindsight/2020. You gotta check out my costume on facebook, I’m also going to post some pictures our friend Ginny took at the bar. Hopefully we can join the next skype session and see you in “person.”
    It may be a little exciting here in Yucaipa tomorrow night… there is a play being presented at Crafton Hills College called “The Laramie Project,” about Matthew Shepard, a young man who was murdered for being gay. The Westbro Baptist Church people are staging a picket to protest the performance at the school tomorrow evening, Robbie and some of his friends are joining a counter-protest. I plan to go to keep an eye on things. But I might have a sign that might say something…provocative. Robbie is going to a party with his friends tonight to make t-shirts to wear tomorrow. Maybe I’ll also take my camera and post those pics, too! Love to you both.

  2. Aunt Melodee permalink
    November 12, 2010 4:46 am

    Grandpa Tom here: Glad you are enjoying yourselves, it’s an interesting looking area. Love, Grandpa

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