Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I really don't think anyone will believe this TRUE story...So on Monday in Pweto I am trying to make the arrangements to leave Pweto for Lubumbashi where my flight departs (Thursday), since the plane has no fuel obviously I had to look at other options. I meet with the head of office, UNHCR in Pweto and he gives me 4 options...
1. depart Pweto in 20 minutes for a 2 days trip back to Lubumbashi via road
2. depart Tuesday for Moba (about 8+ hour 'road' trip) and 'hope' that it isn't raining (it did...) and that the plane can land and take me to Lubumbashi
3. depart for Lubumbashi in a pick-up truck with 3 people already going again, for a 2 day drive to Lubumbashi
4. depart Tuesday around 9am via UNHCR driver (3 hours) from Pweto through Zambia, take a small boat cross into DRC again and find a taxi or bus to Lubumbashi (4 hours)
I decided on #4. And so the journey begins...me, a woman and child the driver all depart Pweto by 9am. We get to the border of Zambia/DRC around 930am in pouring rain and have to wait for the customs/border control guy as he is 'home sleeping...he had a rough night' (lmao). We wait about 30+ minutes and the driver walks to his house and brings him. We pass. We continue on for 3+ hours now and arrive to the 'boat' (see photo) again, lmao. We cross to DRC as I watch 4 kids paddle us in 100+ degree weather I feed them the only crackers I have on me...we arrive and immediately 5 guys are fighting to assist us with our bags (as I am struggling to keep my balance getting out of the boat!). We make our way to the border control there and I hand over my cool UNHCR paper that allows me to be exempt from paying visas due to an agreement between Zambia/DRC for refugee work). All is good and the 2nd in command walks us all the way up to the 'bus station'. We pay for our ticket and wait...I buy the 2nd in command a beer (per his persistent request) and offer the woman and child a fanta. The bus arrives and we are fighting through the crowd of people, babies, fish, maize, bags, rain (the list goes on...) to find a seat. They make me, the 'Mzungu' a make-shift seat right on the top step of the bus (yep- lmao). We are full- overloaded actually and it is POURING RAIN which had us slipping and sliding all over the muddy non-existent road...we get stuck. Only 45+ minutes into our 4+ hour drive and we are STUCK- yes, it is still raining!EVERYONE is now told to exit the bus, so now you have about 100 people in the middle of the 'road' in the middle of no where waiting... on average there are about 2 cars that pass along this road per day mind you. The men begin to dig with no tools this takes some time. People are taking their shoes off as the mud is too thick and slippery to move about in shoes. Together we are gathering sticks, sand even mounds that are being broken down to fill in the massive holes. Then, all the men get behind the bus and push...not going anywhere. We wait. Try again- it gets worse. Now, the rain stops but the sun is going down...it has been said that we will sleep here (all of us in the bus!). No network AT ALL, no radio, no cars, nothing. Finally....after about an hour+ a car comes through...it's a landrover (the ONLY durable cars in DRC)- I flad them down and speak in my very broken (but getting good!) Swahili, "Where are you going, Lubumbashi!?!!????)- "Ndyio, twende"he says (Yes, let's go). I am delighted...during this the bus is being pulled by a make shift rig of a truck and getting 'un-stuck' thinks are looking up. So the bus starts to move and out of fear of getting stuck again it continues to move...so everyone is running to catch up and get back on the bus (100+ people), all of our bags are still on the bus as well. I tell 'dada' the woman to come with me in the car, she is now stuck on the bus, it stops, then goes (like a joke really), finally she jumps out I grab the kid and our bags are thrown out of the windows!!!! lmao!!!! Then without knowing there were 2 other guys that followed, 2 guys that speak a bit of English, we made 'friends' during our wait time. So now it is dark, I am in a car with what seems to be a nice Congolese man named 'Toto' the woman, child and 2 men! We have our bags and head off for Lubumbashi and say "Kwaheri" to the bus, mud and rain! Ironically, the driver had the song 'Over' on as well (which is in the film Marisa and I did....lol).
Ok, so now I feel great, I mean I am so so so happy- don't have to sleep in the bus, will arrive in Lubumbashi before midnight and I have new friends, we are all singing and happy. Then, the driver gives me a gift...a TURTLE! Yes, he had a tiny little tortoise smaller than the palm of my hand on his dash board. He said, 'this is for you, take it to America with you'. We all decide to name him 'Tagcua' which is the name of the bus...it just made sense. So the who drive I had little Tacgua to take care of.
We get to Lubumbashi, drop off my 'friends' at the post (center of town) and the driver takes me to the MAG house. I had called a MAG employee/friend Useni to meet us. Together the three of us go eat pizza and have a beer- my treat ;-) I was happy- very very happy (especially since I hadn't eaten since the morning of the previous day!).
Now I am here in Lubumbashi getting 'things done' looking after my turtle and preparing for my trip tomorrow. Turns out Nairobi is having 'power problems' as I have a friend stuck there at the airport- and London is have weather problems so tomorrow should be yet another interesting travel story day!
Ok. I will post this now and write more later....lol