March 2 1953 (Monday) Land Mileage 5491
We got moving early, at 06h30, then driving through the small village of Butembo before a climb to 7,000 feet, where we crossed the Equator! We got out of the Land Rover and took some photographs (none of which seem to have come out!), but it was too cold to stay long. This was the coldest we had felt since leaving Marseilles, and here we were at the Equator, which we had believed to be one of the hottest places in the world! It is certainly hot in many places, but certainly not at 7,000 feet! Further on, we reached the village of Lubero, where we managed to buy some strawberries for one shilling and four pence; what a feast we would have with pineapples and strawberries!
Forty three miles later, we reached the top of the Kabasha Escarpment; from this high point, the road takes a long and very tricky descent, with the road cut into the cliff face for 12 miles! The view was quite incredible and we could see right across the Albert National Park. The park was founded in 1925 by King Albert I of Belgium and is now known as Virunga National Park, it was the first national park on the continent of Africa. It was first started to protect the mountain gorillas, but later was extended further north to cover a much greater area. Although not easily identifiable from such a distance, we could see huge herds of wild animals roaming over the vast expanse of land before us. Dad unfortunately could not appreciate this magnificent sight, as he had his work cut out concentrating on staying on the very winding, narrow road. It was certainly a sight that the rest of us would never forget. On reaching flat land again, we drove along the edge of the park and saw many types of antelope, buffalo, hippopotami and herds of elephant. While on one very narrow stretch of road with trees on either side, going towards Rutshuru, a very large bull elephant suddenly blocked our path. He walked slowly towards us flapping his gigantic ears and before we knew what was happening, Dad had the vehicle in reverse and we were shooting back down the road from where we had just come. I doubt if anyone has ever been so fast in reverse gear before, or since for that matter! David and Mum were both ready with their cameras, but neither of them managed to get a shot in all the haste. Watching from a distance, the bull stayed in the middle of the road for some time eating from the trees, before having a good rub and a scratch against a tree trunk. Finally he decided to walk off into the bush and barely had his back foot disappeared, Dad was in first gear and racing past the disappearing elephant!
We drove through Rutshuru into some hilly passes, through stunning scenery. The road crosses the watershed between Lakes Edward (Nile catchment area) and Kivu (Congo catchment area). It passes through a chain of volcanoes, the Virunga Range comprising of Nyamlagira (10,025 feet), Nyragongo (11,380 feet), Rukoma or Kateruzi (10,850 feet), Karisimbi (14,785 feet) and Mokeno (14,560 feet).
|Volcano Nyragongo at Lake Kivu|
We drove through Gomo, which at about 4,800 feet above sea level is on the shore of Lake Kivu; we arrived at the Kisenyi settlement about 2 miles out of Gomo and pulled up at the Bugoyi Guest House at around 18h30. Dad booked us into a suite of rooms and we all had the pleasure of hot baths and a really good clean up. After a good meal, we went to sit outside to watch the volcanoes, several of which were showing signs of quiet activity. The sky above them had taken on a glowing red colour; very exciting, in the darkness that surrounded them! We decided that this was a lovely spot to have a break and Dad extended our stay for another three days.
I am unsure, but I think this guest house may have been wiped out in the 1977 eruption of Nyragongo. A lot of people were killed in this display of Nature's fury, but as the reported figures vary from hundreds to thousands, the exact loss of life probably can never be determined.
|Having a cuppa at the Rest House. How civilised can you get in wildest Africa?|
|Writing home. No I was not, and I am still not, short sighted; must be the concentration required! Note my pith helmet by my side for sun protection!|
To be continued :-)
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