Sunday, 17 March 2013

Leaving Gomo; discovering the Congo's one way road systems!

March 6 1953 (Friday) Land Mileage 5756

Off on our travels once more, after a final hot bath and an excellent cooked breakfast at the guesthouse!

Departing from Gomo, we found ourselves driving on a narrow track though lava fields; the surface was not too bad at all and not at all dusty, quite a change from what we had become used to!  We passed "Lac Vert", which, true to its name, was a small crater lake and very green! Leaving the lava fields behind,  the road became very slippery and muddy due to the recent rains, while it remained very narrow and winding.   

We passed through Sake and on to the Bobandana mission; here the road became much steeper, narrow and winding.   It was very mountainous country, the highest point being Col Nyabibwe at 6,500 feet!  In places it was a one way road, so there were several waits along the way, checking that the road was clear to proceed.   It was very pretty scenery, but again, Dad never got to appreciate the countryside, as it was taking all his driving skills to remain on the road, and not to slide off into the forest. We drove through some hilly areas which we understood to be coffee plantations, before eventually arriving at Costermansville in the rain.    Dad went to the Belgian Tourist Office for maps, as we wanted to take a different road from the one in the Trans-African Highways book.   We filled up with petrol, then continued over some high mountain ranges, the track again being operated on a one way system. 
Waiting at the barrier to be given the all clear
When we reached the start of the one way system, an African with a drum beat out a message to another one further along the route.   He would in turn reply by way of the drums, letting the other know where we were and if the road was clear.  The system worked very well up until 18h00, when it was time for the drummers to knock off work, and then it was a case of taking a chance and praying that you did not have to reverse  too far if you met another vehicle !!  We were fine, as it happened, and managed to get through before knocking off time!!    While driving  down the other side of the mountain, we were lucky enough to see a mountain leopard in the headlights.   It crossed over the road in front of us and we were all able to see it quite clearly.  An amazing sight!  As soon as we found a place to pull off the road, we stopped for the night and by then it was just on 19h00.
African huts in the Congo
March 7 1953 Land Mileage 5895

We left our camp at around 07h00 and after travelling for only a few miles, we came up to a bridge that had been washed away.   Luckily we only had to do a small detour before we regained our route. We went through a couple of small villages and then found ourselves travelling along the banks of Lake Tanganyika.

The view was wonderful; the water was crystal clear and looked very refreshing!   With the golden light of the sun shining across the water, it was certainly a stunning sight after the rains.  We then reached another drum barrier on the road through the mountains, as we climbed up and away from the lake.   We arrived at Fizi at 12h15 where we were able to top up the petrol tanks again and then on through even more mountainous country.   This was gorilla country, but unfortunately, although we were scanning the countryside for any movement, we saw only smaller monkeys at intervals, swinging through the trees.   At 15h30 we came to more drum barriers, where we had to wait for a while for an oncoming vehicle.
This was taken at almost the same time, I see, as the photo above; just the young boy has gone missing!
Everyone came out from their huts to take a look at us, so we gave the children some sweets that we had with us.   Dad turned on the radio and managed to pick up some music; meanwhile the oldest lady of the group started to dance and obviously had a lot of rhythm in her soul!  Never a dull moment on this trip!     The vehicle that we were waiting for had still not appeared, so they suggested that it must have pulled off somewhere in the middle and we should proceed with caution!    We really had to be careful, as it was a very twisting, narrow and hazardous road.   We drove into each and every corner blasting the horn, in the hopes that if anyone was coming they would hear us first!   After a while we passed a broken down lorry, so we then knew that the remainder of the road should be safe.    We found a good place to camp around 18h00, so decided that it was not worth pushing on any further.

To be continued :-) 

I have put this section of my life story on Kindle if you should be interested:-


  1. Diane, thanks for your new adventure. Araceli.

    1. Araceli García It is a pleasure, I am glad that you are enjoying it as I am loving re-living it all. Keep well Diane

  2. Your trip just gets more and more exciting. It must have been a strain on your dad.

    1. diane I am not sure that Dad ever thought of it as a strain, he had been driving long hours all his life and although this was different he still enjoyed it. Diane


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