Sunday, May 5, 2013

Into Africa...Trip From Kinshasa to Zongo Falls


0600 Departure time from apartment parking area...
The Bybees & Moons in the dark truck
and the good guys (Smiths, Mac Coleman & driver, James)
in the white.

The dangerous part of our trip started with having to drive
behind or next to this truck full of African hardwood,
(cut down in the Congo rain forest and shipped to China).

Crowded streets with countless vendors before getting
on the main highway.

People, people everywhere... buying, selling, walking, talking.

One of the first of many abandoned, rusted out wrecks
or broken down vehicles we saw on the "Matadi Highway"

Neat and nice African huts along the road.

This wreck looked even older than the previous one.
There's no DOT or any organization to take them away.
They are simply pulled off the road and left.

Sometimes you see little homes up against the side of a hill
or down at the bottom of a gully.  Mudslides sometimes take them.

This guy ran to get on the car (notice, no rear window)
and perched precariously as it drove off.

An example of the foliage we would see on many trucks.
Our driver, James, explained that they were put down as
warning signs if a truck broke down on a hill or curve,
so blind approaching traffic would know 
there was a problem ahead and (hopefully) slow down.
We saw MANY clumps of grass on the trip... 
but only worried and slowed if it was green.

These poor people were riding in this broken down truck.
If it couldn't get fixed, who knows how they would 
reach their destination.  If you look VERY closely, 
you will see that the driver trying to fix it is INSIDE the hood.

At least THIS guy had a rack to grasp.
Sometimes we cannot see ANY way that they are holding on.

This picture was simply to give a "feel" for the amount of traffic
 on this supposedly two-lane road.  You never knew when
you would suddenly see 2 cars coming straight at you.

Another broken down truck.  I only took a handful
of pictures and could have taken fifty.

Power lines revealed the fact that there was a hydro-electric
facility ahead.  Zongo Falls could provide enough electricity 
a lot of Africans, but the plant is old.

Another breakdown... in the lane enough to block traffic.

In case you thought this was just a picture of a pickup truck,
look again and realize what a heavy load he is carrying.
(And, that doesn't count the 2 or 3 people who will climb atop)
Of course, right now, he is broken down... no wonder!

Beautiful hill country with palms and lots of green.
We are still "enjoying" the paved road,
but you hold your breath on the curves & hills,
because center lines mean little on the "Matadi Road". 

This is a drop off area for trucks to deliver
cassava (staple, with little or no nutrition) or charcoal.

Palms and distant power lines.

Another pretty scene of lush flora and hilly, curvy road.

James was a good driver... a fact that is obvious by the fact
that, for the first time in 15 months, I was in a vehicle 
that sometimes got up to 60 mph.  In Kinshasa, I fuss at George
when he gets to about 30!!

Anyone who knows me, knows I love palms.

A more recent breakdown... 
seems like it would be salvageable.

This was a particularly palm-filled area and I had to get it.
Notice another sharp curve.

The Matadi Road is narrow and very heavily traveled.
And, did I mention that it is hilly and curvy? This was the 
most common speed sign.  It is in kilometers and equals 31 mph.  

As we approached these vehicles, we wondered why
so many were stopped (and these first two were even stopped 
FACING us!)  As we followed the car ahead, and got to
a better vantage point.  We saw why...

This was only the first part of a horrendous accident.
There are other vehicles to the left and right of the truck.
It appeared that he had crossed over and hit whatever was 
traveling in the other lane...
 One truck which was hit, was carrying a load of charcoal,
(and probably some inside and outside passengers).
It was still burning so hotly that it was uncomfortable
to us as we narrowly passed on the right.

Matadi is the only shipping port for the DR Congo and
the Matadi Road is the only road to the capital, Kinshasa.
Multiply this picture by about ten miles and you will have
a good idea of the total standstill of northbound traffic
due to the accident.

Because of our mission, this is now a SIMPLE pronunciation..
along with places called Mbuji Mayi , Ngaliema & Mont Ngafula.
And, don't even get me started on the names of some of 
our missionaries from Madagascar!!
(first, middle & last name of one was 64 letters!)

Familiar sight was people on bikes...

Or walking alongside the road.

Entering a small "junction".

A nice sign for a church... not sure of the denomination.
But, interestingly, the part on the right is in English?

An easy-to-miss sign pointed the way to the turn off
for the 4-wheel drive portion of our trip.

An old Army truck... not sure what year.
Africa is FULL of recycled vehicles, mostly from Europe.

An OLD Belge railway crossing.  I hope that it is no longer used.

The "downtown shopping" area before we got to the countryside.

Thatched houses in a small group.

A Chinese truck broke down (right in the middle of a very muddy road).
I remember, when about 6 yrs old, my mother gave me a joke/puzzle book.
I could NOT figure out one that was just one sentence... 
"How Long Is A Chinaman's Name".  Do you know the answer?
Well, anyway, these three guys had a looooong way to walk back.

Somehow this video of Zongo Falls is out of sequence.
My suggestion is to not open it and either come back
or just look at the videos further on...

Mac Coleman's "official" sign that gave us a sort of
"Get Out of Jail FREE" pass on the four roadblocks.

Sometimes people would mysteriously emerge from these 
tall grasses onto the highway.. no visible path.
The next several are just scenes along the way 
to give you a "feel" for the Africa we saw.

A few sites where charcoal was dropped off.
Villagers come purchase it to do all their cooking.

I don't want to take these off because they're so long to load.
Again, my recommendation is to come back if you want,
but there will be other videos in chronological order soon.

Again, suggest you watch the ones further down later...

Yet another heavy load and broken down..

Adults and children with farming tools were walking
for miles on our road and then veered off...
On the way home that night, they were walking back.

Airtel made a good deal... improve the building and plaster
a lot of advertising on it.

The flag is to designate the occupant's political affiliation.

Notice the roof "repair".

When we got to the facility at Zongo Falls,
we were shocked at the lovely grounds, clean & attractive restaurant.
However, Mac & George were surprised to find an unwelcome
visitor in the men's room.

Don't ask...

The DRC government had something to do with 
the development of the facilities for tourists at Zongo Falls.
So, there is the obligatory picture of the president.

The Reception Desk was attractive.

A little "sun room" at the reception entrance.  
While we sat and relaxed here, the waiter took our orders
 for the riverside lunch we would enjoy after the trek to the falls.

Mac Coleman and Sister Bybee. 
The latter is 1/2 of the Public Affairs missionary couple.
Mac was such a help and guide for this trip.
He flew to DC for "de-briefing" just two days later,
and then to Houston to retire from many years of 
military and government service.

Nice bungalows for those who can afford them.

Tents are popular... about $40 a night.
Not bad, but you have to walk to the bathroom.

Covered outside dining areas by the river.
Picture taken from the sun room.

We ate in the one to the right.

Appropriately named... "Zongo"

Another view of the grounds with it's beautiful greenery 
and flowers galore... the next few pictures tell the story.

This was our first view of the beginning of the falls,
but there were still many more flowers to see on the way.

Elder Bybee is a collector of butterflies.
At one point, we yelled to him to hurry back to where we were.
But, his net simply couldn't capture the large, incredibly beautiful
 turquoise & black specimen.  I was sorry & glad at the same time.

Now we are getting closer to the actual top of the falls.

And... unexpectedly... there was a fisherman with his net.

He may have been catching our lunch.

Elder Moon & George and a moss-covered tree.

Our first view of the edge of the falls.

For my family and all who want to  play...
Find the frog.

A few more steps and we could feel the mist.

A view of some of the mud we had to step through...
or slip through.

A view of the small gap in the trees that allowed light
down into the dense jungle.

Several similar pictures of our first (higher) view of the falls.

I tried to let the pictures show the movement of the mist
as the breeze would shift slightly.

We could see and feel the mist coming toward us.

Sometimes, it would completely envelop us.

Then, we couldn't see past where we were standing.

But, though we couldn't SEE it, the sound of the falls
was very loud and quite impressive just to listen to.

Besides, it was a hot day and it felt good.

AND... we got our Saturday bath a day early.

Then, it would fade away from us.. so we could see again.

As the mists covered the nearby jungle, you knew
why it was so lush.

We'd already had to hike down a difficult trail (of sorts), 
and now we had to do more to go further down.
This trek was not for the faint of heart.. logs, stones, boulders,
vines, branches, plants w/ sharp points, and lots of mud 
to make everything slippery.

But, I must say that, our Heavenly Father gave me a special
"tender mercy" when He answered my sincere prayer.
I asked that my knee(s), which had been damaged on an
elliptical machine in February, would weather this long trip
AND the hike down to the falls. 
 It was a minor miracle that they did.

Look at this picture of George, silhouetted against that
incredibly powerful deluge of water coming down...

As well as the beautiful small falls at the side...
and tell me it wasn't worth risking our lives for!

This was our guide.. whose name I've now forgotten.
The white object in the rear is not a ghost,
it's George.

Or, as my daughter Juli would say.. 

An example of two dangers... mossy boulders that had
to be walked across and a cane-like plant that featured
a pointed "spear" that could certainly have done serious damage.

Now... several MORE pictures of beautiful & exotic flowers.

Our waiter, who gave me his business card.
I gave him an LDS "Pass Along" card.

I asked this woman in the gift shop if I could take her picture.
She immediately said, "Oui" and struck a pose!

This was at the end of our climb back up and I think
that is why George was flashing the "V for Victory" sign.

Since I didn't get a picture of this when we drove in,
just took it as we headed out.

This place is a popular destination for United Nations folks
and Europeans who work and live in Kinshasa.
We met a family from Bruge, Belgium on the hike down.
That is near where my maternal Grandfather was born.

Within a block of the resort entrance is a small, manually
lifted roadblock... There were a total of four w/ one
being large and formidable.  But, this nice little official sign
got us through each one quickly AND without paying a bribe.

The old Belge hydro-electric plant up the Zongo River..

Shortly after the Zongo River goes down the falls,
it meets the Congo River and, at that confluence,
(had we wanted to hike another hour and a half)
we could have seen crocs and hippos.
None of us were up to that, but we had to get back
to Kinshasa before nightfall anyway.

Power lines

And, more power lines.  We even saw evidence of TV dishes
where I guess they tied in to the electricity.

Several road scenes as we drove back.

Approaching that terrible accident from the other side.
All the northbound traffic that had been stuck for miles
was cleared.  But, the one truck was still burning a little.

Notice the children playing on the wreckage of the several vehicles.

And, still some fire.

Maybe they were looking for something of value.

Does the driver of this loaded van even CARE
that there could be someone coming as he passes on this curve?
I held my breath so many times and prayed that we 
would NOT become collateral damage.

How big of a vehicle would you suppose all of this is loaded on?

Would you have guessed a small pickup truck?

And, how about living dangerously by riding on the TOP?

Trying to beat the gathering storm clouds..

Road and village scenes again....

This guy had to have help getting the vehicle started...

Then, the helpers ran to catch up and  hop on.

This guy was ON and all the way to his perch in seconds.

A load of bricks, nicely kept grass AND a flag 
supporting the current president of the DRC.
Coincidence?  I think not.

Just one final picture of this beautiful African treasure.
I'm so thankful for all the beautiful creations that 
our Heavenly Father has provided on this earth...
and for the opportunities which he has given me to see so many.

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