Kinshasa to Katopa, on a map is 600 km, but by the winding, fast flowing Lomami River it is more than twice that distance. And now, in the dry season, even a hand-hollowed log, i.e. a keel-less dugout, requires extra days to negotiate the treacherous shallows and sandbars.
Ashley just made the trip. He left Kisangani at the beginning of September, and arrived in Katopa two and a half weeks later. Below are a few excerpts from a very long “log” of the trip
Waving farewell in Kisangani as the dugout begins the journey.
It starts out with a one line summary of logistics: “Difficult, difficult, difficult and complicated!”
And then the details:
Kisangani – Opala: Hardest to plan is food for the trip. I haven’t got it right yet really. I always try to prepare food for two days before leaving: meat and kwanga (manioc dough-sticks). However by the second day meat is already scarce no matter how I count and divide. So I intended to insist on just sardines, but after the four days it took to get to Opala we all felt unwell. Very difficult. Now in Opala and Obenge we will take on a whole lot more people : at least 40.
Maybe we can fit about ten more in there?
First day south of Obenge – We took on more than 40 men. Decided we had to have meat. So now we basically have a mini farm onboard and slaughter along the way. Goats, chickens and pigs. This crowd consume a huge amount of food. One pig does not even last a day.
Third day south of Obenge–We are making good time for the dry season. Helped that on this trip there are no women cooks. So no toilet stops. The guys are pissing off the back!!!
Lomami River looks peaceful but you should hear the stories, songs and arguments…all at the same time.
Sixth day south of Obenge: for the last five days I’ve had this rash on my thigh. Little red lumps and a yellow tint to the skin. The muscle aches and the skin is tight and hurts to the touch.
Eighth day south of Obenge: It is still very hot and my right thigh aches . Not very comfortable on the long pirogue ride. I need better novels.
Arrival Katopa : All I can say is I am glad that I dropped off three teams to make circuits. When they all get back here in 10 days there will be more of us than there are people in the village. I am going to have to use the iron rod of discipline to make sure the boys don’t cause trouble in the village….