This is Michel, Georg and the car Michel drives through Kinshasa for our TL2 project nearly every day.
It is a Mitsubishi. Made in 1991, first sold in Germany, later resold in Kinshasa for 4800 USD, a good buy for Kin. We had to have a car if Kinshasa, capital of Congo, was going to be an effective logistics and lobbying base for the TL2 project. No matter that the Lomami River is more than 1000 miles to the east. So, we were Mitsubishi’s proud purchasers in September 2007 and it is still holding together, thanks to Michel.
Michel knows how to move in this city, which is the only real jungle in Congo.
I had a meeting with the Minister of the Environment at 12 noon yesterday but at 11h30 there was gridlock throughout Gombe (the administrative borough in Kinshasa, or downtown). Michel took one look and turned the Mitsubishi in the opposite direction; we made a grand tour of Kinshasa, via the boroughs of Limete, Kalamu, Kasa-vubu and Lingwalu to arrive on the other side of Gombe barely five minutes late for my meeting.
By the way Kinshasa is no small city. Conservative lines on the google-map give 30 km east-west and 25 km north-south. Inhabitants: more than 7 million. The third largest on the continent.
I gave Michel the camera a couple nights ago, so that he could take pictures of how he gets to and from work. Here is what he got:
The taxi-buses are old camionettes from Europe refurbished with holes cut for air and benches for sitting.
Taxi-buses do not have touch-control driving. Click and Clack of MPR could do some interesting interviews if they could speak Lingala.
After the taxi-bus Michel either pays 200 FC (around 35 cents) for a taxi-motorcycle home or (most often) he walks the rest of the way.
The train is slightly cheaper than the taxi-bus and the taxi-car but only makes the run twice a day.
Traveling in Kinshasa has its down sides. Safety is the obvious one. Two days ago Michel encountered this scene near his sister’s house. A storm took a tree down, a taxi-bus was hit. Seventeen people were killed. Only a baby and a young boy survived.