On the Road to the Lomami

Paka ready to go
Paka was ready to go as soon as he heard about the Lomami “adventure”

Paka was so eager to join John and Ashley on the Lomami River that he sent his father, Nobirabo, to talk to me when I was in the Ituri Forest at Epulu (Okapi Faunal Reserve) earlier this month. I’ve known Nobirabo for more than 25 years. I taught him English when he was a young primary school teacher and John and I were doing our PhD research in the Ituri. Later, Nobirabo joined our project to study Okapi in the wild.
okapi_a Kim Gjerstad photo
Okapi, a horse-size forest “giraffe”, at the GIC project in Epulu. Photo by Kim Gjerstad.Kisangani

“Epulu is a long way from Kisangani,” I warned. The expedition is already making preparations in Kisangani, from there Ashley and John will launch south. But Paka had another reason for wanting to join; he could save money for going to university.
“If Paka can get to Kisangani on his own, he can work with us.”
morning tea
Paka taking his morning tea before heading for Kisangani on his one-gear bicycle.

No Problem. Paka set out with a one gear Chinese-made bicycle . It is the same model that young men modify into cargo transport-carriers to replace trucks. The road is still in too impossibly poor condition for truck traffic.
Bicycle transporters, “Toleka”, pushing their cargo up the slippery first section of road past Epulu. The Chinese have broadened and leveled but not yet surfaced.

From Epulu to Kisangani is 460 km. It took Paka 5 days.….and it was not just bad road it was a whole diversity of sorts of bad road.
Stuck in the road, a hundred km west of Epulu. This truck is waiting for spare parts, having broken down half way through the worst of it.

First: the first section of road is under rehabilitation by the Chinese road crew. At this stage of repair, if it starts to rain, it turns into a morass of slippery clay. Hard even to push a bike. The Chinese say that if this was anywhere else in the world, the road would have been done 6 months ago. As it is, in more than a year, they are just past the 2/3 mark (Epulu) of the part they contracted to repair. The worst section of road stills lies ahead of them.
Road between Adusa and Niania
This middle section of road lasts for at least 150 km — without relief.

Second : the worst section of road. This middle section is an incredibly rutted and runnelled run-off corridor. It really can no longer be called road. This will keep the Chinese busy for a while.
Road between Adusa and Niania in Oct 07
Paka says that the hardest is trying to judge where the water will be shallowest when you walk the bike through the “pits”.

Villagers have become used to welcoming the bicycle travelers who end up spending many nights on the road.

Third : the section of road where the Lebanese road crew (working east from Kisangani) have cleared and leveled only
RN4_Kis-Epulu-Kis_where the Lebanses are working
A mis-step, here in the Lebanese section, and Paka was in over his knees.

Fourth : the final two lane hard packed finished road — but beware it is already beginning to erode on the slopes !
finished road before it erodes
The last 141 km are smooth and a bicycle actually has to be careful of fast moving Lebanese pick-up trucks

in Kisangani_Paka
For the last three days Paka has been riding his bike around the “big city” of Kisangani, picking up culture before heading down the Lomami.

The dug-out will be a relief and the Lomami a smooth surface!!
Soon, again, down the Lomami.


  1. Louise L
    Posted 2007-10-28 at 4:02 am | Permalink

    And we complain about our roads! Every trip must be an expedition.

  2. Terese Hart
    Posted 2007-10-28 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    YEP. I did Epulu-Kisangani-Epulu by motorbike earlier this month. Even starting early in the morning and going late into the evening (after 22hrs on two nights!!) it was a two day journey both ways. And as you can imagine the once-active towns in the middle are only hanging on with a bit of artisanal gold and diamond mining. “Wild west” for sure.

  3. angelsiren
    Posted 2007-10-28 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Wow, what perseverance!!!! On a one gear bike.Yikes. I will never whine again about my the uphill incline on my way to work again (a mere 20 minute journey!)

  4. Terese Hart
    Posted 2007-10-30 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    yes but if we look at immediate contrast: you on your bike are putting in a lot more time and effort than all the motorists around you; whereas Paka had it easy when he compared his light loads to the incredible double-their-weight loads that the average toleka pushes.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] On the Road to the LomamiPaka ready to go Paka was ready to go as soon as he heard about the Lomami “adventure”. Paka was so eager to join John and Ashley on the Lomami River that he sent his father, Nobirabo, to talk to me when I was in Epulu (Ituri Forest) … […]

  2. […] chicken or dried fish to buy. Then we plan to continue for at least another four hours today… Paka buys a pineapple in a Leongola village. The cable leads to the GPS antenna taped beneath his […]

Post a Comment

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /home/customer/www/bonoboincongo.com/public_html/wp-content/themes/lomami/comments.php on line 91

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *