Update: Another Bridge Down on the Road through the Okapi Reserve.

Barely a month ago, the British government replaced the Bailey Bridge that collapsed over the Ituri River along the RN4.  This is the principal road that connects Kisangani in the west to Uganda and Kenya in the east.  This road goes through the Ituri Forest, our home for nearly twenty years and the center of the Okapi Reserve.

The World Bank funded a much needed rehabilitation of the road, but did not rebuild the bridges.  Most of the many bridges have maximum weight limits of 25 tons.  Nevertheless, the newly widened, smooth road was too tempting.  It seemed to open up Congo’s vast forests with their wealth of wood.  This was not a treasure to be ignored by Congo’s largely deforested neighbors, Uganda and Kenya.

So the bridge over the Ituri went out under the weight of a timber- filled Kenya-bound truck just weeks after that section of the road was opened.   The British replaced it.

But none of the Ituri bridges were built for major tonnage;  one would think that lesson had been learned.  Not so.  This second bridge went out under the weight of another Kenya-bound truck, again filled with rough-hewn timber.  The truck was estimated at over twice, perhaps 3x the weight permissible on the bridge.

another bridge down
The truck was heading towards Kenya on the 24th of November 2009 with a load of wood from the west side of the Reserve. (photo by Conrad Aveling)

finding a way to cross
Now, to cross the river, people clamber down the side of the bridge (above), wade across the submerged sections  and scramble up the other side (below).

lots of helping hands
This gymnastic maneuver will soon be supplemented, first with dugout-ferries and possibly eventually with locally built frame boats — ingenuity is not lacking, even if there is an incapacity to enforce basic laws. (2 photos above by WCS — right?)

But for now the forest gets a brief reprieve from every-man, chain-saw logging.

Conrad Aveling just sent this photo update:

first ferry services at epulu_25 nov 09
The first ferries are crossing.

Soon there will be big enough dugouts to carry bicycles and motorcycles as well as people.

View Bridge Down in a larger map


  1. Conrad Aveling
    Posted 2009-11-26 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    hi terese, it was in fact a congolese registered truck, but the wood was bound for uganda and kenya

  2. Terese Hart
    Posted 2009-11-26 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Update updated. Thanks, Conrad.

  3. rebekah hart
    Posted 2009-11-27 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    fun post – look at those crowds of on-lookers!

  4. Arthur Droop
    Posted 2011-02-13 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Dear Terese please provide me the data how I can reach Conrad Aveling (e-mail).
    We were very good friends when he was working in Rwanda and Congo with the Mountain Gorilla and for some time I’m trying to reach him, until now without success

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