Taking a Dugout around Congo’s Rapids-the Easy Way

loaded and headed to Ubundu
Heading south to Kindu.

Taking a dugout in a truck from one port to another is sort of like carrying a heaving carp in a wagon from one pond to another pond. In the truck the dugout is a convincing “fish out of water”. Nevertheless, Sabin, our helmsman, assured me this was the least expensive and safest way to get a top-quality dugout from the downstream port of Kisangani, around the rapids, to the upsteam port of Ubundu.

Like so many other things in DRCongo – the process was completely dependent on human might and mane. There was no operational crane, no hoist, just brawn.

This is a photo documentary.

pulling up to the left bank
The new pirogue was paddled across to the left bank, and the local stevedores start hauling,

heaving it out of the water into the truck
hoisting and heaving,

this dugout would not be easy to weigh
pushing aft,

half-way loaded
positioning the bow,

nearly loaded
and finally shifting the weight.

The truck rolled slowly to Ubundu. Alas a last jolt in a pothole dislocated a bit of the stern. But Sabin put in at Ubundu, it was floating with the hole well above water.

Loading the dugout in Ubundu
Ubundu’s stevedores loading the dugout.

starting the trip upstream to Kindu
Sabin heading south, upstream to Kindu in three and a half days.

dugout repair-man in Kindu
In Kindu’s port a local dugout repairman fixes the stern (see crack in back) with leaves, tin and tar.


  1. Posted 2011-02-22 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    huuuuge boat!

  2. Lee Henry
    Posted 2011-02-24 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    As always, Terry, I am in awe of all you and your team accomplish! I never imagined the dugouts were so large. Am wondering how it would fit in our pond!

  3. colleen
    Posted 2011-02-28 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    This might seem like a silly question, but if dugouts are such a popular transportation option, then wouldn’t swimming lessons be something to consider? I just read your last post about the drownings, and i had heard about that problem before, children (and adults) not knowing how to swim – is it because of local customs, danger of just being in the water or the rapids and currents? Just curious…thanks. ps. maybe i could get a job down there teaching how to swim??? looking for a way out of cold grey berlin 😉

  4. Terese Hart
    Posted 2011-03-04 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    the ethnic groups most attached to the river (fishermen, farmers on the banks), are swimmers. In the cities however people come from all over and have need to travel and cross back and forth. Never having played in the water as children….

  5. genna anderson
    Posted 2013-09-13 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    As always,I love seeing the pictures,even if they are a few years old,reading the blogs and finally,sending on some dough, as I can.

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