From Mombasa to Kinshasa

I spent a few days in Kenya visiting my Mum, taking her and her husband Chapati to dinner to celebrate her 70th birthday. Yes, 70th!! She doesn’t look it, doesn’t act it and says she doesn’t feel it. Maybe perpetual youth is one of the benefits that comes from being with a younger man…

They still seem as happy as ever together, and although the money is tight and Mum has had malaria now eight times, she would not be anywhere else.

Our few days together were quickly over though, and I flew on to Kinshasa, and from there to the town of Mbandaka a further 700km up the River Congo, for the start of a holiday in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was more excited than I’ve been about a holiday for a long time, as I have wanted to travel on this river for years. Originally I expected to take one of the public barges between Kinshasa and Kisangani, but given their irregularity and their propensity to break down or get stuck on sandbanks for weeks/months, it was something I was never able to arrange. Then I spotted this organised trip on a traditional-style Congolese longboat, ten days cruising between Mbandaka and Lisala (the middle third of the river between Kinshasa and Kisangani), camping in small villages and fishing camps on the banks each night, and decided this was the way to do it.

To my surprise there was only one other tourist on the trip, a laid-back Australian guy, and with us were the owner/guide, his wife the cook, his son and the crew. We settled in, ordered a beer and sat back to watch the life on the river.

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