DAY TWENTY-FOUR Linda and I got up at 5:30AM and went down for a bath in the warm, mist-shrouded river. We got everything packed in the truck eventually and headed away from Epulu.
The first 40km was over a pretty rough road and took us about three hours to cover. We stopped at a small stream and hauled water up in a bucket on
Collecting water from a roadside creek, Zaire.
a rope to fill the tank. Then we drove on. The road was mostly pretty good and by the time we pulled up in a small quarry next to a village, we had made over 250 km.
Oh, we stopped at a little dusty town at about 2:30, one street, some ramshackle buildings with the sun beating down and, lo & behold!…a shop sold ICE (literally) COLD COKE, FANTA AND BEER!! We Indulged! The shop had a battered old Westinghouse kerosene fridge and, man, it worked a treat!!
DAY TWENTY-THREE Linda and I woke up at 6:30 feeling 100% better after a good night’s sleep, and went down to the river to do our washing. It was wonderfully peaceful with a cool mist hanging over the swiftly-flowing water that quickly vanished as the sun rose above the jungle and warmed the air. We did our washing and frolicked in the warm water then lazed round the camp.
Epulu Life. Our driver, Scotty, relaxing in the Epulu River.
At 11:00, we set off with the American guy who looks after the animals at the Station which is funded by a private individual from Florida. The main purpose of the Station is the capture and study of the Okapi which lives only in the Epulu forest. They have several in enclosures as well as several species of primates most of which have been confiscated from tourists who have bought them from natives.
Another feature of the Station is the Pygmy village where the Pygmies employed by the Station to collect food for the Okapi live. They sold us a few
Me and a Pygmy man at Epulu, Zaire.
bits and pieces and let us take their photos but it was sad to see such people, whose real home is the forest, spoiled by the influence of money and drink.
We spent the afternoon relaxing in the shade, writing letters and just catching up on little jobs that needed doing. We had a big feed of stew and rice for tea and it was really nice, being the first solid food we had had since Monday lunch!
DAY TWENTY-TWO It was a very sad and sorry bunch that packed up the truck and drove away from a quarry littered with pools of chunder and piles of loo paper¹. It was a stinking hot day and the drive to Epulu seemed to take forever. One guy, Simon, who had been sick during the night and isn’t really the type of guy to stand up to a bit of hardship, passed out from dehydration.
We got to Station de Capture d’Epulu at about 4:00 and set up camp in a beautiful shady glade next to the rapids on the Epulu River. We bathed in the river and relaxed over cold drinks from the ranger station and played with some young chimpanzees that live at the station. Linda and I went to bed at 8:00 and fell straight to sleep.
¹ Somewhere in the Congo Jungle, buried in an unmarked grave, is a pair of blue and yellow Canterbury shorts. I loved those shorts. Those shorts were like a pair of shorts to me. But on that fateful night back in 1989, as I crawled from our tent with the cramping pain of diarrhoea full on me, those innocent shorts were suddenly and irreversibly ruined. They lie there still, interred in the jungle where they fell.
DAY TWENTY-ONE We got an early start and drove all day. We camped in a quarry in the jungle and that’s when the trouble started. One by one we started vomiting and shitting in the most awful way I have ever suffered. It was literally water, and by 9:30 only 5 people were unaffected. We decided we must have caught something from un-purified water and we spent a very uncomfortable night.
DAY TWENTY Today was another day of making miles. Our route took us through the Virunga National Park, a large basin set in close against the Rwenzoris¹. We had a cold drink and a snack of ham & cheese in the hotel set in the middle of the park and while we were sitting in the truck a full grown baboon jumped up and, bold as brass, started going through stuff looking for food. A warden chased him off & we posted guards to keep the rest of the troop away.
We drove up to the foot of the hills and had lunch at an observation point then followed the winding road up into the highlands.
We drove non-stop all afternoon and reached the town of Beni about 4:30. We did a bit of shopping in the market then camped in a quarry just out of town after stopping for a beer in the Beni Pub.
¹ The Rwenzori Mountains are a part of the Equatorial mountain chain of Central/East Africa. The mountains support glaciers, rich alpine forests and are one of the sources of the waters that become the River Nile.
DAY TWENTY Linda and I got up at 6:00 and went down to the river for a bath.
We left the camp and drove into Rutshuru where we dropped Fran¹ off. She caught a Matatu (literally “one more”) down to Goma on her way back to Nairobi. The three missing kiwis turned up just as we were about to leave and would have come with us but they wanted to see the gorillas so they will meet us in Kisangani. We have a long way to go to get there, so we drove all day and camped the night in a hill-top quarry.
¹ Fran, and Australian girl, had come on the first two weeks of the trip in order to see the mountain gorillas. She now had to return alone to Nairobi to catch a flight back to Australia.
DAY NINETEEN I got up at 6:00 when the rest of the gang left to go up to the gorillas, and bought 20 eggs off a local that came round. Linda, Ian, Mike, Scotty & I had fried eggs for brekkie, then spent the day sorting out the truck and relaxing.
When the others got back a 4:00, we packed up and drove back down to Chutes Rutshuru for the night.