DAY TWENTY-FIVE Another long, hot day of driving brought us, finally, to Kisangani on the banks of the Zaire River. The sun had been beating down on us all day but as we neared the river, the air became cool and moist and then, suddenly, we emerged from the jungle to see the great river before us, shining in the late afternoon sun as it rolled past the town.
We drove in to the Olympia Hotel where we indulged in cold beer, a cooked meal of pork, chips and cabbage, as well as showers and toilets.
The cool of the late evening gave way to a hot, muggy night but we slept well.
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.