I come from a family of hikers, and so when the opportunity arose to take a hike near Kinshasa, I jumped for it. A relatively steep hill about 45 minutes outside of Gombe (30 minutes past the airport), it is great both for a half day of exercise, or a full day excursion.
Mont Mangengenge is a pilgrimage site for the Congolese, so as one hikes up the mountain, they will pass (and be overtaken) by many people praying step by step. The few times I’ve been there, the interactions have always been positive, asking about why we were hiking (“For exercise? Crazy mundeles!”), if we were tired (“*gasp* yes *gasp*”), and so on.
The hike itself takes about 45 minutes to get to the top – most of it is pretty easy, but the last 15 minutes or so is quite steep. It seems they have built stairs since I was last there, but I have not decided if that would make that part easier or more difficult. Regardless, the first time I went, we went with three kids ranging from ages 3-8, and they made it to the top rather easily (the 8-year-old, in fact, was the first one to the top!). I went once during dry season and it was significantly less comfortable of a hike. As it hadn’t rained in several months, the ground had turned to sand so it felt like I was climbing a sand dune. For one and a half hours.
At the top, there are groups praying, but also some nice secluded spots where one has an amazing view on the Kinshasa valley (without actually seeing the city), with a nice breeze and in some places, nice villagers who bring out tables and chairs.
On the way back down, there are two options – one can either go back down the same way (which makes it a short hike up and down the mountain and can be done in one morning or afternoon), or back around the ridge, doing a full circle around where the cars are. This took me about four hours due to the sand dune hike mentioned before, but during other seasons (or with much more fit people) should take about 3 hours with some time for a picnic.
All that said, the best thing about this mountain is still its name. Try it. It’ll amuse you even when you’re not climbing!
What to Bring: Water. Lots and lots of it. Hats, sunblock, and comfortable walking shoes. Lunch if you plan on doing the whole route. Water. Did I mention water? (There were Hashes planned here to which people did not bring water and ended up with heat stroke. Seriously, bring water). A relatively dog-friendly route, though there are parts where your dog would have to stay on the leash when passing lots of pilgrims (Congolese are, by default, terrified of dogs).
When to Go: Whenever there isn’t blazing sun or a thunderstorm brewing. There is no shelter on the walk up or down the hill. During dry season, the ground turns to sand so it feels like you are climbing a sand dune so be prepared for a serious workout.
How to Get There: Go past N’djili Airport, and when you pass the tall building with the red roof on your left, turn right. This is a very sandy road no matter what time of year it is, so keep to the right side of it so as not to get stuck. Make sure you have small change for the villagers who will help you out of the sand in case you do get stuck. The path after that is pretty straight forward, though there are a few forks where it’s necessary to ask the villagers for directions. Best to take a 4×4 in case there is mud or sand that needs to be crossed.