This trip turned into one of the biggest, craziest, and most hilarious adventures I’ve had yet in the Congo. We had the whole trip planned out. We would camp at the bottom of the mountain by one of the waterfalls, and hike up the mountain until we had to turn back to make it back to Kinshasa before dark. As we should have known, Congo had other plans for us.
The trip there was very easy, we called the guide when we got to Kimpese town to guide us to the campsite. We drove only a few minutes before we parked the cars, collected our stuff including coolers and packs of water, and got ready to go. We left some stuff in the car, thinking we would be camping 20 minutes away, and headed off. Only to face what some people call a bridge, or what I like to call a tightrope. The poor guide and one brave soul on the trip went back and forth a few times carrying anything we had to hold with our hands while the rest of us tiptoed across grasping at the two wires on either side, praying we wouldn’t fall into the river below.
We finally got to the other side. That wasn’t so bad! We all survived. So we head towards the other group that had arrived earlier, thinking we would be at the campsite soon. Apparently, the guides had other ideas. We were going to the top
of the mountain! “It’s only an hour away, don’t worry!” Ok, we could hike an hour, it was still relatively early in the afternoon. Then we looked over, only to see black, BLACK clouds heading our way. Still, one hour is doable, let’s get to the camp site quickly! In typical Congo fashion, the storm erupted right above us, and we only got to the campsite three hours later, soaking wet, tired, and in the dark.
We set up our tents facing this beautiful waterfall, and one of our fellow campers starts lighting a fire, despite the non-stop rain, no dry wood, and windy conditions. Three hours later, despite our regular discouragements, he miraculously succeeded, so we had a great dinner sitting around the fire, chatting and eating and drinking (and warming up). We all went to bed with the rain pitter pattering, ready for a good night’s rest and the hike back down the next morning.
Boy were we mistaken. At around 2 a.m., a few people had to move their tents to higher ground because the waterfall had doubled in size, and the lower rocks were going under water. At 4 a.m., everyone had to move their tents to higher ground, because the waterfall had tripled in size! Fortunately, it was a group of people with a sense of humour, because even though all of our tents were squished together, we were all soaking wet, and one camper even lost one boot and one shoe, there was still a lot of laughter and jokes going around. We got a few more hours of sleep, and woke up to a beautiful, sunny, clear morning, with birds chirping and the waterfall back to its normal size.
The hike back down had its share of adventures, including a bridge in an even worse state, lack of water (which was waiting for us in the cars), and a blazing sun that gave me the worst sunburn I’ve ever had in the Congo.
All that said, I would highly recommend this trip. If we were prepared, we would have packed for a three-hour hike instead of a 20-minute walk, made sure we had enough water, and camped on higher ground. So learn from our lessons and have a wonderful trip to a secluded waterfall on top of a mountain.
What to Bring: It’s a camping trip with no frills (unlike Bombo and Zongo), so bring whatever you will need (tents, sleeping bags, food, warm clothes, etc).
When to Go: We went during rainy season, but the road off Matadi Rd. was very short and reachable without a 4×4. I expect during dry season, the waterfalls would be smaller, but the weather will be cooler.
How to Get There: Take Matadi Road until Kimpese (about 200km away from Kinshasa), turn right where there is a sign to a hospital (after the gas station). You cross a barrier to the park, and the turnoff to where you can leave your car (and that bridge) is soon after. It’s best to have the guide at this point so he can show you the exact way.
Travel Time: It took us 4.5 hours to get there and 6 to get back, due to the large number of trucks on the road on our return.
Risk Assessment: Other than crossing that bridge, there is not much risk to the trip if you come prepared and know what you’re getting yourself into. However, the top of the mountain is a three-hour hike, so in case of injury, it will be hard to get help quickly.
Contact Info: Bienvenue (our guide) 0815042477