Chez Tatem and the Island

While not a great photo, the limos are definitely Chez Tatem's claim to fame.

While not a great photo, the limos are definitely Chez Tatem’s claim to fame.

While Chez Tintin is undoubtedly the most popular place in Kinsuka to grab a beer and watch the raging rapids, Chez Tatem a little farther down the river has its own claim to fame. In the grassy parking area lie two rusty limousines that were purportedly brought to Kinshasa for George Foreman and Muhammad Ali to use while they were here for the Rumble in the Jungle.

Chez Tatem in dry season

Chez Tatem in dry season

Nowadays, the decaying limos are mostly used for photo shoots. You can bring your own Photo Minute for wedding photos, and they provide glasses and bottles to pretend you are drinking champagne. We have never actually tried this for ourselves, but I’m sure if you stop by and inquire, you can get the low down on staging your very own Rumble inthe Jungle photo shoot. Another option is to take your own photos outside of the limos without enlisting an entourage.

 

Walking the island's trails

Walking the Kiudi Island’s trails

Chez Tatem has seen its better days though when we talked to the manager, he said the owner is in the US and is trying to slowly improve the place. There are large concrete patios and a sort of pavilion with plenty of space to have a drink and watch the river pass by. Depending on the river’s level, you might be sitting right next to it or feel like you are up on a cliff, watching it far below.

Our favorite thing about Chez Tatem, though, is not the main facility but their satellite bar on Kiudi Island (thanks for the name, Ruthie!) in the middle of the river. If you check out our map, you’ll see that the island is pretty big, I think something like 5 km around. There are a few people living out there and growing cassava and other crops, but visiting the island definitely feels like leaving Kinshasa as it is very undeveloped.

To get there from the bar, head to the left and walk along the river until you get to where the rocks are close enough that you can cross. Depending on the season and the river level, you will be able to cross at different points. Generally, you should be able to walk across throughout the year, but visiting immediately after a few days of torrential rain is probably not the best ideas. You may have to do some wading to get across, but if you are completely adverse to the water, walk down a little farther and you may find a better place to cross.

A view from Chez Tatem's island bar.

A view from Chez Tatem’s island bar.

Once you get to the island, Chez Tatem’s bar is at the northeast end (back the way you came). Unfortunately there’s no trail that goes around the shore, which is very rocky and challenging to walk on in places, but if you head in that general direction, you should find your way there. The other option would be to ask someone to accompany you there for a fee (probably something you would do back at the bar because you may not run into anyone once you’re on the island).

The other reason to tell the folks at Chez Tatem that you are planning a trip to the island is if you want to actually get a drink at the bar on the other side. Otherwise, you are most likely going to show up to an empty building with a nice view. It’s still worth visiting – it’s an old house with a nice patio area overlooking the river – but there’s something magical about arriving at this deserted spot and being met with a cold beer or Fanta. When you tell them you are planning to go the island, they may have to bring the drinks over right then so you can make requests. They usually have some drinks already on that side, though.

It’s possible to swim near the bar, but be careful, there’s only a small area in between the rocks close to shore that is safe to swim in. You definitely don’t want to let yourself get caught up in a current.

If you don’t want to visit the island bar, a trip to the island or a walk along the beach is still worth it. On the beach, you’ll find a plethora of quarriers (which should be a word if it’s not) and a lot less picnickers snapping photos than at the more popular Chez Tintin or Mbudi Nature. On the island, there are lots of paths to take to explore the forests and fields.

Chez Tatem is also a great place for a sunset

Chez Tatem is also a great place for a sunset

Logistics:

What to Bring: Good shoes for walking, food (I’m sure Chez Tatem can hook you up with food, but it’ll be a long wait.)

When to Go: If you are going to the island, avoid times when it has rained a lot, but otherwise, any time.

How to Get There: At Kintambo Magasin, turn right and follow the river road (aptly named Avenue des Rapides) until you pass the restaurant Atlantis and a bus station (about 4.5km/3mi). Right after the bus station, you will see a Chez Tintin sign pointing you to the right, turn down the dirt road, turn left at the end, and follow that road past Chez Tintin (there’s a sign on the right). When the road seems to fork, you’ll want to keep left. Then you’ll pass a few other bars before reaching Chez Tatem, which has a sign and is on the right.

Travel Time: 20 minutes from Gombe.

Risk Assessment: Just be careful to choose appropriate places to cross the river and swim.

(All photos thanks to some great hash photographers.)

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