África Park Aventure (Lac de Ma Vallée)

img_3784As of October 2016, Lac de Ma Vallée has transformed into an outdoor adventure park! This place is honestly amazing and pretty great for all ages. We arrived early, around 9am, which was perfect. We did not have to wait in line for any of the activities, which seem to form later in the day. It was just a blast. We raced each other in the treetops park (which is an obstacle course 20 feet up) as well as took turns on the Playclimb and zip line. It was very well-established, with the employees making sure we were following safety protocol each step of the way. The only drawback was that a sit down restaurant was the only option for food. It took forever to order and get the food, which prevented us from doing any other activities. I’d bring my own food next time, but could definitely envision going back many times. The activities available at this park are: Continue reading

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A Day at the Beach, on the River Congo

Wait, where is Kinshasa?

    \  Wait, where is Kinshasa?

Spending the day on a sandbank may be one of my favourite escapes from Kinshasa. Buy some drinks and make some food (or not, maybe bring some raw meat and just grill it there), get on a boat, arrive at a sandbank a nice distance upriver from the city, have the tents, chairs, tables and BBQ set up for you, and just enjoy the rest of the day. What’s not to love?

There are the typical Congolese adventure-inducing things such as getting stuck on sandbanks (how many expats does it take to push a boat?), hand print sunburns, running out of gas before making it back to shore and only having one paddle to make it back, etc, but really, what is Congo without those?

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The Marché Central

We never bring a camera with us to the marche, so Google Earth is the best you get.

We never bring a camera with us to the marche, so Google Earth is the best you get.

Each trip to Kinshasa’s Marché Central promises a new adventure. Some days we’ve come away overjoyed with purchases of baby clothes, Halloween costumes, RDC track suits, seeds to plant, or soy beans, while others we’ve been followed by rowdy teenagers, or for one our friends, knocked over and had bones broken by similar groups. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Symphonies Naturelles

A view of the valley Symphonies Naturelles is in.

A view of the valley Symphonies Naturelles is in.

Symphonies Naturelles may be about 20 minutes from Gombe, but it feels like you’ve left the hubbub of Kinshasa completely behind. According to their website, the forest is home to lots of animals including monkeys and pangolins, but we’ve never seen those. What we have seen is the beautiful forest and surrounding villages, terraced fish ponds, cows, and a freshwater spring coming out of a cliff.

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Chez Tintin

The view by Chez Tintin.

The view by Chez Tintin.

Imagine the scene: two women and a dog are walking down the stairs to the river, when they look over to the side to see one goat looking back at them. Thinking nothing of it, they continue walking down the stairs and immediately hear a much louder bleat than what one goat should make. Looking back over, the one goat had multiplied to around ten, each glaring at the dog and ready to attack.  Apparently, the dog had chased a goat the last time, and the goats were ready to fight back!

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Mt. Mangengenge (ngengengengengenge)

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.

The mountain from its foot.

The mountain from its foot.

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.

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Palais de Marbre

On January 16 and 17 of every year, DR Congo celebrates what it calls its Martyr Days, corresponding to the dates Laurent-Désiré Kabila and Patrice Lumumba were killed. On these days every year, the Palais de Marbre is open to the general public in Kinshasa, where Kabila Sr. was assassinated. A rather morbid, but fascinating trip back in time, it is well worth the visit if you are in Kinshasa during those dates.

After missing it several times, I finally made it out there. A group of us thought to avoid the long lines, so we showed up at 8am, when we were told it would open. It opened 30 minutes later after massive scrambling by the guards to set up security and several school busses had dropped off legions of kids coming to visit the site. The compound is beautiful, on top of a hill in Ngaliema Commune, overlooking Kinshasa’s valley. Driving up the windy roads to get here, it’s always a sight to see the huge lion statues guarding the gate and it was great to finally see inside.

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