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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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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Camping at the Massage Falls/Sunguza Beach

Sun setting on the Congo River (our camp site).

Sun setting on the Congo River (our camp site).

Just a short drive (30 minutes max) from the hustle and bustle of the Zongo resort is the peaceful paradise of Zongo Beach a.k.a. the Massage Falls a.k.a. Sunguza Beach. Many people visit the beach at Zongo (Sunguza Beach) for a day trip while staying at Zongo, but camping on the empty beach is a great, peaceful alternative to the roar of Zongo Falls and constant stream of people at the resort.

We arrived at the Zongo (Seli Safari) resort much later in the day than planned, so we were hoping our stop there to check in and pay would be short. After 30 minutes of the lady working at the reception unsuccessfully trying to convince us that we really didn’t want to camp because it might rain, we were off. You do need to stop at Zongo because you need to pay to camp there. Usually when people go for day trips they take a guide, but we found that a guide is really unnecessary. The route is well-marked, and if you aren’t sure you are going the right way, you can stop and ask for directions.

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Zongo Falls – Seli Safari Beach

About 180km from Kinshasa, there are some spectacular waterfalls. Right next to them are one of the only “resorts” close by Kinshasa, and rain or shine, dry or rainy season, an excellent trip out of Kinshasa no matter what rocks your boat.

Zongo Falls during rainy season.

Zongo Falls during rainy season.

The first time I went, not much planning was involved. We basically decided on a Wednesday, reserved on the Thursday, paid on the Saturday, bought food and drinks from the then newly opened Shoprite, and left in the infamous Landcruiser*. On our way there we saw a great market where we bought lots of fresh vegetables. One of our group, a tiny British chica in DRC for a few months, kept getting asked how old she was.  We finally asked the villagers how old they thought she was and they said three! So we burst out laughing, pointing out actual three year olds and asking if they really thought our friend was the same age as those kids.  The villagers immediately started giggling, and we thought we’d gotten somewhere until the leader of the group, a very sweet elderly woman, while still giggling said “no! you’re right. She must actually be 12. ” Continue reading

Kinshasa Street Chicken – Yum!

It wasn’t very well-planned – a food adventure the day after a long night! We’d gone to the Marine Ball the night before where we danced a lot, drank a lot, and yelled a lot at the hotel staff trying to steal all of the guest gifts from right under our noses. Needless to say, almost everyone bailed on our lunch adventure, except for a dedicated group of three adventurers. We woke up bleary eyed, napped a bit more, dried to dress, then made our way to taste what turned out to be the best street chicken in the Congo.

We got to this one particular street bar around noon, under an enormous tree on an otherwise really ugly street. We ordered one chicken for the three of us, and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Two hours later, we tasted what, one and a half years later, is still the best chicken I have had in this country (and many others too). Continue reading