Lac CEMKA

The lake

The lake

While Lac de ma Vallée is always packed on a Sunday afternoon, Lac CEMKA, which you pass along the way to Lac de ma Vallée, is almost always empty, and it’s a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.

When you turn off the paved road, you’ll experience a bit of up and down bumpy road before it flattens out and you circle around the lake to the restaurant area. The lake is in the midst of a pretty open valley punctuated by a big hill rising to a plateau with a Catholic church on top in the distance. 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

Bombo Lumene National Park

Sunset over the Bombo Lumene plains.

Sunset over the Bombo Lumene plains.

I have so many Bombo-Lumene stories that I don’t even know which ones to share. There have been floats down the rapids, frolics in the valley beyond the river, terrifying bridge crossings (though nothing like Kimpese), Milky Way Galaxy sightings, goats chasing dogs, dogs chasing goats, “wild animals” that turned out to be friends looking for food after everyone had gone to bed, or two guys singing “No Scrubs” and not remembering (or admitting to it) the next day.

The great thing about the Bombo-Lumene National Park is that it is such a hassle-free camping trip.  Almost everyone who likes to escape Kinshasa has made a trip here, and it’s a relatively short trip on a much calmer road than the Route de Matadi which goes towards Zongo, Kimbese, or Kisantu. There are amenities if you want them, like a chalet with two rooms and a bathroom, hotel rooms in case you want to sleep in a bed, Florence Nightingale-type tents that can fit up to 10 people inside or smaller ones, each fitted with mattresses for each person, or you can just bring your own tent. There is no electricity though, so keep that in mind while making your decisions! The people who work there light the BBQ for you (if you want it), wash your dishes before you wake up the next day (bliss), and even light a bonfire after dinner if you so wish. You can apparently see wild animals like antelopes and water buffalos, but since someone from WWF who I think is by default luckier in seeing things like that than I am told me so, I am not convinced.

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Mbanza Ngungu Caves – Dry Season Update

Entering the Ngovo cave

Entering the Ngovo cave

Following Crazy #1 and Crazy #2’s adventures to Mbanza Ngungu, a group of us headed to the caves during dry season to see what all the fuss was about.  We are so glad we did, because really, the roads are horrendous – I’m not sure I would have been as brave as the other two Crazies to make it all the way to the last cave, but it was totally worth the trip.

During the dry season (June-September), the dirt road is completely passable (though you would still need a high-clearing 4×4), but you can clearly see where the dirt will turn into clay mud and turn really slippery if there’s even a little bit of rain.

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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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Kimpese Camping

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 "bridge"

The “bridge”

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.

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The Ultimate Bas Congo Road Trip/Beach Vacation

Enjoying the ride through Bas Congo.

Enjoying the ride through Bas Congo.

The ultimate Bas Congo trip, which can include detours to any of the many sights along the way, is a road trip to Muanda. Though it’s good to take a week for the trip, allowing two days to drive each way and some time to relax at the beach, we’ve heard of people doing it over a long weekend. We left early on Saturday morning and headed out of town. The first part of the trip, though beautiful was not particularly exciting since we’d driven as far as Kisantu before. After Kisantu, we passed through Mbanza Ngungu and Kimpese, checking out the Kimpese hills from a distance for future climbing possibility. As we approached Matadi, we were struck by the bamboo tunnels created by stands of bamboo on both sides of the road. We tried to stop and have lunch in one, but the mosquitoes pushed us to higher, drier ground.

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