A Painful Day of Driving

En route to Jumba, Zaire – Woke up this morning still very drunk from the night before so I just crawled onto the truck to rest up for the day’s activities. We headed into Goma where everyone got out and wandered around for a few hours. I stayed behind and guarded the truck because I was incapable of doing anything else. Mick came back and I went for a five minute walk over to the meat and cheese store to see if there was any food at all.

Zaire is totally Third World, so when you walk into the shops there usually would only be one item in the entire store. I walked into this deli and all the display cases were empty except for one huge round of gouda cheese. Cheese! I couldn’t even find cheese in countries that were way more modern than this one, and there I was needing it more than ever to help take the edge off my hangover. I paid the price of two million zaires and walked away with about two pounds of the most amazing tasting cheese (or so I thought at the time.)

Back to the truck, for we were due to leave for Jumba in a few minutes and it was going to take us a long time because the roads weren’t roads. We started off and Mick was trying to avoid the largest potholes, but it didn’t really matter – you still needed to have a firm hold on the truck because it was rockin’ and rollin’ like the Shakey Shack in a funhouse. With my hangover (which was now tuning into my brain full force) it was a living hell. After a few hours I just leaned out of the truck and booted – boy was I miserable. I finally went to sleep under two of the aircraft style seats and woke up a few hours later when the truck had stopped at this bridge.

Mick was out inspecting the bridge to see if it could support the truck’s fifteen ton weight. The bridge was made of about thirty horizontal strips of metal, spaced about eight to ten inched apart so you could see the water from the river flowing below your feet. After a brief inspection Mick told everyone to get off the truck, so if it were to go right through the bridge Kumuka wouldn’t be liable for our deaths. Mick backed up the truck but instead of going over the bridge he maneuvered the behemoth down the riverbank, gunned the engine, then eased the truck in to the river and drove right through it. So muck for Zairian engineering works!

We continued on this bumpy hell road, going approximately six kilometers an hour, slow enough so every Zairian child within a ten kilometer radius could jump on the spare tires and ride along with us for a while. The kids ended up stealing the charcoal out of our sack tied onto the back of the truck, so we stopped and Rich got out and got a big stick and proceeded to follow the truck on foot – scaring the locals away with his stick so they couldn’t steal anymore. We finally got to the Parc National des Virungas and set up camp for we were to go and see the silverback gorillas the next morning.

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