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  #136  
Old 4 Nov 2010
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When we reached the top of the hill everybody was going nuts. So were we! We couldn't believe we had actually gotten up here with a broken rear axle. That was some seriosuly difficult terrain!
It was a now few hundred meters downhill and people climbed on our roofrack and hung on our doors for the ride. We were too enthousiastic to say anything about it now.

We could stay next to Papa Likas's house. He was the guy who took the lead in the last climb. A somewhat older guy, and clearly one of the 'richer' people in the village. He might have lacked the degrees and the education, but we could tell he was a clever and wise man. We were offered two chairs (funny how this form of politeness exists everywhere in congo). They were very funny affairs, huge thrones made out of heavy wood. We felt like the king and the queen.

We were offered food - foufou and some fish - but we politely refused. It looked ok, but we did not want to risk getting ill now. We were too weak already (Josephine still had serious stomach problems). As usual we could see the people were actually happy that we did not eat, they didn't have too much.

Our supply of water was low again. The 20 liters that had cost me so much energy yesterday was almost gone. Very, very carefully we inquired if they had a water supply. There was indeed a source, but "c'est très loin" - "it is very far". When he says it is far, I believe him! They bring us a small supply of rainwater to freshen us up. We will have to ration our remaing water.

It struck me how difficult it is to get water here. People would have to walk hours and hours to reach a source. While at the same time the forest is so humid and sticky.

I checked the GPS. We had moved no more then 5km today. I had reached my limit today. Although I felt ok now, I could feel that I did not have any more reserves. Josephine was the hero of the day, without a doubt. But she was suffering from her stomach problems.

The village had become quiet again. Darkness had hidden the little huts in the forest. People could be seen, gathered around little fires. We saw a larger group of people gathered around hut. A strange kind of singing could be heard.. a very sad and mysterious sound. Papa Likas explained that a child was very ill and did not have long to live. People were praying. When asked what illness the child had, Papa Likas replied "On ne sait pas" - "We don't know". There are no doctors here. Another child from the same family died last month.

We had a great evening with dancing and singing and all looked good and fine. And then Congo slaps us in the face again with its hard reality.
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  #137  
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Progress after day 23 on the road. Day 28 since we entered DRC. I did not bother trying to add our progress on the map. The scale of the map does not allow for such small markings :roll:

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  #138  
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Day 24

I really had to force myself out of our tent that morning, despite the noise off the village. My muscles hurt and my eyes preferred to stay closed.

Mufuta, Vita and papa Basil had returned to their own village for the night, but they would come back. We sat down with papa Likas. He offered his help and we gave him the same explenation we gave earlier to the first members of our crew. He agreed with the conditions. He suggested we 'hire' 5 extra guys, including him, from his village. We knew we needed that kind of manpower to push 4 ton of Toyota trough the jungle. They would join us until we reach Kapia. Apparantely the road there is much better and we would be able to drive on our own to Dibaya-Lubwe from there.

Papa likas made a drawing of how the road went all the way to Kapia. The first few kilometer would be slightly downhill until we reached a river. From there the road was uphill all the way to Kapia. The first part of the hill would be the hardest as this was in a forest with the usual ruts. Halfway to the top the road leaves the forest and we would be in much easier savannah.

"Nous allons y arriver avant midi!" - "we will get there (Kapia) before noon"

As soon as Mufuta, Basil and Vita arrived we were on the road again. Our batteries were now officially dead so we needed a push to get started. It was key not to turn of the engine now! Our crew loved the raw sound of our broken exhaust!

We advanced quickly. Our crew was hanging on the sides of the car while two guys were walking in front, making quick improvements along the way. The way we progressed our first few hundred meters made mea actually believe we would make it to Kapie before noon! We must be the two most naive people in the world!





It had been a while since we saw serious rain. Frequent showers yes, but not cloud bursts. Until now. Just when we arrived at the river in the bottom of the valley fat raindrops were falling from the sky. This usually means trouble. Our crew searched for cover in the forest while we sat in our car whilst a could emptied itself violently right on top of us. We could see the mostly dry road transform in a muddy stream. The hard compressed mud was gleaming.
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  #139  
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This rain couldn't have come in a worse time. The road was now extra slippery and we already struggled so much with grip - or the lack thereof. Our crew worked hard to construct a road that would provide us an as level as possible path with as much grip as possible. It took a huge amount of energy for every meter we worked ourselves forward.

We could see our crew was losing its motivation and we feared that they would just give up or demand more money. It was Josephine that discovered the magic of our camera. These guys loved the camera! Everytime the camera came out they posed and they work like crazy to look cool on the pictures.



I stalled the engine. I felt really bad about it as they could not pushstart us uphill. Only downhill. I let the Landcruiser roll backwards for a few meters and it still wouldn't start. The lost few meters would cost us hours to get up again. I did not want to go backwards any longer. So while our crew continued clearing the road, I started to get our auxiliary batteries out again.





Everything was just so hard now. Getting the engine started again had cost us an hour. The original enthousiasm was completely gone, we were moving forward at a rate of a meter per hour. The hill was about 700meters long.

We stopped progressing at all when we had to go trough a small detour around a tree. It was small but steep incline.



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  #140  
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With the rain also came the little moisture flies. Millions of them. tiny little flies. They favoured our eyes and ears and loved our nose. Annoying little thingies!

We tried everything to make the road better in order toget us up this little hill. We had at least 10 attempts to climb it, but it just didn't work.





Since we left the village early this morning we had covered 4 kilometer. Of which the first 3,8km were done in the first two hours. The rest of the day we spent on this hill. The last 3 hours we hadn't moved at all.

Darkness was setting in again, we weren't going anywhere today..

The crew wanted to return to their village for the night. We would be camping here. Just when our guys wanted to leave the news came that the sick child in the last village had died. A messenger was sent to the surrounding villages. This meant a lot of people would want to visit the family of the kid, so there will be a lot of traffic on the roads that night. A creepy thought to be camping spot in the middle of this situation, all alone on the Congolese jungle.

Kapia became a mythic place for us. Our own Atlantis. The hidden city that nobody knew where it was. We started having our doubts if we would ever get our car out of this jungle again. Tomorrow is another day..

We opened our tent in the place where we were stuck. All the batteries from our flashlights were empty (from last nights rythmic struggle) so we helped ourselves with a candle. The rainforest was insanely loud and peaceful at the same time. I would have loved this place otherwise, but it was hard to forget in what kind of trouble we were.
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  #141  
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Progress after day 24... Day 29 since we entered Congo.
None at all really... Camping in the jungle

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  #142  
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Day 25

Our 30th day since we entered Congo. That needs to be celebrated! But not with any drinking. We are out of drinking water. It had rained a lot that night and our tent was still leaking.

We had given an emtpy water jerrycan with papa Likas last night and he said he'd return with a full one today. But what we were mostly looking out for was that tirfor he was talking about. They knew, that a guy in their village used to have a tirfor, but they had not seen it in the last years. Likas would try to trace it down.

We were delighted to see our crew again, not only with a full jerrycan of water, but also with a tirfor! But it didn't come for free.. :roll: The owner wanted 50$US to 'rent' the tirfor. This was an odd situation as we did not agree with that price, but the owners was not here to discuss it with him. We decided we would be wanting to spend 15$US - which is a lot of money! - and papa Likas thought that the owner would agree with that.

I had already taken the auxiliary batteries out again early in the morning, so we could immediately start the engine and try to finally get out of this pit!





It worked!! This was a big morale booster. A booster we desperately needed!
Likas and Mufuta were delighted too

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  #143  
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Centimeter after centimer we creeped forward. This was faster moving then what we managed yesterday! Even if it was going so slowly, the psychological effect cannot be underestimated. The previous days we would be be digging for hours after which we blasted forward for 50 meters and then had to start digging again. That is pretty depressing.
But now we were constantly moving, incredibly slow, but every 5 minutes you could see progress was being made.

It was hard work though. Our crew did a great job!







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  #144  
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Because of our involvement with our 'crew' we did not have too much trouble with the begging here. Apart from that I believe we had been very lucky to break down here.

:scratch:

Let's rephrase that last sentence: "We could have broken down in a much worse region then this, people were generally nice around here."

By now we had become part of the road. Early in the morning we had the kids that passed trough. They were very curious but they could not stay long as they had to go to school. You could see the dilemma on their faces, every fibre of their body wanted to stay around and check out these white guys, but they would get into serious trouble if they did not show up in school!



We felt sorry for the bike transporters that had to pass trough here. They had such a hard task at hands already, and then we created an extra obstacle by blocking the road with out truck.





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  #145  
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After the little detour there was a short level piece of track before going steep uphil again. I took as much run-up as possible and launched myself up the hill. This won us 20 meters or so.

Josephine: "What was that noise?"
Me: "What noise?"
Josephine: "That tak-tak noise?"
Me: "Don't know"

I had heard the noise too but I did not want to think or worry about it. Not now.

The road was too steep to even attempt driving up with our front axle alone. We would use the tirfor for the remaining 500m. The length of the cable gave us about 10meter of progress with each go. Then the tirfor had to be released and a new tree had to be found to continue. 500 meters. 10 meter at a time. Everybody knew this was going to be a big job. But once we would make it open we would be out of the forest and onto the savannah, were it would be possible to drive on our own steam again. That was a big motivation.







My respect for these guys is endless. It is incredible how they could manage such hard labour for hours on end. If the motivation got low, the camera always cheered them up again. They barely eat or drink. At this rate I would have died already... twice.



This last pictures gives and idea of the angle we were working at.

"Tonight we would surely reach Kapia!"
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  #146  
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The guys were getting hungry. We could not blame them. They did not have food, and the nearest village was 5km behind us. Our food stock was low too, but we still had porridge. We bought a lot of porridge as it is very nutritious and takes little space in the car. I don't like porridge very much but we had eaten it every day since we were on the road.

We cooked up a big pot for them. They loved it. To make it a bit tastier we gave them our pot of sugar, so they could add a bit to their porridge. We were still cleaning up our cooking gear and by the time we returned the sugar was all gone. They just ate a full kilogram of pure sugar!

About halfway up the hill we ran out of trees. The trees had made way for thick bush. But nothing strong enough to hook up the tirfor... :scratch:
Nothing is easy in Congo.. We cut down a tree.

The procedure for the last 250meters changed a bit:

Dig a deep hole in the middle of the road. Put the tree in the hole. Close the hole. Attach the tirfor and winch the Landcruiser 10meters forward. Dig out the tree. Close the hole. 10meters further, dig a deep hole in the middle of the road... And repeat.





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When we just started with the tirfor that morning everybody was optimistic. Kapia seemed so close by. Everybody worked extremely hard for 10 hours non-stop and we had only progressed 500meters. So mouch trouble for so little result. We still hadn't mae it up the hill and out of the forest, although we were close now.

It got dark again.

Nobody wanted to stop now, you could tell from everybody's face how tired they were. Papa Bazil started a song and the work continued. Everybody sang. No more joking, no more pausing. Just working at a steady pace to get this damn Landcruiser on top of the hill.

Papa Likas told me it was his greatest wish to hop on to the back of our car when we made it to top and ride together with us to Kapia. There his task would end and would finally be able to go home to his family. We shared his wish!

Late in the evening we made to the top, I still had the engine running since this morning. We were nervous.

I put it in 1st and let the clutch go. We moved!

*TAK*TAK*TAK*
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Everybody was shaking. Our helpers because of all the sugar they ate. We from anxiety.

Who were we kidding anyway. We had heard the tak-tak sound before and we knew what it meant. I guess we were just hoping it would have been a dry birfield or something. Whishfull thinking.

A quick run trough the the front driveline components showed the the noise came from inside the front differential. Trying to drive now only resulted in noise, no more movement.

Our front diff had completely packed up.

We switched the engine off and it became silent. Very silent. You could see the dissapointment on the faces of our crew. We had a deal with them, they would bring us to Kapia, no matter what, and we would pay them for the service. They were afraid now that they would not get paid (or paid less) as we would obviously not reach Kapia.

We had to decide very quickly how and how much we would pay. This is so difficult! We had no idea what a reasonable amount would be. We did not want to pay them too little. Because they deserved an honest wage and we certainly did not want to make enemies here. On the other hand we did not want to pay them to much as that would only open the doors for corruption and create the impression that 'white people' always pay too much.

We decided on 150$US for all of them. 150$US divided by 8 = 19$US per person. For three very long had working days. Josephine asked me if I would be happy with that amount? I wouldn't. I'd feel insulted and angry probably. But in Congo that is a lot of money. This was so difficult!

We gave the money to papa Likas and thanked them for all their work. We also gave them our axe, for which they were very grateful. We barely used it anyway.

Our crew then dissapeared in the darkness, leaving us all alone on the savannah.




Papa Bazil, Mufuta, Vita, Papa Likas, Masambe, Bony

We knew we had a bit of problem here, but we did not discuss it too much. We were tired and hungry. There is nothing we could do now anyway so we opened up our tent and made ourselves a nice meal. We cooked some pasta, opened a can of tuna and used our last package of instant mushroom sauce. Whatever would happen tomorrow, we might as wel do it well fed.

20 minutes after our crew had left we heard some very loud "YAHOO's" emerging from the forest. We recognized the voices. Probably they had waited with counting the money until now, and the result seemed to make them very happy. We paid too much..

It was a beautiful night again, as we were in the savannah now we had a clear view of the sky. The African sky can be so magnificently beautiful. We only had a candle to provide us with some light. In different situations this would have been the perfect bushcamp.

A strange sense of rest came over us, in a way we felt relieved. We were happy that we would no longer have to struggle with only a functional front axle.
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Progress after day 25 on the road. Our 30th day in DRC.
These progress report are becoming useless really, as we had not really progressed today (700meter)

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Day 26

We slept until the heat of the sun chased us out of our tent and cooked up a strong breakfast of my favourite porridge.

It was time for a sitwrap:

- Our car's bodywork was badly damaged
- Exhaust broken off
- Two broken batteries
- Rear drivetrain broken
- Front drivertrain broken
- Our gearbox was no longer connected in to our wheels = not possible to jumpstart. Not possible to move.
- Running low on food
- Running very low on water, less then 2 liters.
- Nobody knew where we were. The last time we were able to contact somebody was in Kananga. 2 weeks ago.
- No cell phone reception.

We hid all valuable things (camera, GPS, ..) in our car.
We left a note inside our car with a description of our intentions.
We blinded the windows as good as we could.
We put on our hiking boots and a hat.
We took our passports, our 2 mobile phones, some immodium and dafalgan and some sunscreen.
We filled a bottle with our last remaining bit of water.
We locked the doors of our car

We walked out...
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