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  #1  
Old 24 Jun 2014
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Post Recent information: Kinshasa - Lubumbashi & Cameroon - Ouesso (Congo)

Hey there,

I hope this is the right forum as it's not a proper ride tale. For 18 months now I'm on the road. From Malaysia I rode back to Germany with a Suzuki V-Strom (sponsored by Suzuki). Once I had reached my home town I just stayed long enough to get another bike and to buy different gear. Now I'm riding a Yamaha XT125 around Africa planning to circumnavigate it within two years or so.

Usually I try to ride the less travelled roads so I decided to ride from Cameroon directly to the Republic of Congo and to attempt the infamous Kinshasa-Lubumbashi crossing. As I'm extremely lazy, I'll only give the most necessary information here. If you have any further questions or would like to see photos (with descriptions in English), feel free to check out my facebook profile:
www.facebook.com/stevenslittleride
I'm more than happy to answer any of your questions, give advice or just share stories. Just message me


1) Cameroon - Republic of Congo
It was quite hard to find any recent information on this road apart from "muddy, difficult, crazy" which is said about way too many roads in Africa in my opinion. I did it in late April, just at the end or dry season / beginning of the rainy season. The night before I started it was raining for nine hours straight so this information may be valid for the rainy season as well.

The best piece of advice probably is this one: Don't ride after a massive rain the night before :P

Road condition
Until Sangmelina it's tarmac. Stergios, a Greek friend of mine, did the same road two weeks earlier on his 200cc Vespa. He told me that the road is doable all the way to the border. For me - due to the heavy rain - the part from Sangmelina to Djoum was incredibly difficult. The road is mainly frequented by heavy trucks carrying trees from Congo to Cameroon. Those trucks have created deep, muddy tracks all the way which are a real challenge. I dropped my bike three times within 30 minutes.

The first 30 km or so after Djoum ar tarmac and after that it's an excellent piste for about 80 km. Pretty much all the way to the border the road is in a very good condition. No traffic, no tracks, not too much mud. Beautiful landscape and kind people.

After the border it's a little tricky. To Souanké it's not too difficult. The road to Sembe and especially the first 30-40 km after Sembe are a real challenge, though. Chinese are constructing a road there so it's very very muddy. Luckily it didn't rain the day before I got there so I could manage but Stergios destroyed his clutch on that bit. In a year or two it might be paved, though.

40 km past Sembe tarmac starts that lasts all the way down to Brazza. Only 100 km or so are not sealed but even those parts are in good condition.


2) Where did we cross the DRC border?

When we were in Brazza (beginning of May 2014) thousands of DRC citizens were expelled from the town causing the port and ferry to be a complete mess. Therefore we decided to take a little detour. We = Stergios (Vespa), Francis (BMW F 800 GS), Gee & Thimba (Land Rover) and me + Katarina (normally bycycle) on my XT 125. We rode to Kinkala where we turned left to Boko. All this is tarmac. In Boko a piste is leading West to Manianga and Luozi. It's quite bumpy but not too difficult. Immigration and customs were easy on both sides. In DRC nobody checked our Togolese residence papers. So this might be an option if you're a bit afraid of being returned by DRC immigrations.
In Luozi we took the ferry (all big ferries in DRC are for free normally) and continued down to Kimpese where tarmac starts.

3) Kinshasa - Lubumbashi
There are loads of horror stories out there about Kinshasa - Lubumbashi. Most of them are not true. Here are just a few of them (930 Franc = 1 USD):

The road is horrendous
Somewhat true. Kinshasa to Kikwit is paved. From Kikwit you have two options. You can either go through Tshikapa or through Illebo.

Tshikapa: It's about 180km shorter but the road is worse. Loads of sand and at times mud. There are more trucks, though. If you're not convinced that you can do it, maybe take this route.
Illebo: Sand, but not as much as in Tshikapa. Hardly any trucks. 180 km longer. Two ferry crossings and one destroyed bridge. Small bikes can cross over in a piroge, big bikes have to be pushed across. You'll take great pictures

We went through Illebo. We = Stergios (Vespa), Francis (BMW F 800 GS) and me (XT125). The first 60 km after Illebo are pretty bad. Loads of sand, deep tracks, steep hills. We had to push Stergios's Vespa all the time but for me and Francis it was quite ok. The remaining km to Illebo are ok. The first 50-60 km after Illebo are pretty bad again. Similar to the part after Kikwit. Loads of deep, soft sand, deep tracks and mud sometimes. Not much fun. Francis killed his clutch here and had to take a truck back to Kinshasa. From there it's quite ok just until 10 km out of Kakenge. Here Stergios killed his clutch and took a truck to Lubumbashi. So I had to do the remaining 1.600 km alone.

The first 80 km after Kakenge are pretty sandy again, but then it gets much better down to Kananga. Kananga - Mbuji-Mayi is shit. The first 30 km are tarmac but then it's deep sand again. Mbuji-Mayi to Mwene-Ditu is tarmac and from there it's a good piste all the way to Kabondo (between Kamina and Bukama). They are working on the road a lot and must have improved it considerably over the last 2-3 years. From Kabondo to Bukama (about 50km) it's a pain in the ass. Sand, powder and rocks. Super annoying. In Bukama the sisters told me not to go through Lubudi but through Luena and Kolwezi. This road is said to be much better. It was ok. Some sand, some rocks but nothing dramatic. There's one more ferry crossing (for free). From Kolwezi to Lubumbashi it's tarmac.

You'll have to pay toll for the two Kasai provinces (I paid 2.000 in Kananga and 500 in Mbuji-Mayi). The road from Kolwezi to Lubum is free for bikes.

No petrol
You can easily find petrol in any village. Obviously not in huge quantities and always about 200-300 Francs more expensive than in the next town. Here are some petrol prices: Kinshasa 1400 (maybe cheaper... I forgot the Kinshasa price ), Kikwit 1500-1600, Illebo 2000, Kananga 2200, Mbuji-Mayi 2350 (at petrol stations) and 2500 on the road, Kanyama 2800 (), Kamina 2300, Bukama 2500 and Kolwezi 1700. Mostly you can find petrol every 10-20 kilometers in a village. So do not worry about your range. Just buy petrol whenever you see it and you'll be fine.

No food and water

Also DRC citizens eat and drink from time to time. Therefore you can find food and water in any village. It won't be Western food and it won't be bottled water, but if you're ok with eating Fufu, local veggies and bush meat, you'll enjoy it. We (Stergios, Francis and me) always ate and drank in the villages and none of us got sick.

Crazy corruption & Tourist permit
Just like in any other (West) African country police and especially DGM (Congolese immigration 'service') are corrupt and will ask you for money. We refused to pay every single time and didn't have any problems at all. I was only asked once for a tourist permit and simply told the policemen that my visa is sufficient. No problem at all. Buy an insurance, though. It is quite expensive (50$ for two months) but I was asked about 10 times for it. This will save you lots of time and money in the long run.

Hostile locals
This is somewhat true. In villages people treated me incredibly friendly. I always felt safe and enjoyed the Congolese hospitality. In and between big cities (especially Kananga, Mbuji-Mayi, Mwene Ditu and Bukama) I was quite annoyed by the locals. Constantly people ask you for money, try to grab your shirt to stop you or shout at you. It was a little annoying. However, you can understand this when you see all the white NGO people there throwing their money around. It's a shame. Generally if you stay in villages or Catholic missions, you'll be fine.

Where to sleep?
In every small town there's a Catholic mission where you can pitch your tent for free. Mostly the priests are very friendly and will be happy to see tourists. Here are a few Garmin coordinates:
Idiofa - S04°58.558 - E019°34.598
Illebo - S04°19.902 - E020°34.488 (This is a pretty shitty but cheap hotel. 8$ per room. We decided to pitch our tents on the huge balcony.)
Domiongo - S04°36.213 - E021°13.395
Kananga - S05°51.989 - E022°23.218 (I might have messed up this point. Maybe the mission is a few hundred meters further up North. If you cannot find it, just ask people; they will know it.)
Mbuji-Mayi - S06°08.168 - E023°36.162 (I stayed in the house of a very kind priest. Very friendly people!)
Kanyama - S07°30.668 - E024°09.986
Bukama - S09°12.577 - E025°51.481 (There is a white priest in the main mission. He's a dick. I arrived there tired, dead exhausted and with an infected leg, just asking to pitch my tent and he simply kicked me out even though it was dark already. Opposite his mission is a sister's mission. They are extremely kind. Truly wonderful, warm-hearted people!)
Kolwezi - S10°43.665 - E025°29.123 (Amazing hospitality. They gave me a room and allowed me to stay for a week while I was repairing my bike. Mission Fatima)

I hope this helps to clear up some of the myths... If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via FB. I'll also check this thread from time to time but if you need a quick reply, FB might be better

Cheers,
Steven
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  #2  
Old 25 Jun 2014
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Great info Steven, thanks for posting it!

To keep an eye on this thread easily, go to "Thread Tools" and Subscribe to this thread - you'll then get an email whenever there is a post! As long as you do go to the thread or login after each email, they'll keep coming until you decide to unsubscribe.

cheers,
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  #3  
Old 7 Jul 2014
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nice story.....we planned to do this in december this year but after reading all the stories, we probably opt for Kin to lumbubashi by plane with the bikes (or Goma, so we can get to Tanzania)
I do have a question...how much time did it take you go from Kin to Lum.....as we plan to do 3.5 months to get from Europe (Belgium) to Cape town, we cannot affort to be stuck 4 weeks in Congo
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  #4  
Old 9 Jul 2014
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Riding time was two weeks or so. The other two weeks I was just relaxing. In December, however, it'll rain a lot and the road will be MUCH worse. So if it's possible at all, plan at least four weeks.
Why don't you go through Angola rather than put your bike on a plane? Even with the expensive visa it'll still be cheaper and you can do all on road. The roads in Angola are almost all paved, so it'll be very easy.
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  #5  
Old 2 Weeks Ago
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Confirmation of Stevens story.

Hi All,
Having just arrived in Kolwezei from Kinshasa, I would like to affirm what Steven has stated in his post in terms of fuel, people and crazy corruption. Myself and jaybee started out from Kinshasa on the 20th of July on a KLR 650 and KTM 690 respectively.

No issues what so ever up to Kitwit and slept in a hotel in the center of town for $15 each. However from then on, things turned pear shaped (things took a turn for the worse). Unlike Steven, we opted for the southern route through Tshipaka.

We are both experienced riders on bikes more or less designed for this kind of travel. I can only describe the next 5 days as 'the sandy road from hell'. On our worst day we managed little more than 40kms, but we persevered as the only other option was to turn around and go back, which was not a pleasant option.

Although some parts of the road to Tshipaka were 'enjoyable' othertimes we were exhausted from picking up bikes dropped in sandy tracks and dealing with curious villagers. However, there was no problem in finding food along the track if you don't mind fufu and bush meat. Water was always provided free in villages, but it is wise to treat this water before drinking. We usually filled up a 5L container daily. I started out try to give 500 fr for this but actually many times the money was refused. It is customary to give water for free to thirsty travelers. In the end I would buy peanuts and sardines from a small shop and ask them for water, that way I was at least giving something back to people who don't have much. Bottled water was not commonly available because people simply can't afford it. I didn't see any communal water pumps/boreholes until almost in Kolwezei, way in the south.

During our 'adventurous 5 days' we dreamed of cold drinks and fresh water and maybe a pizza in Tshipaka. So it was quite a shock to arrive and be sent packing almost immediately. We happened upon a police checkpoint and eventually released but one of the rozzers was drunk and ended up following us on a bike taxi and making a scene. A scene in DRC involving a mbele normally results in a crowd of at least 50 shouting people. He tried to remove the key from my ignition but i was able to swat his hand away.

Chaos and mayhem ensued. Whilst talking with another official a few metres from my bike, some other guys started wheeling away my bike, which they promptly dropped. Because of the crowds I did not notice this, I was busy holding on to our passports and wondering how to get out of this mess.

Eventually after regaining possession of my bike and ensuring I had our passports, we just decided to get out of there and took off across one of the bridges crossing one of two rivers in the centre of town. Basically 'friendly' people in the crowd were telling us to do so and before it got more funky we grabbed our chance and got out of there. That is for about another 200m where we were stopped once again. I was ready to blow right though this stoppage, but jaybee (despite his taliban-like appearance) was able to sweet talk the lady copper and we were allowed to proceed within a minute or two.

We had to sneak back into the edges of town to do all our money changing, food/supply purchasing and fueling up before taking off back to the safety of the bush again with our tails between our legs.

Tshipaka turned out to be the epicentre of all the messed up things we had heard about DRC but the further we got away from there things started to get a bit more manageable. In Kananga we stayed at the Catholic Mission described in Stevens post above and the father there was a very nice man who fed us and was extremely hospitable.

The road conditions from then on are as Steven has described however we were prepped for worse conditions as our benchmark was the road into Tshipaka, which I would never want to do again in my life. We sweat so much during this time that I started drinking oral re-hydration salts because I was getting muscle cramps in the night.

However, we decided to bush camp and sleep outside every night except for Kananga and Mbuji-Mayi. We avoided villages as the whole freak show concept didn't appeal to us. In Mbuji - Mayi we slept in the grounds of the quite impressive Catholic Mission again and were treated to a sumptuous feed as well *clap*.

People like these restored my faith in humanity a bit because sometimes I found some people to be just plain rude and aggressive. Some peoples behavior was not justifiable and in the same vein as making monkey noises is unacceptable in the football field. Luckily I had a good book to read in the night times which was able to distract me from the daily grind of dealing with ignorance.

However, it's not to say that the trip was horrible all round. We had some great motorcycling in places and did meet some fantastic people. However, this crossing is not without its challenges both in the travel part and the moto part. If you really want to cross DRC on an electric uni-cycle or a fork lift, far be it from me to persuade you not to do that, however, you will maximise your chances of completing the crossing in/on a vehicle fit for purpose. In my opinion that is a light/mid weight off road capable motorbike.

I have tried to upload some pictures here, but network is not cooperating at the moment.

Feel free to ask questions, I'm happy to answer anything to best of my abilities.

Jaybee might be able to add some pics or insights as well.

regards All
CJ.
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  #6  
Old 2 Weeks Ago
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Here's a few pictures of the route, lots and sand and lots of people.
Attached Thumbnails
Recent information: Kinshasa - Lubumbashi & Cameroon - Ouesso (Congo)-img_7417.jpg  

Recent information: Kinshasa - Lubumbashi & Cameroon - Ouesso (Congo)-img_7488.jpg  

Recent information: Kinshasa - Lubumbashi & Cameroon - Ouesso (Congo)-john_in_crowd.jpg  

Recent information: Kinshasa - Lubumbashi & Cameroon - Ouesso (Congo)-john_in_voie.jpg  

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  #7  
Old 2 Weeks Ago
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Great posts and great intel peeps!

Hopefully will be ridind the route sometime next year.

Cheers,
RN
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  #8  
Old 2 Days Ago
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Hi folks,


We passed through two weeks ago, almost same time as Cam and John (posts above).

On a 24 year old Yamaha XT600Z tenere and 2001 KLR650.

Contrary to them we followed the Illebo route. Hearing their story I think it is probably better to choose Illebo over Tshikapa, that is if you are not a sand-lover.

We only had 1 really hard day, where we only managed about 50-60km, from Kapia to Mapangu, due to loads of soft sand. The rest were always 100+ km days.

It ‘s good to calculate about 2 weeks (we did about 12 days). (this is in DRY season!)

And as Campbell mentions make sure both rider and motorbike are in good condition before you start and you’ll be alright.
Also be prepared to deal with people that have no clue what the words ‘personal space’ means. Stopping for 2 minutes to buy some bread or fuel will attract 50 people and more in no time. They will not steal from you, but some will touch you, ask questions, just stare at you. The first time this is funny, but not after the tenth time. Trick is to think of a happy place, block yourself from most of it and try to concentrate maybe on those few that are genuinely curious and answer their questions.

I am writing this not to say it’s easy, but it’s also not impossible. (I was quite nervous from the start, reading the story of the 800gs’ s fried clutch...)

A few tips:
  • The One Million Dollar Tip: look out for bicycle tracks, if you want to save your energy and go easier on your motorbike!! You will see the main logistical system is people pushing their loads on bicycles. They also hate deep sand, so follow them!
  • Staying at Catholic Missions: of the 11 nights we stayed one night in a village (really good experience) and once in construction camp of an Indian mining company. In Mapanga, we stayed at a really nice mission, drawback was that the Congolese abbay liked USD a lot and we didn’t talk about this beforehand. He tried to charge 45USD, we got away with 25USD (still enough). Normally you don’t need to pay, but better to briefly clarify this when you arrive: say you stayed at lots of missions for free before.
  • Do you need to change all your USD in francs before leaving Kinshasa?: NO, you can pay EVERYWHERE with USD, although in smaller villages it ‘s better not to pay with 100USD notes. This will take time for them to change, during which the crowds will grow and grow ;-)
Have fun ;-)
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