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Congo :

The Rwindi park  (2)

The Rwindi with my Jeep : much better !

After my first visit accompanied, nothing would stop me anymore to go in the wilderness by myself, particularly in the Rwindi. The fact that the park is wild and little administered did not bother me, on the contrary: that's exactly what attracted me there!

My Jeep on a track.

You don't see the track?
Nevertheless, it is there!

Of course, it implied a certain preparation: the track in those times was really very bad and one never knew how long it would be take to go through the 120 km from Goma to the Rwindi base camp...

Records 1990-1991: the fastest in 3 hours (Rolf) and the slowest in a week (a volunteer of Kinshasa).

You see, this track was old and little maintained. It was opened between the volcanoes, through savanna and jungle, made of soil, bits of gravel, cliff of lava (where the track had been covered during the eruptions since its construction), mud, "corrugated iron"...

A constant: holes. Natural or dug and filled with water. Why? So that the inhabitants of the neighborhood had the occasion to make a little money by taking your vehicle out of the mud!

The problem is that there are holes, and so puddles, absolutely throughout the track. If one does not want to take a week for the journey by stopping to sound every puddle, it is necessary to trust one's instinct.

Without driving too fast of course, because the instinct and the conditions of braking are really empirical.

And so, by approaching this puddle on the photo at about 50 kph, I suddenly had a doubt and I stopped. From a far distance, it looks nevertheless like a simple puddle, funny to cross by making spring the mud and laughing...

The track is flat and clear, the puddle does not look deep...

A simple puddle?

Let's have a closer look...

The "simple puddle"
is more than a metre deep!

Instinct can be very useful. I can imagine myself, stuck deep in the "puddle" with a 3 tons hippo on the hood of my 700 kg Jeep...

This hole also illustrates, due to its likely origin, the biggest speed bump of this track: trucks.

As in any poor country, truck drivers have to fill in every cubic centimeter to make some profit. Trucks are very badly maintained, filled up (the driver often fits this description too), with even passengers and their luggage on the roof.

On this track, trucks sink regularly into the mud and are very difficult to take out of their hole.

If there is no place on the side, one should wait. Several days sometimes... I lived this kind of blocking several times, but I was lucky: twice I was warned and I was able to go by another track (that I didn't know, it was crazy!) ; once the truck had been there for some days and was being loosened with the bulldozer transported on another truck ; and a fourth time...

It was late and I knew that I better be at the camp on the hill before the day fall, because numerous armed gangs raged during the night on this track (in 1991). What's more, my battery had died: impossible to restart by myself if I should stop. Still a good hour away from my destination, bad luck: a truck broke its axle and blocks the track. There is only a passage of about two metres, a kind of natural ditch, not very deep. More to the right, the bank. Let's try: I dash. At the beginning, that passes. The Jeep tilts strongly, but it's good until it sinks too much into the mud... It tilts more, almost rolls over... Two days before I had a rollbar made with bits of steelpipes welded together: relief!

But nevertheless, I'm in trouble. Not even caring about my bags, clothes, provisions and the diesel of my jerry cans which mix cheerfully in my back. I forgot how one says "Please, Come! Please, come!" in Swahili, but at the time my intellectual cells were good and I did not hesitate to use these wonderful words. It's kind of magic : you consider yourself alone, and bang, everybody gets out of the wood... In no time, around thirty (no kidding!) lads put the Jeep back on its wheels (with me inside) and take us out of there, but... Oh no! These -censored- put me back behind the truck!

And the engine is stalled... "Well, I explain to the lads: you push me behind and then forward to start the engine, all right?" "All right boss". A few minutes later, I have a muddy Jeep, with a roaring engine that I have to keep this way, myself covered with food and diesel, and about thirty lads to pay. Fortunately I had followed the advice of Danielle and prepared some dozens small notes for this kind of situation. General distribution, then... "Make way!" I charge. And this time, I go through.

One does not leave in the wilderness without preparation and with an empty trunk... The metallic trunk which I had welded in the back of my Jeep contained 150 liters of diesel, tools, provisions, sleeping bag and clothes. No weapon: anyway, I would not have known how to use it, at least not fast enough.

The only thing that was missing: maps! It simply did not exist there, so for this matter too it was necessary to trust its instinct and the "oral tradition" ;) Still today, I don't understand how I never got lost, often taking tracks unknown or abandoned for a long time, often invisible under the vegetation for several kilometres, reserving their lot of treasures and dismays (including another one of these muddy tracks in the mountain, with my mother this time: one would have imagined being on a bobsleigh track, with the Jeep as Bob)...


Relief !

The reception is good:

The small bridge just before the Rwindi base camp is the realm of baboons.

He who is not afraid of stopping is always welcomed there by these mischievous monkeys and, let's say it, openly hooligans.

"Hurray ! A Jeep ! We'll have fun !"

"What's in there ?"

They are a little bit intimidating at first, with their impressive canine mouth and their impertinent attitude...

But without going as far as tickling them, I had no problem with these small clowns.

If one forgives them the small thefts, of course...

They always managed to steal things from me
(mostly food) in spite of my (friendly) attentiveness and in spite of different "protections" (well closed bags and icebox).


I always stopped there,
and always had fun.

They too: a Jeep is funny, there are lots of places to hang on, it doesn't close...

It is way better that one of these modern 4x4!

"Comeon, let's go, hey ?"

"Vroum !  Vroum !  Tût-tût !"

Hey, on this photo, you can well see the bump on my hood, recollection of an elephant's charge.

Nooo, the elephant did not sit on my hood. It is I who was sitting on the edge of the windshield, filming the group of elephants, then the one that charged us. Seen in the camera's visor, it was great! Only one problem, though: when I opened the other eye, I had the presence of mind to jump on the hood, then on the ground, then on my seat, then on the clutch and the accelerator...

Even in the zoo, I have never seen an elephant so closely! My guard could confirm that the elephant was touching the front of the Jeep while I was flooring the gas pedal! We were very fortunate elephants abandon when they see you fleeing!

So many adventures, recollections...

You certainly do not believe half of them, at least if you never lived in Africa... Too bad!

Anyway, I think that if I returned there, I would be much wiser. Well...Maybe...;)

Another recollection from the tracks? At the beginning of this first adventure in the wilderness by myself, I was very careful and I drove slowly, appreciating the power of the Jeep to climb on the lava cliffs, crossing gently the various obstacles.

Then, feeling more rash ("Ha ! Piece of cake !" ;)) I accelerated, and I really began to have a lot of fun with this magnificent and almost indestructible car: I charged in a cloud of dust and mud (according to places), sliding, jumping, laughing...

I can smell something yummy in there !"

Little head, big... ;)

Indestructible, the Jeep? Doubtless, if one makes exception of the accessories... A (very) big bump, a (very) big jump... I measured little scientifically that my wheels took off from more than two metres, but I would not dare to swear it. It doesn't matter much.

I stopped to see... The liquid which passed by under the Jeep did not only result from one of my jerry cans which had opened: there was also water from the radiator!

Well, I am right by Katale's plantation, at Nelly and Ernest; this Jeeps' lover is going to repair this radiator hose in an instant. Let's restart.

H'm... No more battery either? Ooops.

Well, let's just go down the hill and restart...

Ernest's verdict: the shock of the fall after the jump had broken a radiator hose and made one of the elements of the battery go down: short-circuited! I learned my lesson ;)

Well, you're tired of my stories about my Jeep and the baboons? All right, let's go on to see the other animals.

What would you say about a buffalo?

A beautiful buffalo, grown-up, sturdy and everything and everything?


And if he's disguised and wears a wig?

Noo, he is not homo...

Although? Maybe, after all. So what?

It is not because one is naked
That one cannot be pretty !

"Good heavens! What does this strange
red and stinking metallic animal want from me ?"

Or a lion, then?

Everybody loves lions: they are the stars of the wild world.

This one is a rather young, magnificent male, met on a little frequented track.

The proof: he is in the middle of the track!
You had noticed that of course.

This lion seems solitary, nevertheless I saw him again later with a lioness.

And as he's red, he's even more beautiful.
Long live the red-haired !

But alone, he's of course much more dangerous. Photos are taken without zoom, but from the inside of the Jeep!

The protection is imaginary because there is only a soft top to cover us, but as it was explained to me, as long as one stays in a vehicle, the lion does not perceive us either as a prey nor as a predator: he sees only a metal mass, without interest for him.

The guard who accompanies me does not leave his rifle alone, though !

"Aaw, come on, I had found a nice place for the siesta,
And here is this big animal buzzing all around me !"


On his behalf, I should say that

1) It's his job;

2) He cares about himself;

3) He cares about me :

I hire him every time I am in the region ! At the end of the year, I shall have paid the whole roof of his house...

Well, our lion would want a little tranquillity, let's go on.


My, oh My..

This one doesn't look friendly!

A solitary hippopotamus, outside the water,
It's more dangerous than a lion!

Let's let him graze...

"Say boss, if you don't take the picture quick-quick
I am going to be eaten, hey !"

Ah, I have not yet shown you this common element of the Rwindi's landscape.

No, not the guard!

A termites mound.

This one is rather impressive (not, it is not my guard who is small, he's as big as I am- 1m86- it's the "termites city" which is... Oh, well...

How many million termites in this one?

I didn't try to dig...

Shall we go on ? Mom in the Rwindi park !

Page créée le 10 juin 2001 -  Mise à jour le 6 juillet 2002

©opyright 1997-2007 Pierre Gieling - tous droits réservés