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The Rwindi park  (3)

Mom in Zaire !

As explained previously, the communications were almost non-existent in Goma in 1991: no telephone, failing post office... So it's by very diverted ways that one brought me from nearby Rwanda (in war) an already turned yellow fax:

"Hi son !
I shall be in Goma from March 28 till April 10 !
Will my Visa card be accepted everywhere ? I'm coming !

EH ?!? Later we would laugh at the question about the Visa card (a Visa card in a region where the wallet of the Mamas is their undies, waf-waf!) but when I received this fax there was some panic : a few days before we were once again hiding in our houses because of the plunders, and the situation was very tense. Since I like my Mom, I answered by fax (I don't know any more how I managed to send this one) :

The situation is very tense here at the moment. DO NOT COME.
I 'm fine but it is too dangerous.

Well, yeah, that wasn't very smart, was it ?
I should have written that I was leaving for holidays in Kenya, or anything else...

Until this day, I didn't know
That I had an adventuress mother !

So my dear mother took the plane to Bujumbura (Burundi) and got acquainted with nuns who accommodated her until the next day, for the correspondence towards Goma.

But this plane having been requisitioned by servicemen, Mom simply waited, discovering Buja and having fun.

On my side however, being almost alone in Goma because all other expatriates had gone on holiday in Kenya, I spent time in my Jeep, between the offices of an airfreight company which had a radio, the airfield, and cafes frequented by some local pilots. No news of Mama. Every time a plane passed over the city, I rushed to the field.

Three days of this small ballet later, I saw my mother simply landing in Goma, and be at once "taxed" the toothpaste tubes which she had brought me by the customs officer (the only one to whom I had not offered a little gift in advance). Well, I'll have to buy them back later at the market...

Dear Mouma...

Well, the situation is too tense in the city, let's leave as quickly as possible to the wilderness. Program: strolls in the Jeep, animals in the Rwindi, the mountains and Kanyabayonga for the landscape, and in the end the Gorillas in Djomba. Mom agrees, and pays the "tourist" fees for the licenses and let pass, whereas I pay the "resident" price, a hundred times cheaper :

"But, citizen, it's my mother !"
- "Yes boss, but your mother is also our mother, and our mother is generous !"


En piste !

Mom discovers Africa bit by bit, while she had never left the European continent previously. This trip was only her first one : she joined me later in Louisiana, then in Vietnam, went with her friends to Quebec... But that's another story. Let's go back to our... Lions.

In those times, we were safer
in the wilderness than in the city !

Hey ! They forgot to remove this old sign,
since 1960, on this old abandoned track...

That doesn't sound good : Nelly and Ernest, whom we stopped by along the way and who welcomed us with open arms as usual, tell us that the track is closed farther: a truck overturned and blocks it completely.

We spend the night there, visit the coffee plantation, have a good time.

Some vehicles pass in the other direction, tell us that they had to turn back: the track is completely blocked, and what's more, there are many armed and vindictive servicemen in the zone.

But Ernest, as an old broussard he is, knows another track, almost abandoned : "You go to Tongo and then you continue straight ahead" - "But the track stops in Tongo, doesn't it ?" - "No, in fact almost nobody uses it anymore, but it continues beyond the mountain and joins the main track, farther than the accident".

Hem...  Ok...  We'll try.

A few hours later we are on this deserted track, the Jeep moans a little in the mountain but crosses bravely, in the mud, over the old flows of lava, clears itself a road in a tunnel of vegetation by places... No village, almost nobody throughout the track... I try to convince myself that we'll arrive somewhere, sometime...

Along the way, in the middle of nowhere, a treasure : an old "Albert National Park" sign in French and in Flemish, forgotten there since the independence 30 years ago ! I wanted to take it with me... It was for sure transformed in a frying pan since then...

While for the tenth time I was wondering if it would not be better to try to find a place to turn back on this too narrow "track", several hours later, we emerged from the forest without a warning and we found ourselves on the main track, just before Mabenga's guardroom, at the entrance of the Rwindi !

The guards, who had not seen a single vehicle for several days,
asked us "Oh, the track is finally reopened ?"
When I answered them that not, that we were by the Tongo track,
They exchanged some winks
("But ! That guy is crazy ! And he thinks we'll believe him ?")
before opening the barrier for us...


OUF. Here we're safe, with the lions and the hyenas ;) This time, because the volunteers of the EEC can not lend us their chalets, we live and eat in the Rwindi hotel, held by Italians and famous for its reception and its kitchen in these "old days".

Our small bungalows are comfortable and we are going to be able to rest and take advantage of the park at the same time.

I hire my usual guard, and from the next day at dawn we are on the tracks : in the wilderness, it is necessary to go out early !

Superb Topis...

First lion !

Well, it's an old lioness gone bald, but all the same...

And I can very well imagine, to have felt them a few months before, the feelings of Mom, sitting in my small Jeep opened to any wind, two metres from a free lioness, with the cannon of the guard's rifle above her shoulder...

I shall have the luck to be able to show her dozens of lions, in group or isolated, hunting or sampling an antelope, resting or playing with lion cubs...

Of all the animals living in this region, it is really the lions whom I prefer.

I find them fascinating, big cats with such a nice look, who are so powerful when they want but let it appear only by an impressive presence.

We would like to caress them, but at the same time feel it would be inappropriate and that the slightest gesture this way would break the affable tranquillity of Her Majesty...

Of course, Her Majesty has some needs as everybody: it's natural!

That's also what makes the magic of a wild reserve : one sees there animals living, free, in all the aspects of their daily life.

They do not make their "show" for the guests:

It is the guests who have to, humbly and patiently, adapt themselves to the animals' schedules, find the place which they chose to go hunting or relax that day, and accept that maybe the lion does not want to move his behind for several hours...

If you wondered why there was a humid spot
on the ground on the previous picture...

Well, of course there are some who like posing for the picture... Would it be due to the relationship of this one with the human beings ;)?

No, no, it's not E.T.: it's a baboon.

According to me, he's the worst hooligan of the jungle (see the Rwindi-2 page), but he's so nice ;)

There are others who like clowning around.

I had already told you that driving in the wilderness requires instinct and that it's not a good idea to charge without looking, didn't I ?

Here is another good example : please, do not try to cross this small mud puddle with your car, even with a good 4x4.

Really, I disadvise you to.

Its occupant would not appreciate, I believe, and as on the ground he runs fast in spite of his three tons, you would certainly regret it.

Your car weighs how much?

Less than a ton, like my Willys?

One and a half ton, like a modern 4x4 ?

Ridiculous, anyway.

"Please, Mr. Hippo, be nice :
A little smile for the picture ? Cheese !"

"No ? Ok, then..."

"You see, Mom, mud baths,
That does not make people more kind !"

- "It's true, son, but it's good for the skin."

"Oh ? Let's go bathe, then ?"

- "H'm... Later, son, later."

For a few days, we continued so to observe animals on the various tracks of the Rwindi, going to eat some roasted fish in Vitshumbi or some dry meat in the Kanyabayonga mountains...

Pitying my poor guard, who had to sit on my diesel reserve in the back of the Jeep, because there were only two seats... I believe that his buttocks still remember these trips ! Hey, a Jeep is a Jeep, and I was the only one there without a Pajero or Landcruiser...

In the evening ? Quietly at the hotel, listening to the animals for lack of being able to see them...

We then went to see the mountain gorillas in Djomba, what I shall tell you in detail on the "gorillas" page.

So we spent more than a week in the wilderness, and if we did appreciate to escape the insurection atmosphere of Goma, we were exhausted and happy to return to my place in the city.

On the way back, I had the very bad idea to want to offer to my dear Mouma the magnificent vision of the sunset on Lake Kivu, seen from the volcano on the verge of the city. So we stopped at the edge of the track, a few kilometres from Goma, to attend a sunset which finally turned out disappointing.

"Mmm ! This antelope is really tender !
Certainly not fed with
Animal flours !
Come, darling, have a beefsteak !"

There are not many hyenas in the Rwindi,
And they are rather difficult to observe.

It was only the beginning of our hard return to the "civilization"... By going down towards Goma after the nightfall, we were stopped by servicemen near the airfield.

If I had been alone, I would have charged through as I did usually (the servicemen and policemen stopped vehicles at almost every crossroads to raise money, at this time).

With mom, no way to take this risk (I was once jailed by a Sergeant who had not jumped out of the way and had ended on the hood of my Jeep).

So we had to pay, and not a little : "Boss, your mom is ours also, you have to be generous for her children" etc.

Pff ! Welcome to Zaire, Mom !

The rest of Mom's stay in Goma?

Well, she saw everything...

Some visits in the surroundings. Good meals in La Michaudière.

Three days hiding in the apartment, curtains closed, because of new riots.

A quick exit in the daytime when she should have taken her plane, to hear in the office of the company that the plane had been hijacked by the rioters and taken to Lubumbashi.

Getting out of this office, Mom found an old recollection of the 1940's : the noise of bullets. We jumped into my Jeep, and the road back home being cut, I charged in the first free alley. While going at full speed, I found the street where Françoise (a schoolteacher) lived, and on the way down I began to honk. The boyesse recognized the horn of my "beautiful red tractor" and opened the heavy doors, just the time for us to rush in. We hid the Jeep under the vegetation, and... We spent a very good time with Françoise until we could go back to my place.

A few days later, when it was quiet again,
Mom was able to take a plane back to Belgium...

Result ?

Mom was reassured on her son's fate !

The war, the shots : not important. What counted for her was to have seen where I lived and to have noticed that, in those circumstances, I was rather careful.

Dear expatriate colleagues, please, never forget this : even in full war, mom will be reassured if she can see you. Oh, and a last advice as Philippe Lambillon (Belgian adventurer) would say : when something happens to you, even a simple cold, please, write it to her later. Not while it's happening. If it is of past, the reaction is "Oh, Ok." If on the other hand it is current, she'll takes a plane ticket on her little savings.

Write that down ;-)

Next and last Congolese page : Djomba's gorillas !

Page créée le 16 juin 2001 -  Mise à jour le 6 juillet 2002

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