Tag Archives: Dungu Castle

Dungu, Province Orientale, DR Congo

After the first two weeks spent in Faradje, the next month of my recent contract in the Democratic Republic of Congo was spent based out of Dungu. The iconic landmark of the town is Dungu Castle:

Dungu Castle

Among expat aid workers, the weekly MSF “soirée pizza” is an important event, during which many pizzas are created, cooked, and consumed. The brick pizza oven has to be heated for some time before the first pizza can be put in to cook:

MSF Dungu pizza oven

Guests take turns preparing pizzas of all imaginable varieties. Once each pizza is ready to be eaten, someone cuts it into pieces and within seconds a dozen or more hands thrust forward, trying to grab a magical slice. A cooked pizza rarely lasts more than one minute on the cutting board.

Eating pizza

One night, a bunch of us were invited to the house of Invisible Children, where we had a “soirée québécoise” complete with poutine, pineapple covered in maple syrup, and a campfire to roast marshmallows! While I may have issues with the organisation, I can definitely vouch for the warm welcome and cooking abilities of their staff in Dungu.

Marshmallows over the campfire with Invisible Children in Dungu, DR Congo

Of course, it’s not all fun and games… I was in the DR Congo for emergency measles vaccinations after all! In Dungu, we often had crowds of children waiting for their turn at vaccination sites:

Rachel at a vaccination site in Dungu, DR Congo

These are the sharps boxes we use to collect the needles used in the vaccination campaign. They were taped up and then burned in an incinerator.

Sharps boxes ready for burning in Dungu, DR Congo

After the vaccination campaign ended, we on the emergency team had to load up all the stuff we’d brought with us and send it to Bunia. Among many, many other things, we had to wash and dry the big blue cold boxes we’d used to keep the vaccines cold:

Drying out the RCW25 cold boxes after washing

The first truck that the transport company brought us wasn’t very big. We loaded this MF314 freezer first, then a bunch of other stuff, and eventually the transporter agreed that the truck was too small.

Loading an MF314 freezer onto a truck in Dungu, DR Congo

The next morning, February 24th, he brought a much bigger truck. I then organised the loading of the bigger truck, and after a few hours the tarps were on and the truck was ready to head to Bunia:

Tying down the tarps on a truck in Dungu, DR Congo

To make Alan jealous, I also got to drive the truck:

Driving the truck to make Alan jealous

Later that afternoon, just before most of us boarded a plane for Bunia, we took a team photo at Dungu Wando Airstrip:

Emergency measles vaccination team photo, Dungu Wando Airstrip, DR Congo

I got to sit up front and spend the entire time chatting with Dave, our pilot, through the headsets we both wore. I asked him tonnes of questions about the plane, about the instruments and gauges on the dash, about his flying experience and personal life, and a bunch of other topics. It was really neat!

Dave, our friendly and skilled pilot from Dungu to Bunia, DR Congo

First class on a Cessna 208 Caravan I

The scenery was pretty cool, especially as we got closer to Bunia, flying over mountains that reminded me of the flights I took between Goma and Beni in 2010.

Mountains just outside Bunia, DR Congo

The outskirts of Bunia, from the air:

River in the outskirts of Bunia, DR Congo

Coming in for landing at Bunia Murongo National Airport:

Landing at Bunia Murongo National Airport, DR Congo

Once we landed, we had to clear customs (even though we didn’t leave the country, we had to have our documents checked and stamped each time we arrived in a town). I was at the back of the line with a Danish guy who speaks Swedish too, so we spent about twenty minutes chatting in Swedish as the line moved very slowly along. All in all, a great day!

Disclaimer: The postings and views expressed on this site are mine alone, and do not represent the position or values of Médecins Sans Frontières.
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Le Parc National de la Garamba, Province Orientale, République Démocratique du Congo

Once we finished our measles vaccination campaign in Faradje, we were asked to fly west to Dungu to do the same. If you draw a line from Faradje to Dungu on the map (and there is indeed a road joining the two, though our security rules prevent us from driving along it), what you see above that line is Garamba National Park, once home to an incredible number and variety of wild animals. Unfortunately, it has for several years now been frequented by Joseph Kony’s famed Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which, some may recall, was active in Northern Uganda for many years, but eventually began to frequent areas of South Sudan, then DR Congo and Central African Republic once a number of militaries started putting more energy into pursuing them. The LRA not only terrorised and thereby displaced local populations all across the area, but they also seem to be part of the reason for a decrease in the number of wild animals in the park. Nevertheless, during the half hour flight from Faradje to Dungu in a Cessna 208 Caravan I, during which I was lucky enough to get the co-pilot seat again, we managed to see quite a few animals. Our pilot, John, could see the animals from far away, and banked the plane hard several times to get us closer for a better look.

John, pilot extraordinaire, banking left to see some elephants

I only had a wide-angle lens with me, so I took very few photos and focused on watching the animals with my own eyes, but I’ll post a couple pics anyways. In this photo, there are at least seven elephants, two of which have white birds on their backs. Can you see them all?

Seven elephants in Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

If not, here are zoomed views of two different parts of the photo:

Three elephants in Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

Four elephants in Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

In total, I saw about twenty elephants during the flight. We also saw well over 200 hippos by my estimate, as we flew over at least ten groups of hippos lounging along the banks of the Dungu River, which runs through Garamba National Park, and each group had at least twenty individuals. For instance, I count at least 38 hippopotamuses in this photo:

At least thirty-eight hippos in Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

I didn’t get to fly the plane, but being in the co-pilot seat has its advantages regardless, mostly the chance to wear a headset and spend the entire flight chatting with the pilot and listening in on radio conversations between pilots and airport control towers.

Chris the co-pilot

As we flew over the town of Dungu to prepare for our final approach to Dungu Wando Airstrip, we got a clear view of the famed Dungu Castle. The story told about the castle’s construction is that the Belgian administrator at the time chose to build a single bridge across the river instead of two, using the bricks instead to build this medieval-style castle:

Dungu Castle from above

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