Tag Archives: Kisangani

Creatures of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo is full of interesting critters, and I saw a few of them during the five months I spent in different parts of the country. Now that I’ve left DRC, here’s a snapshot of some of the bugs and beasts I encountered:

Caterpillars in Kindu:

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Caterpillars eventually turn into butterflies and moths, like these ones in Lubutu and Kindu:

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Tadpoles near Lubutu:

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Praying mantises in Kindu:

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And more praying mantises near Lubutu:

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Dragonflies near Lubutu:

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Strange but not unfamiliar creepy crawly in my Kisangani hotel room:

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Strange and unfamiliar bug near Lubutu:

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Huge beetle in Lubutu:

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Cricket in Kindu:

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Grasshopper with a face like a cartoon skull in Kisangani:

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And of course some predators… ants attacking something bigger than them in Kindu:

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Ants attacking a larger flying red ant in Kindu:

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Spider gobbling up an unidentified critter in my Kindu bathroom:

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A baby gecko, great hunters of mosquitoes and other insects, in Kindu:

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A skink in Kindu:

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An agama lizard in Beni:

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Another agama lizard, caught and killed by a creature higher up in the food chain in Beni:

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Three crocodiles relaxing together in Beni:

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Two turtles in the same pond as the crocodiles, also stacked up, in Beni:

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Annoyingly loud pied crows in Beni:

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Polite and silent kid goat near Obokote:

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Relatively obedient cow between Lubutu and Kisangani:

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And a large and not-at-all shy fruit bat in Beni:

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Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Some of the funniest things a traveller can find in many developing countries are signs. Here are a few of the funny or interesting ones I’ve seen so far:

At the Kindu airport MONUC base:

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Mobutu was deposed by a rebel army in 1997 after nearly 32 years as President of DR Congo. The rebel leader who became President was assassinated in 2001 and his son has been in power ever since, yet one of the main roads in Kindu is called Mobutu Boulevard and one of his sons is Minister of Agriculture.

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Back at the Kindu airport MONUC base:

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Note the swimmer in the pool, defying the rule:

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On a plane in Maniema Province:

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A pharmacy in Kisangani, Tshopo Province:

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The balance is a nearly universal symbol of justice. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the balance on this decaying building accurately reflects the situation in a country which has been receding instead of developing for the past few decades:

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245km on 24/5 – Another Day as a Humanitarian Logistician in DRC

At 6am on Monday the 24th of May, I woke up in Lubutu, 0.44° south of the Equator. I spent a couple hours at the office assigning tasks to the logistics team, checking emails, and making sure repairs of the paillote (thatched hut) for our new generator were progressing well. At 9:44am I set off in a yellow Merlin pickup truck for Kisangani, accompanied by (or perhaps accompanying?) Pam, one of our project coordinators, with our head mechanic in the driver’s seat.

At 11:07am, at 0.36377°S, 25.95470°E, two adult goats ran across the road in front of us. A second later, a baby goat decided to follow the bigguns (a baby goat is called a kid but use of that term here could be confusing and start bad rumours).

At 11:08am we explained apologetically to the dead baby goat’s owner that it had run out suddenly from the tall grass and it had been impossible to avoid running it over. The owner accepted our request for forgiveness, apologetic handshakes followed between us and him and several witnesses, and at 11:10am we were moving along the road again.

Not an uncommon sight along roads in DRC:

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At 12:25pm we stopped at a cement marker erected to mark the Equator, dividing the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

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However, they accidentally placed it at 0.00253°S, about 280m south of the Equator, according to my GPS unit and verified using Google Earth. At 12:26 we crossed the real Equator into the Northern Hemisphere.

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Just after 2pm we arrived in Kisangani, the third largest city in the DRC:

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We were soon seated at a small restaurant table drinking cold Fantas for a third the price they cost in Kindu. Our driver left the restaurant around 3pm to book hotel rooms, as we didn’t have time to get our work done and still return to Lubutu before nightfall.

Sometime after 4pm our driver finally returned, with two police officers.

It turns out our pickup truck’s government-issued legal papers had a single-letter typo in the licence plate number, which was enough for the police to try and get a bribe out of us. Pam convinced them that we would meet them at the police station nearby, where we had a five minute wait and a two minute chat with their friendly boss, who promptly let us go. Five minutes afterward, we were stopped by traffic police in a different part of town and again told that our documents did not match our plates. Pam convinced the three cops to give her their boss’s phone number and called him. After a quick chat to explain that she was the mzungu who had recently been in his office, she passed the phone to the seniormost member of the traffic cop trio and after what could have been no more than 3 words, the phone returned to her hands with an apologetic smile and we drove away.

Around 8pm at a high-end (i.e. $20/dinner) restaurant, Pam and I both received fish filets. At around 830pm we each received the delicious beef steaks we had ordered, orders which somehow had been confused by the restaurant staff.

At around 930pm I took a shower that did not consist of dumping small buckets of brown water over my head, a nice change for a day. At 11:05pm I finished handwriting this blog post on scrap paper, then fell asleep to the uneven drone of an old fan spinning and whistling and groaning as it girated back and forth on the wall.

A relatively normal day in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Addendum: Just before 10am on May 25th, on our way to pick up 85 litres of motor oil, we were stopped by Kisangani police officers for the third time in less than 24 hours, for the same reason as the day before. Pam pulled out her phone and asked if they wanted her to call their boss, whose name and number she had saved to her contact list. With smiles on their faces they immediately replied that it wouldn’t be necessary and wished us a pleasant day as we drove off.