Tag Archives: Lubutu

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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Flyga från Kindu till Kanada

(I put the title in Swedish so I could justifiably spell Canada with a K, because alliteration is awesome)

On the evening of June 28th, I landed in Vancouver without telling anyone but my family. Getting there, from my current home in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was a rather long process. If you add up all the time I spent in the air to get from Kindu, Maniema Province, DRC to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada it’s a short little 22 hours spent airborne spread over three short hops within DRC and three longer leaps from Rwanda to Kenya to the Netherlands to Canada.

First, I had to fly domestically from Kindu to Goma. I caught a ride on June 23rd on Busy Bee, a great little charter airline we often use. That flight touched down in Punia, then Lubutu, then landed in Goma.

En route from Kindu to Punia, one of many tributaries of the mighty Congo River:

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The pilot and co-pilot gave me permission to take this photograph on the ground in Punia:

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Just before landing in Lubutu:

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En route to Goma, North Kivu Province:

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Some of the wealthier residences in Goma are waterfront properties on Lake Kivu:

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After a few days in Goma, I caught a bus from the border to Kigali in Rwanda and a taxi from downtown to the Kigali airport, where I watched the World Cup football match in which Germany destroyed England. Rooney wasn’t very happy with his team’s lack of success:

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From Kigali I flew to Nairobi on Kenya Airways, which actually provides a small hot meal on this short (just over one hour) flight, much better than Canadian airlines such as Air Canada and Westjet who don’t give a meal on a four and a half hour flight from Vancouver to Toronto. Kenya Airways planes at the gates:

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I spent the night in Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) – many people tell horror stories that remind of trying to sleep in Stansted airport, but in JKIA if you head toward Gate 3, down some stairs from Gate 4, you’ll find the sleep n’ shower facilities which were very useful for me. Also, at Gate 14 there’s a coffee shop called Java House with very tasty espressos. Gaining altitude outside Nairobi:

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Nearly nine hours later, I landed in sunny Amsterdam, where I boarded a KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) flight for Vancouver. KLM planes on the tarmac:

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Direct flights from Europe to Vancouver always fly over the Arctic, as it’s the shortest route, so we got to see some white scenery over Greenland and northern Canada:

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Finally, we passed just to the south of Bowen Island and came in for the usual east-facing landing at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, with UBC on our left:

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On July 13th I left Vancouver to do the exact opposite flight route, which was much more tiring because of the lack of sleep, and when I arrived in Kindu yesterday (July 17th) I slept from 1:30pm until 9:30pm and from midnight to 6:00am today.

Congo Canadiana

It may come a day late for Canada Day (July 1st), but I reckon a post is due on the topic of Canadiana here in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Never before have I seen so many Canadian articles of second-hand clothing in a single place as I have since arriving in DRC in March. In Kindu, Lubutu, and Kisangani the Canadian clothes are everywhere. The first one I noticed was a shirt from a car dealership in Kelowna, and after that I saw dozens of Canadian shirts and hats, many with some sort of hockey connection.

Byeka, one of our drivers, has a Toronto Maple Leafs shirt:

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One of our guards has a Vancouver Canucks / Molson Canadian shirt:

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Another one of our guards sold me some Canadian money, which is not uncommon as they find it in the pockets of second-hand clothes. I had to explain to him that Canadian Tire money is not real money:

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A Nepean (was a city from 1978-2001 before becoming part of Ottawa) soccer jersey sported by one of our storekeepers, Gédéon:

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Omari, head guard, with a Calgary shirt:

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In Otiandumbo, (a tiny village) close to Omoyaki (a small village west of Lubutu in Obokote health zone), I met these guys who were supposed to be making bricks for a maternity to be built nearby. They were quite drunk, but friendly enough to let me take a photo with the Barrie Bulldogs hockey jersey. I got a real kick out of this one because my roommate in my first year of university was from Barrie:

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The head mechanic in Lubutu has several Canadian shirts, including one from Ontario Power:

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On the streets of Kindu and Lubutu, it’s very common to see Team Canada hockey jerseys (and indeed hockey jerseys from dozens of different minor and major hockey leagues).

But the kicker for me was when I saw a UBC Thunderbirds jersey in Lubutu one day. Sadly, we were in a hurry to get back to the office so I couldn’t get a photo. A couple weeks later, we were 70km from home on the drive back to Lubutu from Kisangani in the middle of nowhere in pitch black darkness, with driving rain and lightning, at a speed of about 60km/h when I noticed two people standing in the bushes to keep a safe distance as we passed. The UBC T-birds logo was clearly visible on the chest of one of the two! For a second time, I had missed my chance at a photo of a UBC T-birds jersey in the DR Congo.

Luck would swing my way the very next day, however, when we rented a truck and some daily workers to help unload a plane full of medical supplies and transport them to our medical depot. As we showed up to the airstrip and met up with the daily workers, I could hardly believe my eyes – one of them had the UBC T-birds jersey! He must have been the same guy I saw in Lubutu a couple weeks before, and the guy the previous night was someone else who also had a UBC sports jersey. Anyways, here’s proof that in a relatively remote area of the DRC there is a UBC T-birds jersey:

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3 weeks in Lubutu

After spending the first two months of my humanitarian logistics field placement with Medical Emergency Relief International (Merlin) in Kindu, I was invited to fly north up to Lubutu to act as the interim logistician while the usual guy was on vacation. On May 19th, I flew up on a little Busy Bee Congo Let L-410A, which landed at Tingi-Tingi airport just outside the town of Lubutu. Tingi-Tingi is not much of an airport… although it has an official ICAO airport code, it’s actually just a straight section of the road that links Lubutu to Walikale. Merlin staff block both ends a few minutes before the plane lands so there aren’t any people or vehicles on it.

Takeoff after my arrival in Lubutu:

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This is the market on Lubutu’s main street, the same road as in the first photo but a few kilometres from the airport:

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Merlin’s Lubutu base supports 27 health centres in the Obokote and Lubutu health zones. During my first week there, I got to visit several of them. On the way to one such centre, this was the view of an MSF vehicle in the driver-side rear-view mirror of our LandCruiser:

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Inside one of the health centres:

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We also visited a few water sources that Merlin had rehabilitated to provide safe drinking water to local communities:

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One Sunday, a couple of us went to the Lac Vert (Green Lake) which is located 8km along a muddy old track through the jungle. It’s not the easiest road, as this very sketchy bridge demonstrates:

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There wasn’t really anything to do at the Green Lake other than swim and take photos of strange insects. I’m saving the bug pics for another post though.

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Lubutu is a 4 hour drive from Kisangani, the 3rd largest city in the DR Congo, so getting peanut butter, Dairymilk chocolate bars, and biscuits is pretty easy. Put these three together and you have a Lubutu Manwich. Try it sometime, it’s delicious:

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Of course, no blog post about a town is complete without a sunset photo or two. This one was taken looking directly West while driving home from the office:

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This was taken looking North-West through the wire mesh covering the window of the office which I called my own for 3 weeks:

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Cyclists, or tolékistes as they’re known in the DRC, frequently transport either goods or people from place to place. This guy seems to have decided he could make more money with a bench full of passengers than a single one on his rear rack:

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At the house, Mike (the boss) had 5 cute puppies which liked to run up and play with anyone’s ankles, regardless of whether said person was moving or not. One day I heard a loud squeal and looked down to see an airborne puppy, flying a few feet through the air ahead of my moving leg – it had been scooped up by my foot as I was walking full speed.

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One of the puppies was promised to Pam, the boss at our Punia base. June 11th, the day I finished my three week stint in Lubutu, I was flying to Goma with stops in Punia, Kindu, and Kampene on the way, so I was assigned to take the puppy to Pam in Punia. Mike and Okame (one of our drivers) boxed her up in an old inverter box with holes cut in the side, and off we went to the office for a few hours of morning work before the plane’s arrival:

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At the office the puppy ate some food and napped. Then, when it came time to head to the airport, she was put into a bigger box with holes cut in the sides and the seams taped shut. On the drive from the office to the airport she peed in the box (luckily we had put some plastic sheeting in the bottom) and then proceeded to lick up her own urine. In the small plane, I had to keep her on the seat beside me to make sure she wouldn’t break out of the box and run amok in the plane. About midway through the luckily short (15 minute) flight to Punia, she vomited inside the box and then for the next five minutes proceeded to lick that up too. As we descended for landing, she spent the final 3-4 minutes trying to break out of the box while I made sure she didn’t. She may look cute, and it was quite funny in many ways, but I think next time we should find someone with a tranquiliser dart before flying a puppy anywhere.

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After spending the weekend in Goma, I returned to Kindu along with a bunch of other staff members, where I spent the next week as interim logistician there before making another trip back to Goma on June 23rd.