Everyone was a little anxious heading into the Congo. We had been told that the roads were bad, that there were some potentially dangerous areas in terms of rebel activity and instability and that things in general would be a bit more difficult compared to what we had already experienced in Africa. Immediately after crossing the border from Gabon, we encountered some of those difficulties and first up to bat was our encounter with the border guards. The border crossing we chose to enter the Congo was pretty remote and there is probably not that much traffic so when we showed up, the guards were eager to see just who we were, and more importantly what we had with us. They border guards were fairly friendly, but after an hour or so of pulling everything we owned out of the trucks and going through each bag individually, even down to our toiletry kits, our patience began to wear a little thin. It proved to be the most extensive search of our trucks and our belongs to date on the expedition and to make matters worse, I was already starting to suffer from the early symptoms of malaria. I honestly do not think they were overly concerned with the security of their borders, but instead simply bored and curious.
The road south into the Congo was in pretty rough shape. It was narrow, corrugated and filled with water and mud, which made snaking our way through the jungle towards Dolisie a slow process, slow enough that we did not even come close to making it. Just before nightfall, we approached a small village and decided to ask permission to set up camp. Not knowing much about the security situation in the Congo, we figured we would be better off in the company of villagers than out in the jungle on our own. We were right, and the villagers welcomed us in with open arms. We were quite the attraction as we set up camp, prepared dinner and made some quick repairs to the trucks.
The next morning, we literally limped into Dolisie with a flat tire courtesy of the bad roads but luckily, we were fortunate enough to meet some South Africans on the road into town who offered to help us out. Derek and his colleagues were working for the telecom company MTN installing cell phone towers in the area and helped us to patch up our tires, get me the malaria medication I desperately needed and allowed us to set up our camp in the safe confines of the MTN warehouse in town. Derek was even kind enough to let me crash in his hotel room while I swat out one of the roughest nights in my life.
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