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Couple drives across the Congo, documents it online

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by LucasJackson, Nov 29, 2010.

  1. LucasJackson

    LucasJackson
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    I started reading this and could not stop. Before I go any further, I have to throw it up here:

    <a class="postlink" href="http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=50799" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/s ... hp?t=50799</a>

    A Belgian couple stocks their Jeep with a month's supply of food and rough it across the Democratic Republic of Congo, from Lubumbashi to Kinshasa. It is probably the most engrossing thing you will read all year, check it out.

    Focus: Back country road trips. Ever taken one? What's your story?

    Me - I never have. Unless you count Northern Michigan "back country," driving from Boyne County to Traverse City with your high school friends, stopping at the Laughing Horse Saloon and messing with the locals in the middle of winter after a ski trip. Reading this, I have some living to do.
     
  2. DrFrylock

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    We've done a road trip thread before, which, if I recall correctly, sort of fizzled with a few lame-o stories. Maybe this one will be more successful. However, I"ll add an:

    ALT FOCUS: What is furthest away, literally or figuratively, you've been from "civilization?" Do you seek out those kinds of experiences, or do you try to stick to the parts of the world where they have cell phone towers and penicillin?
     
  3. Dcc001

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    Oh, man, the stories I could tell....

    The farthest away I've ever been from "civilization" is tough to say. The story that immediately comes to mind happened sometime in March of 2008. I was invited by some other volunteers to come and visit their placement, which was probably the farthest placement out of all of us in Uganda.

    To understand this journey, you pretty well have to set aside your ideas about what constitutes a "road" and a "bus" and actual time travelled equating to a reasonable distance. This is Africa time, Africa roads and everything is unlike what we are used to in the west.

    It began with a two and a half hour bus ride from my placement to a town called Kamuli. Once in Kamuli, I waited around for three hours for the next bus to fill up - it never did. I gave up and caught a motorcycle taxi called a boda boda to Rich's house, which was a 45 minute ride away across a "road." I don't think anything I could type here would accurately convey what that was like; suffice to say, had my mother seen me doing it, I would've been torn a new asshole. Flip flops, tank top, no helmut and a dirt trail at top speeds for 45 minutes. The only silver lining was that I was the only passenger (in Africa, as in most developing countries, you can fit upwards of six people on a motorcycle, provided some are children).

    I met up with Rich and the other volunteers, and the next day we travelled by bicycle to Lake Kyoga. "Travelled by bicycle" means that the three male volunteers rode old-school, steel framed 1950s bikes and the two females sat on the shelf over the back tire. No shocks; my ass was numb for days afterward.

    After visiting Lake Kyoga, we were invited to the village that one of the Ugandan volunteers grew up in. A further trek through what was now the African bush lead to a full-on, National Geographic African village, complete with grass/mud huts, a million kids and an old, dying patriarch. Once there we were served the best meal I ever had during my time in Uganda; what those villagers did - and they had almost nothing for themselves - to be hospitable to their guests was nothing short of remarkable. Two different kinds of chicken dishes, beef, rice, posho, vegetables...it was simply unreal.

    That is, in my mind at least, the farthest I've ever been away from home. There's an argument to be made that when I lived with my family in Soroako, Indonesia (google it) I was technically further away, but that was a very westernized style of living. The Lake Kyogo trip in Africa most definitely was not.

    The most isolated I've ever felt, though, was inside the queen's chamber of Khufu Pyramid in Egypt. I don't recommend travel in Egypt - it's the only country I've been to that I didn't like - but standing inside that chamber is unnerving. It is 100%, totally and completely silent. No ambient noise whatsoever. Hot as a sonofabitch, no fresh air, and as quiet as...well, the grave. Creepy and peaceful, all at the same time.

    I've bored you enough with the length of this post. Those are the places that come to mind when I think of being pretty far gone.
     
  4. Disgustipated

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    When I was 5 my family (read: dad) decided we needed to see Australia. So, we found someone to housesit for us, bought a caravan and drove around Australia... literally. We travelled the whole coast, and went south from Darwin to Ayers Rock (Uluru, if you must) and back. That is some of the most distant, remote country going even today. When we did it 30 years ago it was desolate.

    The freakiest places in terms of just nothingness were the Simpson Desert and the Nullabor plain. Staring out into those places for too long can make you a little loopy.

    The Simpson Desert, which I went to again a couple of years back, looks like a flat version of Mars. In some parts it's dead flat, hard packed ground with deep red rocks and stones everywhere under a cloudless, brilliant blue sky. In others it has the world's longest parallel sand dunes, over 100 feet high. There are no trees, no hills and no real shelter. Shit dies easy out there. The government has actually taken to "closing" the desert in Summer so people don't drive through it, because of the conditions.

    The Nullabor Plain has some vegetation, at least (if you count ankle high shrubs). It's about 680 miles wide and covers an area of 77,00 square miles. Temperatures there get up to 120 in the day. It's not so bad now, but back in the 80s you had to hope someone came along if you got into trouble because there was nothing you could do but wait. And if you wandered off the road, there was zero chance.


    I like to avoid these places when I have the choice.
     
  5. MadDocker

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    At least a few times a year a group of us get together in the 4WD’s and head down or up to a remote beach to do some fishing, drinking and whatever else.

    I live in the most isolated capital city in the world so that comes in pretty handy because I love getting away from the world and being one of the only people in the area. If I want to go away for the weekend I can drive around 2 hours and be the only person on the beach for kilometers. There is something amazing about being out of phone range, with no one besides your closest friends and dog, catching fish in an area that hasn’t been fished out or polluted and then sitting around a fire talking shit under the stars.

    Whenever I get the time, like over this Christmas break, I pack the ute up and drive up the coast camping and fishing along the way until I have to come home from work. I have found some amazing places and had some awesome times. I'm really glad that I get to experience this country rather then being stuck in the big smoke somewhere, not sure I could handle it.

    These trips are the things I look forward to most these days and getting in the car to come back to reality is always depressing.
     
  6. Kubla Kahn

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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Củ_Chi_tunnels

    I visited the Chu Chi tunnels a few months ago outside of Saigon, Vietnam. It wasn't actually that far outside of civilization being on the outskirts of Saigon, 2 or 3 hour bus ride into the country from the city center. The country side of the country was fucking BLEAK. I have never seen such devastating poverty. From the stop we had to walk about a mile up to the national park where the tunnels are at.

    We really wanted to fire the automatic weapons but decided to take a tour of the smaller sections of the tunnels first. After a hilariously one sided documentary our tour guide took us down into the tunnels. We had not prepared for the shitty conditions in the tunnel was well as the over powering claustrophobia. I had flip flops on and a huge back pack that had my brothers Nikon SLR camera. We only crawled through maybe 120 meters of tunnel and various living quarters. But the claustrophobia mixed with my back stirring up bats as I crawled on my hands and knees to keep up with our spry tour guide. Normally I am as out going as the next to try something new. I was pretty fucking freaked by the time we came out. I had a totally new respect for the fighters that lived in the tunnels and the US soldiers that crawled in with only a flashlight and pistol. By the time we got back to the gun range it was closed. Then my brother left his digital camera, not the one in my back pack, on the bus ride home losing all of the pictures we took that day.
     
  7. scootah

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    I worked in the mining industry for a while. I still sort of do, but for a year - I actually worked on a gold and copper mine, in the middle of an area where they mine a great deal of Uranium. Not far from where the UK did the majority of their nuclear testing. In restricted airspace where the Australian defense force are rumoured to do joint weapons testing programs. Not far from some US resources that don't show up on google maps. The security check was pretty spectacular before I got clearance to work there. About 185 miles south west of the Simpson. We had a few scrubby bushes and we'd bulldozed the dunes out of the way and into convenient locations - but otherwise it was basically identical to what Disgustipated described.

    While I was there, the termperature swung between 15 and 150 F. That's -10 and 65 degrees celcius for those of us from civillisation. The wind got up as high as 80mph and since the whole point of a mining opperation is to turn millions of tonnes of rock into high value ore, and a shitload of red dust - in 80mph winds we saw hundreds of thousands of dollars of mineral dust blow past us and spent thousands of collective man hours trying to get the red dust out of our equipment and out of our lungs. In the nearest town - a guy was eaten by wild dogs (the nearest town was like 6 hours drive away). About a week later, one of the shift bosses shot a wild pig that was standing on it's back feet, with it's front feet on the roof of his pickup - trying to attack him at the time. Serious mad max feel to both events.

    The area is basically devoid of life, so the only things out there are kangaroo's, foxes, snakes and bugs. I was stung by a scorpion while I was there. We had a bug plague where you couldn't drive around without the windscreen wipers on. We ran 24/7 operations - so huge lights all night which attracted giant mutant moths, with bodies the size of my fist. Foxes would creep in and eat the moths and grow the size of border collies. They'd also occasionally eat the explosives used to blast earth if they were left out overnight prepped for a shot for some reason. The job was the highest paid I have ever had, but a good stretch - but it was only just enough for the conditions.

    If the zombie apocalypse comes though - I'm heading for a mine site. The supplies kept on hand in that place could keep a camp of a thousand alive and comfortable for months. The explosives stored on site could take out a city. Fortifying the location with the equipment on hand would take about 15 minutes if you had competent vehicle operators. And the difference between the equipment we were using an armored vehicle is that the gun racks in the mine equipment is added as an after market accessory. Hell, half the guys working there were ex armed forces - you work in teams with a rigid command structure, wear a uniform, eat in a dry mess, drink in a wet mess and there's fuck all women - it's just like the army, but your uniform is orange and you get paid better. Probably get shot at almost as often - but you've got to stay entertained somehow in the middle of nowhere.
     
  8. tempest

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    The furthest from civilization I've ever been was an overnight family trip when I lived in Saudi Arabia. My dad is one of those science-y museum types and was always finding little trips for us to go on. This time we drove out into the middle of the desert and walked around looking for fosilized shark teeth. I'll be damned if we didn't find a ton of them. I was about 14 years old and I'll never forget walking around the desert floor and later climbing a jebel, feeling like a little Lawrence of Arabia.

    As I've gotten older, I've been feeling like I need more adventure in my life. After watching "The Long Way Round" and "The Long Way Down," the fires were really stoked. I fully intend to do the Mongol Rally someday soon:

    <a class="postlink" href="http://mongolrally.theadventurists.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://mongolrally.theadventurists.com/</a>
     
  9. LucasJackson

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    I think because the majority of us can't step to the awesomeness that is these two hustling their way across the Congo, feel free to comment on the thread. I just got back from work, but I only got as far as page 4 last night and can't wait to read the rest.
     
  10. Crown Royal

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    One day while driving from Phoenix to Flagstaff, my dad decided it would be more adventurous to take a straight off-the -grid backroad instead of the Highway Of Death. This road we took was 240 miles long straight as a pin. We stopped at the only gas station that was barely standing and run by a guy that laughed every time we talked. Not. One. Single. Car. It was our first time in Arizona which is a simply gorgeous place to see, but driving through a desert for the first and it feeling like Night Of The Comet the whole time was eerie.
     
  11. Queen-Bee

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    I've taken a break on page 30. This is absolutely gripping.

    What I'm even more interested in is Josephine's perspective. Their adventure is ridicuously dangerous and as a female, she is considerably more vulnerable than Frederik. I admit that I am a huge coward and avoid danger, so I can't fathom intentionally putting myself in such treacherous and unpredictable situations (that's not even addressing the physical discomforts. No room service? Bah!). I'm just not getting her motivation at all. I hope this is addressed.
     
  12. ghettoastronaut

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    It seems this was addressed on the first page or so...

    As for me, the farthest I've been away from civilization in a literal sense would either be on a camping trip that took us by a sign indicating we were near Swastika, Ontario; or a several hour hike (as I never fail to mention, with a 40 pound backpack on) over a mountain in Germany, although both of these pale in comparison to actually being away from civilization. In a more metaphorical sense, I've spent a few months of my life living in rural Quebec. That counts, right?
     
  13. Queen-Bee

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    I don't think this even comes close to addressing her motivation. Taking on this challenge isn't explained with a soundbite motto.
     
  14. Allord

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    I was walking to my car this afternoon and took a dirt path that ran parallel to the highway on my way to the parking lot. I swear to god I had the exact thought out of the blue "This is what it must have been like to be in Vietnam, trekking through mild hills on a dirt path between neatly cut swaths of grass with civilization, plumbed bathrooms, and food concessions over 10 feet away. This is what hell must feel like."

    How serendipitous that this thread was here for me to post my harrowing experience. I'm glad I beat the odds and survived to post in it.
     
  15. ghettoastronaut

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    I'm not sure what kind of explanation there is. I've read more than a few adventuring stories in this vein (obviously, none as insane as this) and it just seems a rather ingrained mindset among a certain group of people: they'd rather go out and put themselves in dangerous situations and do stupid shit than be comfortable. I have a certain amount of that in me, but apparently an order of magnitude (or two) less than these people. If I may be so presumptuous to offer my own analysis...

    I'd be you any amount of money that, ten years from now, the two of them will look back on this and laugh their asses off. They'll laugh harder than most people know how to laugh, and they'll remember it far more fondly than some resort vacation in the Caribbean with room service. It'll be a story that can be whipped out at any moment whether hanging out with friends, in mixed company, or meeting new people. It's interesting, it's stressful, it pushes them beyond what they thought their limits were and probably makes them better people for having done it. Certain people seem to have their gears adjusted in such a way that they'd prefer to live having gone through these situations and accept the risks that go with them rather than live in safety. Of course, that doesn't explain why they'd attempt something so unsafe and with apparently narrow chances of success, but there are outliers on every bell curve.
     
  16. Solaris

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    I've gotta say, I'm a big fan of the adventure mentality and much respect for these people for doing what they do,, but at the same time they seem like real arseholes to me. They complain about constantly being 'ripped off' because of their colour of their skin, but then towards the end they hire three guys who end up doing manual labour all day digging their car out of holes for three days and they pay them $19 each.

    When they hear the men cheering after they paid them, they realise it was more than they could have gotten away with and the guy curses himself for paying 'too much'. Fuck those people, they take the moral high ground by refusing to pay bribes or 'corruption' and seek to pay as little as possible for everything getting self-righteous and indignant in the process.

    They seem exactly like the kind of Western 'holier than thou' travellers poor people from shitty countries always tell me about.
     
  17. ghettoastronaut

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    I kind of got the same impression at times, too. They may as well come out and say it: "We paid a lot of money for our truck to come travel through this poor, broken country and see impoverished villages. Why aren't people being more hospitable to us?" Think of it in terms of Maslo's hierarchy: these people barely have their safety and physiological needs met. The tourists, on the other hand, are spending a lot of money on a Land Cruiser and other equipment to pass through the country to fulfill their self-actualization needs. Being pissed off at the constant requests for bribes from police I can understand well enough, although if they really didn't want to deal with it they shouldn't have travelled there. But it seems they were expecting people to be falling over themselves to help out when they were stuck or in need. If that's the kind of experience they wanted, there are plenty of other countries to visit.
     
  18. Racer-X

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    At the end of the thread the guy addresses these things. Basically, what it boils down to, is that they pay what is a normal wage for a day's work in that country. If they pay significantly more, it can end up causing more problems than it solves.
    I've traveled a bit, some of it to poorer countries and people will try to take advantage of you because they assume that all tourists are overflowing with money. Generally when I travel I don't have much extra money, I've spent all of it on the trip. These people seem to be in the same situation; they are at the end of a 2 year trip which they sold all of their belongings to afford.
     
  19. RCGT

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    Exactly. I don't feel any fucking responsibility to be a US / UNICEF / Salvation Army ambassador to the noble savages of the world. I am, contrary to popular belief in this country, not made out of money. And I'm not so sanctimonious as to think that by donating to one beggar I can claim the goodwill of making the world better. There is always another beggar, and another, and another. And I came here to study, not to be Mother Teresa. I imagine they've thought the same things at one point or another.

    It's all well and good to sit behind the computer and say (loosely paraphrasing a Louis CK quote) "Why aren't they nicer to the poor people? When I go to poor countries I will give them my money freely, and change the hearts and minds of the populace." Doesn't work that way.

    Specifically about the corruption bit. If you give into bribes and corruption, you are enabling it in the culture. I know several Egyptians who will actually pay more for services if they can ensure it's going to the government and the guard isn't just "taking it home to his mother." And they do this because they care about the state of their government, and they want to end this corruption, because they believe it is wrong. Frederik says some very astute things about this, I'm just going to link his posts:

    <a class="postlink" href="http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/showpost.php?p=755794&postcount=539" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/s ... tcount=539</a>
    <a class="postlink" href="http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/showpost.php?p=755801&postcount=540" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/s ... tcount=540</a>

    Sidenote: I especially love it when in the course of the same trip I get begged / extorted / asked for money x number of times. And then, when we ask why Egypt is so corrupt? Of course it is America's fault.
     
  20. ghettoastronaut

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    That's not quite what I was referring to. By no means does he have a moral obligation (quite the opposite, in fact) to start handing out wads of cash to everyone, or to become a one-man driving charity. But it seems a bit strange that he'd visit a country - ostensibly to see the people - and then be pissed off when the people he sees aren't how he wanted them to be. Now there are occasions where getting pissed off is more justified than others, but there were a few occasions that left a bad taste in my mouth, of the sort where you want to point out that even though these two sold everything they had to be able to afford the trip, they still had far more left over than any of the people they came across in the country. They're slumming it in a way; the poverty and subsistence farming is a tourist attraction for them but a way of life for everyone else.