Rare African Arts

Rare African Arts: Into Africa - Land of Contrasts

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Into Africa - Page One

Botswana, difficult road September 3: Cape Town, the start of a trip which lasted five months and took us through central Africa once again. Our specially designed 4-wheel drive Landcruiser carries extra water, provisions and diesel fuel which gives us a range of 1 400 km. We have approximately 25 000 km to cover. I am accompanied by Nan and Eva.

September 12: Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The chassis of the Landcruiser has to be straightened and reinforced.

September 13: Wankie. 20 Elephants are being culled. A crocodile farm buys the meat, but their truck and trailer breaks down. 15 Tons of elephant meat rots away within 36 hours. We buy 3 kg and have elephant goulash for the next 3 days.

September 17: From the Victoria Falls, we travel along the Zambezi River on unmarked roads. We come into contact with a tribe called the Batonga. These people have a hole through their nose through which they wear a piece of wood.

September 30: Nkhata Bay, Malawi. In the shade of a big Mango tree right on the edge of Lake Malawi we find a camping place. The 200 m long long beach is hemmed in by a cliff face. Only a 4-wheel drive car can negotiate the road. Nan has difficulty in controlling her fear of snakes, scorpions, robbers and rapists. Bad news reaches us from the Tanzanian border, which is only 200 km away. The border police recognises Botswana exit stamps to South Africa and are turning people away. We back track 1 000 km to Lusaka for a Zaire visa. Our new route to Nairobi will now take us through Zaire on a road which might not exist, but I know it will be exciting.

October 9: Lusaka. Nan cannot come to terms with her fears. She finally decides to fly back to South Africa.

October 11: Kasumbaesa. Zaire is a land of corruption. This is one of the reasons that foreign aid is not as easily obtainable there as it is in neighbouring states. Everybody helps themselves. Visitors are advised to hold their passports in their hands and to turn the pages themselves at control points. If you let your documents out of your hands it is very possible that you will have to pay $5 in order to get your papers back because the officials will find something 'out of order', or invent something.

October 13: Lubumbashi is the beginning of the 2 000 km run to Bakavu. I already know that it will be the worst road I have travelled in 20 years in Africa. What makes it even worse is that the rainy season has started. We can only get information about the next 50 km of track from the mission.

October 16: Kilwa. I am not watching the road properly and drive one wheel into a deep water-hole. I have always wanted to find out at what point the car would tip over sideways - this time I nearly find out!

October 18: We are staying at a mission, which has not had any visitors for two years. I am stung by a hornet. Last year in Tanzania, I had an allergic reaction to the poison

Everything happens within 15 minuites. I am treated by the missionery and given a spare set of injections for the road. With increasing hornet stings it can easily lead to suffocation.

October 20: Pepa. It is cold in Central Africa because we are at an altitude of 2000 m.

October 22: Moba, on Lake Tanganyika, has a big cathedral comparable to any big church in Europe. It is unbelievable that this mission was created 100 years ago, considering the location of this building. Everything had to be made on site. The huge cathedral is surrounded only by mud huts. It looks very strange. In the evening we sample the home-made orange wine from the White Fathers. It is raining and the tracks get worse.

offroadOctober 24: Kalermi. Under Belgium colonial rule, it was called Albertville on Lake Tankanjika. The only tarred mainroad in town has a low level concrete bridge. The rainy season is flooding the river and with the flood water uprooted trees and heavy branches come down the mountain. Many heavy tree stumps entangle themsevles under the low bridge. It looks impossible to clear the mess. The local military commander is called in. He in turn sends an expert explosives detachment to solve the problem. A dynamite charge is laid and the fuse lit. A mighty explosion followed with tree trunks flying and with it the entire concrete bridge collapsed as well. I cannot stop laughing. This is a scream! This is Africa! I love it!

We cannot go due North to Bukavu because anti-government rebels are sitting somewhere in the mountains and some of the treestump-bridges are washed away. The detour can be described as a big U, adding an extra 800 km to the journey. Half of the distance will be jungle, which in itself spells trouble.

October 26: We come into contact with the Bahemba, a tribe unknown to me, who still hunt with poisoned arrows. A big dance is organised in our honour. The performance of the dancers and drummer is spectacular. It looks strange and it feels strange. Here we are, sitting in our aluminium chairs drinking red wine out of crystal glasses and our surroundings date back 2000 years. It is incredible.

October 30: It is impossible to go off the track in the evening to find a camping spot. The jungle is so dense it is like driving through a green tunnel. We have to sleep in villages which are cut out of the jungle like a mountain cliff road. It is raining and the Landcruiser grinds and slides its way north towards our destination - Bukuvo.

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