Flavours of the second month in Kin.
Stand in central Kinshasa on Boulevard 30 Juin. Green and blocky buildings and a Beijing-grey sky. Stuffed-up traffic, skinny police and the shaegaes – former child-soldiers now beggars in the road. Kinshasa’s huge but doesn’t feel huge. Not like New York’s hours of subway or Paris with its views. The roads tail long and elasticky away from the river. They stretch towards the Bas-Congo and Bundundu. Music crackles from every radio.
Since buying a bike my quality of life improved. More freedom – at least in Gombe on a Sunday afternoon. You can tour the government buildings, concrete statues, quiet embassy flags and gated compounds. Gombe the eye of the storm. North of Avenue 30 Juin. To go further, you need a car.
Midnght on a rooftop in Victoire. It’s a rhumba bar where ancient musicians thrumb the rhythm and middle-aged dancers gyrate. Lollipop-spinning buttocks, bright-coloured clothes and very serious expressions. It seems the Congolese are famous throughout Africa for their love of music, dance and beer. South of Avenue 30 Juin. Concerts and “boite de nuit”. Another concert full of dancing, dancing and rhtyms of Brazil. Rhumba, Ndombolo, Congolese salsa and jazz all night long. The radios are always turned on around here.
Not for nothing this is a former Belgian colony. Oh they do drink beer! Tembo > Mutzig > Skol > Primus – my verdict so far. Would love to visit a brewery. See below three different beers in one photo alone. And right a stranger Belgian legacy. “Chez Tintin” is a funny place by the Livingstone rapids that shaped Congo’s history… see plastic statues of Tintin reading about Jesus and Captain Haddock with beer. Tintin in Congo book-cover-pantings are sold as souvenirs. A book now banned in much of Europe for being racist. Another beer?
And finally we made it to the bonobo orphanage! Congo is the only place in the world with bonobos in the wild. They are considered the closest ape to humans, closer even than chimpanzees. Some likenesses in their body, long limbs and hunanesque hands were eerily disconcerting. Women fed the orphaned babies with milk, stroking them. Like humans they are social and rely on human contact. If not loved, the babies stop eating and die. Luckily these were in good form and playful. They climbed right over the electric fence and tried to get away! These are the lucky ones of course. Bonobos are under serious threat by poaching, environmental destruction and even war.
Can barely believe I’ve spent two months in the DRC – it feels like nothing, and like it has flown by. “Malembe malembe” (slowly slowly) is still very much the order of the day. Next on the wish list: more music, camping, big market, botanical gardens, Brazzaville, inviting Congolese friends round for dinner. Do come visit.