The water dispenser next to the breakfast buffet table holds a simple one and a half liter ordinairy pet bottle instead of a costumized twenty liter fresh water container. The pet bottle upside down in the holder, could better have been placed in it’s normal position at the buffet table. But this construction shows the possesion of a water dispenser. Who cares about a fitting container anyway?
Eveline and Adolf come to pick me up from the hotel at the exact time I was informed they’d come: 7.30 am sharp. Although I don’t want to give in to prejudice, I must confess it startles me a little bit at my first morning in Africa: 7.30 am sharp. We’ll make a two and a half hour journey from the commune of Lingala in Kinshasa city to the commune of Maluku in the country side down the Congo river. Purchasing gasoline to start with. The first gas station doesn’t have change from Eveline’s one hundred dollar note and the money changer next door doesn’t make a good rate. So we head to another money changer which takes a detour. From him Eveline receives a pack of paper as big as four pounds of sugar. We stop at another gas station and get hundred liters of gasoline of which the last twenty end up in a container in the trunk.
We pass shops painted in bright colors: a Dutch pharma – being Dutch it intrigues me why a pharmacist would add the adjective Dutch; quite some dépot d’oeufs, where they sell eggs and un agence de voyage, which also intrigues me, being in a country where travelling is a challenge, let alone crossing borders. For the rest of it dépots de ciment, selling stones and cement. They cover the majority of the kiosk-like shops along the road side. Most of the brick and concrete buildings under construction we pass, are deserted. So that seems to make sense.
After an one hour drive the roadside starts to become quiet and at last the road in front of us and it’s surroundings are empty. We pass a ‘Militairy Zone’ sign. The land looks vacant. Some parts seem kind of cultivated but not convincingly. It rather feels a bit devastated. There hasn’t been a single high rise nor any sign of town ships along the road. Concrete or brick buildings that are completed are ground level only. Where do the seven to thirty million Kinoa’s live? Seven, the lowest estimate as the number of officially registered citizens. Thirty, including all illegal and homeless people. We cross a sign. It says we’re leaving a certain concession and suddenly we find ourselves driving through Africa. Lush green, half erected brick dwellings, colorful dresses and big baskets on top of tall women, the newly paved road flows flawlessly through hales and dales.
A Congolese journey has begun.