Meet The People of Zaire
Living in Kinshasa didn’t provide me many opportunities to explore the beauty of the country. Beside the unstable political situations, many places couldn’t be accessed by public transport requiring visitors to rent a car to travel.
Therefore, I won’t miss any opportunity given by anyone to see the other sites that I haven’t seen in the country. One of them was cruising trip in Congo River provided by organization where I worked for, as one of welfare program purposed for its staf.
So, in Sunday morning, my best friend from work, Oliva, picked me up at the house to go to to the harbor together.
We arrived at the harbor in 10 minutes. The harbour itself was closed to our headquarter office, and apparently it was the particular harbour. A big boat was there, belongs to organization which had no schedule to patrol in that moment, waited for us, to give us another experience to see the real life of river people of Congo.
Congo River, which also known as Zaire River, is the second longest river in Africa, after Nile. It starts to run from its sources in the mountain and highlands of the East African Rift and end in Atlantic Ocean. In addition, the river is also known as the deepest river in the world, where the deepest part is reaching 230 m from the water surface. Even though it was called as Zaire river, but at the end, its name was changed into Congo river, refers to two countries it passes: Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the other hand, the river is powerful that could create hydropower plants along the river to provide energy within the continent.
Furthermore, the river is also the main transportation source within Central Africa region , providing more than nine thousand miles of navigable shipping routes in Central Africa. Big amounts of goods are also transported though the river. Many people still use this river to travel from one place to another. It become main media to transport people to some regions since many places still couldn’t be accessed by road.
First 3o minutes were not so impressive since we just passed some areas that we were used to pass. But afterwards, the real life was began when we starts passing the villages along the river.
People lived in super ordinary condition, in a small wooden house occupied by many families in the same time. They don’t have any access to electricity and clean water is something luxury. Most of people did fishing to get their income. Normally, fishermen sail with their wooden boats, consist 2 or 3 passenger in one canoe, depends on the measurement of the canoe too, and used the wide net to catch the fish. Thanks to Congo River providing them variety of fishes for the food. Knowing this, I could take my deep breath. At least, those people will not be starving to death.
While we were on half way, one big ship passed our boat. That boat was full with passengers going to Kinsangani (that’s what Papa Pascal said, one of my Congolesse colleague who was also on board with me).
That boat was terribly full, I am not joking, and it always released the black smoke from its machine. I could imagine when they arrived in Kinsangani, the ashes adhered on the face of passengers. It didn’t just take the people but also looked like take the whole their houses and belongings with them. Some men enjoyed the sunny day with their drink (perhaps beer, but I was not so sure), in the mean time some women did some cooking on the boat, using brazier and charcoal to burn the fire. The children astonishingly stared at us. One of the kids started to lift his hand, gave us some waves and followed by the other kids. At the end of the day, all passengers gave us the biggest smile they had for that day. One lesson learnt I got from this trip, “always try to be happy even in the worst situation. Smile and the World will smile for you“.