|Location:||sangha river, congo|
we went to the CIB in the morning, trying to find an crane operator who would put the landcruiser and my motorbike onto the ‘sangha’. unfortunately it was saturday, end of the week and pay-day. “most of the people will already be drunk, hanging around in pokolas’ brothels” we were told. finally we did manage to find an operator who was not drunk (he was muslim) and he was more than happy to help us.
the captain of the ‘sangha’ brought one of the barges up to the CIB compound in order to charge it. you have to imagine the riverboat not as one single boat which makes it’s way down river, but as one main engine-boat (the 'sangha') that pushes eleven(!) heavily loaded barges towards brazzaville, just like the locomotive of a train. there are three rows, consisting of three barges each, while the main boat carries two barges on either side. each barge is charged with wood, either already cut into planks, or with hole tree trunks which are for export. on the front end and the back end of each barge there is some space left which will now be occupied by the people who are travelling up- and down the river. it was on such a space that the CIB crane placed the landcruiser and my bike. we all held our breath while the crane lifted first the car, and then the motorbike into the air and placed them carefully on the platform.
we stayed on the barge and drove back into the… well, they call it harbour, where we were attached to the other ten barges. immediately we had to fight for our space, loosing a square meter here and there. there were so many people going to brazzaville that all barges were going to be completely full. we secured enough space, and in the end, we had something like a little compound to ourselves. at the beginning there were many tensions about who would get how much space and people were picking fights with everyone. but eventually everybody found enough space to get installed, and finally, as so common in africa, everybody became friends. once installed, we started to feel really comfortable with our spot. we had direct access to the water and we had enough space to move around.
i put up my tent while the family that lived next to me built their make-shift home from wooden planks and watertight cloths from the UNHCR. in the end the whole construction of barges resembled a floating village, consisting of family homes, storage rooms and little shops where you could buy food, beer, rice and many other things.
around 16:00 we underwent a final police check after which we finally left pokola. just before we left abdoullay, my chadian friend, came to say goodbye, bringing me present. it was a foam mattress for my tent which would be of great comfort in the days ahead. there were many other people from pokola who came to say goodbye to me. at this point i realized thati would leave many friends behind in the small town, i had been so eager to leave.
we finally took off and the boat drifted slowly into the mist of dusk, entering a mystical world of water and dense forrest which slowly dissolved into the shadows of the night. we prepared our diner and then climbed on the top of landcruiser which was going to serve as a perfect terrace for the rest of the trip. from here we had a wonderful view over the quiet river and the rest of the boat. there where no clouds in the sky and the moon and the stars where shining brightly above us.