We did two road trips while we were in DR Congo. The first was going from Gemena to a small town called Bili, and then back to Gemena. Google maps estimates this 181 mile (291 km) trip should take four and half hours in each direction. It took a full 12 hours, each way.
The second was our road trip from Gemena to Zongo, which is the last city in DRC before you arrive in Bangui, Central African Republic. Google maps estimates that this 155 mile (250 km) trip should take just over three hours. It took eight hours.
Google maps calculates travel time on the average speed limits for the roads, but on these roads I don’t think it’s possible to even approach the speed limit, let alone exceed it.
Not all the roads in DR Congo are bad. But, like in many places, development can sometimes be limited to only certain areas of the country. I’m sure there are lots of nice roads in the capital, Kinshasa. But, cities far from capital cities, and many rural areas, can sometimes miss the benefits of infrastructure funding.
One of the more adventurous aspects of our road trips was crossing bridges.
Many of the ones we encountered were made from large logs, and only a skilled driver would be able to navigate them well. Thankfully, we had a fantastic driver–Luka; he also had an assistant that helped with the most difficult parts of the road.
We often clapped and cheered when the truck made it across one of the challenging bridges. Yes, it was THAT exciting! I don’t think I could have successfully navigated so many bridges like that.
At one juncture we had to drive through a stream because the bridge was not passable.
Having had to go over a lot of challenging bridges made us really happy when we crossed a good one like this. I have a new respect for the importance of good roads and bridges. I was also really thankful that JAARS donated this great truck to ACOTBA-SUBO. It’s necessary, and it’s being put to good use.