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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Montana USA
    Thanked: 3

    Default An update on the route from Brazza to Kinshasa

    Crossing the Congo River

    This post is an update to previous threads which also discussed this issue. The information by Thimba was an enormous asset to me when I did this section of my trip (Thank you!). Some things were a bit different when I needed to cross the river though, and although I'm sure they will change again, here is what I know.

    (A concentrated summary is located here if you don't want to read the story)

    Here are the details:

    From Brazzaville you journey west on the N1 to Kinkala. This is a very nice Chinese road.

    From Kinkala you head south to Boko.

    After Boko you start down a dirt road heading to the Congo-Kinshasa border. This road is pretty good, but could be gumbo if it's rainy.

    Eventually you reach a small village where you can get your passport stamped (Don't ask me about whether you can get the Carnet stamped. We had left the beach in Brazza with an exit stamp and didn't bring it up.)

    After the border crossing begins what could very well be the worst road of the entire trip. As of my crossing the truck which was stuck and blocking the road for Thimba was no longer there. This road takes serious thought. I spent a lot of time scouting the best way to pass certain sections. This road is dynamic. Any photos or reports of this road should be taken with a grain of salt. Any section which was once frequented could very well have fallen off the side of the hill by the time you do it. This is not a road I would want to do if it is wet. But that's just me. I'm not a big fan of gumbo. That soil has a serious potential to get NASTY.

    After about 10km of this "no-mans land", you will get to a locked gate. Just walk into the village if nobody notices you are there. They will come and open it and take you to get your passport stamped.

    The road to Luozi is not too bad, but was pretty washboard. VERY nasty silt dust that can choke your air filter super quick (Also the case for the road after crossing the river).

    In Luozi you are required to go to the immigration officer. Make sure you have copies of your passport and visa. They will be nicer if you do. Customs is in Luozi, and they will stamp the Carnet without much hassle.

    To cross the river you take a $15US ferry. Now talk about cheap compared to the alternative (see story).

    Then it is just a long, washboard, silt dust road down R111 to Kimpese. (Check your air filter frequently if you are driving it when the road's dry!)

    Other hints:

    At least when we were there, petrol and diesel prices were way cheaper in Congo-Brazza. If you are going south, I would suggest buying as much as possible. There are filling stations in Kinkala and Boko, but don't expect them to have any fuel. There are always people willing to sell diesel though. Except for Luozi, there probably isn't much fuel until Kimpese. It's always worth a try to see in the villages if you get low though.

    My Story:

    You can not cross the river between Brazza and Kinshasa with a vehicle. Unless of course you want to sell your first child to pay for the passage across.

    At the time of our arrival to Brazzaville (October, 2015), there were no ferries crossing the river which would accept vehicles. We were told ferries taking passengers had only just started again. There was apparently a bitter feud between the countries involving a dead police officer and each respective country deporting the citizens of the other.

    We arrived at the beach with no idea about any of this. The cities are right across the river from each other. You can see the other side! Why wouldn't you be able to cross there?

    With our numerous inquiries, we were eventually directed to the end of the road where we were told it was possible to get the car on a barge. A quick quote from the company revealed that we would be paying more to cross the river than expected. Around $70US.

    This wasn't even the start of it....

    The quote was solely for a crane to put the landy on a barge. We still needed to negotiate with a barge captain. The first captain wanted close to $1000US! The workers of the crane company were sympathetic with us and laughed hysterically about the absurdity of this. We were just shocked.

    If you want to cross this way, you will end up paying for the crane on each side (That's right, not just on the first crane, but whatever they charge on the second!), plus whatever you can get a barge captain to agree to. The lowest quote we got was around $900US. If we had been remotely interested in paying this kind of cash to cross the river, we might have kept bargaining. We weren't.

    Other reports have put it down to around $600US. That kind of money could sustain a dirtbag like me for a long time traveling. No way would I pay it to cross the river. There had to be another way.

    I had heard about the Hotel Hippocampe, a common place for overlanders to stay, so we decided to go and see what they knew. (We actually left the beach with our Carnet stamped for exit...) Finally a success! They really didn't know much, but we finally were told how to cross the river. The only problem was that a political protest was starting (three police stations were burnt down the next day and the military was dropping tear gas). We either needed to leave immediately, or wait a couple days.

    We waited. This turned out to be good, because news reports showed the road out of town jammed from people fleeing. We may have sat in traffic for a long time.

    The next day when the protests started it was quiet in most of the city, though you could see the smoke from the burning buildings where the protest was hottest. Everyone we spoke with kept saying, "Tomorrow will be better." We were nervous, because our visas were actually expired (something we were not terribly worried about, but didn't want to push it). We also didn't know how long it might take for things to settle down. We needed to go.

    Early in the morning the next day, we packed up and began to leave town. The main problem for us was that the route to Congo - Kinshasa was actually straight through the neighborhood where the protests were. We were immediately stopped by the police, and after some pleading, they let us through their barricade. I'll never forget the tense moments that came next.

    As I drove the deserted highway, I could see the burning barriers of the day before had been cleaned from the road. As I continued, the barriers became larger and their smoldering remains lingered in the road. Eventually I came to two burnt cars positioned across the full extent of the road. Creeping up onto the sidewalk I made my way around them.

    By this time people are shouting at us in French. Looking at us and wondering what we thought we were doing. They knew what was ahead...

    After a second police stop - where they thought we might be taking guns to the protesters, and then proceeded to finish by asking for cigarettes - we rounded the corner and discovered what the warnings of the people were all about. A truck container was toppled across the road. No way to get around it.

    I stopped dead in the highway and just looked at it. What would we do? The people began to crowd around the car. Most just wanted to be helpful. Many wanted to help for money. One man, an older gentleman who spoke good English, offered to help us for nothing. (Not really nothing - we would get him to where he wanted to go down the road).

    He pointed me right up a bifurcation which curved upwards to the top of the hill. I was beginning to feel a bit better when we turned at a crossroads. "This is going to work," I thought.

    We continued straight and, as I passed over a large speed bump, I heard the man begin to shout. "Go back! Go back!" Looking ahead I could see why. An enormous crowd of people were running straight for us, pursued by the quickly advancing military.

    I put the landy into reverse over the speed bump and turned down a small dirt side road. The next half an hour became a race to get out of the area. The man would hurriedly ask the people which way we could go. We zigzagged through tiny dirt roads, even getting stuck in a dead end at one point.

    Eventually we made it back to the highway with only a couple barriers left to pass. The people were rebuilding the barricades, and at first they didn't want to let us pass. With a quick yell in French that we were Americans (something the gentleman had determined was the best move), we were out into the countryside and free from the turmoil.

    The rest of the journey was quiet. Peaceful. People sitting and chatting in their villages. Like nothing was even happening in Brazzaville.

    We bought more diesel in Kinkala. All our Jerry-cans were full, but we got another 25L container. The man was a little disappointed that we worked his price down, but I gave him a biscuit and he seemed to cheer up.

    In Boko we bought another 25L. Just using up the last of our money and anticipating the higher prices in the DRC. In Boko I stopped the car and something happened with the starter motor. "This is NOT the time for this crap," I thought. It did start up eventually and didn't give me any hassle afterwards (Though I was thoroughly freaked out about it for days).

    Off onto the dirt road to the border. Not a bad road at all, and certain sections had clearly been resurfaced in the not to distant past.

    We arrived to the Congo-Brazza border post near sunset and found the gate locked. The border closes pretty early, but we just slept there by the side of the road. One of the immigration officials posted at the gate all night was drunk and very chatty.

    In the morning we were processed out of the country and off into the no-mans land between posts. This road has probably never been touched by either country since it was originally constructed. As many other people will tell you - like Thimba - there is still the old Congo Belge - Congo Frances border sign.

    I had read Thimba's report of a truck being stuck in the road, so I was a bit nervous about what to expect. No truck though! Which is not to say the road was easy. One particular section was crumbling away off the side of the hill. Deep and wide fissures showed a hollowing out of the ground beneath the road.

    In these situations, it's sometimes hard to tell if you've taken the best route or not. Nothing is ideal. You may look back at your other option and regret your decision, but maybe you would have felt the same way if you had done it differently. Certainly there is rarely any opportunity for going back and trying it another way. If it's hard to navigate going forward, going backwards is not exactly a piece of cake.

    These roads always make me wish I was on a motorcycle. Could be so much easier with two wheels.

    We arrived at the locked gate outside the village on the other end around midday. I walked into town and found the immigration officer. He was already on his way to open the gate and he chatted with me as we walked back to the vehicle.

    In village we quickly finished with immigration and continued towards Luozi. We needed to go into Luozi to get the Carnet stamped and visit the immigration office there. The road has quite a bit of washboard, but not so bad as what we would see later.

    The immigration officer in Luozi was a pretty nice guy. He even went into town with us to help us find a sim card. Once done with the bureaucratic hurdles, we ventured down to wait for the next ferry. A nice plate of cassava and fish awaited us at the cafe next to the dock.

    The amazing thing about this ferry is just how cheap it is. $15US to cross the river compared to the hundreds they were asking in Brazzaville. A quick ride across the river and we were off to Kinshasa!

    The road between Kimpese and the ferry is slow. It took us two days to do it. The road is mostly small cobble sized rocks covered in the most atrocious red silt. By the end of the day, my hair was red from the dust billowing in through the window. Delicious addition to the food too.

    So that's it! Instead of crossing a very short distance over a river, you drive for several days, use multiple tanks of fuel, and still pay way less.

    If there are any questions about all of this please feel free to ask.



    P.S. If you are going north just reverse the instructions. Ya know, for those of you who couldn't figure that out. Hehe
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  2. The Following User Says Thank You to PowerBar Barbie For This Useful Post:

  3. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    East London
    Thanked: 6727

    Default Re: An update on the route from Brazza to Kinshasa

    I must say travelling the West African route seems way, way more intrepid than the East African route.
    Thanks for posting!
    Stanley Weakley.
    Toyota Landcruiser 76SW 4,2L diesel.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report
    OR from post 315.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Thanked: 356

    Default Re: An update on the route from Brazza to Kinshasa

    Barbie we did the same route in 2014 after visiting the RSA farmers in the Congo. Going to the Congo we went via the Cabinda Province. Our best tour ever.
    Cruiser 76 EFI 4.5 FullTime 4x4
    Cruiser 78 4.2 Diesel
    Cruiser 79 4.2 Diesel Full Time 4x4

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