A young man's strange erotic journey around the globe
Democratic Republic of the Congo
After getting picked up by a driver at the Rwanda/Congo border, we went to the Virunga National Park headquarters here in Goma to pick up some armed guards to accompany me en route to Bukima, the area where the mountain gorillas are found
This dude’s name was Jackson. Wasn’t able to understand anything else. All these guys spoke French and Swahili – little to no English
Other guard in the front seat. According to Virunga’s official website, over the last twenty years more than 160 rangers have lost their lives defending the national park from poachers and rebels
While still in Goma proper, this was the first of these big bulky wooden scooters that I’d seen. They look like they’d be clumsy and awkward to ride but they were definitely rollin’. And there were a ton of them too. Never seen these anywhere else in the world
Just outside Goma, the blacktop ends and all roads are composed of no more than this dark brown dirt which probably contains it’s fair share of ash from nearby Nyiragongo Volcano
Women going to fetch water
Typical-looking homes in the great lakes region of the DRC
Kids flying down the hill on a wooden scooter
There they go
A village somewhere between Goma and Bukima patrol post
Church in the village
Young girls with farming tools heading out to work the fields
One of many Congolese gas stations in the area
Hey, yall got premium?
How much per gallon?
Where the diesel at?
Street scene back in Goma
Close-up of the man, woman and baby from the photo previous
I honestly don’t understand how these things work. This guy was going uphill with all that extra weight on his scooter but somehow still had enough momentum to keep rolling
Groceries on motorbike
I didn’t pay to stay at this place. I paid to stay in a tented camp for like a hundred bucks a night (which is quite expensive) but since the driver neglected to pick me up from the border on the day he was supposed to, I was upgraded to this luxurious bungalow at Mikeno Lodge which normally costs $330 a night for single occupancy and as much as $705 a night per group of 3.
It was really, really nice. One of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed. And at that price, it better be. Especially considering the average citizen of the DRC only makes around $400 a year.
Nyiragongo Volcano as seen from Bukima tented camp
Strange monument in the area
Lovely hills that look like those on the label of a bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
Homes near Bukima
“Mzungu!” In East Africa, as far back as the 18th century, “mzungu” had been translated as “wanderer” or “someone who roams around.” Nowadays, it’s used – and used heavily – to describe or address anyone with white skin.
Young girl taking care of two babies
“Mzungu! Give me money!” – the only English they knew
Everyone yelling “Mzungu, give me money!” with their hands out
Running after the car shouting the same thing
Really tragic shit
Map showing the gorilla families that the park rangers track in the area
On the left side of this chart are the names of all the families they track. At the top, “SB” stands for silverback which is the name for the adult males. As indicated on the bottom right-hand corner of the photo, there are 124 mountain gorillas in the area that they are aware of.
Beginning our hike to go find one of the families. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which of the families from the list had been the one that we set out to track
We walked through this field for like 20 minutes before entering the jungle which turned out to be pretty freakin’ thick right from the start
One of the rangers in the thick of the jungle telling us how we should and shouldn’t act around the gorillas
Getting close after about two hours of walking
As we were told, human diseases are some of the biggest threats that these mountain gorillas face. As such, to keep our cooties to ourselves, everybody had to wear these masks as we approached the family
First guy we saw who ended up losing his grip and went tumbling straight backwards off this tree
Fearlessly walking up near these massive gorillas and cutting back the brush so the tourists have a better view
Sliverback gorillas, standing fully erect, have an average height of five-and-a-half feet and have an approximated wingspan of more than 7.5 feet. On average, these adult males weigh somewhere around 340 pounds.
The gorillas are cool with humans coming and hanging out and seeing how they live, but with looks like this, they don’t let you forget who’s in charge.
From the start of the trailhead (1989m) to the peak of the volcano (3470m) takes your average climber 4-6 hours. Much of the way, it is a very steep climb
About an hour into the climb
Nyiragongo had most recently erupted in 2002 and most of the trail to the top had been comprised of loose volcanic rock like this or…
…hardened lava like this.
The guy in the light blue shirt was the chef for our group
Vegetation becoming increasingly sparse
Higher and higher
Getting close to the top
A look back from the home stretch
It costs $300 per person to climb Nyiragongo Volcano and spend the night in one of these fiberglass shelters up at the top
A look inside the volcano at the time of our arrival
If you pay close attention to the bottom right half of the photo, you can see a team of French scientists climbing their way up and out of the volcano’s interior
Here’s a close-up of them
View of the city lights from Goma along Lake Kivu at dusk. They say that during the eruption of 2002, because of its high silica content, the lava from Nyiragonga had flowed at speeds up to 62 miles per hour and reached as far as Lake Kivu which is give or take 12 miles away
After dinner, heading back up to the crater rim to check out the glowing lava
This was absolutely hypnotizing
I must’ve spent at least two hours sitting there watching this lava shift around, belching flames and smoke into the air as it churned.
About to start heading back down the following morning