Whirlwind Journey Back to Kinshasa Part I: You Have to Go…Now

Mash-room, Mash-room, Mash-room, the teenage boys accompanying me on my last Sunday walk on May 22nd to Ndele were chanting this new word incessantly. I had shown off earlier, pointing to a bright red fruit one was eating and said casually, “Lifambu.” Now they were asking me to name every edible thing and the accompanying English word.

“Qu’est ce que c’est?”

“Champignons.”

“En anglais?”

“Mushroom.”

They loved this word and thought it was hilarious. A little over three hours later, we arrived and I waved them off as they cheerfully continued down another path. Taking my time before facing The Bureau, the PhD had warned me that the lock may be broken and that I may have to get creative in getting in.

Sure enough, the minute I stuck the key in and twisted, bits of the lock fell out and sprinkled all over the ground at my feet. With a sigh, I spent the afternoon attempting multiple ways of breaking in, enlisting the help of some of the Congolese guides. A metal door, no way of removing from the hinges, metal bars on the window….maybe through the roof? Clambering barefoot up the metal bars, no way in. By dinner time, I was feeling pretty despondent about getting in and checking on my travel plans set for the following week to return to Kinshasa. But before bed, I saw my first shooting star since leaving Lajuma and a faint Milky Way which raised my spirits somewhat.

The next morning, Mawa and I began anew and finally decided we need to cut the metal bits out. With a hammer and screwdriver, we managed to cut open a square and remove the lock this way. Success! While Mawa figured out a way to secure the door, I set up my laptop and found out flight schedules had been changed in Basankusu to biweekly instead of weekly. The office in Kinshasa informed me I needed to get to Basankusu by this Friday morning! Early the next morning, I returned to camp.

“I have some bad news…”

“Oh, I got your note from Isaac about the door, don’t worry about it. I had a feeling that would happen.”

“Oh no, we got in eventually. But I found out that flights are now biweekly and I need to get to Basankusu this weekend. They don’t know if it’s Friday or Saturday.”

Originally, I was supposed to leave Iyema for good on May 29th to catch my June 6th flight out of Kinshasa. Now, we set to work preparing for my one week early departure. In the afternoon, we took our “Jungle Babe” photos before opening up a bottle of wine and a sausage that was a month overdue. Yum. Hot chocolate after dinner and thus ended my last night at Iyema. Up the next morning before dawn, we packed and set out to leave.

Barely three hours later (I was hitting my stride! My first Ndele to Iyema walk took me over four hours), we arrived sweaty and tired but with no time to rest. With so much to do and under such sudden circumstances, I wasn’t able to give the pisteurs a proper goodbye. Belle Vie and Bekan brought my heavier bags while I ran to shower one last time in the stream before my afternoon pirogue ride to Lingunda. The following morning (Thursday), I would catch 2 motorbikes through the forest and villages to reach Basankusu hopefully by Friday morning.

No tears shed this time, but I still hate goodbyes.

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