3:CBC2011 – Lubumbashi

A travelog of Tim & Sheryl’s trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo in September, 2011.
Overview | Kigali | Goma | Lubumbashi | Likasi | Uvira | Kigali

On Saturday morning, I got up bright and early to catch my 7am flight to Lubumbashi, about 4 hours SW of Goma. Because I didn’t speak French or Swahili, Tom was kind enough to purchase my tickets the day prior on CAA Airlines. You might be tempted to think CAA stands for Congo Airlines or something. Resist the temptation. I think it stands for Crazy Abnormal Airways or something along those lines. A one-way ticket for this 4-hr flight will put you back about $410 (compare that to a $900 ticket to fly ~22 hours from Dallas to Rwanda!!). Furthermore, you can’t buy the ticket at the airport – you have to go to their office somewhere in town, and the people at the office aren’t exactly sure when the flight will leave because it changes frequently (even though it only flies 3x per week). And if you make a reservation, you’re usually guaranteed that your seat will be reserved. Usually. There aren’t other options: the only other airline that operates in the Congo has been lying low for the past couple of months ever since one of their 727s crashed, nearly killing everyone on board. The pilot apparently miscalculated his fuel availability when making in-air changes to his route.There were two reasons for my trepidation in taking the CAA flight: not only did the CAA airline have such a bad track record that the UN refuses to fly it, but in 1987, my father’s plane crashed minutes after taking off from the very airport I would be using. In his case, it was a charter flight, not a commercial airline, but still.The airport in Goma was a strange experience, to say the least. My guess is that other than a light sweeping, it hasn’t been cleaned in 30 years, and certainly hadn’t been repaired or remodeled since. Most of the electronic devices (ticket counters, etc) had stopped working long ago. Bags were weighed in using a special scale (the last working one?) that baggage handlers brought out of a back room, and none of the agents spoke English. Thankfully a fellow traveler spoke fluent English and was able to help me figure out how to eventually make my way to the plane. Turns out he was a pastor traveling to the same city I was in order to do a pastoral training conference. When he found out I worked with the deaf, he asked if I knew Emmanuel Kakuja, a man who worked with the deaf in Lubumbashi. I answered I didn’t.Thankfully, our flight was uneventful. We arrived in Lubumbashi on time, and not only did this Emmanuel Kakuja person meet my new friend at the airport to pick him up, but it turns out that he worked with my father 25 years ago to help start a school for the deaf in the area. Needless to say, Mr. Kakuja was absolutely beside himself in excitement to see me. Mr. Ngoy, our director at our school in Likasi, met us, and Mr. Kakuja treated us to lunch. Talk about a small world!

I mentioned to Mr. Kakuja that I needed to purchase my return ticket.

“No problem! I will take care of it for you!” How convenient is that. (More on this later)

After lunch (courtesy of Mr. Kakuja), we took a bus for a 2 hour ride to Likasi.

 

Meanwhile, Sheryl and Kathy took the boat from Goma to Bukavu. As it was the last week before school started, the boat was so full that the lower deck (economy class) was standing room only. It took Sheryl and Kathy almost a full hour to squeeze their way to the stairs so they could walk upstairs to first class. Unfortunately, a belligerent passenger was sitting in their assigned chairs and wouldn’t get up. Rather than evict him from seats he didn’t pay for, the staff preferred to offer Sheryl and Kathy a pair of plastic chairs so they could sit in the corner. Not ideal, but better than standing for the 7 hour ride.

Overview | Kigali | Goma | Lubumbashi | Likasi | Uvira | Kigali