American Press Travel News–March 19th, Leopoldville The Congo section of my book: “Africa on a Pin & a Prayer.”
We left Kisali on the “boat” a riverboat pushing a huge barge a microcosm of African life being pushed along by a 2000 horsepower diesel engine turning a paddlewheel that splashed at the river and inexorably pushed more than 1000 souls along a river that hasn’t changed since, or before written history one iota. Congolese minister’s concubines took up most of the riverboat rooms and Gene and I got lucky enough with the help of a Belgian business man, to grab one of those rooms and we camped out there. God had mercy, we did not have to sleep on the deck with the water bugs and other slimy critters that came out on deck under cover of darkness. We settled in for a 20-day run to Leopoldville. I spent a lot of time on the barge. I visited the Cayman croc sellers, the fruit and vegetable vendors and looked over the booty and bounty of what many villagers had bagged in the jungle’s hinterlands smoked monkeys, boa constrictor snakes for food or sale to collectors, butterflies kept in between palm leaves, also for the collector. Raw latex from Goodman’s Goodyear rubber plantation on its way to be processed into gloves, tires, rubber boots, condoms. Wildly colorful songbirds and parrots, snakes, monkeys, sloths, bamboo and logs destined for trading in the capitol of the Congo, Leopoldville.
Every minute was an adventure on the riverboat. Villagers whose huts hugged the river banks along the way, braved the boats wake and came out to the barge in pirogues hollowed out wood log dugout canoes, to trade fresh produce, including cut pieces of sugar cane a favorite treat for everyone aboard.
All the things done in the village were being accomplished on the barge as it was pushed at about 5 mph towards Leopoldville was being done there. Clothes washing, cooking child care and even love making on the decks sometimes behind a cloth shade.