MARK'S (NOT SO) DAILY BLOG
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Travel: A Quick blog on the Democratic Republic of Congo

About once every month or two I film in Africa for a corporate television show. I've been from Malawi to Mozambique, Uganda to Kenya. But last week was the first time ever we went to The Democratic Republic of Congo.

In fact, the first mistake I made was calling it The Congo. That's another country.  In fact the DRC with Kinshasa and The Congo with Brazzaville have the 2 closest capital cities in the world. At their closest they are about 300 metres away from each other, separated by the Congo River.

The DRC is a lot less jungle than I thought, but even though its urbanised a lot, the poverty is everywhere. The locals move around in taxis that are the most non-roadworthy vehicles I've ever seen.

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 In fact, why be inside, when you can cling to the outside:

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The markets are vibrant and rich with culture. As the country is historically linked to Belgium, the art markets are full of Tintin statues. The linen markets are also alive with vibrancy:

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As with most African countries though, the default attitude is "NO CAMERAS", so we had to get a letter of authority from the government to film for 1 day. Everywhere we went we were stopped by armed guards who only backed down when the piece of paper was shown (and our local guide jabbered in French).

The Congo river is vast. Here is a pic of us shooting at sunset (the other country, The Congo, is visible across the river):

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About 2 years ago a local designer came up with a unique traffic light. It's literally a robot that swings 90 degrees every few minutes with a red light on its chest and green lights on its hands. Honestly, it's  bucket of crap and can't believe it got the go ahead to be installed, but it's so amusing to watch!

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Not that anyone obeys any traffic rules or signals. If you can drive in the DRC you are capable of doing it anywhere in the world. Cars literally zig zag between each other at intersections. If you see a gap, you take it!

The currency is French Francs, but most people deal in dollars. Despite the poverty, the hotel we stayed in was one of the most expensive I've ever stayed in, with a basic pizza costing R220 ($18)!

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When you leave, airports are your last interaction with a country and your lasting memory in an African country is so often tainted by corrupt officials. I had to pay a $60 bribe to get IN the country and then 3 different customs agents tried to fleece us when we left. The airport is a shambles and you need a guide to help you check in otherwise there is no way you are catching the plane. Your ticket is hand written. There are no computers. God forbid there's an issue with your booking. We took 1.5 hours to finally prove we belonged on the flight (as we had only e-tickets and they had no way of validating anything).

So would I go there again? For business, yes. As a tourist, not a chance in hell.

Next week, it's Angola.




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