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Date : 23rd September, 2018
Time : 57’ 41”
Number of runners (total to date) : 1 (2434)
Total distance run to date : 1530 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3051105812
Kinshasa – capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo – and Brazzaville – capital of the Republic of Congo – are the two closest capital cities in the world. Separated by a few kilometres and the Congo river .
You’d think it would be easy to travel between the two. Surely you just drive across the bridge? But the two countries are bitter rivals and there isn’t a bridge. (Apparently, the UN researches the issue every three years and concludes that a bridge isn’t feasible.)
How about flying then? Luke ‘the ever patient travel agent’ couldn’t find a flight that made sense.
You can, however, go by ferry or speedboat. But, even though I’ve done it, I couldn’t tell you how to do it. In fact, the only advice I can give you is : don’t attempt it if you’re not a local. Unless, like me, you really have to.
Thanks to Gregory and the Running Club de Kinshasa, Mr Ali from the Djambo agency helped me with the Kinshasa end of the journey.
He picked me up at 8 and we walked down to the docks together. And then the madness began. We were immediately surrounded by people, some in uniforms and some not.
I can’t tell you what happened next because Mr Ali packed me off to a waiting room where I sat for 2 hours while he sorted out tickets and ‘les formalites’.
At 10.30, much later than I’d hoped, I clambered onto the local ferry, put on a life jacket,
and crossed the mighty Congo river.
We disembarked at Congo Brazzaville. Where the madness started again.
Rightly or wrongly (I’m not sure I had much choice in the matter), I put myself in Mbizi’s hands.
Mbizi promptly informed me that all Mr Ali’s careful instructions were wrong. ‘Les formalites’ were actually more expensive than I’d been told (though, to be fair, not that much more expensive.)
Mbizi then inserted himself in a bewildering array of queues and eventually it seemed that we were through. Ah no, those were the port formalities. I now needed to clear immigration. Who told me that I needed a letter of invitation failing which, a substantial payment might be necessary.
At this point I stood my ground and pointed out that I had a visa that I’d paid his Embassy a lot of money for in London. He could care less…
A stand-off appeared to develop when suddenly I was free to go through. Mbizi also did a bit of shouting which may have done the trick.
By now it was 11.20 and I had been variously told that Brazzaville port closed at 12 am, 1pm and 3pm on a Sunday. In short, it was far from clear that I had the time to complete my run and make it back in time for the return trip to Kinshasa. Which was a slight issue as I only had my running gear with me..
I set off in the direction of the Corniche, and almost immediately passed a painted 10km on the road – which I told myself was a good sign.
The Corniche is closed on a Sunday and would have made a nice place for a run if I hadn’t been so worried about the time. I made it as far as the Chinese funded bridge (almost all new construction in this part of the world seems to be Chinese) and then retraced my steps..
I got back to the port at 12.00, having done 7.3 km, and managed to get hold of some of Mbizi’s team. The general opinion seemed to be that I had a bit more time so I completed my 10km and recommenced ‘les formalites’.
You’ve got the picture by now so I’ll just say that I was mightily relieved when I got my passport and vaccination certificate booklet (‘la jaune’) back and boarded the speedboat to Kinshasa.
Needless to say, getting back into Kinshasa wasn’t easy but eventually I tracked down a by now somewhat worried Mr Ali. This time it only took half an hour and Mr Ali bundled me into a taxi back to the hotel.
I was just beginning to relax when the taxi driver shouted out a warning and wound up my window. We were surrounded by a gang of thieves and their leader had just come up to my window…
Once my window was up they decided to move on. In the same direction we were going. You could see people on the street, and the security outside local businesses, tense up.
I was shepherded back to my hotel – by now very clear why visitors are advised to be cautious about where and when they walk in Kinshasa.
For what it’s worth, if you’re considering going there, Brazzaville is, by all accounts, much safer and calmer than Kinshasa. Just stay clear of the port…
If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11
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Facts & Stats
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.
The Republic of the Congo also known as Congo-Brazzaville, the Congo Republic or simply the Congo, is a country in Central Africa. It is bordered by five countries: Gabon to the west; Cameroon to the northwest; the Central African Republic to the northeast; the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the southeast; the Angolan exclave of Cabinda to the south; and the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest.
The region was dominated by Bantu-speaking tribes at least 3,000 years ago, who built trade links leading into the Congo River basin. Congo was formerly part of the French colony of Equatorial Africa.The Republic of the Congo was established on the 28th of November 1958 but gained independence from France in 1960. In 1970, the People’s Republic of the Congo was established as a Marxist–Leninist one-party state; this lasted until 1991. The sovereign state has had multi-party elections since 1992, although a democratically elected government was ousted in the 1997 Republic of the Congo Civil War, and President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who first came to power in 1979, has ruled for 33 of the past 38 years.
The Republic of the Congo has become the fourth-largest oil producer in the Gulf of Guinea, providing the country with a degree of prosperity despite political and economic instability in some areas and unequal distribution of oil revenue nationwide. Congo’s economy is heavily dependent on the oil sector, and economic growth has slowed considerably since the post-2015 drop in oil prices.
World Bank Data
Here’s the latest World Bank data for the Republic of Congo – with the year 2000 as a comparison.
|GDP||$7.83 bn||2016||$3.22 bn||2000|
|Population||5.13 m||2016||3.23 m||2000|
|Primary school enrolment*||104%||2012||86%||1999|
|% below poverty line***||46.5%||2011||50.7%||2004|
|Life expectancy at birth||64.6 yrs||2016||51.4 yrs||2000|
|GNI per capita||$1700||2016||$550||2000|
*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students
** Metric tons per capita
***The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While much of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)
Greatest Sporting Nation Data
Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how the Republic of Congo performed in the global sporting arena in 2017:
Global Cup – NA
Per Capita Cup – NA
The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive annual ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce an annual per capita ranking.