Crowded ute, somewhere in Zaire

As part of Wanderlust magazine’s #WishIWasThere campaign, I thought I’d share this photo as a gentle reminder that the joy of travel isn’t always picture-postcard beaches and incredible ancient buildings. It can be found on the back of a crowded ute in the backblocks of (the then) Zaire too!

This photo was taken in the tiny town of Beni as I hopped my way from the Ugandan border to Kisangani, the first big town on the Congo River.

There was no regular bus service. Just local utes that swung by and picked up people when they were heading to the next town. It was a way of making a little extra money.

The utes got very crowded – unfeasibly so. But they were only going to the next village so the discomfort never lasted long. A certain camaraderie developed amongst the ‘passengers’ so it ended up being quite fun.

I should apologise for the poor quality of the photo. It was taken by one of the local kids. Not wanting to give up my precious spot, I just handed him my camera. I’m just pleased he gave it back.

In the end, it took close to a dozen such rides to get from Beni to Bunia. From there I was able to hitch a ride on the top of a truck, all the way to Kisangani. That was another adventure in itself.

But you know what? Despite the discomfort, despite losing all feeling in my legs, despite getting caked in dust …  I #WishIWasThere.

Peter on a the back of a crowded ute in Zaire

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