Riding roughshod in north east Zaire
This is a picture of the old Mercedes truck I rode on from Komanda to Kisangani, in the north east corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It was part of my big journey around the equator, a story that will one day become a book called Going Around In Circles.
The DRC was still called Zaire back then. I rode on top, amongst all those plastic containers you see, hooking my feet under the ropes that tied down the tarpaulin and holding on for dear life.
The truck had broken down, again, this time in the middle of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. This 13,700 square kilometre World heritage listed park was only created in 1992 and is home to the largest population of okapi, forest elephants and chimpanzees in the DRC.
It is also home to the Mbuti and Efe pygmies. They are among the last true ‘forest people’ left on Earth and I’d spot them occasionally, peering out from the thick foliage that lined the side of the road, silently watching the truck rumble by.
Don’t be fooled by the state of the road. This short stretch of well-graded red soil was as good as it got. The other 626 kilometres were muddy and rutted and pocked by truck-size craters.
In many ways, riding on the top of the truck was like riding a bucking bronco.
Except I had to stay on for longer than 8 seconds. And I used more than my riding hand to hang on.
I’m proud to say I never got flung off once.
But, believe me, there were an awful lot of close calls.