A new (ad)venture
Monday 3 February 2014, I make my way from Germany to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (“DRC”). To Virunga National Park in East Congo, the North Kivu province to be precise.
Please find a first impression of the magnificent Virunga National Park here:
Le Réveil des Virunga:
On the one hand it feels totally normal; I’ve been there before. I know the route: flying into Kigali, taking the car to Gisenyi, crossing the Rwandan-Congolese border into Goma which is an incredible border crossing; I’ve never seen two totally different realities so close before. I worked as a (volunteer) consultant for the Frankfurt Zoological Society (“FZS” or “Frankfort” as they call it in Virunga) in the villages Rumangabo and Tongo in 2011. I administrated World Bank funds, worked with local communities, habituated chimpanzees, oversaw construction works for a new office building, organised road restoration works et cetera.
I met the mountain gorillas in Bukima, I climbed the Nyiragongo volcano and saw the mind-blowing lava lake. I was even so fortunate to be one of the first and closest witnesses of the eruption of the Nyamulagira volcan. Unbelievable. So I know what to expect. Or actually, I know to expect the unpredictable and a lot of surprises.
On the other hand I do have “Reisefieber”. A real excitement about making my way back to this exceptional destination. In a new, exciting, challenging role. For who hasn’t heard about my new position yet: as per early 2014 I work for Virunga National Park. I run the Virunga Social Enterprise.
Also, I carry an unusual luggage item. A “theodolite”. As a development banker I was used to just pack documents and a laptop, but now I bring a professional measurement tool for the hydropower plant construction site in Matebe/Rutshuru as well. The nervousness about checking in this instrument is probably a good distraction from my own excitement. And from parting from my friend, who brought me to the Frankfurt airport for a change. Normally I travel on my own to airports, but this is a special occasion.
The flight was smooth; a transfer in Doha, a stop in Entebbe and we even arrived an hour early in Kigali. I waited over a morning tea and saw the driver entering the airport hall with the notice “Anitha”. We started the three-hour drive to Gisenyi on the well-paved Rwandan roads and chatted a bit about the environment, politics, the weather, African music and cycling as a new national sport. There is even a “Tour de Rwanda”. An eight days tour. We saw several cyclists on the road in the burning sun. “Land of a thousand hills and land of a million smiles.”
Soon enough we reach the border – the formalities took a good hour. Not too bad. First leaving Rwanda. The official warned that as soon as I got the “exit Rwanda stamp” in my passport, I won’t have a way back for the next three days/ before applying for a new visa. He noticed that I didn’t have the DRC visa yet. He asked me three times whether I’m sure I want to leave his country and three times I confirmed with confidence that my colleague would be at the other side of the boundary having arranged my entrance permit. However, every time he repeated the question, it became slightly uneasier for me. I wasn’t in direct contact with Christian, I didn’t even know him, and the last thing you want is getting stuck in this weird piece of no one’s land between Rwanda and East Congo… But my colleague Christian did a great job!
During this trip I explained several times what a theodolite is. First in German, then in English (in Doha they thought it was my (huge) big blue beauty case?!) and lastly in French. Good for my technical language skills. The theodolite and I made it safely and soundly to the DRC.