7 Days Eastern Congo road trip: from Lusaka (Zambia) to Manono (Congo)
An overview of the trip
Traveling in Eastern Congo has always been challenging. The security on the spot and the road infrastructure lack, as well as reliable information, are the main. Meanwhile, the Eastern Congo has a number of travel attractions that remains unknown. Congo Local Guides with its travel experience across the D.R. of Congo, offers road trips based on the security on ground to ensure the adventure is more enjoyable and unique. In this perspective, Congo Local Guides covered from 6 November to 5 December 2019 a 4,000 Km road trip in Eastern Congo with a German Tourist, Andreas Schoeps. This started with Eastern Congo Road Trip Lusaka-Lubumbashi-Manono. A such discovery and exploration experience in the Extreme Congo is a good fit for travelers who really want to challenge themselves in not everyone’s destination.
From this post aim, Congo Local Guides provides a general idea of how enjoyable, memorable and challenging this life changing experience is. The whole trip has four parts of seven to eight days each and this is the first. The three remaining parts will shortly come after this.
Check also DRCongo travel Information
From Lusaka to Lubumbashi : Astounding experience
This first part describes the Eastern Congo Road Trip Lusaka-Lubumbashi-Manono. The decision to meet in Lusaka was due to the low flight fares from Berlin for Andreas and Kigali for Christian (the guide). We met there on 6 November early in the afternoon and took an airport taxi that dropped us at Kakwele Lodge for overnight. There were not really much to do around and passed the evening planning the two next days. This was mainly what to see and to do after exiting Zambia.
The Lodge arranged us an early morning taxi to Lusaka Intercity bus terminus. We boarded Scorpion bus around 9.00am to departure an hour late for Kitwe, in the Copperbelt Province. Despite the many stops we had; it took us approximately 7.30 hours driving. It was a fast and dangerous driving, but lucky we were, we did not fall into an accident. One day earlier, Andreas got a notification that our booking at Providence Guest House (in Kitwe) was unsuccessful but we decided to go there and found one room staying. The main challenge travelling in Zambia was the absence of internet in Lodges and Guest House (GH). Kitwe is a shining city with new roads but with no light at night. When traveling in this part of the world, these are kind of situations that give more taste to your journey.
This was the last night in Zambia and savored our dinner at the main Mall. Definitely, the third day we had to make it to Lubumbashi, passing through Kasumbalesa border.
Check also free visa countries for DRC citizens
Early in the morning we left Kitwe to Kasumbalesa through Chingola. During our dinner the previous day, we met with a friendly guy called Raymond and arranged us a taxi to Kasumbalesa. However, if you are used to well paved highways, the bad road conditions between Chingola and chililabombwe is just like 10% of the incredible experience awaiting you on Congo side. It took us two hours to be on D.R.Congo Border. On Zambia side we got stamped easily, while in Congo side it took some time. But definitely, since Andreas has all required documents, I managed no one takes advantage on him.
After exiting the Congo immigration, we entered a taxi heading to Lubumbashi and waited like for an hour before the driver being brutally arrested for parking at a restricted area. I would really like you to experience this, very amazing. The police dropped us off after what we found another one heading to Lubumbashi. The duration was of 1 hour and half, more than the one hour normal because of the road maintenance.
Arrived in Lubumbashi, we found our booking with Alliance Guest House also not available, someone else took the room earlier. We managed to overnight at Guest House Refuge, few meters away. This is a full life changing experience, it is more enjoyable as we live and travel like locals. Try to imagine yourself, you wake up in the morning and find your room flooded with water spit out by the air conditioner, twenty rooms whose air conditioners use a single remote control, they bring you water in the canister to wash … and all this was just the beginning. After checking in, we organized a short walking tour in the city.
The first stop was the Lubumbashi railway station to check for their departing programs. Our expectation was to take a train just for fun of it. Amazingly, the train left earlier the day we arrived. For your attention, if you would like to experience Congo Train, I will strongly advise you to contact me earlier to ensure I collect reliable information on the train arrival and departure. The train program may change at will. Trains departure once per month or even once in two or three months. We also visited the Sts Pierre and Paul Cathedral, Belle Vue Hotel, and Kasambo prison (the first to be built in Lubumbashi in 1900 and where the church leader Simon Kimbangu was imprisoned); the local market, local handicraft and souvenir market.
As everywhere in Africa, people remain curious when they see a Muzungu (white man or woman), people are friendly and helped enjoying more the city. But remember, with a local on your side, you will enjoy better than alone. While taking a drink in the evening at the Guest House’s bar, we met with another cool guy also named Christian who promised and took us the next day to Lumumba assassination place, Lweshi for unofficial mine visit, and Likasi.
What should you expect for Lubumbashi – Manono road trip?
The fourth day, our new friend Christian was on time. It took us four hours from Lubumbashi to Likasi, including the different stops. The first stop was the visit of the “Hero Lumumba assassination site” and the plane he came in from Leopoldville to Elizabethville in 1961, year of his assassination.
The hero Lumumba was one of African Leaders that fought for African independence, he dead a year after Congo independence. The plane on the site arrived on a truck (wings aside). After visiting the inside plane, we approached the tree where he was shot at with still some remaining gun signs together with those put by a local man who witnessed it. Unfortunately, that man dead in 2004 and his tomb is on the site. Interestingly, three trees grew by themselves on the site, called the “sultan trees”. According the site keeper, they respectively represent Lumumba and his companion Mpolo Maurice and Okito.
From this site, we visited Lweshi Mine from outside as we did not have enough time for official request that may likely would have been granted. Though we had a limited view, the impact of intensive mine digging is visible as evidence of the artificial hills from mining waste. This was the last stop to Likasi. Christian helped us finding accommodation in Likasi at Mansel Hotel, three minutes away from the Sainte Therese cathedral. It is where we separated with Christian. Our main concern remained to find the transport to Manono as it sounded difficult to us to reach the north part of Congo from Kolwezi. Further, there were no direct transport to Manono (500Km from Likasi), our next stop. We had a very short visit around and went to the Cathedral, the Cercle des Loisirs Panda “CLP” Likasi, and the town hall.
While trying to ask around, we collected concordant opinions that it was much easier to reach manono taking two separate transports.
Give a chance to Goma, and enjoy a walking city tour
On day 5, we departed from Likasi at 7.00am zith a bus heading to an opposite direction to manono. It took us half an hour and stopped to find by ourselves a transport that can, at least, bring us midway. We caught a truck heading to Ngoya. A team of a friendly driver of a brand-new truck agreed to take us to Ngoya and at a very friendly price. I guarantee you that choosing Congo Local Guides is to travel cost effective as per our experience dealing with local people.
We started our way at 11.00am. We drove through many villages with a highlight at Kyubo with their breathtaking falls we visited. The site has a number of stunning experiences ( A walk along the trails that line the river; ATV all terrain; Kiwakishi cave tour (35km); BBQ evening at the camp; Visit their own electric turbine; Fishing: Tiger Fish, Captain, etc.; Canoe-Calm or tumultuous waters; Bird Watching; Rafting in the rapids; Pedal Boats; Swimming under the small falls; Speedboat cruises on the river; Visit of the surrounding village and its market). We could not do all this because of the limited time. The distance was long that we could not make it the same day.
The road was, let us say, good from Likasi to Mitwaba. Then, from Mitwaba the road is very bad and passes into mountains. We arrived in this area around 8.00pm, making it worse for night drive.
The truck carrying 30 tons of beer swayed as if it were going to break into thousand pieces. It was raining and the terrain slippery. From the top of the ravines and in the dark you could see a vast forest at the foot of the mountains: it was a very real movie. We passed the night in a certain village laying outside on the ground with other two trucks’ passengers. This was the first memorable night we had, and the food was only biscuits, fruits and water. The fear was to see dogs and other animals that were passing around attacking us or simply locals, as the place was not really known that safe. Finally, nothing of that kind happened. Should you try the Eastern Congo Road Trip Lusaka-Lubumbashi-Manono alone, feel free to reach me for more details to be aware of when traveling this side.
Experience life out of main cities: Goma surrounding villages tour
Then come time for the last stop of our Eastern Congo Road Trip Lusaka-Lubumbashi-Manono. The next day, we departed at 5.30am and we arrived in Ngoya at 8.30am where the truck dropped us off. Here, we met with two young guys passing themselves as being in official mission, checking Andreas Passport. Being or not immigration officers, this is a kind of issues you will have to meet with at almost all stops. This is something I certainly deal with efficiently to ensure no one takes advantage of my guest.
Before departing for Manono, we visited a hot spring and an abandoned mining company. The hot spring reaches 100°C, presumably from hot lava activities underground. From this point, the road and mean of transport you may know, changes considerably. It’s time for the situation on the spot to impose you how to travel. You will walk through the jungle, take transport you will never imagine exits, and have a look at Congo as so few travelers did. For like 80km, we met like ten unofficial checkpoints, very challenging for someone who can’t afford speaking local languages. This made us to do three six hours for that short distance, the road itself being one of main challenges.
In Manono we visited many abandoned houses alongside and the Lukushi River, the main source of water for household use. We passed night at a local Guest House. In the evening, the owner offered us a drink and advised us on how to travel for the next stop, Kabalo. We expected from Manono to Drive to Kalemie whether by train. Just guess what? it was not available. Then from Kalemie, we expected to head to Kongolo. Due to the scarcity of transport, we decided to directly head to Kongolo (441 Km).
Give a chance to Gorilla and Hike the Nyiragongo Volcano
The good thing is that I actually have contacts in all these areas. So trying a such experience with me will absolutely be effective and realistic in terms of time and budget. This is finally how we spent our 7 days of the Eastern Congo Road Trip Lusaka-Lubumbashi-Manono days. This was only 25% of the adventure. The next post is about how we managed to travel from Manono to Kindu. It is the craziest and best travel adventure full of challenges before the one passed on the Congo River when heading to ubundu.
Tags: Discover Congo, Eastern Congo, Explore Congo, Kyubo falls, Lubumbashi, Lusaka, Manono, Road Trip
The video of this trip can be watched here