16 April 2011
The highlight of the day: Bonobos!
We got up early and fought traffic for nearly two hours to Lola ya bonobo (www.lolayabonobo.org) at the Petites Chutes de la Lukaya. The waterfall is located on a rutted 4x4 track in the hills outside of Kinshasa and is home to scores of Bonobos, small monkeys very similar to chimpanzees. Most of the Bonobos were rescued from hunters or markets and now spend their time wandering around their large fenced enclosures hucking mud at the curators and following around tourists. There is also a separate enclosure complete with human surrogate mothers for the baby Bonobos. We saw at least two dozen Bonobos of all ages as we took the guided tour around the compounds. It was interesting to watch them as they walked along the fence with us. When we reached the end of a compound they would scream and another group of monkeys would run out of the bush and meet the group at the start of the next fence and keep us company. Park entry was only $5 USD, cheaper than parking (with the mandatory car wash). After the tour we had a super overpriced lunch ($34 USD) next to the waterfall and watched some tourists frolic in the dirty brown water.
Getting back to Kinshasa traffic was hell. We got caught on a narrow market street with trucks parked facing both directions and wound up stuck surrounded by irate Congolese. We were stopped behind four other cars and had several more behind us, but our car was soon encircled by people banging on our car and telling us to back up or get out of the way- but we couldn't move. We tried to tell them the cars around us had to move so we could move, but they only got angrier and started pounding on the windshield. Eventually (15 minutes later) a driver returned to car that was blocking the way ahead of us and traffic started to move again. The mob got back in their cars and trucks and started driving as well, much to our relief.
Ever the glutton for punishment we drove straight to a market where we were immediately surrounded again by vendors pushing bracelets, necklaces, carved items, and other junk while my friend tried to negotiate a reasonable price for a Tintin in Congo painting. The vendor refused to go below $15 each and we ended up walking away empty handed but severely harassed. Later we had some antelope and ostrich as a farewell dinner and got ready to leave DRC.