Congo Super Highway


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I’ve been on the raid again for these shots for Cee’s watery challenge. They’re from the Team Leader’s photo archive of his Africa overland trip, and were taken from the deck of one of the huge Congo ferries that ply the treacherously shifting waterway between DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa and  the port town of Kisangani, a thousand  kilometres inland.

This vast waterway is one of Africa’s super highways. In a land with few roads or other amenities, the Congo River not only provides the main means of travelling across the country, but is also a continuous marketing opportunity for local farmers, fishermen and traders who deal in just about every imaginable commodity.


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The traders tie up their pirogues alongside the ferry. They come to trade  with passengers and to hitch a ride. At times the ferry looks more like a floating city than a river craft.

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pirogues4 Congo

The river of course means  far more than transport and trade to the Congolese who live beside it. It provides fish to eat for one thing. More crucially, it is the main source of drinking, cooking and washing water: in every sense  a river of life.


Copyright 2014 Tish Farrell


Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Water

30 thoughts on “Congo Super Highway

    1. Thank you, Robin. Yes, I think it was a little exciting. For one thing you had to take your own light bulb for the cabin which was shared. And some of the game meat on board (e.g. crocs) was still breathing.

  1. Lovely.
    The river is also a spiritual force for good and evil. Between the forest and the river that’s about the sum of things dwellers in river communities.
    Dug-out canoes take me back to Nigeria where we lived during some of my formative years.
    Thanks to you for a deep memory.

    1. You’re welcome, Tony. I rather surmised that you’d had an ‘overseas’ life. And yes, the light and dark of the Congo. I think the Europeans and the Swahili slavers left their own great residue of darkness behind them, and it’s still being played out.

  2. Thank you for this very interesting post….with superb images. I would love to take a trip along the almighty Congo Super Highway….however I think words and images like this will have to suffice:)

    1. You and me both, Janet, when it comes to vicariously travelling the Congo River. I’ve read so much about it, I can fool myself that I’ve actually done it 🙂

    1. Thanks, Tiny. A whole way of life indeed, and though these pix are quite old, I don’t think things have changed much. Too many resources conflicts for one thing.

  3. At some point in high school, we were told the Congolese couldn’t have proper highways because the forest grows too fast that by the time you cover 1km of road, there is growth where you came from.
    These are wonderful photos

    1. Thanks, Noel. Yes, I believe the Congo forest can gallop back with great speed, though as in Kenya it gets decimated too – for cooking fuel and by loggers.

      1. Yes. It will not have a good outcome for the planet. Wangari Maathai is sadly missed. Everyone around the world needs to pick up where she left off and get planting.

    1. Thank you very much for your kind comments. I am sorry for all the problems in the Congo. I am sorry, too, that western countries seem to have quite a hand in this situation.

      1. Hello, Tish. I love the prose in Heart of Darkness, but the story itself is skewed, told rather from eyes too conceited and contemptuous. I think he may have set a precedent to the early Western writers concerning Africa. And his other book: The Nigger of the Narcissus. He had issues, that man.

  4. Yes, I agree. The actual story of European exploitation is in there, but it’s obscured (perhaps on purpose since Conrad was employed by the system), and somehow everyone’s latched onto the notion that Kurtz, was to a large degree corrupted by Africa, rather than by the terrible brutality that King Leopold’s administration was meting out to hapless villagers . Now there was someone with a really dark heart. He also had issues with a capital ‘i’. ‘The heart of darkness’ has thus come to be used as a quick and dirty signifier by every lazy journalist covering some crisis in Africa – as if the term is some kind of explanation for the situation. But yes, Conrad’s prose is something else. He knows how to conjure.

    1. I saw a BBC documentary on YouTube once about the activities of King Leopold II in the Congo. The Belgians would take women hostage and then force men to work for them, tapping rubber. If the villagers refused or did not collect enough rubber, their hands were cut off. At one time, over 1300 hands were cut. The Belgians said the African could only be civilized through torture. It is hideous.

      The link to the video is here:

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