Part V: “Crossing the border”


-I cannot go any further, — a lad stoped under a tree on a crossroads. — You have to go that way, — he pointed vaguely somewhere, turn his horse and rode away, before I even had a chance to reconfirm… So I went… where he sent me to… a miniature grocery store, a barber shop, fruits and nuts street vendors along the road where staring at a mzungu with curiosity — am I going the right way?

After around 10 min of walking I finally saw a sign “Grand barrière”, and soon — the immigration building. At the gates a guard, after a close inspection of my passport, pointed to a sink in a corner and sent me to wash my hands (prevention against Ebola). Hands washed and scrubbed, I got back to the gates and the guard, with approving nod, opened the gates and let me in.

7.00 am. At passport control they informed me that the representatives from Virunga National park will arrive by 8 am and they let me sit on a stool close to a loud and dusty fan. After 20 minutes wait, I’ve seen a couple entering the immigration building from Congo side — tourists — possibly my fellow adventurers. In couple of minutes 3 more joined the immigration queue.

7.40 am. Just in case I moved my stool closer to a triad, who were rummaging in their backpacks with absorbed attention. It seemed they were looking for breakfast that turned out to be the size of a French baguette with banana inside it.

7.55. Another tourist entered the building accompanied by someone who most likely looked like a park ranger and who headed straight to our small congregation with:

-Good morning. My name is January. I am a Virunga national park ranger, and you, I guess, came here to cling Nyiragongo volcano? — we nodded in unison. — I will help you with immigration and climb permission procedures and after that I will take you to point zero from where you will start your trek. — January collected our passport, insistence copies and the printouts of visa confirmations.

The immigration procedures finished, we were divided into two groups, and after our backpacks were loaded in two jeeps, we started our adventure — to Goma, DRC! For the next half an hour we were crossing small villages nestling in both sides of a dusty road. Every so often we had to get out of our cars, wash hands in a specially installed containers and take temperature test — all while kids, noticing our majestic seven, were running out of their houses with excited cries of “Mzunga, hello! Hello!”

Once we arrived to Goma and after going through the process of scrubbing hands thoroughly with soap once again, we got introduced to our porters, who checked our pre- ordered packs for a sleeping bag, a warm jacket and snacks. I was very happy to find out that the point zero was actually up 2,000 m above sea level (so theoretically the half of climb was done!) Foe the other half — it was planned to have 5 rest stops during our trek and would be ideally to get to the top in 5 or 6 hours maximum. Having briefed us about safety and emergency situations (as the area still had rebels and the volcano is pretty active!), January counted if all our guards were present and ready and with “God bless” and “Merry Christmas, my friends!” he sent us away!

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