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Congo Dem.Rep.

The country of potholes and gorillas

date of entry 04/03/1989
mileage 13,906

capital Kinshasa

area 2.344.858 km²

population 71.712.867

GDP 11,11 Bill. US-Dollar

official language France

Every traveller has to pass through here, if they are on the move in Africa by car at least. You cannot actually steer clear of this country in Central Africa. Given the road conditions you really would like to. Gunther Holtorf encountered drivers who had been stuck in the mud for days. Thankfully Otto overcome every pothole and mudhole.
  • A rhinoceros – also photographed from a safe distance.
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  • Motivational sign. The official language in the former Belgian colony is French. At the time of the trip the country was known as Zaire. That did not change until 1997.
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  • What has barely changed to this day is the state of the roads. Gunther Holtorf has just one word for this: "Catastrophic!"
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  • It was faster by bicycle. Otto fought his way along a muddy road. He never got really stuck.
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  • The "potholes" here are sometimes up to a hundred metres long and three metres deep. Lorries had pushed the mud to either side of the road, allowing Otto to drive through a hollow alleyway.
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  • When a vehicle gets stuck, it’s a case of help out or just wait and see.
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  • The roads are there for everyone, including those carrying loads.
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  • One of the few dry tracks through the jungle. The country contains the largest area of rainforest still to be found in Africa.
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  • About two-thirds of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are covered with tropical rainforest and mountain rainforest.
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  • At 6.6 times the size of Germany, the Central African country is huge. You drive for hours before another settlement comes into view.
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  • Life on and with the river
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  • Alongside felled trees this ship transported traders and their goods.
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  • Coastal fishermen at work
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  • It does hold! Crossing a bridge in the jungle.
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  • Shortly afterwards we encountered an overturned lorry on the road.
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  • Pothole on two levels: while the lorry took the actual road, Otto halted briefly on the alternative route for the photo.
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  • Tree trunks forming a bridge over a ditch. In the rain they were extremely slippery.
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  • Bridge crossing, part 2: This time it was a bit more wobbly. At the halfway point the planks from behind had to be picked up and placed in front of the vehicle. There were not enough of them for the whole bridge.
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  • Man meets ape. This gorilla allowed himself to be observed at very close range.
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  • Three ape species are to be found in the Congo: gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees.
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  • The Holtorfs were very lucky to get so close to the gorillas
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  • "I can see you" – the ape keeps a close eye on the photographer.
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  • Pure Africa. The Congo offers a vast wilderness for wildlife. Over 400 species of mammals can be observed in the wild – here, a herd of elephants.
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  • Following the experience in Tanzania, when a baby elephant rubbed up against Otto, Gunther Holtorf kept his distance from the animals and used a telephoto lens.
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  • Lunchtime at the waterhole
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  • The hippos may appear tired and ponderous, but can swiftly switch to attack.
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  • Children playing in a village
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  • Gunther Holtorf was allowed to share in village life with his camera.
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  • In return the outsiders were also closely examined – over a breakfast of muesli and filter coffee.
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  • Traditional headdress and neckpiece of a villager
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  • An okapi is a shy inhabitant of the jungle. His long neck shows that he is related to the giraffe. His legs and hooves are similar to those of a zebra.
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  • Playful chimpanzee on a lawn
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  • Three antelope in the wild, captured from a distance.
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  • Video: The Democratic Republic of the Congo – "roads" that are enough to put anyone off