“The sky hazed over, and the sinking sun showed orange and was reflected in a broken golden line in the muddy water. Then we sailed into a golden glow.”
–V.S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River
The sun descends into the Congo River, and a rich darkness replaces it. The vast central African forest ends suddenly at the river’s edge. Reflected in the river, the edge of the forest is a dark symmetrical slice of jungle with clouds and night sky above and below it. A veil of stars appears above the forest but there are no stars in the river, their light consumed by the murk, carried away below the surface.
The commercial barges that travel up and down the Congo River are quite simply floating villages. Traders live on the decks of the barges during the 12-day trips up and down the Congo River between Kinshasa and Kisangani.
Every river in DRC is a main artery of commerce and transport through the forest. When a barge passes a remote village on the river, people paddle out to meet the barge in pirogues. If they can complete the sometimes difficult manoeuver of paddling frantically up to the moving barge and tying on to it, they unload their goods–monkeys, fish, crocodiles, lizards, buckets
of wood grubs, pigs, perhaps a live eagle–and trade with the barge people for soap, clothes, rice, sugar and salt. The trade goes on all night, as does the partying and music…