Friday was the standard cross-Congo shuttle with the stop in Kisangani.  I’ve become used to the hassles of that place but it was especially bad that day.  After landing we got the passengers that were staying there off and to their transportation and then turned to pay fees and get some more fuel, which had become the standard drill by this point.  We sent the through passengers inside where it wasn’t as hot to wait.

The ramp agent returned to the plane sooner than I expected and said that there was a problem with the fuel.  The problem was that there wasn’t any.  I (correctly) figured that this couldn’t be the case and had to go try to sort things out.  Apparently, the fuel supply was getting low and when MONUC (UN mission for Congo) found out, they bought up all of the rest of the fuel so they could keep their planes flying.  Since the problem seemed to be with the UN, I figured that I’d go there to try to get things resolved.  The UN soldiers didn’t want to let me into the operations area, but I managed to weasel my way in.  It would prove to be a waste of time as they wouldn’t give any fuel to anyone but UN planes.  “No Air Serv, no WFP, no MSF, no one but MONUC,” he said with a thick Ukrainian accent.  UNfriendly…

Almost all fuel at the airports in the DRC is pumped by a government owned company, but is sold by a plethora of distributors.  It really is a silly system.  We normally paid in cash through one of the distributors, but they didn’t have any more fuel.  Then it was time to try another distributor, but they didn’t have any more fuel on account either.  The last distributor in Kisangani wouldn’t take cash, which is a really strange thing for anywhere in this country.  Almost everything here will work on a cash basis, but they would only do it on a prepaid account and the place where the accounting took place was in Kinshasa (no help to me in Kisangani). 

They had to drive to the main airport in Kinshasa to pay, which took a lot longer than it should have.  By the time the fuel truck came back out to our plane and started fueling, it was too late to leave for Goma in time to make it there before the airport closed, so it meant it was time for a night-stop in Kisangani.  Great…  I had to hire two guards to sit under the plane to keep anyone from stealing anything.  The next morning, they got five dollars and a pineapple for their night’s work and were very happy to get it.

The MSF car took us along with our now stranded passengers first to the MSF house to drop them off and then to the hotel.  I was a bit doubtful about the quality of the hotel, but it actually turned out to be not too bad.  I was able to get a clean bed, hot shower and even a good dinner.  It could have been worse.

The next morning, the MSF Land Cruiser picked us up at 6:30am to get to the airport by seven.  Luckily we already had the fuel, so there wouldn’t be any more major delays.  We got there, opened the plane, made sure everything was there and then paid the guards.  Then it was just time to pay fees, file a flight plan and we were on our way.

Some days in the Congo are just more fun than others.



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2 Responses to “Kisangani”

  1. mormor Says:

    Patrick, sounds like you are getting pretty good at wheeling and dealing with the people there!!

  2. africanized Says:

    Well, not good enough, I guess. If I was better, I wouldn’t have had to spend the night in Kisangani.

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