After crossing into the Congo from Uganda without my own transportation, my interpreter and I needed to find a ride to get us to Beni, several hours up the road. On a map, Beni is close. But, the road between Kasindi and Beni is a rough, rocky, dirt road.
A couple hundred meters beyond the border post, following the main road into Kasindi, is a main intersection with numerous parked cars and motorcycles. It is here where you look for a ride to Beni. You should have a few options: shared minibus, shared car, or motorbike. Shared minibuses are about $5, shared cars $7, and motorbikes $10. Minibuses only leave when full, cars leave when they have 3 people (suppposedly), and motorbikes on this route are just plain uncomfortable.
After refusing to wait for a shared minibus to leave, my interpeter and I found a shared car that only needed one other person in order to leave. After sitting in the car for 15+ minutes, the driver drove us back towards the border post to supposedly pick up another person. As we waited for him to find the person, another woman got in the car. But, our driver was nowhere to be found, so we couldn't leave. Eventually the woman got irritated waiting for the driver, so she left. Five minutes later, my interpreter and I left, too...and we walked back to the main intersection to start the process over again.
We quickly found another car heading to Beni, but had to wait for it to fill up with other travelers. Minutes turned into hours, and we finally left around 5pm, nearly three hours after we crossed the border just a few hundred meters down the road.
After clearing a police checkpoint, we were on our way to Beni. No more than thirty minutes later, though, we blew a tire. As we sat on the side of the road while the driver fixed the tire, and the sun went down, I remembered something I had read before coming here: don't drive at night, and that the area we were in was known to have rebel groups in it. So, I admit I got a little nervous since Beni was still hours up the road and it was nearly dark. A few trucks passed us by, one carrying a group of Congolese teenagers all with guitars. Only in the Congo, I suppose.
After driving with no problems for the next hour or so, we came across a traffic jam. Several trucks were stuck on an uphill portion of the road, blocking it for all other traffic. After assessing the situation, the driver got impatient and took his tiny car off the road to bypass the other trucks. The sound of the entire undercarriage scraping the rocks and stones underneath us didn't deter him. Amazingly, we didn't get stuck or rip anything underneath the car, and we kept on moving.
Just outside Beni is a police checkpoint. At the gate, a few men surrounded the car and peeked inside to see who was in it. We had a group of about 8 to 10 people crammed into the car, and I was in the middle seat inthe back, so they didn't see me or suspect us of smuggling anything. Just as the police were about to lift the gate, though, I heard one yell out, "Muzungo!". For you newbies, that is "white man" in Swahili. I had been caught. The police then demanded we all get out of the car so they could search it and question me, as a white man in these parts is not an everyday occurrance.
I was brought into a small police shack next to the road, where my papers and passport were scutinized. After some stuff was written down, I was basically asked to bribe them to get out of there. As it was getting late, and I was tired, I quickly gave them $5 and left. Five minutes later we were in Beni and at our hotel.