During the past week I restructured my pass through Democratic Republic of Congo to avoid Central African Republic to instead basically bushwhack my way through the northern Democratic Republic of Congo, which when you really think about it, could take a lifetime.
I contemplated reversing course, going north to the South Sudan border passing through the Sudanese kingdom to Egypt then Liberia, Tunisia, Algeria and finally Morocco, effectively ignoring Congo and west Africa altogether. And finally I considered flying from Kenya to Papua New Guinea, abandoning my dream to take a slow boat down the Congo River for a month.
The reason for all these potential changes? A conversation while under the influence of Chat (leaves containing a natural amphetamine) and cannabis with two men who have both done this particular journey, albeit 20 and 40 years ago, respectively.
One man is a romantic; his lens on the Congo experience is cryptic while cautionary but wholly necessary.
This man is Ken Miller.
I love this man.
While the other man, aged and stained by the impositions of science over spirituality, has a rather pessimistic attitude regarding Africa, Uganda, the Congo specifically.
Now, marijuana is a kind of perspective conditioner for me. It makes what I’m doing or hearing more real, more intense.
As the three of us talked about our adventures on a balcony overlooking the stars and shadows of trees in Muyenga Kampala, I became less confident in my undertaking.
I came to question my gentle demeanour and trusting nature in environments where men who kill other men congregate on mass in a place I know nothing about.
The lifeless pessimism in the elder man’s voice strummed my insecurities more vividly than any man yet. And the reconsideration tide began flowing through my bones. Once it did, a wave of peace swallowed my sprit and suffocated the fire to tempt Congo, for a time.
“Wait a few years” they’d say. Then quickly challenge that resolve with more insights on the transformative experiences they had going there.
I had all but made up my mind to omit Congo’s geography from my trip when the pessimistic elder decided to sound off on his experiences in India.
He found it filthy, overpopulated and considered it mystical nonsense.
I looked at him with a challenging heart. And with supreme confidence I expressed my love for that land, its people, nature and even the grime that soured him so.
I realized in that moment that he and I are different people, an obvious fact I know, but nevertheless difficult to acknowledge when dazzled by tales of an adventure you’re on the cusp of embarking on for yourself.
He was old, and godless. His faith in humanity had been challenged and lost to atheistic ideology, he was ripe with self hatred, not from being a bad person but from believing all human beings are a virus. Unable to change, incapable of exercising the discipline needed to save our world. I couldn’t see his bitterness initially because like me he is an adventurer. But after his India confessions I knew this was not the man I should be taking travel advice from.
So after a few days of hard thinking, I’m cautiously moving south to Rwanda to my Congo contact where I intend to gauge for myself the stakes of proceeding west.