Goma Visit

We took a an overnight bus called Trinity Express to get to Goma. It was a smooth ride with the only downside (yet significant) being that they played music for the whole ride. I wanted to survey the bus to see how many people were actually enjoying it. Even with earplugs I could still hear and did not sleep a wink. Both border crossings (Uganda Rwanda and then Rwanda Congo) were smooth and Othy’s brother Fabrice came and picked us up along with his friend Marie. They took us to a guesthouse called Bungwe where we rested until the early evening. Bungwe was affordable but had it’s little quirks. Half of it was a guesthouse and then at the very end of the property there is a 6 storey hotel under construction that doesn’t match the rest of the atmosphere. We were on the first floor of the hotel and the first room we were in had a broken shower drain and was very dark because it faced a retaining wall. We then moved into another room facing the garden that had more light. The rooms were poorly designed but one redeeming factor was cool sheets! It is too bad that a building that is brand new already has so many problems. That is why design is always a good investment! Fabrice picked us up at 4pm and took us to visit Othy’s sister-in-law (also Marie). I got to meet Othy’s newborn nephew Johan who was precious to behold! I suppose that I can start calling him my nephew! From there we went to visit Othy’s friends Marie and Anatol and their family.

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One of the main intersections with Mount Nyiragongo in the distance

The following day we went to the harbour to inquire after ferry tickets to Bukavu. We were planning to take a boat called Emmanuel but found out they don’t make the trip on Fridays and so instead bought first class tickets for the Mugote Ferry for $26 each. We then went back to the guesthouse for a few hours and then left again to visit other family and friends including Vital, an friend of Othy and his family since he was a kid. Vital and his wife gave me a beautiful yellow kitenge fabric that had verses about shining light. How appropriate since the song “Shine Jesus Shine” has been often on my mind as a prayer for Congo. On our final day in Goma we took the morning slow and then revisited Anatole and Marie and then Othy’s sister in law Marie. Later in the evening we met up with Othy’s friend Maurice who took us to dinner. When we were leaving the restaurant I asked if we could try to find a good place to see the glowing crater of the volcano. Maurice took us to a road that heads toward Varunga, but because it was cloudy we couldn’t see anything. Perhaps I will get a view of the crater next time! The following morning we took bodas very early to the harbour. It was crowded and chaotic and so I was glad we had our tickets already! To my surprise, first class was a room on the upper level of the boat full of sofas and arm chairs. We were off!

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A view towards the harbour

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My first impressions of Goma is that it is a city full of walls. It makes sense because Goma has experienced more insecurity than most cities in Congo. Although the city is on the side of beautiful Lake Kivu, there are very few perspectives to the lake because of all the walls surrounding the lakefront properties. The two areas where it is possible to see the lake is at the public beach and the harbour. An ever present landmark in the city is the volcano. If it is not shrouded in cloud, in the day steam can often be seen rising off of it and at night a mysterious red glow. The Nyiragongo volcano last erupted in 2002 and the lava flow went through and destroyed 15% of the city. A lot of that hardened lava has now been incorporated into the architecture, especially the walls. Despite all the walls, the people in Goma have the same Congolese generosity and hospitality, and neighbours seem to look after one another. I was glad to stay a little longer in Goma this time and be welcomed by family and friends.

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A soccer field we drove through that was very muddy after rain

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A typical Goma street facing Mount Nyiragongo

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