The rain is hard, pelting the reed roof of the structure in which we are sitting, along with others who ran to this tiny hut for protection from the heavy rains. Our driver, B-13, promptly falls asleep on a wooden chair while Mandaba makes easy conversation with stranded strangers and the home owner who graciously offers us all a welcome.
Right in front of me, a bicycle laden with cassava bread, some sort of reeds, and a turtle hanging over the wheel waits patiently for its owner to decide it is time to start the long way home. Half of our motorcycle is under cover, with the baggage, covered in plastic bags, hanging out of the hut, as there just isn’t enough room.
Chickens peck at the random bad peanut we toss away before chomping through our small stash, as we didn’t have lunch and it is now 3:15pm. We keep checking the sky and see absolutely no sign that the rain will let up. We are 19 kilometers from the border! Just 19 kilometers to cover so we can cross the river to Bangui. The last crossing, in good weather, is 4pm. No one crosses under the rain. By 3:50, we know we will be spending the night in Zongo, a port town with muddy roads and some guesthouses which we hope will have rooms available to us.
B-13 has a hard time waking up, but when he does, he is ready to roll and we head out, waving goodbye to our host. We swerve around massive puddles and other times, we approach a puddle carefully and make our way straight through it. Suddenly, we hear it…a large truck coming towards us around the bend. B-13 pulls over as far as he can to the side of the road as I look up at the tired faces of tens of people perched on top of large sacks of food, jerry cans of fuel, and clothes. They sway side to side as the truck hits potholes and creates new ones in the saturated road. In one voice, I hear “molende!” from those people while at the same time I feel the mud and water hitting us as the truck passes us. Three shocked humans sit on our motorcycle, dripping. In unison, we turn to look at the back of the truck, each of us muttering our complaints of mud and water on top of the water and mud we’ve already absorbed into our clothes. One thing is to have our shoes and the bottom of our pants to be dirty, but, the entirety of our left sides, as well? Three of us find it not amusing at all, but we carry on, knowing we must find a guesthouse before nightfall.
The second guesthouse we visit has room for us. We decide to go in search of dinner before showering, as the town is covered in mud and anything we wear will be dirty soon. Neither of us know the area, so we ask around until we are pointed to a place that serves us cold fish, cold amaranth greens and fufu (you roll the fufu in your fingers and use it as a utensil to carry the greens to your mouth. Made of.cassava, of course). We add hot peppers to the greens and share my last dinner in Congo for this trip.
A bucket bath washes away the red earth but doesn’t warm me up in the least. My toes are wrinkly from being in wet socks and shoes all day, but wow, do they feel better after a good wash! I lay under the large mosquito net and listen to the concert of frogs which fill the air outside, the sound creeping into the room through the slatted window closure and under the blue door. It is hard to imagine the number of frogs making this ruckus and after a while, a pattern of high, middle and low notes emerges, along with staccato and long notes.
It is just enough to pull this girl into sleep.