The Congo, with its beautiful and amazing sights to see throughout Virunga National Park, was easily the highlight of my month long journey. I've long believed that travel that not only challenges you but changes you, is the ideal type of travel. The park has been off-limits to tourists for far too long, and it's fantastic that it's starting to open up again.
Even with the New York Time's inclusion of Virunga in its top 52 places to visit in 2016, I highly doubt the tourists will be pouring in anytime soon, and for good reason. It's just not easy to get to, safely. Oh, and when you're there, the safety is still a bit questionable. Or, as CNN recently put it, it's the world's most dangerous national park.
Now, that's not to say you should go into panic mode and fear for your life. You can of course go to Virunga and have an amazing time as I did. It's just that, do you remember that whole Rwandan genocide thing from 20 years ago, the one dramatized in Hotel Rwanda which involved the horribly brutal killing of 20% of Rwanda's population? Well, where did all those killers go? Mostly, they fled west into the eastern Congo - home of Virunga National Park.
Which leads me to this photo. When traversing through the park, you're pretty much always accompanied by at least one Virunga National Park Ranger, who will be armed with an AK-47. This is not your typical park ranger. These fine people are literally risking their lives to protect the park, and are more akin to a military soldier than a park ranger. This photo was taken on one of my car journeys between areas of the park.
The roads, by the way, are the worst I've encountered across all the countries I've been to. Never have I seen seen roads as terrible as these, which may help to explain the utter lack of cars and even motorcycles that were driving on them. The road might not look too bad in this photo, but trust me, it gets worse. Much much worse. Perhaps that's why the passenger in the front looks to be in such a state of despair?
Travel through the Congo can be a bit congested - inside the vehicle.