While stuck in Kisangani last July, I was struck by the beauty of the many crumbling colonial-style houses and buildings.
Thus, I thought I’d capture some of that beauty before it falls into oblivion. The rise and fall of Kisangani is well described by V.S. Naipaul in his novel A Bend in the River. (please see the quotations at the end of this piece)
In short, the city is located at a key point along the Congo River. Boats heading up river from Kinshasa (or Leopoldville as it was called from colonial times until the 1960’s), can only go as far as Kisangani.
That is because there is a series of rapids that finishes there, but starts several hundred kilometers upriver.
Thus, there’s a section of the Congo River that is not navigable, so the Belgians built a railway from Kisangani to the next point up river where it is once again navigable. Like Kisangani, the railway south to Ubundu has fallen into disrepair. There is a road between the two towns, but what was once an abundant flow of goods up and down the Congo River has been reduced to a trickle.
Ironically, the Congo River flows as strongly as ever.
This is a photo of the Congo River and Ubundu (somewhat hazy on the other side of the river) and the start of the series of rapids that makes the Congo River unnavigable starting there until Kisangani. To be clear, the Congo River is flowing from left to right in this photo.
Even the great paddle wheelers that used to make the trek between Leopoldville and Kisangani have changed to become meager and beat up wood boats.
Here are a few of the old and once impressive metal steamers sitting on the side of the Congo River.
The once great town of Kisangani is slowly making it’s way back, but probably not in time for it to have the resources to resurrect it’s wonderful buildings.