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Hustle And Bustle

Goma in general is a flurry of activity. Especially when compared to some of the more tranquil settings throughout Virunga National Park. After spending the night on the rim of the Nyiragongo Volcano, it was time for a little R&R to end my visit to the Congo.

To that end, I found myself waiting for a boat transfer from the shores of Goma on Lake Kivu to Tchegera Island. Virunga does an amazing job of organizing your visit. I was basically standing on this small pier along with the Virunga Ranger escorting me and my driver.

Read more: https://www.aisleseatplease.com/blog/hustle-and-bustle

#congo #drc #lakekivu #travel #photography #africa #explore #adventure
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University Of Goma

During the days of Mobutu Sese Seko's Zaire, the university was a status symbol in what is now the Eastern Congo. Two wars and numerous rebel conflicts later, the university is no longer what it once was. Windows are cracked or knocked out entirely, the electricity has stopped working years ago, and a functioning toilet is no where in sight.

Read the full post: https://www.aisleseatplease.com/blog/university-of-goma

#university #education #goma #congo #drc #travel #photography
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Going Bananas For Goma

Being able to peer into the everyday lives of Goma's citizens, even if just driving by was one of the more memorable experiences of visiting the Congo. The simple act of just driving down the road created lasting impressions of life in this dangerous city.

Read the full blog post: https://www.aisleseatplease.com/blog/going-bananas-for-goma

Please like and share if you enjoyed this post, and don't forget to follow me for more great photos.

#Goma #Bananas #Congo
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The Daily Grind In Goma

The versatile chukudu - a vehicle that is endemic to the eastern Congo. Perhaps its use has spread across political boundaries, but so far as I know it's more of a Congolese invention. Hauler of freight, workhouse of the region, it is seen here being used to help transport a bed frame.

I can't imagine it's that light, let alone with a frame several feet wide, balancing it must be a continual challenge while managing to navigate the volcanic rock hewn roads of Goma. I'd like to believe its gear-like wheel shape helps with the generally pitiful road conditions.

Blogged: http://www.aisleseatplease.com/blog/2016/10/17/the-daily-grind-in-goma

#Goma #Congo #DRC #Chukudu #DRCongo #travel #photography #africa #afrika #afrique #streetphotography #travelphotography #northkivu #콩고 #고마
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Volcanic View From Tchegera Island

Tchegera Island is a world away from Goma, even though it's just a quick 10 minute boat ride from the city. The lava rock and past destruction from eruptions and decades of conflict are not present. Just lush green grass and trees with the occasional environmentally friendly tent complete with solar polar. Among the places I stayed in Virunga, the tents were definitely the nicest on Tchegera, as you would expect from such a newly opened property.

Seeing the ever-present volcanos in the distance provided a beautiful backdrop to rest and recover after hiking up Mt. Nyiragongo. A rather quiet and peaceful setting. It's like being in the eye of the hurricane though. Calm mixed with the danger that surrounds you. Everything from one of three lakes in the world that can experience a limnic eruption to volcanoes that can devastate the city at its foot. Don't let any of that discourage you though - a trip to Virunga can be life changing and the staff at Tchegera couldn't have been more welcoming and friendly. I had a terrific time there.

Blogged: http://www.aisleseatplease.com/blog/2016/9/26/volcanic-view-from-tchegera-island

#HDR #AuoraHDR #TchegeraIsland #Congo #DRCongo #DRC #VirungaNationalPark #Virunga #LakeKivu #Volcano #landscape #travel #photography #africa #adventure #explore #afrika #afrique #hdrphotography #travelphotography #landscapephotography #콩고
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Between Two Looming Disasters

There is a distinct talent in balancing objects on your head. While driving through Goma, I saw this type of scene play out over and over again. Bananas, eggs, and what have you, balanced on top of a woman's heads being transported. This particular set up has fish drying on top of this hat-like platform. As for the blue bin? No clue.

A small section of the Avenue de la Paix runs along the beautiful and deadly Lake Kivu. The lake is one of only three that undergo limnic eruptions. Should the lake overturn, the results for Goma on the whole would be catastrophic. In the meantime though, this woman and many others like her make their life living between a lake that could erupt, and a volcano that could erupt wiping out the city. Helluva place to live, huh?

I also rather like the decorative touch of the guard tower protecting the house behind it with the gate door open. Should rebels such as M23 advance into Goma again, I'm not sure how much peace of mind the stone wall and metal gate will provide, but on a day-to-day basis it's probably still better than most homes in the area.

Blogged: http://www.aisleseatplease.com/blog/2016/9/8/between-two-looming-disasters

#Goma #Congo #DRC #DRCongo #LakeKivu #Travel #photography #life #everydaylife #balance #hat #driedfish #africa #street #avenue #GuardTower #vendor #afrika #afrique #CongoKinsasha #NorthKivu #streetphotography #travelphotography #sonya7rii #고마 #콩고
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Stellar Airways

Taking the land border crossing between Rwanda and Congo is a bit like what I imagine crossing between West and East Berlin was like in the 80s. Night and day. On the Rwanda side, the city of Gisenyi hugs the DRC border. On the shores of Lake Kivu, it hosts a resort and a few hotels. The atmosphere is laid back, people drinking and enjoying the beach life. Then, you cross over into the much larger city of Goma on the Congolese side, and the relaxed atmosphere gives way to the hustle and bustle of this war-ravaged city that has seen widespread destruction from volcanic eruptions.

My driver from Virunga National Park met me at the border and drove me to Virunga's offices in Goma. You can just make out the gorilla logo of Virunga above the doorway on the rightmost building. What I found a bit more interesting, and perhaps amusing, was the sign for Stellar Airways. I had never heard of it before, but, given the horrible reputation of Congolese airlines, I could only chuckle at the "Fly Safe" tagline. Most Congolese airlines are banned from flying over EU airspace due to their severely lagging safety standards, and is probably one of the reasons Virunga recommends its visitors fly into neighboring Rwanda and then cross by land, even when Goma airport would be much closer.

I did a quick search on the airline just to see what I could find, and sure enough, the airline was founded in 2011 at which time it was promptly added to the EU list of banned carriers. Stellar Airways and its sole Airbus A320 managed to operate for a few years before shuttering in 2015. I can only imagine the difficulties of trying to operate any airline in a country with rampant corruption and one of the absolute lowest GDPs in the world. Who could afford to fly it besides NGO workers and brave tourists?

Blogged: http://www.aisleseatplease.com/blog/2016/8/23/stellar-airways

#Goma #Congo #DRC #Africa #StellarAirways #DRCongo #motorcycles #travel #photography #urban #city #VirungaNationalPark #EverydayLife #moto #transportation #road #NorthKivu #sonya7rii #travelphotography #street #콩고 #고마
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The UN Presence In Congo

Living my whole life in the US, when I think of the UN I always think of those guys in the blue helmets and their modern architecture styled headquarters in NYC. Outside of that, the only time you see the UN is really in the news or movies. Not something at the front of mind generally.

In the Congo, it's a different matter altogether. Established by UN Security Resolutions in 1999 and 2000, a peacekeeping force was deployed to Congo to monitor the peace process of the Second Congo War.

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more easily referred to as MONUSCO has a very real, and noticeable presence in Goma and the surrounding environs. And it's not cheap. With over 19,000 personnel, MONUSCO's budget for the past year was $1.3 billion.

When driving through Goma, you will almost certainly run across several UN trucks. Or even one of their bases. While peace is better than war, it's amazing how different peace can look like around the world.

Blogged: http://www.aisleseatplease.com/blog/2016/6/22/the-un-presence-in-congo

#goma #un #UnitedNations #MONUSCO #congo #drc #travel #photography #africa #moto #truck #street #vehicle #peacekeeping #sonya7rii #explore #adventure #travelphotography #afrika #afrique #콩고 #고마
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Portrait Of A Silverback

One of the precious few remaining mountain gorillas, this silverback of the Humba Troop lives in Virunga National Park. It's estimated that there's less than 900 remaining mountain gorillas left in the wild - a number that is critically low.

You've probably heard by now the story of Harambe, the western lowland gorilla that was recently killed at the Cincinnati Zoo to save the life of a four year-old child who fell into his enclosure. This is both a tragic and sad event. The western lowland gorilla population is believed to be around 100,000. The number is orders of magnitude greater than the mountain gorilla, but they are both still critically endangered and face threats of poaching, habitat loss and disease among others.

What many people might not realize, is that when you go on a gorilla trek you'll be wearing a surgical face mask. It's not to protect you - it's to protect the gorillas from you. Disease can travel fast, and outbreaks of Ebola have decimated populations in the past. Not only that, but due to the social structures of gorillas, the toll on the population can take years to even start to grow again.

I personally have no love of zoos. Once you see an animal in the wild, seeing it in a zoo is so depressing. And what is the purpose of zoos anyways? Do you go there to learn something, or to be entertained in the same way you might enjoy a circus? It's great that kids can see animals they might not otherwise be able to see in person, but I'm not sure the benefits outweigh the costs, let alone the stresses it places on animals in captivity.

Luckily, I have been fortunate enough to dedicate time and resources to seeing animals the way they are meant to be seen - in their native habitats. I always encourage others to do the same. While most of the gorilla troops in Virunga National Park have been habituated towards humans, they are still wild animals, without a cage or a moat to define their territory. Coming within an arm's reach at times of these majestic animals is humbling. The size, speed, and power of a silverback is not to be questioned, but admired.

Blogged: http://www.aisleseatplease.com/blog/2016/6/3/portrait-of-a-silverback

#gorilla #harambe #CincinnatiZoo #VirungaNationalPark #congo #wildlife #mountaingorilla #portrait #travel #photography #sonya7rii #UNESCO #UNESCOWorldHeritageSite #humba #silverback #blackandwhite #monochrome #primate #africa #afrika #afrique #adventure #explore #zoo #wildlifephotography #travelphotography #blackandwhitephotography #endangered #콩고
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Congolese In Motion

The security situation in the Congo can be quite fluid at times. With various rebel groups such as M-23, Kony's child soldiers of the Lord's Resistance Army, or any other number of bad actors, life is tough in the Congo. The UN presence is pronounced and quite visible.

Virunga National Park and its rangers do an excellent job of taking care of you, and transporting you through the park. Its rangers are armed with AK-47s, and have my utmost respect - not because of the weapons they carry, but because of the risks they take to do the right thing and protect the park and its inhabitants.

To see children, growing up in one of the absolute poorest countries in the world, yet still be children, beaming with smiles and friendly waves, is enchanting. The roads were marred by potholes as big as ovens and lined with children walking to and from school, and villagers transporting goods going about their normal daily lives.

Blogged: http://www.aisleseatplease.com/blog/2016/5/25/congolese-in-motion

#VIrungaNationalPark #Virunga #Congo #Africa #travel #photography #blackandwhite #monochrome #sonya7rii #children #kony #m23 #drc #dailylife #explore #adventure #africans #afrika #afrique #UNESCO #unescoworldheritagesite #group #travelphotography #blackandwhitephotography #콩고 #아프리카
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