“Fuck it!” Eddy cursed.
“Yep, my sentiments exactly!” Mark agreed.
The two men stared at the river and where the ford had once been, all that was visible now was a raging torrent of rough and muddy looking water.
“What do you think Mark? Can the Rangie get through this?”
Mark just looked at Eddy in disbelief “Seriously? No way, these waters would sweep under us and flip us over, we would be found days later stuck in a tree or something. Sorry Eddy mate, no, this isn’t happening. The Range Rover is a brilliant vehicle but it’s not an amphibious Dukw you know!”
Eddy turned and looked at the silver Range Rover, once not even that long back, it had been clean and shiny and it had gleaned in the sunlight – but now it was a dirty brown grey, covered in mud, shit, earth and who knows what else! From the car, Eddy then took in the four women gathered around it looking back at Mark and himself with rigid faces. He turned away from them and took in the swirling waters of the river they had crossed literally only a few days ago.
“Mark, how deep do you think it is?”
Mark looked at the river and was thinking back to the Thursday they had crossed, three days ago and mentally calculating. “At a rough estimate l would say a good six feet, deeper in some other parts probably, the road coming through wasn’t even to begin with Eddy. You know, not being funny, but we could have been on the other side of the river and dry and safe in Kinshasa had it not been for your desire to suddenly want to be a tourist and visit the bloody provinces AND we wouldn’t have the ‘Nun of This mob with us!” He said pointing to the women standing by the car.
“Tourist?? I am a bloody journo Mark; it’s my job and l don’t recall twisting your arm and forcing you to come you know? You offered me the ride, said you had business of your own to attend to. As to being safe, sure, we may have been, but they would probably be dead by now if we hadn’t of shown up when we did!”
Mark snorted and laughed ‘Jesus! The ride was to show you the power and speed of the bloody Range Rover Eddy! I am a Land Rover specialist, l sell them, they are my job mate! I don’t care about the rest of the world let alone saving it!” He stormed off towards the car and the women.
The four nuns, their habits torn and dirty, stained and dishevelled watched the two men approaching the vehicle again. The stress and anxiety of the situation clearly visible on their faces. Three were Belgian and one Congolese. Sister Marie, the only one who spoke any English asked “What’s happening – can we cross the river?”
Eddy shook his head, “Afraid not, the water’s just way too high.”
“Are we going to return to Mudimba then?” She asked.
Mark answered first, “No way, the bloody army will be there and we all know what they are capable of!”
Eddy reflected on the last few days and how life had gone from being risky to downright dangerous to deadly! Mudimba was a dirty foul-smelling tip of a town. Whilst waiting in Kinshasa for the expected confrontation between the army and the government, he had decided to try and get a taste of what life was like outside the capital – a decision he was fast coming to regret! He and Mark had been in the town when the storm broke and the heavens opened, the rains lashing down like there wasn’t going to be a tomorrow!
They had taken refuge in a local school run by the nuns until the worst of it had passed … however one storm was replaced by another! The moment the rains ceased, was the same moment the army mutinied! The horrors of what followed in Mudimba motivated Eddy and Mark alike to grab the women and bundle them into the rover and flee to the north.
Sister Marie prompted Eddy, “What are we going to do then?”
“No idea. Mark could we get to Angola maybe?”
“No, it’s that simple Eddy – NO. No suitable roads, not enough fuel and let’s not forget the war, shall we?”
“What about Migali?” Sister Marie asked. “There is a bridge there.”
“Where’s Migali?” Asked Eddy.
“Thirty kilometres that way.” She answered pointing to their right.
Eddy turned to Mark, “What do you reckon?”
“Eddy, we are running out of options, l’ll take anything at present. Let’s go!”
The journey was a nightmare, the road nothing but swirling brown mud, despite everything Eddy was impressed with the Rangie’s performance, it certainly could handle itself. It was hot in the car now that the sun had risen properly and both the men were seriously uncomfortable in their own clothes, who knew how the nuns felt inside their habits?
Once they arrived, they found the town empty of sorts, the rebel soldiers had been through already, everything was deserted and all that was left in the streets were bloodied bodies of Eddy guessed residents, lying at grotesque angles in pools of their own blood, in muddy dirty waters having been macheted down whilst they ran. The stench of death hung in the fetid air.
“We must do something!” Sister Marie suddenly shouted. “Stop the car, we must help them!”
“They’re dead Sister, they are beyond our help! Well there you are Eddy, you have your story, you are a journo after all l think you said?” Mark sneered.
“Shove your bitterness Mark, l wanted to report the story, not live inside it. Let’s go. Sorry Sister, Mark is right, nothing can be done for the dead, we need to keep the focus on those alive.”
The rickety wooden bridge was intact, but there in the middle was a bullet riddled Peugeot, the front wheels hanging over the edge of the bridge, both side doors open and bloodied bodies hanging out, their gaping wounds visible in the sun.
“Hang on everyone!” Mark said as he motored the car forwards to push the vehicle out of the way. They watched as the car slid off the edge and within seconds bodies and car had been swallowed by the raging currents below.
Once over, Mark drove towards Kinshasa. No one spoke inside the car. The heat continued to get hotter, the sweat continued to roll down ribcages and pool in waistbands and still Mark drove on, and still no one spoke. The nuns prayed in the back, and Eddy listened to the BBC world service on the radio. It announced that French and Belgian paras were arriving in Brazzaville, a couple of miles across the River Congo from Kinshasa and were expected to take the airport on Monday.
It was dark when they arrived in Kinshasa. There were no street lights, no traffic and most assuredly no welcoming party. They drove past the airport where they could see fires and smoke in several places. As they approached the city centre, there were looted shops and broken glass was strewn on the roads like glistening confetti. There were no soldiers anywhere … there were no looters, there were no people.
“Where to from here then Eddy?” Mark asked. “The British Embassy?”
“No, the Inter-Continental. It’s a regime hotel and the DSP will be there.”
Eddy was right, they were. About 100 yards away from the hotel, the Presidential Guard, armed to the teeth manned a roadblock. They recognised Mark, who supplied their Land Rovers and the Range Rover was waved through to the hotel.
Eddy, Mark and the four nuns clambered out. The women ran into the hotel leaving the two men to lean against the car, thanking their lucky stars at surviving the last few days…surviving the storm.
Eddy wondered if perhaps he was getting too old for all this shit? There is adventure then there is madness! Is there a fine line between them?
Mark had just lit up a cigarette, took a deep slug and exhaled the smoke in relief.
“Can l have one of those?”
“But you don’t smoke, Eddy. It’s a disgusting habit, remember?”
“I do today Mark, l do today.”
Writers: Rory Matier/Brian Matier