I can’t imagine I finally did it! I have been to DR Congo!
by Mia Löwbeer, Yulara basenjis, foto Mia and Lars Löwbeer, Jon Curby
In January we turned our heads down to DR Congo, via London and Entebbe, Uganda. We were Jon Curby, Tonda Curry, Erika Davies, my husband Lars and myself.
We travelled up in the north east corner, up to the border of Sudan.
The trip started out with a thud; our flight to London
cancelled. We scrambled to book a new flight, and luckily were in London in time
our flight to Uganda. Tonda was waiting in London because she had missed her connection in US so she was in London instead of in
Amsterdam with Jon and Erika. Erika’s luggage didn’t make it to Amsterdam! All that said, off we were and landed in Uganda the next
morning and our bags plus the crate were there as well. It was humid and warm, as expected. We had a day to fix the import papers
to Uganda from DR Congo for the dogs and poor Erika without her bags had to buy a few things and I wanted to buy more food and salt.
I was not going to starve!
Our little airplane serviced by MAF
Next morning up early and out to the airport where Dave, our
pilot, waited to take us in his small plane to DR Congo and Dungu.
It was such a strong feeling to sit there and finally when we crossed the border my tears were falling. Little me on my way to fulfil
my biggest dream ever. We flew over the jungle and it never ended, it was green, green, green………. Suddenly a few small huts
and then nothing again. It is the World’s second largest jungle.
Finally we were there, in Dungu by the Uele River. It was so
hot! Totally different from Uganda. From all over came children running.
I just couldn’t believe that my first visit to the African continent was going to be DR Congo and to look for basenjis.
The Uele River
We were staying at the catholic mission in Dungu.
There we had base camp and we all had our meals together there.
I was so amazed how they worked so hard and we were treated so nice. Every day we got our buckets with hot water,
heated over on open fire, just imagine that, standing by a fire when it was between 30-40°C. They also made bread every
day and the stove was an open fire one so all cooking there. We were drinking at least 4l of water and you didn’t go to
the “bathroom”. The main course was chicken, goat and rice together with manioc leaves. One night a goat was screaming
the whole night, next dinner we had goat on the table and the next night it was quiet.
Up early and off we went as soon as it was light. We were finally out looking for basenjis. Travelling on non existing roads,
were more like bike trails, so we jumped around in the car at 10km/hr. But we
were not going to be disappointed. Suddenly
we did see a tail and out of the car we jumped and there she was. The most fantastic little basenji girl. She was so full of type
and she even yodelled. I was crying! This was the best I have ever experienced. Encouraged by this encounter we travelled on.
Suddenly a puppy. Out of the car again and the puppy was gone. I got him on a picture, a nice tri boy. The owner couldn’t catch
him so disappointed we went on. We did see a lot of nice grown up dogs and some pups. Some were too young to travel and some
in too bad a condition. A nice bitch was there but no owners so we couldn’t buy her. We had to turn and then on the way back the
people with the tri puppy had him and we could buy him.
He was Asuma.
We had bought a little red boy that day as well so we felt very happy to have two pups already. Very encouraging!
When we came back with the pups we gave them a bath, we de-wormed
them, de-fleaed them and gave them food.
You can’t imagine the speed these puppies ate with. Survivors all of them, so they knew how to gulp it down quick.
After a day or two they were like new dogs, coats shining and more energy.Days went by and same schedule, out on
the “road” to different directions and back home to sit down and have a nice evening among friends and all African
sounds. Unbelievable! Every day more pups!
One of us stayed home every day to take care of pups and to
look after our things. People have been told, by jungle drums
and by people biking around, that we wanted young dogs so people came by the mission to show us some pups, as well as
owls, cats and pigs. A few pups were bought that way.The day I had to stay home a man came with a basket with something
in it and it was a red bitch puppy. Wow! Yes, we bought her and she is Angali, “Gali”, my little girl. We did see a lot of typey
basenjis with the right colours, size, some with a lot of white and some with very little white, some with a little straighter tail
and some with nice curls. And it was so fantastic to travel around and not a single dog bark anywhere. The only sounds we
heard were yodels. One day on the road we started to be quite down because we didn’t see any dogs but when had travelled
almost as far as we had planned we found some pups and we bought one. Then suddenly we did see ears, we backed up, no
ears, started forward again and there they were. We jumped out of the car and there was the most fantastic basenji bitch. She
was just so basenji with a lovely red coat, nice markings, nice curly tail, sweet head and expression and yes we were quiet
taken with her. She was also in whelp. She was living there with her master, an old man without legs and they seamed to be
very close. He was so happy we liked his dog and he was very proud of her.
I will never forget the people and the children; they were so
happy, proud and generous. It is amazing, people who are suffering
wars, rapes, diseases and they are living in one of the world’s poorest countries but they looked happy. Laughs you heard
everywhere and no crying children. In this area they had food; they could harvest three crops a year, e.g. peanuts, rice and
manioc. We did see a lot of chicken and goats and the forest was full with fruit. This time the papayas were ripe and absolutely
delicious with some lemon on top, pineapples I am not going to buy here anymore, can’t challenge the taste of the ones growing
in the forest and the bananas were just so sweet. Mango trees everywhere but the fruits were not ripe yet.
Almost all transportations are by bike or on the head. It was amazing to se how the bicycles were
loaded with hundreds of kilos.
One of the two brindle pups we did see. A little boy wanting to sell his b/w dog.
No toys, the only thing we did see was this "football" made of plastic bags.
We did bring some candy for the children.
The children brought their machetes with them to school. They had work to do on the way home,
cut leaves to repair the roofs of the huts, firewood, cut down bananas och dig for maniok.
One day we had a flat tire and no spare or tools with us. Luckily enough it happened in a
village so we could get some help. We were surrounded by hundreds of children and we felt
like in a museum. But soon we managed with our old school french to be able to communicate
with them and had a great time looking in their books, getting to know their names...............
A b/w bitch in whelp, she was very attractive, she had a nice curl and a pretty head.
We learnt very fast to take pictures emediately becuase the dogs were so submissive
so as soon you approchaed them them put the ears down and the tail as well.
We travelled in the land between savannah and jungle.......
.......but also in the very dense forest.
Sister Pascalina with Mia and with Angali
John Valk and Asuma
Adventures end and it was time to say goodbye. I will
harbour my memories with great care and I hope I came back a little
I feel so fortunate and I feel so rich and I realise I am very spoiled. We take so much for granted. I hope I made a little difference for
the people as well by just being there and giving them a little touch of what is at the other end of the road, but we share the same
sorrows for our families and our daily lives. Thanks to all who helped in so many ways to make this possible and a special thank
you to Jon Curby who asked me if I wanted to join this expedition! Thank you Tonda Curry and Erika Davies for all the fun and nice
company and Lars, my husband, who agreed to come with me and, believe it or not, now is going to have his own basenji girl, Gali.
We were not going to have another dog living with us! :-))
Mission completed, the group plus our six puppies.
Now starts the second leg of the journey and that is to get
the dogs home and for my Gali to get her to Sweden and then that they can be
our breeding programs and make a little difference to the diversity of the gene pool.
Here is my Gali!