Nature Research

Exploring Africa’s Goma Region: Diary: Day 1

FLI Virunga National Park 1

The 7R Future Leadership Institute is following Belgian Floris Buter while he is on a 12 day field trip in Africa, in order to gather topography data for a hydro-power project. The collected data are to be wired to the Belgian engineering firm TPF. They need the data to make a feasibility study.

Since Floris is out there today, the communication depends on the availability of a working internet line, which results in diary fragments coming through in a rather chaotic way.

Today you will find a report of his first day, preparing to leave for the jungle, organising guards to protect the explorers.

Topographical Feasibility Study In Hydro-Power Project

Day 1: Goma Rumangabo

08:03 Zébedée is at the ICCN office in Goma to take the cheque from Robert to get money from the bank.

12:04 Zébédeée receives the cheque and goes to the bank.

13:00 The bank hands over the monies to Zébédée

13:33 Zébédée and Papy pick me up at the house of Bruce and Laura with the V08. We go to MixMax to buy an audio cable. With this we can listen to music in the car when we’re on the road.

13:58 We go back to the ICCN office in Goma to get a signature for Papy. Papy wants to borrow money from the bank and he needs a proof that he has work and a monthly income. We leave his file at our financial department.

FLI Virunga Rumangabo 1

The original Rumangabo headquarters now used for the ranger offices of the Virunga National Park.

14:23 We leave for Rumangabo. We drive through the outskirts of Goma, over an asfalt road that wasn’t there 3 months ago. We pass UN bases and a mountain that is being excavated. The material from the mountain is used for constructing roads.

16:00 We arrive in Mikeno lodge. I offer Papy and Zébédée a Doppel beer. Vincent, the waiter, gives us salted peanuts without we have to pay for them.

16:15 The boss of the local garage comes sit with us and I offer him a beer too. He is responsible for all the vehicles of the park and also for the V08, our vehicle. We talk about the state of the V08. We agree that every time we come back from the field, we should have the car checked. This time, we replaced the glowing spiral of the diesel.

17:25 We leave the lodge and head to the mess tent where the Virunga personnel eats. It’s basically an “all you can eat” restaurant that serves fufu from manioc and corn, macajabo which is salted fish in red sauce, cooked cabbage or sombe (cooked maniok leaves), then there is pasta and meat in red sauce. The latter is often eaten by the muzungus who work in Rumangabo. Augustin, who works at CCOPS, tells me he hasn’t been informed about our plans, subsequently we won’t have guards tomorrow morning. He tells Zébédée that he should come to CCOPS control room to explain what we need.

18:15 I visit Emery in his tent. Emery used to be in the team of hydro-explorers together with Zébédée, Papy and myself. But since the beginning of March he has been shifted to the team that is constructing the high voltage network of the Matebe power plant. Emery is sick but feeling better. I decide to take him also to the lodge for a drink. He takes a Crest Tonic and I take a beer.

Zébédée phones me and informs me I have to come to the CCOPS control room to send an email to a higher security officer.

I go to the CCOPS, I forward my sent email to CCOPS requesting  guards for us in the morning. I also call him, he doesn’t pick up, I send him an text message. He sends me a text message back that we have to get guards from the northern station Mutsora (which is 200km from where we are. It will take 2 days to get there to pick them up by car). I call him and explain him that we are in Rumangabo and that we need guards from Rumangabo just like I asked him in the email. He’s getting annoyed and after some bitching back and forth he says he’ll arrange it and hangs up. A little later he calls me with the message that it has been arranged. We get 1 escort to cover Rumangabo-Matebe-Kahunga, then we will get 2 escorts to cover the trip from Kahunga to Rwindi. From Rwindi to Balemba, I understand the new chief warden of the center sector, will give us two permanent escorts who will join us on our mission. I’m glad this communication error is fixed in time and that we can leave according to schedule.

19:56 I go with Emery to the lodge, we sort some photos and Emery gives me the best ones he has from me.

21:30 I walk back to my new apartment. Since 3 weeks we are no longer living in tents in Rumangabo. Since the rapid growth of staff in Rumangabo, apartments have been built to create more space. As from now people don’t have to sleep with two or three other persons in a tent.

Notes by Floris Buter 
FLI Floris Buter VirungaFloris Buter is the Managing Director Commercial Enterprises of the Virunga National Park in Africa. He is responsible for the identification, conceptualization, implementation and operation of all commercial opportunities in and around Virunga National Park.

Virunga is truly the crown jewel of Africa’s national parks. The park contains over 50% of sub-Saharan Africa’s biodiversity and is home to about 200 of the earth’s last 720 critically endangered mountain gorillas. Virunga is the oldest national park in the Africa. Despite this, the forests and amazing animals of the park, most notably the mountain gorilla, are in a desperate fight for their survival.

In June 2015 Floris Buter explores the region of Rumungabo in Goma on a 12 day road trip in order to gather topography data for a hydro-power project.

To read the other diary posts from Floris Buter, click here.

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