I was dreading today. My usual Sunday morning routine is to get up late, drink coffee on the terrace, and perhaps go for a bike ride. Lunch is served at noon and then the group is off to Lac Vert for a long swim. We arrive home just before sunset, eat dinner, do a little more reading, and fall into bed early. Perfect.
But my elbow is cut up and I can’t go swimming. So what else is there to do in Lubutu on a Sunday? I was going to find out.
I woke up to discover some recently departed ex-pat Saint had left behind an Italian coffee maker and some Ethiopian roast. Things were looking up. I escaped Couvent coffee for the day. Coffee in hand I debated whether to read Agatha Christie or an MSF tuberculosis textbook. Ms. Christie won.
At 10 a.m., Marie-Aude (“mahree-ode”, a Belgian physical therapist) asked if I would go with her on a long walk to the cascades (“kah-skahdz”, accent on the second syllable). These waterfalls/rapids were a bit outside of town, just off the road leading from Lubutu to Kindu. This road was the scene of my fall and injury five days ago. The walk to the cascades was the only Sunday alternative to Lac Vert or just doing nothing. Since I’m not very good at just doing nothing, I was delighted to go explore. The only problem? Someone described the route and it was very complicated. The directions were: “Take the road to Kindu. After you go down the second big hill, turn onto a jungle path a little before the bridge. Go about 20 minutes into the jungle and don’t get lost.” With my recent luck on the road to Kindu, I decided the two of us needed company. I asked Dominique (Belgian laboratory supervisor) if she would join us. She had gone previously and knew the way. With her “oui” we were set.
I’ve been chatting a lot with Dominique lately. She is 26, a laboratory scientist, and an expert on HIV. Marie-Aude is mid-30ish and is on loan to MSF from Handicap International. She is in Lubutu teaching inpatient physical therapy techniques to the national hospital staff. We three are all on our first MSF missions. We’ve each got our complaints, but we’re enjoying the experience. Dominique is returning to Belgium tomorrow for vacation. She has a long shopping list for Couvent’s residents, including me. Nothing is available here. As I did not bring a 6 month’s supply of shampoo and toothpaste with me, I’ve placed my order and gladly handed her some Euros!
The three of us exited Couvent and took a narrow path leading through a quaint neighborhood of Swahili houses. After 10 minutes we emerged on the red dirt Kindu Road. Each time I had gone this way it had been early morning and I was running. Now I could take the time to appreciate the beauty around me. Going up the second big hill, we held a Moment of Silence for my right elbow, exactly at the spot of the accident.
One and a half hours after departing, we turned off the road onto a well hidden jungle path. Immediately an entourage of children joined us. They had been hunting caterpillars in the forest, but we were much more interesting. After twenty minutes the kids brought us to the roaring water.
The cascades were nice. Better was getting to play with the children and caterpillars. We sat around for awhile, took a lot of photos, and shared some French cookies with our new friends. On our walk home, Dominique remarked that as tourists we would have paid a lot of money to walk through the jungle, hang out with kids, and play with orange caterpillars. She’s right, but this was something that is very difficult to experience as a tourist passing through. No the cascades weren’t just nice, they were great.