My guide, Emmanuel, meets me on the Rwanda side. He's very tiny and looks about twelve years old, but no, he's a married adult and extremely personable and bursting with enthusiasm. I feel sorry for him because Goma is a friggin' dump and he's got his work cut out. God almighty, what a place.
Six years ago a nearby volcano blew and combined with an underground burst of lava in a place no one expected, the lava flow took out half the city. Goma is slowly being rebuilt, but everywhere you look is broken up lava rock with not a lick of green anywhere. And the dust is so thick, you can hardly see a block away.
Emmanuel takes me climbing over lava flow and to the market where piles and piles of clothes--the kind of stuff you see in those mammoth-sized bales in the warehouse yards in south Los Angeles--are resold. Looking for that brown and white, Hawaiian-print polo shirt? It's here.
A belt for sale: only 1 US$We drive past the airport, past UN troops, through main streets and back streets, and then down to the Congolese side of Lake Kivu where the NGOs have their mansions. I could easily do a blog post on these NGOs, but I'll think I'll save up my rant. There are over 200 different NGOs in Goma alone. They live really well.
One of the "mid-size" NGO houses in Goma.
All these photos were taken somewhat on the sly, no surprise. No problem with border crossings in either direction. And for one of those serendipitous travel moments...Back in Ethiopia at the Blue Nile falls, Rob from Oregon--an excellent traveler and photographer--and I spent a pleasant evening chatting about the more obscure places in the world, as travelers who meet up in the hostels do. In a complete coincidence we ran into each other a week later in the Ethiopian Airlines office in Djibouti, and if that isn't enough, he had just arrived in Rwanda from Goma as I was going over--over a month later and in the middle of Africa. Too funny!! One is never alone. His photography is exceptional, and here is a link to his site: http://www.so-sophoto.com/