Lulua River, DRC
In 2014, Charlie and photographer Archie Leeming bought a 5 metre long pirogue (dugout canoe) for £100 in the town of Sandoa in Katanga Province, DRC. They paddled this hollowed-out tree trunk 350 miles down the Lulua River, a little-known tributary of the Congo.
During this journey, apart from learning how to manoeuvre a clumsy pirogue, they faced danger from rapids, waterfalls, hippos and crocodiles. They left the river after a month upon encountering a series vast cataracts which were impassable in their lumbering, leaking canoe. Three days later we limped into Kananga where Charlie was bed-ridden with simultaneous typhoid fever and a severe strain of Malaria.
Along the Lulua Charlie and Archie met many interesting and isolated characters from village chiefs and a tribal queen to crocodile hunters and a Belgian missionary who had lived in a small, remote town for 40 years. There were days when they were helped down rapid systems by groups of kindly fishermen and others where they encountered no people and fell asleep to the honking of nearby hippos.
The story of this journey is recounted in the book On Roads That Echo
Photos © Archie Leeming