“Did nobody try to steal your camera?” people asked me when I returned from a boattrip through Congo. A silly question, I thought to myself.
After we left the port town of Lisala in Congo, we spent nine days – four of them stuck in the sand – without picking up even a whiff of a mobile phone network. It truly dawned on me how far removed from the developed world I was.
The area that we visited was at least 500 by 500 kilometer and neither had running water nor electricity. I stood out tremendously carrying a big camera, but I wasn't afraid of theft because I knew acquiring a Canon camera would be the least of the worries for the villagers we encountered.
As we saw four barges being tied together I knew it was my opportunity for an overview shot. Normally I would photograph things near me or on shore, from the boat. So when this barge became stuck in the sand and disconnected from the others, the late afternoon light gave me a perfect opportunity to take a long-awaited photo.
Most passengers did not mind having their photo taken, though I kept my camera far away from the notoriously corrupt authorities who could demand any sum for a non-existing photo permit.
When our boat reached Kinshasa, I disembarked with only my compact flash cards stashed away safely. Next day, the captain of the ship smuggled my camera into town and personally dropped it off at my hotel.