"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

3.15.2006

et tu, brute?

Last night in Goma was super-clear, so you could see all three of the volcanoes near Goma. Over the weekend, I visited the cartographer's office to order some maps. This guy is incredible - he has hundreds of maps of Congo's provinces, districts, and cities and towns in blueprint form. You select a map and he then colors it in by hand. Unbelievable. Now I finally have some really good maps of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Goma, which will make The Advisor much happier.

If you look at this map, you can see several of the volcanoes in the Virunga chain - they're the large red circles on the green area, which is Virunga National Park. Only two, the westernmost ones, are active. In these pictures, you can see Nyira (with the smoke), Mikeno (with the jagged ridgeline), and Karisimbi (obscured by the trees). Karisimbi is the highest point in Rwanda and I think Congo - the boundary goes over the peak. Dian Fossey had her gorilla research center on the other side of Karisimbi's slopes.

It's so sad what's happened here, because it's such a lovely setting. Well, apart from the lava flows and choking gas that seem to arrive at the worst possible times. I was reading last night about the disaster that was Goma after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when over 1 million people (including most of the genocidaires) took refuge here. In the middle of the cholera outbreak and massive human suffering, the volcano started spewing ash and gas, meaning that the air turned black. And it just keeps getting worse. At the moment, there's a semi-credible rumor that a rebel leader is planning an attack on Goma. Who or what he might attack is anyone's guess - he hates the governor, which is making me very glad that I decided to stay in my sunny apartment by the lake rather than moving to Camille and Ester's house next door to the governor's mansion.

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