With nothing to do in Bangui I decided to rent a motorbike taxi for yet another day. This time to look for pygmies south of the capital.
Pygmies are tiny people living in small settlements, usually far away from cities and civilization. My host Desire took me to a chief he knew who were sitting by the road as we arrived. He had taken tourists on the two hour hike to his village before, but he said that he didn’t want to take people there on weekends as that was the time that men were out hunting with bows and arrows, dressed only in leafs. We therefore continued south to Mbaiki, on the edge of the rainforest and famous for its pygmy population.
We asked people on the way and finally arrived at a village where a woman chief came to greet us. She said that the men were out hunting pigs, dogs, caterpillars and whatever they could find and would be back by the evening. She was fine with us taking some pictures and answering some questions for a small donation to the community. She said that most people didn’t know their own age and that school classes consisted of young and old people. The only problem was that the teacher had suddenly left two months ago without telling anyone when/if he would be back.
We didn’t stay many minutes though, as I didn’t want to feel intrusive, but I was happy to find them and to get a little peek into their lives before we headed back home to Bangui.
f you haven’t been to Bangui yet, you haven’t seen many people it is possible to fit into a five seater taxi. In Bangui that number is somewhere between fifteen and twenty. At least seven people in the car, three in the trunk, one in each window and as many as possible on the roof. A few times I even saw people standing on top of the engine, leaving the driver to look through legs of the passengers. Having seen prictures like there before arriving I would expect the cities to crowded and chaotic too, but the streets were actually not full of traffic, maybe there are just really few cars in this country.
The quiet City center of Bangui
The local police didn’t care about seatbelts, but they were pretty serious about taking pictures. Taking a selfie in public can put you in jail, and apparently having facial hair too. A Russian couchsurfer who came before me spent three nights in a cell because his beard looked terrorist-like according to the police. The city felt completely safe to walk around though, and with all the blue helmet soldiers around I think it was too.
Most of the city center is unpaved. There are not many beautiful buildings, monuments or things to see, so I had it all covered within a couple of hours walk. I asked if some local fishermen would take me on a five minute pirogue trip on the river for a dollar, but apparently they misunderstood as they took me for half an hour and demanded ten dollars instead.
Every night I went to different bars with my couchsurfing host Desire, and every night he had stories about life in Central African Republic. These evenings, drinking the local brew Mocaf was my favorite time in the capital as the city itself did not have much to offer.
In Bangui they also have the cheaper soda versions of Bangui Fanta, Bangui Cola and Bangui up!
Bangui is a city divided in so called PK districts. When I was there in may 2016, PK0 to PK3 were considered the safe zones, while I stayed just a littlebit outside with a couchsurfing host in PK4. A few steps further would have gotten me in the Muslim district of PK5 where a lot of the violence, including the recent church massacre happened.
The road to Boali was fairly good
The city doesn’t have much to offer, so I negotiated a fair price (25$+gas) with a motorcycle taxi to take me to PK90, about 100kms away. Why? To see one of the country’s most famous attractions, the Boali Waterfalls.
The road was good and we were only stopped once at a police checkpoint where they told us that we needed a letter from the ministry of tourism to pass, which was bull****. I tried to talk my way out of it like I do every time, but before I managed to do so my driver had paid them 4$ and we were told we could go.
The falls were quite spectacular, even though it was June and the dry season. The entry was a fair 1000cfa/2$ considering that they had built stairs and viewpoint for visitors. Just know before you go that there will be guides approaching you who will not take no for an answer, so I had to just get on the bike and tell the driver to go while the locals started angrily demanding money for parking, guiding and whatnot.
I had hoped to walk the suspension bridge over the falls but was told that this was destroyed by Seleka rebels who also had killed all the restaurant workers to use it as a strategic defense point. This was years ago though and I was told that the place had been quiet ever since.
Boali is also a good chance to get a shower
Central African Republic is a crazy place to be at the moment, and I would therefore advise all to do proper research before venturing out of the safety zones, but if you are there during quiet times I would highly recommend giving the Boali Falls a visit as it was an experience a thousand times more rewarding than staying in the boring capital city.