At 14, I lived in Kinshasa, Zaïre, a two-minute walk from the Congo river, at its mightiest point. The other shore, Brazzaville, in the then communist (and permanently troubled) Congo, was so far away that only on very clear days could you see it. But when the rains came, the sky across the river dimmed to almost black, the winds picked up, and you knew it was coming.
The rain would fall almost in sheets, as in a washing machine, not drop-by-drop like in Montreal. The river, being pounded by the rain, would also turn black.
Although there wasn’t what you would call a winter in Zaïre, it cooled somewhat in the middle of the year (the opposite from here) but the river never changed. There would be rafts of water hyacinths that would inundate the river, stretching as far as the eye could see, and the fishermen in their impossibly tiny pirogues could be seen at all times, navigating through the green sea.
But upon approaching the river, down at the shore, a slight hike down a small hill, one truly appreciated the immensity of the river and its awesome power. So many dragonflies flew that you could almost catch them with your hand. Tiny fish could clearly be seen nuzzling at the banks. Incredibly colorful butterflies fluttered back and forth in front of you.
Crocodiles swam here, and further up, where the river narrowed, were “The Rapids.” These were a fearsome stretch that will be familiar to any viewers of “extreme boating” programs, but to me they were amazing. And I swam in them, only later learning the danger from water-borne parasites such as Schistosomiasis and other nasties. How I came out of Africa unscathed is a mystery to me, but the massive Congo river will always be in my dreams as a huge, moving beast of nature until my dying day.