The magazine of the photo-essay
Sept 2016 back issue
Crossing the Congo
by Charlie Hatch-Barnwell
A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous! Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
The following photo-essay by Charlie Hatch-Barnwell (Instagram: @hatchbarnwell) comes from a project called Crossing the Congo. In 2013, Charlie and two friends, Chloe Baker and Mike Martin, set off on a journey that they had been told was impossible: the north-south crossing of the Congo River Basin, from Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Juba, in South Sudan. Barely prepared, they covered 2,500 miles of the toughest terrain on the planet in a twenty-five year-old Land Rover. On the way, they faced repeated challenges, from kleptocracy and fire ants to non-existent roads and intense suspicion from local people. Using imagination and teamwork — including building rafts and bridges, conducting makeshift surgery in the jungle and playing tribal politics — they managed to complete the trip. Since returning, the three of them have written Crossing the Congo, described as an offbeat travelogue, and a stunning photo-book. It is the story of a great journey, and an intimate look into one of the world’s most fragile states, told with humour and sensitivity.
For more information on the project, book, and exhibition of prints in London, please go to www.crossingthecongo.com. The book is available from Amazon and all good bookstores worldwide. A trailer for the book can be seen here
A young girl stares at me while collecting drinking water from a source in a small village.
Boys lie down in the shade and relax. They sometimes buy a small pouch made of cling film with brown sugar in it to eat as a treat. During the midday sun, it is too hot to hunt in the jungle.
Starting a fire at night to cook on and to ward off any curious animals.
Those Congolese sunsets. Children wander around the village waiting for their fathers to return from the jungle. The hazy sun and heat gives an air of laziness to the villagers as the day draws to a close.
Women and children of Nandu Nyok. A small village in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the average family size is 8-10 children. With little education and very basic living standards, the children are left to run free in the village.
Twice we had to cross the Zaire river or river Congo... a huge mass of fast moving water that acts as a transport link from the capitol to the rest of the country. Over loaded barges can take anything up to 6 months to labouriously sail down it. However, each time it was refreshing to see as it meant vital supplies for ourselves albeit limited.
A mechanic inspects the running engine of a 1940s barge, close to falling apart. Built by the Belgians, almost all of the parts not critical to running the vessel had been stolen by the locals.
One of many roads, overcome by the jungle, that we had to negotiate through painstakingly slowly. Often clearing the way with machetes, we would drive at walking pace.
Men start the day having a chat before making the short journey to the other side where the diamonds are found.
A woman carries her produce to market at sunrise. The mist and the warm sun created an etheral feel.
Some locals help us to build the raft that would transport the two and a half tonne Land Rover across the river Ndjali.
Pouring rain, bad visability and slippery bridges.
Local pirogues, (canoes made from one whole tree trunk) ferry villagers across the mass expanse of water that is the River Congo.
Having crossed the River Congo (the first people to do this with a vehicle in a long time) we were greeted by an army of excited children.
The fuel barons. Monopolise the local market with very expensive watered down diesel. We had a filter that seperated the water and after using it in front of them, it caused a small war in the local community with angry truck drivers complaining.
Traditional baskey fishing. The women would wade out to waist deep in a river and scoop throught the water with their baskets and collect all manner of fish, frogs and small terrapins.
One of the many untouched bamboo groves that line the sometimes non-existent road through the interior of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A young girl carries her baby brother. Children learn fast how to look after each other from a very early age, with little help from their parents, who work in the jungle looking for food.
Children play under the immense bamboo arches deep in the jungle.
Playing in the river and crossing to the other side to the next village. The rivers here provide a life source for all.
The local strong men helping us position long palm tree trunks over an existing damaged bridge to support the weight of the Land Rover.
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