By Sebastian Dorsch
This is a continuation of this article.
I spent one additional day in Goma just strolling around the city. It has basically nothing to offer in terms of touristic attractions but is very interesting if you enjoy observing daily life activities of people and discovering details and developments linked to a city’s history.
As the headquarter of the most extensive human aid operation ever, Goma is filled with UN and NGO cars and workers. That certainly has an influence on the general price level which I would consider European. However, the fact that there are bank notes with a counter value of 1, 2 and 5 $ Cents gives you a hint on what most of the locals have to operate on. Money exchangers who make their living off the double currency system in Goma walk the streets with bundles of hundreds of band notes in their hands.
“El bon pan” offers decent international food and coffee in the center of Goma.
A gold-painted “Chukudu” monument – a wooden bike one encounters only in Congo – watches over the main roundabout as a homage to the common Congolese. In One or two streets of the main boulevard you can experience remains of the last eruption – cobblestone is everywhere.
With difficult conditions for construction and running a hotel, value for money should not be your top priority when looking for a place to stay in Goma. The Caritas Guesthouse on the shores of Lake Kivu offers rooms in the range of 40 to 60 dollars, a well maintained garden and a breakfast buffet with basic selection. A good deal compared to all the accommodation options in Goma available via Internet.
On the trip I heard of two (through the internet:non-verifiable) kidnappings of Tourists in and around Goma in the last year. Moderate vigilance is definitely appropriate. In Goma itself I never felt danger or even not a slight uneasiness (adding that I am a tall male).
Bottom Line, Well, overall, what are my final thoughts on the trip?
It is not a common destination which certainly had its issues in the past and still might have a few, but it’s a non-issue for travelers if you adhere to the common travel security 1-0-1. What you will get for your money, is worth every single dollar and I will not regret having spent them for one second. The view over the Lake Kivu plateau and the lava lake are images a camera can never captures as its intensity and in terms of the effect they have on you. So if you have the chance, use it! It’s usually a once in a lifetime chance. Don’t hesitate because of the organizational efforts you think a tour like this might require – once you read through the description on the national parks website you will see, it is easy to wrap your head around the whole thing. Furthermore, the booking and visa application process via the national park is smooth and easy.
And if you are already there … … consider a day in Gisenyi as well. The Rwandan border town stands out for its cleanliness, quality of infrastructure and degree of organization. From a youth hostel to a luxury hotel, accommodation is available for every price category near the sand beach of the amazingly clean and clear Lake Kivu.
There is a nice viewpoint a few kilometers from the city center which allows you to take a look at Goma, Gisenyi and Mount Nyiragongo from the other side. The Kivu Region is a very interesting area, geographically and historically speaking. If you are interested, read about the methane fields in Lake Kivu and/or the history of the region and the different players involved in the Congo Wars.