The second, and last, spare tire blew out just before noon somewhere between Butembo and Beni. Ian and I were three days out of Rwanda, heading for Mutwanga, a town in northeastern Zaire near the Ugandan border. From Mutwanga we planned to climb the Ruwenzoris, The Mountains of the Moon. It was 1993, less than a year before the Rwanda genocide, when the Hutus massacred the Tutsis and the whole region fell apart and eight years before somebody with a wonderful sense of irony changed the name of Zaire to The Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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I was sitting by the fire in the tea room of the old Windamere Hotel in Darjeeling on a cold winter afternoon. The Windamere is the sort of faraway place where travelers whose paths happen to cross tend to talk to one another unless they are British.