On last night's season finale of Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain realized a "decades-long" dream of traveling down the Congo River by boat. On his blog, Bourdain writes, "It is a country, a subject so large, so complicated as to defy explanation—or any summing up in a sentence, a volume, an hour of television—or even ten hours of television."
There were many references to Heart of Darkness, obviously, but Bourdain also took a look at the current living conditions of the Congolese people (and recommended the organization HEAL Africa via Twitter for those looking to help out the situation). Below, Queen Elizabeth's old flying wardrobe, Humphry Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, lots and lots of bugs, coq au vin, decaying train stations and research centers, acrobatic fishermen, one very old bracelet, and a trip down the river. Now, on to the Quotable Bourdain — feel free to add your picks in the comments below.
1: On the Congo: "Nine days of threats of imprisonment, confiscation of footage, and what was the most chaotic, difficult, yet amazing trip of my life."
2: On first impressions: "The Congo is a place I dreamed of visiting before I ever thought I'd get the chance to travel the world. Actually being here? I'm not so sure."
3: On getting while the getting's good: "Good food is going to be a challenge soon so we take the opportunity to fill up on what we can."
4: On why they're taking planes: "For us, Goma is just a stopover on the way to the Congo river, so we need to keep moving. And roads? Forget it. There's certainly nothing even remotely safe between Goma and where we're headed."
5: On their method of transport in a previously life: "We've chartered a bush plane, formerly Queen Elizabeth's flying wardrobe. When the Queen traveled, presumably in her younger years, her clothes followed in this beast. Or so we're told."
6: On the Congo River: "Here, surrounded by dense jungle, lies our rendezvous with the Congo River, a waterway responsible for both building this country and helping to destroy it."
7: On Henry Morton Stanley: "The famous explorer of course pretty much shot and raided his way along his historic route to the coast before effectively jump starting the colonial period."
8: On fishermen who do acrobatic dives after baskets in the river: "A lot of work, although it looks like they're not having an entirely miserable time of it."
9: On Belgian rule in the Congo: "An apartheid-like system of 'What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine.'"
10: On film making and luxury hotels: "Humphry Bogart and Katherine Hepburn were here while filming The African Queen. They stayed at the luxury hotel, the Pourquoi Pas...The Pourquoi Pas now, like everything else of that time, is inhabited by squatters or simply eaten by the jungle."
11: On light: "Not a lot of dependable electric power left in this city, but what lights do glow around town, much of it comes from places like this: small kiosks serving the Congolese version of barbecue and what passes for cold beer."
12: On Kisangani: "It's an amazing looking city, if you just blur your vision a little bit, you can see it in the way it used to be."
13: On foreign languages: "What's the Congolese word for barbecue?" Fixer: 'Barbecue.'"
14: On atrocities committed during Belgian rule: "It was just robbery with violence. Aggravated murder on a great scale."
15: On the high cost of the now-decayed rail system: "It is said of building the country's once-vast rail network, one Congolese died for every single tie."
16: On traveling the Congo River: "I've had something of a multi-decade obsession with the Congo. It's been kind of a personal dream, if you will, to travel the Congo River. And now, for better or worse, I get that chance."
17: On loading the river boat: "All right, did you maggots load the chickens?"
18: On an antique bracelet given to him by a dignitary along the river: "So, where'd you get the bracelet? Oh, an African king gave it to me on the Congo River. Where'd you get yours?"
19: On getting coq au vin ready for dinner: "Getting close to killing time: the moment of truth."
20: On why he's going with coq au vin: "Our chickens are thin, scraggly, and tough. In order to make anything any kind of edible, I'm probably going to have to stew the crap out of 'em."
21: On putting the film crew to work: "You want to eat? You gotta kill your own chicken, and pluck it, too."
22: On the very serious bugs in the jungle: "Crush the wrong one of these moths while swatting at your face and you will blow up like a balloon. Seriously."
23: On being the conditions floating down the river: "It is written that I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice. I think I now understand what that means."
24: On spam and scrambled eggs: "We may have invented the stealth bomber, but really this will be our crowning accomplishment as a culture."
25: On what happens if they don't come back from the river: "They'll find us ten years later, naked in the bush with a necklace of spam cans."
26: On a research facility that has fallen into decay since the end of Belgian control: "What do you say to someone who suggests that Belgian colonialism might have been the good times?"