I'm filling the cracks that ran through the door
07.16.2009 - 07.26.2009 29 °C
On the 16th of July we entered Angola via Lufu and eventually made it to M’Banza for a lunch stop. The Angolan people were noticeably distinctive and attractive, with clear evidence of Portuguese influence in their striking kohl-black almond eyes and pronounced features. It was also obvious that few travelers have ventured through at least the northern portion of this vast country; the locals in the winding market were very surprised to have us wandering through, and eager to host Lene, Tamara, and I for lunch. Because we had such a constrained visa we really needed to make headway to Luanda to complete the 2000km + journey to Namibia in the allotted 5 days. In doing so, it was a few short hours before we ran into trouble. Upon driving the poorly maintained, bone-rattling, corrugated road (showing small evidence of once being tarmac), George took a fatal hit from a rut forcing him to ram into the fan thereby bending the blades and slicing a new hole in the seam. We managed to limp into the small town of N’Xeto but Chris knew we wouldn’t make it any farther without fixing the wounds. To add insult to injury the windscreen donned a new palm tree inspired crack when lifting the cab forward to assess the damage. Luckily the truck was equipped with a spare fan, but the radiator needed serious work. While wandering about we happened to meet expatriate engineers working on a bridge in town who appointed us a mechanic and a compound to stay in while the truck was receiving repairs. The town is quite desolate and we ended up having to stay 3 days; however Kira and I were entertained and spoiled by the young Portuguese and Lebanese engineers and enjoyed hot showers (after 9 days without), imported Brazilian steak, bottled (not boxed) wine, air-conditioning, and MTV for the majority of our stay.
With the rad mended we said goodbye to the friends made and journeyed onward through the 2000km we still had to do in the remaining 2 days. Knowing it would be impossible to complete the transit in such a short time, and having heard rumours of $100 charged per extra day spent without a visa, we opted to try and extend the transit visas in the town of Caxito. With a letter from the chief of N’Xeto, 2020 Kwanza (25 USD) each, and an extra days stay outside of town we received a 5 day extension after hours of negotiation and numerous arguments. An interesting facet to the immigration office in town was the abandoned tank next to the building which someone had laundry lines running from. In fact numerous remnants of the countries recent civil war were seen while driving through; Russian helicopters (used as toilets by police officers, which Chris was unfortunate enough to step in), tanks, and bullet-ridden buildings were all very common sights. The countryside of Angola is also ridden with landmines, a fact we needed to be well aware of when at toilet stops and bush camps.
We made it to Luanda, the capital, the next afternoon and camped in what appeared to be a garbage dump/homeless refugee camp. However we didn’t encounter any real problems other than noisy police officers waking us up and demanding to know what we were up to at 3am. We left the capital the next morning of the 22nd and made off on the first of five long and grueling drive days. Fortunately, Angola was a surprisingly stunning country and the geography encountered included beautiful winding hills, desolate tracts exuding with Baobab trees, and rocky moon-like barren gorges just off the Atlantic ocean’s edge.
Passing through Sumbe, Lobito, and Cacula, we made it into Lubango on the 24th. The city is home to the Christo Rei Statue (one of the three giant statues of Christ, the largest being in Rio) which I would have liked to have visited; unfortunately I fell very ill during the last days in Angola and spent most time prone in the back of the sweltering truck. Somewhat luckily, most people fell ill rescinding any fears of malaria. We saw another old tank driving out of town, and the night’s bush camp was an astonomers delight… the bright milky way of which I saw a lot of that evening running to and from my tent in consequence of the nasty truck plague. Making it to the border the next morning we were home free and within the constraints of our extended visa. Angola is a country worth visiting if you can get a proper visa. Considering they are co-hosting the 2010 World Cup, and countless tourism adds are displayed on television along the west coast, it’s surprising to me it is such a hard country to get into!