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  1. #1
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    Default Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Adventures in Angola
    30 May to 26 June 2018


    In our own Kenyan registered Land Rover, we drove from Kenya to the Nambia-Angola border at Ruacana. That journey from Nairobi, Kenya to Ruacana, Namibia is a trip report in its own right. I will post that separately but, suffice to say, it took us 14 long days hard travelling on the main roads. We left Nairobi on 15 May 2018 and arrived at Ruacana on 28 May 2018 – a distance of just over 2,800 miles (4,480 kms).


    Bureaucracy

    Visas

    Being British citizens, we had to obtain our Angolan visas in our home country. With the new, more relaxed Angolan visa regulations (which came into force in March 2018), we obtained the tourist visas with comparative ease from the Angolan Embassy in London. However, once the visas were issued, we had to get to Angola, spend the allocated 30 days within Angola, and exit the country all within the 60 Day validity from issue of the visa. For us, this was a complex issue: we had to obtain the visas in London, fly to Nairobi, pack up our Land Rover, and head south as quick as possible. We accomplished this, fortunately, with time to spare.

    Third Party Insurance

    Prior to our trip, I contacted various people who had been to Angola before. This included people who take guided tours into Angola from Namibia and South Africa, people who had been on these guided trips, solo travellers, as well as fellow overlanders. The answers I received from these various people did not fit with what we have experienced though 20 or so African countries. Through a friend, I was put in contact with a insurance broker in Luanda. He reiterated that third party insurance is compulsory in Angola - and be very aware of the consequences of traveling without it. As we were entering Angola through a remote border post, I took out Third Party insurance through this international and reputable insurance broker, paid by an international transfer, and received the documentation via email. Having driven Angolan roads, with thick elephant grass up to the edge, children appearing out of the elephant grass close to one’s wheels, and the standard of driving on most roads, it would be foolhardy to travel in Angola without this compulsory insurance.


    Trip Report

    Here is an edited version of our diary.


    Days 1-5
    30 May to 3 June 2018
    Angola - the first week


    We had a wonderful three days entering Angola and driving into the heart of the Iona National Park. The border crossing was easy enough, half an hour on the Namibian side, but one and a half hours with the Angolans. A large part of this latter period was exchanging money. The little bank kiosk in this remote border post was closed, and the rather nice police officer (who was also doubling as the customs official) was desperately trying to find the official exchange, and then to find enough actual cash to meet our demands. As the Angolan side of the border consists of nothing but the post itself and a lot of wild bush, and we knew that we would have to pay some park fees before hitting any other civilisation, we had little choice but to accept whatever the policeman could give us - but he was very friendly and helpful about it, if a bit short on his numeracy skills.


    The back of the border post gave directly onto a rough dirt track through the bush, and this was it for the next few days. Initially the country was lowish and covered in thick bush. The local people, the Himba, were disappointingly clad in T-shirts and shorts etc for the most part, until we got further in. As we did so, the hills increased in size and rockiness, and the road got rougher and rougher. Our second day and the first few hours of the third day of driving was as hard as anything we have done, well comparable to the Turkana route in northern Kenya, with much the same feeling of total isolation. But with diff-lock engaged, we ground carefully along, negotiating some fairly precipitous dry river beds en route. We had two lovely evenings camping wild by dry river beds, with good fires, and in delicious cool temperatures - badly needed after sweltering hot days.


    On our second evening, we had just established camp and were enjoying a cup of tea, when a great convoy of South African 4x4s came roaring past, heading for Namibia. They did not stop - indeed, I do not believe they saw us tucked under a tree about 100 metres off the road. As the last few vehicles thundered past, we also had a visitation from four local Himba. These were the real McCoy, the ladies bare-breasted, smothered in ochre, and with the most elaborate hairdos, involving long ochred plaits ending in great hairy powder puffs. Wrapped up on the back of one of the women was a sweet baby who was unwrapped and he toddled around quite unconcerned about two white faces smiling at him. The young men were in their kilts with more modest hairdos, the younger with an elaborate plait from a central tuft curved at the back of his head, and the older with just a central diamond of short hair. We gave them biscuits, and they sat with us in a friendly manner for about half an hour, and then excused themselves politely (it seemed) and wandered back into the bush. We did not have one word in common as they didn’t even know Ola or Hello. This second day had only been about 70 miles, but it had taken sevenhours. We had another excellent night.


    The third day was a real challenge to man and machine as we wound our way up the mountains, over passes, dry river beds, and huge boulders. Eventually we could see grassy plains in the distance and we bumped and crashed our way down to the small settlement of Iona. Here we had to register with the police (giving them a copy of our passports) and the usual filling in of a ledger. Down here the track improved immeasurably and we wound our way through endless yellow grassy plains dotted with small acacias and, wonder of wonder, endless Welwitschia mirabilis. These extraordinary plants are only found in northern Namibia and southern Angola - just Google it!


    A short drive later, we arrived at the Iona National Park HQ at Espenheira - a small collection of buildings on the edge of the vast grassy plains. We had made it through the mountains on our own: it had taken us three days of extreme off-roading.


    We were warmly welcomed at the HQ by an ex Zimbabwean, Bruce Bennett, who has lived here in Iona for the past seven years, but has lived in Angola for 25 years. He is an ecologist doing a EU/UNDP funded project. We sat outside Bruce’s small house and drank cold beers. A fascinating man. We set up camp in the dry river bed under a large shady acacia with a fabulous view over the plains to the mountains. We filled up our water tank from a standpipe at the HQ, and deployed our own shower system. It was complete bliss to have a shower after three hot, dusty days: although we were carrying about 75 litres of water, we did not want to risk using any on ourselves in case of a breakdown on the remote road from Ruacana.


    The next day was a rare privilege: Bruce invited us on a drive around the park as he did his routine game counting. There are very few roads open to the public, but Bruce has a network of trails that he uses for research and monitoring, and we had an unbelievable nine hours, being taken to wonderful corners of this spectacular place. With the blue and purple mountains, yellow grassy plains, huge sand dunes, canyons of red stone, and remote hidden away springs this is one incredibly beautiful place - and we only saw a small part of the park despite driving 190 kms.


    This park used to be teeming with all sorts of classic game. Sadly now, after all Angola’s troubles, it is almost destitute of the larger animals. The last elephants disappeared in the early nineties, along with rhino and lion. Only cheetah now seem to be moderately thriving, in part due to the absence of lion. Despite the lack of animals, this park remains, however, one of the most spectacular places in Africa, and is worth a visit just for the scenery alone.


    Those who have seen Namibia will have some idea, but in broad terms the scenery runs, from inland, through mild hilly mopane forest and pasture, and then enters increasingly rocky and precipitous hills, with a mix of mopane, acacia and other thorn scrub trees. Then the mountains start to open up, and the valleys become wide flat grassland pastures, with dotted acacia trees. The pasture is, of course, thin stuff, but, seen from the side, has an almost lush appearance especially where some more recent rain has given a green tinge. Next the mountains disappear, completely, and one enters a wide area of just rolling grassy plains, and as one proceeds westward towards the sea, the grass gets progressively thinner, giving way to largely bare gravel and rock plains, until one hits the dunes. These dunes form a barrier between 12 and 50 kms deep between the main park and the sea, and are, of course, an extension of the great Namib Sand Sea, running up the whole coast of Namibia and into this Southern area of Angola. It finishes at the mouth of the Curocoa River. The park is vast, and hardly visited due to its remote location. We were told that there were about 350 visitors in 2017. To be in the midst of it is intoxicating.


    We spent a second night camping in the river bed at Espenheira and Bruce joined us for supper again.


    After two nights camping at Espenheira, we packed up camp, said our thanks and farewells to Bruce and set off on a seven hour drive to just south of Namibe. We revelled in the early morning light on the mountains and the yellow grassy plains, the millions of Welwitschias, and the extraordinary geology as we bumped and ground our way out of the park.


    Once out of the park the landscape continued - to a certain extent - until we came to flatter barren areas, but still with some charming grassy valleys and a few rocky passes. As we neared the Atlantic Ocean, we could see the great sand dunes once again. It was a hot, sweaty day with the temperature inside the Land Rover hitting 41 degrees despite having the windows open.


    We then hit relative civilisation near the Curocoa river and saw the first vehicle for the whole day. We took a slight detour to visit the fresh water oasis of Lake Arco and walked along to see the sandstone arches.


    Then a few kilometres later we hit our first tarmac for five days, but only some 290 miles. We remembered to drive on the right! About 20 kilometres later, we turned off on to a sandy river bed and drove about 27 kms along this until we could see the Atlantic Ocean. A short section of testing beach driving took us to a Flamingo Lodge (well known to fishermen) right on the beach run by the Sakko family. We were warmly welcomed at Flamingo Lodge by Ricco Sakko, his son, Matt and Matt’s wife, Tina. Matt had been very helpful via email with advice on Angola and assisting us with a hotel booking in order to obtain our visas.


    We opted for a bungalow at Flamingo Lodge rather then setting up camp in the fog and cold wind. We were wrapped up in our fleeces with the cold Atlantic Ocean crashing on shore, but it was blissful it to have a hot shower after a very hot, dusty day.
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2018/07/25 at 01:00 AM.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Part 2
    4 – 7 June 2018


    We spent two nights at Flamingo Lodge, had our laundry done, and a lovely rest day being fed three meals a day. There were some marine researchers from Rhodes University also staying at the lodge and we had interesting conversations with them.


    We woke to fog in the mornings and went to bed with fog. It made for a surreal and rather creepy atmosphere, but is the key to this unique ecosystem.


    On our last morning, we packed up the Land Rover early, had breakfast and a quick visit to a nearby canyon (which we hadn't known was there or else we would have gone during our idle day) with Matt Sakko and the headed off up the beach. One of the drivers from the lodge was going to Namibe to do some chores and as they always take the beach rather than the riverbed route, he volunteered to guide us through the dunes and fog. Thank goodness he did: it was full on 4x4 driving and, with the Land Rover heavily loaded, Hugh did a sterling job until the empty Toyota pick-up took a route along the side of a knife-edge sand dune. Alarmingly, the Land Rover back wheels started sliding down the slope. We were stuck! We lowered the tyre pressures even more, and did a bit of digging which enabled Hugh to drive down the steep side of the sand dune (which is the route that ought to have been taken in the first place). With the waves crashing nearby and the fog it was quite a place to be stuck.


    About an hour later we arrived safely in the lovely port town of Namibe. We refuelled for the first time since Namibia and trundled into town. We were astounded by the palm-lined streets, planted up squares, old Portuguese architecture, and brightly painted buildings. We succeeded - eventually - in buying and registering an Angolan SIM card loaded with talk and data time, and then had a restorative cup of delicious Portuguese coffee in a cafe overlooking an Art Deco former cinema.


    The supermarket we found had a fine line in Portuguese wines, which helped our mood in the resupply process, and we then headed back through town to start our climb up to the Highlands. Half the roads were blocked off for roadworks, which involved a bit of circuitous route finding, but we found our way and were soon speeding through more arid desert. Soon we could see some dramatic hills, and then we were winding up a stunning series of switchbacks to the Serra da Leba. This was - is - an impressive piece of engineering, climbing around 1600 metres in just 16 kilometres up the Great Escarpment. The views at the top were impressive, as was the sharp drop in temperature.


    The highland plateau was noticeably greener, and we wound through about 20 kms to the small rural town of Humpata wherein we found a small farm with basic camping facilities. The farmer, of Portuguese extraction, had no English, but we managed to sort of communicate in French - his was possibly even worse than our own, so it was not easy, but we managed. Some of his workers cleared the campsite for us, cleaned out the washing facilities, and provided buckets of water and some firewood. This last was very welcome as the temperature at night is decidedly chilly. However, we swaddled up and huddled around the fire.


    The next day, we did not move camp but went sight-seeing around Lubango. First off was Tundavala, an amazing 1000 metre escarpment north of the town. This includes the most extraordinary gully cutting into the cliff face, which falls perpendicularly to the base of the cliffs. In an extremely strong wind, blowing off the edge, the effect was scary. However, good stone trails were laid to various little viewpoints, and with care and courage, we managed to peep over the edge. Sadly it was so cold, that we did not fancy loitering, and so after a quick look around and the obligatory photos, we headed down to Lubango. This is a huge, but mostly organised, city in a bowl on the plateau. It even had an extremely well-stocked Shoprite (a South African chain) with freezers full of octopus, calamari, bacclao and other fish, a bakery, patisserie and everything else the heart could desire. Extraordinary! With a bit of manoeuvring we found a lovely Portuguese owned restaurant and hotel. Before lunch, we headed up on to the plateau again to visit the Christo Rei statue overlooking the town. This is a replica of the other two found in Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro, but unlike the other two, it has a few bullet holes.


    Back to the Portuguese restaurant for the most delicious lunch of grilled fish, legumes, and potatoes, but also with various tasters pressed on us by the Portuguese patron. He spoke five languages, but we didn’t get round to asking if he had stayed in Angola through the wars.


    Back at camp, having bought the makings of Portuguese cocido, we lit the fire early and started the long slow cooking of it in our “potjie”. Also, we had heard a disconcerting sound from the engine for the last few days, and Hugh worked like a Trojan trying to identify what it could be. We hoped he had found the culprit and all would be well as we headed even further north towards the Congo River.


    The following day, we had an easy seven hours down from the plateau to the welcome warmth of the tropical coast. Enroute we passed countless millions of baobab trees, the port of Benguela, and arrived in the enchanting port of Lobito. We set up camp on the beach at a beach bar/restaurant on the long spit of land that forms the main harbour. Palm trees, warm temperatures, gentle sea and no wind. What a difference to Namibe. There are some very fine old Portuguese houses and mansions, as well as some excellent Art Deco buildings which we passed on the way along the spit of land to Zulu Bar.


    It has struck us since hitting civilization at Namibe how many Portuguese we have seen even in the smallest settlements. We are intrigued as to whether they stayed on through all the troubles or are returners.

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  5. #3
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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Love these reports!

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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    This is really rekindling old memories, so little seems to have changed. Wonderful.

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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    The Himbas joining you and staying with you for some time is their way of welcoming you into their "house/home" and it would be considered rude and unfriendly for them not to do so.

    You could/should in return offer them coffee/tea/warer and maybe an apple, never alcohol or sweets.
    Malcolm van Coller - retired 2013 but remained in Jhb area for now, maybe will look at moving WC way, Robertson or Wellington type of town, once the wife retires.
    2011 Nissan Pathfinder 2,5 CDi LE Manual (with front Lokka) - My Platkar...
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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Angola - Part 3


    We had a memorable dinner at Zulu Bar - a delicious cataplana of seafood and fish. For those unfamiliar, a cataplana is a Portuguese method of cooking in a sealed copper-rounded receptacle. The resulting stew was rich with clams, prawns, mussels, potatoes, and fish - all in a delicious spicy tomato sauce served with rice. The cataplana was supposed to be for two people, but could easily have served at least four. We sat overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with palm trees swaying overhead drinking Portuguese wines - the temperature was perfect.


    After a good night on the beach, we packed up camp and headed slowly down the Restinga - the long spit of land - stopping often to take photos of Art Deco cinemas and a casino, old Portuguese houses and mansions, and some picturesque ruins of once grand colonial homes. The roads were all lined with flowering trees and palms. This area is obviously where the “great and good” lived and is also where the administration and port authority buildings are to be found. However, taking photos of administration buildings is prohibited in Angola so we were careful not to take any photos of these - grand and imposing though they were.


    We thought the following day would be comparatively easy - 220 kms on what had been reported as a good enough road. We do, however, think that 250 kms can be a long, hard day. But we took it easy, found another little beach bar/cafe where we had breakfast of coffee and bread. As we were paying for everything in Angola with cash and, apart from fuel everything was inordinately expensive, we were changing cash US dollars. We felt in need of a bigger reserve of Angolan Kwanzas as we were heading into the hinterland. This we accomplished and, with a thick wodge of cash, we went to refuel and headed out of Lobito.


    The road out of town went through dusty shanty towns and up a pass on very broken up tarmac. Just at the narrowest steeply sloping downward part of the pass we heard “KERPOW!”. A puncture!


    This couldn’t have happened at a worse place with huge trucks edging past on the narrow road. Luckily the puncture was on the driver’s side back wheel so Hugh was sheltered a bit from the grinding trucks. Hugh valiantly tried to remove the piece of metal that he could see in the tyre and plug it with the tubeless tyre plugs, but on pumping up the tyre with our compressor, it was clearly not going to work as the hole was too big. A young Angolan on a motorbike stopped to help whilst I set out the emergency triangles, found rocks to wedge under the wheels and generally faffed about. With the wheel partially inflated, Hugh was able to reverse the Land Rover a few inches to a slightly better place to jack it up. Very carefully, with our bottle jack, the wheel was changed. Our Angolan friend had been a huge help with the tricky wheel change and he was rewarded for his kindness in stopping to assist. We were all covered in dust and sweat.


    Down the pass, the road for the next 200 kms was a real trial - endless extremely rough diversions with the thickest of fine dust where, at times, one couldn’t see even five feet in front. The most annoying thing is that there was no work of any sort happening on this the main road to Luanda. So, we bumped and crashed for miles and miles until we arrived at the town of Sumbe head to toe in sweat-caked dust.


    On the outskirts of Sumbe we found a roadside tyre repair shack. The chaps set to removing the tyre from the rim by hitting it with a sledgehammer. Once the tyre had been removed, the culprit was spotted. A piece of metal about four inches by two inches. A double patch was glued on the inside and it saw us all the way back to Nairobi.


    With time getting on, we decided to continue with our plan and ambled off to the Binga Waterfall some 40kms from Sumbe. We arrived with an hour or so to go before dark. We set up camp under mango trees on the edge of the Keve River overlooking the impressive waterfall. There was a picnic and recreation area nearby and clean loos (with buckets of water for flushing). We washed the dust off our sweaty bodies in the fast-flowing river - if we get some horrible water-borne disease, so be it, it was bliss to wash the dust and grime off.


    Unfortunately, the disconcerting noise from the engine of the Land Rover had not been solved with the replacing of a screw on the bracket attaching the secondary fuel filter, or the welding we had done in Lobito on another bracket holding something else that had cracked. Hugh has been in, under and over the engine, but cannot see anything more untoward. The engine is working fine, and the rattling sound only happens when the engine is doing extra work like going uphill. We decided to just cross our fingers... The thought of dealing with a random mechanic with no language in common - using our Portuguese phrase book which is, of course, designed for holidays in the Algarve with useful phrases like “That was some party, eh?” – was something we were keen to avoid. We did, however, have contacts in Luanda who owned Land Rovers and could, if push came to shove, help us out of a potentially sticky position.


    The campsite at Binga Falls was so nice that we decided to spend a rest day here and did a load of laundry in the river. Fresh not clean...


    After a good time camping at Binga Waterfall, we packed up early and headed off uphill to Gabela and then eastwards to Quibala. Near Gabela, we encountered the first Angolan coffee farms - pretty scruffy smallholder coffee compared to the vast coffee plantations we are used to in Kenya. Up there was a forest reserve with huge trees towering overhead. Then we dropped down on to a plateau with the most picturesque granite-domed hills and mountains. Soon we came to an area which obviously had been one of the centres of large Portuguese and, apparently, German farms prior to 1975. Some of the “fazendas” had been rehabilitated, but we could see many that had not. Being used to this sort of colonial-era farming “archeology”, we could spot where these farms had been - isolated sections of large non-indigenous trees such as Grevillea, and remnants of bougainvillea in former gardens.


    We decided to take the road through another coffee area at Calulo and turned on to a road which varied from excellent tarmac to a rough dirt road. Calulo is a small town in the hills where there was, amazingly, a fancy new library and college, and a cafe where we stopped for a coffee overlooking the planted-up square. We had read about a coffee farm and hotel about 20 kms away at Cabuta and so we set off on the rough dirt road. Eventually we came to the smart, painted gates and turned up the palm tree-lined driveway. It was extraordinary to see the rehabilitated coffee bushes growing under palm and baobab trees - as well as the usual Grevilleas used as shade trees. How surprised a Kenyan coffee farmer would be.


    At the centre of the coffee estate was a substantial drying area for the beans as well as a working factory. The hotel, however, was empty save for the receptionist. Although it was a lovely coffee estate, we did not want to stay there all on our own for the cost of US$150 and, as it was only 1230, we decided to press on.


    This is when we made two errors: firstly believing the map, secondly believing the receptionist that the road north was OK... The first part of the track was rough and washed away, and then we came to thick bush with a very narrow track winding through it. We were heartened to meet a vehicle coming the other way and he disappeared into the thick elephant grass to give way to us. Then the track came little more than a motorbike track as we wound down into a deep valley. Hugh was determined to carry on, but my spirit of adventure was nearly at breaking point... One potentially insurmountable object with this route was whether there was still a bridge over the River Kwanza, but the locals on motorbikes that we encountered all gave us a thumbs up. With elephant grass and thick bush scraping the sides of the Land Rover, and detritus flowing in through the open windows and down our shirts, we pushed on through the bundu, up hills and down dales until we ground our way down to the River Kwanza.


    There was still a bridge! The River Kwanza is, apparently, the fifth biggest river in Africa (although we do not know if that is per volume of water as we cannot believe it is by length). The colonial-era bridge was in the middle of nowhere, but was still guarded by a soldier and, apparently, the area around still has landmines. The river is impressive as it flows through a narrow gorge with fast-flowing rapids. The track improved immeasurably once over the bridge and we turned west towards Dondo.


    Again, that road was a dirt track, but with signs of abandoned roadworks. It looked like Chinese contractors started a project and then didn’t get paid by the Angolan government, so downed tools and disappeared leaving the road in a worse state than before. Ah well...


    With our bundu-bashing adventure, time was getting on and we needed somewhere to camp. We tried to find a wild camping spot marked on our GPS, but the road round a dam had been rerouted and we couldn’t get there. So, on we went towards Luanda. Ordinarily in Europe, 160 kms would take about an hour. Not so in Africa. This was the main road to Luanda from the south west - it was more like a moonscape. To compound matters, part of the road was blocked off and traffic from both directions were using the same narrow, potholed moonscape. We bumped and crashed and veered wildly from side to side dodging vehicles doing the same coming the opposite direction. About an hour before dark, Hugh very cleverly spotted a turn off to a roadbuilding sand quarry. Roadside quarries are lifesavers to many overlanders and we tucked ourselves away, set up the tent on the nice flat surface and got out the well-earned cold beers. A few local villagers passed us giving us cheery waves. Campers’ hash has never tasted so good as we sat in the quarry with a myriad of stars overhead framed by the branches of baobab trees.


    The following morning we turned out of our quarry hideaway and bumped and crashed along the road again. Eventually, the road improved and we saw a few Chinese surveyors doing random bits and pieces. We stopped to refuel and have a cup of coffee at a small village called Catete which was the birthplace of the first president of Angola, Agostinho Neto. Despite our experience the day before, we put our trust in our map and took a 60km route to the north-east of Luanda. We were very keen to avoid the apparent chaos of Luanda centre and the inner bypass. This proved to be a good call and we wound our way through fields and lakes joining the road north out of Luanda north of Cacuaco.


    In a bay north of Luanda is the most extraordinary sight. At least 30 rusting hulks of huge ships and tankers. It is a bit of a mystery as to how they all got beached or scuttled there. Some stories say they were beached during the Portuguese flight in 1975; other stories say they were towed out of Luanda harbour having been abandoned both during the independence war and the civil war. Anyway, they are a sight to see.


    After that, we bimbled on north to Barra do Dande where we set up camp under the shade of palm trees at a little hotel cum campsite called Passargarda. We were convinced that the lady owner was actually Cuban - presumably left over from the Cubans intervening in the wars. It overlooked a rather polluted looking bay with the Shenzhen Icesnow Refrigeration plant and its generator banging away next door. We watched with fascination various rust-bucket small boats going in and out with Chinese skippers.


    The following day we headed further north to the Congo River.
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2018/09/22 at 12:02 AM.

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  13. #7
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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Quote Originally Posted by mvcoller View Post
    The Himbas joining you and staying with you for some time is their way of welcoming you into their "house/home" and it would be considered rude and unfriendly for them not to do so.

    You could/should in return offer them coffee/tea/warer and maybe an apple, never alcohol or sweets.
    We do have experience in these sorts of situations in northern Kenya, Ethiopia and other points north - and always give cups of tea, water and biscuits. We never take photos of traditional tribespeople as we do not approve of the “human zoo” aspect as seen in many places such as northern Namibia and southern Ethiopia.

    Thanks for following.

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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Hi WW,

    Thank you so much for reporting back. There were some of us waiting for this. It has been a great pleasure traveling with you through Angola, and on my perspective, seeing it through somebody´s (non portuguese) eyes. Some of the portuguese you have encountered may have stayed through, but most of them, i believe, are surely "returners" either from Namibia/SA or even from Portugal. The 2009 European recession made some people to seek for opportunities, partially encouraged by the Angolan Government.

    Eagerly waiting for the next installments.

    Thank you.

    AP

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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Thank you, apfac.

    Stay tuned! We met a number Angolan Portuguese who stayed and fought through the civil war. They firmly told us they were Angolan.

    Wish our Portuguese had been better for more interesting conversations...

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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    This trip never happened, it is all made up, as there is no photographic proof..
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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Interesting part of all the abandoned ships and vessels. Maputo was the same in the early to mid 1990's.
    Seems as if vessels were condemned by their home authority they were sent to war torn countries and abandoned only to be stripped by the locals, which gave them a small income in times of hunger.
    If the propellers were bronze... a small fortune could be made.
    Very nice trip report.
    Thank you.

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  22. #12
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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    The mighty Congo River

    At lunchtime on the 12th June, we arrived at the mouth of the mighty Congo. This was quite a thrill.

    We had a very easy four hour run (354 kms) from Barra do Dande to Soyo on the river Congo. This fast speed was thanks to a new road which is up to European standards. In fact, from the small town of Nzeto it was being constructed as a dual carriageway. Unlike Chinese contractors, one part of the dual carriageway was FINISHED complete with road signs and painted lines. Wonder of wonders! Apparently, it has been constructed by a consortium and is, of course, because of the oil up here in Zaire Province.

    The road took us through flattish countryside with enormous baobab and euphorbia forests: at times the ocean was visible. There was very little traffic - and traffic there was were the road builders trucks. Then we arrived at the town of Soyo - which is much bigger than we had thought - and crawled through the usual frenzy of African towns until we caught a glimpse of the Congo. On we went through the centre of town, past the port, and the Angolan naval port until we got to an open area overlooking this iconic river. We had warned ourselves that it was going to be an anticlimax, but it wasn’t. We could actually see the other side of the river in the Democratic Republic of Congo, albeit faintly in the distance. We rushed down the beach to actually touch the water that has come all the way from the Mountains of the Moon in Uganda, or the Bangweulu Swamps in Zambia, or Lake Tanganyika or many other places in between. We did not plunge into its muddy depths.

    Feeling in need of some lunch - and not finding anywhere suitable to have a picnic - we wended our way through the traffic until we found a rather odd hotel to the south-west of the town. We had the ubiquitous burgers for lunch and then decided that we would spend the night here. On the way up to Soyo, we had been looking out for suitable wild camping places for the way back. Those that were marked on our GPS we mostly inaccessible due to the new dual carriageway and roadworks. So, we had another beer, a lovely chat with the Portuguese Angolan born owner, and were shown our room. Eccentrically, this is a wooden flat pack Scandinavian-type “hutte”, but there was air conditioning and a swimming pool. We indulged in both these luxuries.

    The following day, we set off south again on an unknown route via Uige towards the Calandula Falls and the Puntas Negres.

    It had taken us 28 days from Nairobi to the Congo River mouth.

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  24. #13
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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Wonderful report. Awaiting the next installments and hoping there will be photos at some point...
    1999 Isuzu Frontier 280DT

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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Fascinating trip report! Thank you, WW.
    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Heading back south
    13 – 17 June 2018


    We had a good night in the hotel at Soyo. We are pretty sure that we are the first tourists who have ever stayed there: it is designed for contractors working in the oil industry.


    We were now retracing our steps southwards to Nzeto where we stopped for coffee at a little cafe. There we had a decision to make: either take the road to the historic M’banza Congo, spend a night there and then tackle the unknown route to Uige; or take a track directly eastwards towards Uige.


    Anyway, we decided to do two sides of the triangle and and headed north-east to M’banza Congo. There we booked into the only feasible option - Hotel Kongo. It was, however, quite a thrill to be in the former capital of the Kings of the Kongo who gave the name to vast swathes of the continent of Africa. The first European explorers arrived here in 1484. We were actually physically closer to Kinshasa than we were to Luanda. In the centre of the town are the ruins of the first Christian church in central Africa (approx early 16th century).


    The following day, we were up with the dawn and set off on the unknown route south from M’banza Congo to Uige. This route was on our paper map, maps.me, but not on our GPS (Tracks4Africa). It was a great route through patches of equatorial rainforest, over rivers and up and down hills: unfortunately, it was a misty morning. There was work ongoing on refurbishing this dirt road - fortunately Angolan or Portuguese contractors. There was one potential stumbling block and that was whether there was a bridge over the substantial river Lufunde. But there was a temporary bridge and onwards we went. We arrived in the provincial capital of Uige around lunchtime, but couldn’t find anywhere amenable to eat. This town was badly destroyed in the civil war.


    So, on we went south on an excellent and mostly deserted tarmac road through a high plateau. Again, this had been an extensive farming area prior to 1975, but there were only a few fazendas that had been rehabilitated. We were making good time once we turned on to a good dirt road heading towards the Calandula waterfall. We had thought this section from Mbanza Congo to Calandula would take two days.


    Sadly, about 80kms short of Calandula falls, the good dirt road gave way to an appalling former tarmac road. Time was now getting on, we had been in the road for nine hours, and we were keen to stop. However, the elephant grass and scrub for vast areas around were on fire, the former roadside quarries hadn’t been used for decades and were full of elephant grass. Should we risk a fire through our camp overnight? We decided to press on towards Calandula weary though we were.


    Just before sunset, we arrived at the viewpoint overlooking the waterfall. The waterfall is splendid - the public picnic area is less so. But we had no option than to set up camp there and we were told that it was completely “seguros” and “tranquil”. We have camped in many odd places - including a brothel - but this was one odd place. We pitched our tent - without tent pegs of course - underneath a picnic shelter, reversed the Land Rover up to the entrance, got out our chairs and had a cold beer. So long as we didn’t look down at our feet, it was fine - the area was strewn with litter.


    Just as we were cooking up the other emergency staple (pasta and pesto), a motorbike arrived without lights. It transpired that they were two policemen and we were shown their ID. The message was received that their boss, the Commandante, said we had to have two policemen as security. This was clearly nonsense, but you don’t argue with the Commandante... When we eventually worked out what the young un-uniformed policemen were saying, I said ‘Hallelujah’. The younger of the policemen then started to sing the Hallelujah Chorus, and we all joined in with great glee, and then fell into each other’s arms. How does a young Angolan policeman know the Hallelujah Chorus?


    A short while later, a police car with lights flashing and siren blaring arrived and out hopped two uniformed police with their rifles. We gave them coffee, biscuits and rolls. For the rest of the evening as we sat around sipping our glasses of wine, we had foot patrols and close protection. Unnecessary, but what the Commandante wanted and it showed a benevolent concern for tourists.


    The next morning we were up with the larks - and before the policemen - packed camp, crushed the two policemen into the back seats and dropped them off at the police station in the town of Calandula before the Commandante was in his office (where there could have been one of those difficult conversations about cost). We had seen a hotel on the other side of the waterfall, but our guidebook said it was closed. It was about a 30km drive around to the other side, but wanted to see the view. We drove in and almost sang the Hallelujah Chorus again. Not only was it open, but the white Angolan owners warmly welcomed us, said we could either camp in the car park or they had campsites along the river on their farm. They were good and interesting hosts and it was a relief to speak English. They took on the restoration project of the pousada - which had been a ruin for 40 years - in 2017 and within that time they have restored it with elegance and grace.


    Calandula Falls are spectacular, falling free for 105 metres, and 400 metres wide. It is one of the great sights in Angola.


    Camping in the car park were an Belgian family with a three year old boy who had driven down west Africa in their 20 year old Land Rover, and later a Dutch couple arrived. They too had driven down West Africa.


    We picked a lovely spot to camp by the river above the falls, with ample cool clear water rushing through a maze of giant boulders, forming delightful pools for bathing. We took the opportunity to unload a mass of dust from the Land Rover, and swill everything down, and had a very refreshing bathe in the river.


    At Pousada Calandula we had found a little piece of paradise. Not only did the hotel have the best view of the waterfall, but they also owned the best place to view the falls from below. We liked it so much that we spent two nights camping on the farm. On our second day, we walked down to the base of the falls through fields of cassava and maize.


    We woke the following morning to dense mist, packed up camp and went down to the pousada. We were persuaded us not to set off until the mist was burnt off. There had been other guests at the pousada who were all residents of Luanda. Eventually, the mist burnt off, thanked our generous hosts and headed south to the Pedras Negras.

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  30. #16
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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Great trip report, as always - as you say, roadside quarries, borrow pits and old roadworks camps are often a Godsend when looking for a bush camp on main roads.
    Tony Weaver

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    Previously Land Rover 1968 SII, 1969 SIIA, 1973 SIII, 1983 Toyota HiLux 2litre, 2006 Land Rover Freelander TD4 HSE.

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  32. #17
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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Pedras Negras and south to Kuito
    17 – 19 June 2018


    It was a relatively short drive from Calandula Falls to the Pedras Negras. These are a stunning series of mad rocky hills and boulders known as the Black Rocks. The highest hill is about 200 metres above the surrounding plain and the whole range extends some 12 kms by 6 kms. We wound our way up the only road into Pedras Negras to a village on the site of an old military fort. Nearby is a footpath up to a view point. Thereafter, we found a magical spot to wild camp on one of the many rocks. The only problem with this stunning place is that walking is not advised as the area was heavily laid with anti-personnel mines during the wars.

    We had a lovely afternoon reading in the shade before putting up our tent, enjoying the sunset and our sundowners, dinner and a fire.

    The following morning the river Kwanza basin, which we could see far below, was swathed in mist and we packed up camp and headed down from the rocks. Once down on the main road heading east to Malanje, we had a real trial of nerves for the next 80kms.

    The Chinese road builders, in their fiendish way, had decided to turn the whole 80 kms into one long extremely dusty diversion. At times, we could see barely five feet in front of us with the dust cloud kicked up by large trucks; it also meant that the trucks behind us were nearly ramming into us. Hugh did have to overtake many trucks and my nerves were at breaking point...

    Eventually, just before the town, the road improved and we shot into Malanje for a resupply of fuel, rations and other essentials. Malanje was rather madcap, and was the only place in Angola in which we have been harassed by touts, so we did our business as quickly as possible and headed South out of town on the road down to Kuito.

    There followed one of the slowest drives of our trip. The first few miles down to the bridge over the Kwanza were fine. Then the tarmac stopped. Then it restarted, but broken. We classify tar roads on a scale of 1 to 4, where 1 represents smooth new tarmac and 4 is a moonscape. This was definitely a 4. We crept along and after about 80 kms we got into the small town of Mussende. By this stage it was about 4 pm and we were feeling rather concerned about finding a campsite. The road we were on had been unmaintained for so long that all the little sand quarries on which we rather depend had become infested with elephant grass and had effectively disappeared. Dependence on quarries is a sensible policy in this country: in the first place, elephant grass quickly infests any area; it grows about 6ft high and is thick, and a pain to remove; recent quarries have done the hard work for you; in the second place, landmines continue to be a problem, particularly in the area through which we were now travelling.

    On arriving in Mussende we asked some friendly and delightful police on advice for the route ahead: a sensible looking sergeant advised us that the road to Kuito continued poor for about 50 kms, but thereafter was ‘boa’. We also asked another policeman whether there was a hotel in town. He had a smattering of English and looked at us in some disbelief: “but this is Mussende” he said. He did rather doubtfully acknowledge the existence of something called the ‘Zed Domingo Hotel’ but was unable to explain its whereabouts. We headed off on the road to Kuito and passed something extremely seedy which include the word ‘Domingo’, but decided that sleeping in the Land Rover might be better. So we pushed on out of Mussende hoping to find something, and, dead on cue, a perfect little quarry appeared just 5 minutes out of the town. It was flat, had a nice concealed corner, and was still uninfested with elephant grass. Bliss. We dragged out our chairs and collapsed in the sunshine with a couple of cold beers. It was so perfectly private we also indulged in the luxury of a cold shower, with river water carried in a spare barrel that we had filled from the river at Calandula.

    We had a great night in our quarry hideaway and early the next morning we pulled out on to the vile road. The policeman was right - about two hours and 50 kms later, it did improve a wee bit. So on we went south until we did find some sections of excellent tarmac. Seven hours later we pulled into the city of Kuito. This city was badly damaged in the war, but it is now a thriving place with restored buildings, new buildings, and even a Shoprite supermarket. It is high on a plateau.

    We headed for an abandoned work camp area that we had read about from previous trip reports, and got in about 4 pm. Not as salubrious as our previous quarry, but level, and there was an abandoned hut which gave us some concealment from the road. However, the elephant grass is encroaching, and in the next couple of years, we expect the site will disappear....

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  34. #18
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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    A superb trip report - thank you for taking the time. Great information.
    Andrew


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  36. #19
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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Weaver View Post
    Great trip report, as always - as you say, roadside quarries, borrow pits and old roadworks camps are often a Godsend when looking for a bush camp on main roads.
    Obrigados, Tony. Apart from a report on our journey from Kenya to Angola and back to Kenya, this is my last trip report for this forum.

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    Default Re: Angola Trip Report: 30 May to 26 June 2018

    Quote Originally Posted by AMacAfrica View Post
    A superb trip report - thank you for taking the time. Great information.
    Obrigados. It is reassuring when one types and types to find someone actually reads it and takes the time to reply.

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