Last stop, Lubango!

Lubango sign

Angola is in an economical crisis at the moment. The inflation rate is high and expats are no longer allowed to bring the local currency out of the country. Therefore there is a huge black market for currency where people would pay four times the official rate for dollars and euros. We used that to our advantage and got lots of local currency for the euros we had brought. Just like when we exchanged at the black market in Nigeria we were stuck with lots of cash that we could not use or exchange outside the country. So we stopped in Lubango to spend the rest.

Our food kitty was easily spent on spaghetti, tomato paste and other food that we use a lot. Most people also stocked up on and filled the truck with snacks and alcohol which was sure to be finished by the time we reach Cape Town.

Lubango was also a place known for having the World’s third biggest Jesus statue, only surpassed by Lisbon and Rio. It also had a huge Hollywood like sign next to it. After we had played around with the two and taken plenty of pictures, we set off towards Namibia.

Jesus

 

Angola Landscape

The landscape through Angola must have been the most beautiful on our trip, with curvy roads winding up the mountains.

Luanda and the Beaches Around

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Having driven for almost two weeks straight, mainly bushcamping without showers or much rest, it was time to put on the breaks as we reached Angola. At the border, the bridge between DRC and Angola was being repaired so there was also nothing else to do than to relax and spend the night between the two countries. The immigration officer showed us where we could camp and was helpful changing money and going beer shopping for us- a lit more friendly than the border officers of the previous countries you could say!
Well into Angola we set up camp at a beach north of Luanda where we could do some laundry and cook meals on a bonfire. It was also quite an amazing place to see sunsets and charge our human batteries as we had the beach all to ourselves.
Driving into the Angolan capital was a totally different experience though. Everywhere we looked there were tall sky scrapers, something we almost hadn’t seen the last six months traveling through West Africa, just like bus stops, city parks, pavement, Western junk street food etc. When walking along the city Corniché I felt more that I was in Singapore or Doha than somewhere in Africa. The city was just so much more organized than what we had gotten used to and quite comfortable to stroll around in for a day. We also went up to the city fortress which today served as a war museum. It was also an excellent viewpoint where we could see the city’s most famous landmarks; the Star Wars looking tower that was erected in memory of men lost in the war for liberation and the more older looking national Bank and Parliament building. Unfortunately official buildings was not allowed to be photographed and so was the poorer areas of the town as well. One police officer came up to Maria and demanded to look through and delete some of the pictures she had on her phone. Another approached Travis and told him to take off his ear studs as those were only for women. Some places it seemed like they were just as strict with littering as well, as some of the streets were just spotless. All in all it was quite an experience unlike any other we have had on our West Africa Trip.
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When driving down most of Angola’s 1600km coastline we stopped at beaches far from towns, people and trash

Lobito and the Moon Valley

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In a group of fifteen people there will always be different opinions. My opinion was that it would be better to stay shorter at the beaches to be able to see more of cultural and natural sights, but already after a few days in Lobito I appreciated the majority of the group voting for staying a full week.
Lobito was probably the most comfortable place we had stayed on our whole Trans Africa trip as everything was so available in the huge supermarkets and the beaches were so clean and quiet. Lobito is an expat city as it has Angola’s deepest port where lots of European companies are operating and where there are rich people there are also fancy restaurants. We camped on the beach next to one of them called the Zulu Restaurant where they set up an outdoor screen every evening to show the European Football Cup. Watching the games on the beach with a cold “Cuca” beer, fast WiFi and some beautiful sunsets in the background was not wrong after the weeks of roughing it in the Congolese bush.
One of the days most of the group also went out fishing with hired boats and got lots of fish. The restaurant then offered to prepare the fish for us with some good sides and white wine. One of the days I also bought live chicken from the market that we slaughtered on the beach and cooked for lunch. With lots of blood to play around with, I showered myself and pretended I was a real viking before running dry heavingly into the ocean to clean the stinking blood off my face. Some kilometers north of the city we also drove through some pretty awesome landscape called the moon Valley. Had it been in any other country then there would have been lots of other tourists, but here there were none. We had it all to ourselves and watched it for an hours time before driving onwards.

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The Moon Valley 60kms outside of Luanda

Crossing the Congo River and the Rest of the DPRK

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Even though we were just crossing the Democratic Republic of Congo as quickly as possible, before our Angola visas expired, it has been some of the most interesting driving days of our whole Trans- Africa trip. This is where our four wheel drive, ex military Bedford truck got to show what it was built for, as some roads were just walking paths through villages or extremely worn down dust roads. I also held my breath every time we drove over a bridge, as they pretty much all were simple wooden bridges looking like they would not handle the weight of our truck, but they all did and we managed to cross the mountains and roads leading through the country.
What also made it interesting to drive through was to see how people reacted to us coming through. On the smaller paths we saw women and children run out in the grass to hide or climb up trees. Some men were also carrying guns with them, which must mean that they are still a bit on alert, maybe first thinking that we were rebels coming through, but waving friendly when they saw we were just tourists. Other times people, especially young women, were holding their hands in front of the mouth or jumping up and down while screaming, just as if they were star struck after seeing Justin Bieber drive through. There were also school kids running after us for a couple of kilometres, most of them asking for money.
The driving was probably the roughest it had been on our whole West- Africa trip. That was until we got to Luozi, a small town by the Kongo River, where a ferry was waiting to take us over. When I first saw the ferry, which looked more like a raft, I though to my self that it was not big enough to gir our truck, but soon after one car, one even bigger truck, around fourty people and us were on board heading towards the other side. It was also quite a smooth sail where I got to enjoy the view from on top of a big cassava truck together with some locals.

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Worn out roads
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Walking paths or even no roads between the villages
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And sketchy looking bridges

A Congo Different From What I Had Expected

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The Republic of Congo is a prime example of oil money gone wrong. Over 90% of the country’s export comes from oil, so with fluctuating oil prices the government budget can be high or low. In times when the oil price has been high, Brazzaville has hosted expensive events and festivals and undertaken big projects such as making fancy waterpumps (not like the manual pump they use everywhere else in West Africa) in the same colors as its flag in order to show the World and its people that it can beat above the belt, but when driving through the country there is almost no farming going on in this perfectly fertile land other than the small cassava farms in the villages.
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As much as 40% of its population is employed by agriculture, but only 2% of the land is farmed- so this is where the country has its potential when the oil is running out in the future.
We have been met by some quite hospitable people when staying in the villages here too. One of the nights, the young chief of the village joined us for dinner like we usually offer then, but then he and some of his friends also stayed around with us the rest of the evening too. Apparently his wife ran a shop and was happy to supply us with lots of beer and pastis throughout the night, which also might have been the reason.
Only five percent of the roads in Congo are paved, but the dirt roads were still really good and the red, yellow and green waterpumps that were available everywhere made me want to come back one day to cycle between the villages and national parks in the North. Getting towards the biggest cities of Brazzaville and Pointe Noire I was blown away by suddenly seeing brand new, completely empty four lane highways that the Chinese had built and when we stopped at a to Total gas station that had a grill house with cheeseburgers I felt that I was somewhere completely different than West Africa. A feeling short lived though as we right after crossed the border over to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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Beers and a eighties fashion show while we wait for our passports to get stamped into Congo
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Rather overlanding truck than local transportation in Congo
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The official border sign when leaving Cobgo