#24 – Entering the rough diamond Angola
I zigzaged myself out of the busy Pointe-Noire, after having enjoyed 2 resting days in which I got my Angolan visa. I cycled to the closeby border of Angola and hoped they would let me in.
And luckily they did. It was kind of tricky tough, as I had to upload a return flight ticket during the application of the e-visa, while I’m passing the full length of the country without flying back. As soon as the e-visa is granted, the customs at the border don’t mind those details. That was the thing I was hoping for, and it worked out.
The passed 3 months I’ve visited 7 countries. It meant a lot of changes in small amounts of time. But in Angola I hope to stick to more or less the same local habits for a longer period, since it takes a lot of time and energy to learn them.
A little ill I left the chief’s house, after they served me bread and coffee. Feeling weak and tired, I had struggles to keep moving forward, not even taken the sweaty heat inti account. I was heading to a city and craved to rest and coolness for maybe a few days, untill I would feel better.
“Do you want a beer?”, a man in a car randomly asked me, when he saw my head hanging down. “Just follow me”, he added. We then entered a well protected terrain with houses and expats, which turned out to be the base of big oil company.
From a delicious cold beer they invited me to their elaborate luch. They offered me a private room for the night, which quickly went up to several nights, including New Year’s eve. They gave me medicines, washed all of my clothes, told me all about the oil industry and almost let me win with a game of poker. I don’t support the oil industry whatsoever, but I really couldn’t wish for anything better to happen.
“Hold his leg, Bas”, Mulder said, one of the South African expats around here. Still warm, I hold the leg of the freshly killed goat, so Mulder could professionally skin the legs and prepare the meat to be hanged upside down.
My stomach was still upset from the days before, so I wasn’t sure how it would react on seeing the process of killing a goat till making the meat ready for a bbq. Especially because I had never seen this before. But to my surprise it went all right, and I even helped with skinning the goat and removing the entrails.
The giant South African styled bbq roasted the meat for a few hours. The meat tasted awesome and it was the start of a wonderful New Year’s eve. With some of the expats we went to a “party” nearby. It was nice to be among these people while we entered the new decenium.
I packed my bike and went to drop off my room pass at Gabriella, the camp manager. Making sure I would be fine, she gave me a stash of tuna, some bread and chloride tablets for filtering water. She got involved a bit more and arranged a driver who would help me with some things.
We drove around Cabinda for some time and visited some places in order to get the confirmed information I already got from other travelers. In order to skip DR Congo, I have to fly from the Angolan enclave where I’m now, to the main Angola country. But my bike has to be shipped, and I can’t go with it since we will cross international waters.
The first available flight is next Saturday, but we shipped the bike today already. Gabriella knows a guy who will pick up the bike on the other side. I didn’t expect it, but I returned to the comfortable camp, at which I also surprised some expats to whom I said goodbye already.
Once again I said goodbye to the people at the camp I was staying at. Especially to Gabriella, the camp manager, who looked after me like my own mother. She arranged a sleeping place for me for tonight and at some other places, and helped me with many other things.
Due to bad weather the flight of 15 minutes was delayed for a few hours. Me and the driver from the camp waited and waited, untill the plane got loose from the ground. Because of the short flight over a few kilometers of DR Congo, the plane stayed quite low, giving me the opportunity to feel what it’s like to be a drone. At one point, I could look into the mouth of the great Congo river.
Once arrived, I got picked up by Pedro, a former colleague of Gabriella. He brought me to the harbour, where I got reunited with my bike again. As happy as I was, we went to Pedro’s house where I could stay for the night. What a wonderful do I meet on the road.
I was served a steady breakfast by Pedro and his wife, my hosts of last night. Together with their son, some friends and the neighbours they saw me getting ready for the road to come.
I was told that there is not much in between the cities anymore, so I tried to prepare well with 9L of water, 5 breads, a big jar of creamy peanutbutter and some tuna. Soon I noticed that indeed there was not much human life, making room for some beautiful baobab trees and some spoiling pumpjacks.
When my shadow started to become longer, I found an abandoned construction site, used by the Chinese to make roads. But in a hidden building, a guard was protecting the place and allowed me to camp outside his room. We couldn’t communicate with each other, but somehow we ended up eating fufu and fish together.
Guarded by a police man and 4 dogs, I safely spend the night. Not bad for a country that hosted a civil war for 40 years not that long ago. But somehow it feels like the people got very tired of that fight, and obviously are happy about the current peace.
It seems that I’ve passed the grey days, and now my skin needs to adjust to the many sun hours the day carries. The heat is almost getting equal to the one I experienced in the Sahara. But during a break I’m now able to hide in the shadows of the giant baobab trees next to the road.
In my quest to search a camp spot I followed a sand trach towards the coast. It led to a luxury resort, which seemed closed and protected by one guard. He allowed me to set up camp right at the private beach, granting me tremendous view.
Through the beautiful grassy plateau near the beach, I went back to the main road. Rain started to fall and I got some tailwind, both a welcoming circumstance. “Let’s rock and roll”, I told myself with much enthusiasm.
Quite some impressive boulders followed soon. But then a few gad-flies appeared and fed themselves with my body juice. First they were annoying, but when it became an continuing stream of these blood suckers, that feeling grew to frustration and eventually to anger. I must have been stung a hundred times. It was a real shame, since my main focus was not on the beautiful surrounding, but to kill the bastards.
After putting up my tent I first lay down and closed my eyes. I felt the tingle in my face and started to get a similar heartbeat as the relaxing song on the radio. In front of a guy’s run down house I could spend the night in my own fly-free comfort zone. Even on those days, everything is going to be fine.
Still waking up a little, a car turned around, passed me and a man came out of it. “Hey, you’re BikingBass”, he said. Not sure if I was still dreaming, I remembered talking with a guy on Instagram a few days ago. It was him, and he’s the first person to reckognize me like that.
While having a break, I saw a monkey dancing around in a tree. Having a closer look at it, I noticed he was tied with a strap, leaving a ring of bald skin around his middle. I asked if the cute fellow was here for sale to eat. Unfortunately he wasn’t for sale at all, otherwise I might have set him free, for as long as it might have endured.
A few faded tracks led me towards the coast, where a promising scenery was ahead of me. First I saw one, then two and eventually about 40 skeletons of steel, some still shaped as a ship, others eaten away by the oxidative air. On top of a sand cliff I gained a perfect view of Shipwreck beach.
Visiting and camping at shipwreck beach was great for the eye, but not for the bike. One of the ships must have contained loads of glass bottles, as the entire beach was full with green and brown sparkling pieces of it, causing my first flat tyre since Gambia.
From the beach I went to the big street, which led me to Luanda, the capital of Angola and the 5th biggest city in Africa. It was strange to see tall modern buildings and a clean organized city, after seeing so much poor maintained and decayed buildings that rule most of Africa’s architecture.
I crossed the huge city to arrive at my Warmshowers hosts, a couple who are teachers at an international school. A giant map of South America on the wall reveals their plan to cycle for almost a year during an upcomming sabatical. Some colleagues came over to enjoy a wonderful meal and to have a fine conversation.
I was asked to give a presentation on the international school of my hosts. For about 60 kids and a handful of teachers I told about my journey. Having so many enthusiastic children around me gave me a lot of energy.
Today and the past week it rained extremely much, after a long period of extreme drought. The loosened soil has thus become an easy target to flood away, causing some houses to collapse. Combined with a bad drainage system, houses are occasionally flooded and due to bad electrical installations, people unfortunately get killed. Except for flooded streets, I didn’t see much of all this.
Through the street rivers I went to a 5 star hotel, to work as a drone photographer once again. Next to the 21 storey building was a slump, and when I went out on the streets, a guard had to come with me. I’m not sure what to think about all these contrasting situations, but it surely adds up to the experiences that make this trip interesting.
Well fed I left my wonderful hosts early this morning. It’s been great to have chats about tour biking with someone. They are going to cycle in South America during a sabbatical from next summer.
As soon as I escaped from the crowded capital, I soon entered a stunning road along the coast. Huge plain fields, dotted with the remarkable baobab trees. The hills were boundered by steep sandy cliffs, that were slowly eroding away.
On one of the most beautiful spots near one of those gorgeous eroding cliffs, that had a touch of a moon landscape, I set up camp and cooked myself a delicious meal. It was ready just in time, as soon as the sun was setting. It was all so quiet, yet so spectacular.
After fixing my flat tyre, I went back on the main road. It’s the shoulder of this road that caused my second flat tyre in one week, as it is often used as the last resting place of glass bottles.
It was on the shoulder where a car closely passed me, with one wheel on the same shoulder. It started swinging a second later and stopped. I wasn’t sure what that was about, I thought it might be just another maniac trying to draw my attention.
I stopped at a resort called Carpe Diem, where the owner let me camp for free. “Sorry about my wife, she fell asleep”, a man suddenly tells me, refering to the incident earlier today. The group of people seemed to stay at the same place as I was staying. I realised that I was lucky it all went alright, and that I really should life like carpe diem, as I put my life in the hands of so many car drivers each day.