Country: Angola View Africa Map
Dates Visited:
Feb 19-Mar 6, 2007
Distance Since Last Update: 1,934k
Total Distance: 39,105k
Population: 14 million
Capital: Luanda
Languages: Portuguese, Bantue
Currency: kwanza (US$1=80kz)
Borders: Congo, DRC, Namibia, Zambia


 
  M'banza-Congo - February 19, 2007
(Jim Writes) Prior to crossing the Angolan border, all we’d heard about the former Portuguese slave colony was that it was a war torn hellhole. A country looted by corrupt officials and ravaged by a brutal 14-year independence war with Portugal (1961-1975) and an even bloodier 22-year civil war (1975-2002), which destroyed its infrastructure, claimed some 1.5 million lives, and left the country riddled with an estimated 14 million landmines. Reports from other overlanders were that the bombed-out roads were some of the worst in Africa and our Lonely Planet guide offered up a strong travel warning rather than a “Highlights” section. That being said, we entered Angola expecting the worst. What we found was a state in the midst of recovery. A country defined as much by its warm and friendly people and beautiful landscapes as by landmines, bombed out tanks, and crumbling infrastructure.

Congo (Zaire) Border: Awoken by squawking roosters just outside our tent, we climbed down and joined Pat and Ness inside the mud and thatch border post that was serving as their unlikely campsite. They were already boiling water for tea (they’re British you see). After our hectic run through Kinshasa, we’d slowed to a more leisurely pace and by 9am we were still chatting over tea when the chief walked in and almost reluctantly asked if we could give him some idea when we planned to vacate the hut. He seemed almost embarrassed to be asking and was quick to point out that we were welcome to stay. It was just that he couldn’t open the border until we packed away Pat and Ness’ tent and removed their bike from the immigration hut. Embarrassed ourselves, we quickly broke camp, said goodbye to our gracious hosts, exchanged some dollars for Angolan kwanza and setoff for the border.

About 100 meters down the road we stopped to get our carnet stamped and negotiate the purchase of a well-worn armored personnel carrier which the Congolese officials seemed eager to unload on us for one million Congolese francs (about $200). It seemed like a fair deal but didn’t include A/C and nobody could come up with a viable means of securing our tent to the roof so we had to pass. I’m sure there’ll be other opportunities to acquire heavy armor in Angola.

Across the border, we were met by three soldiers who were manning a nondescript hut on the southern side of a small river. I have no idea what one of them said to us in Portuguese, but got his meaning when he waived us through the open door with his AK-47. Inside two of the soldiers carefully scrutinized our documents but offered up no stamps, instead saying something in Portuguese and waving us down the road towards the village of Luvo. In Luvo, we found a relaxed border post, which processed our documents without hassle and sent us on our way. We were officially in Angola and finally out of Central Africa.

From Luvo we headed south for the town of M’banza Congo along a narrow muddy track that traversed an endless landscape of rolling hills topped with lush green tropical vegetation. For Betty, the track was slow but manageable as we waded through frequent water holes and traversed washed out sections of road. For Pat and Ness the going was more difficult as the thigh deep water and erosion proved more challenging for their fully loaded 400-kilo motorcycle. At each difficult section they’d repeat the same routine - Ness would dismount and walk, allowing Pat to more easily ford what became an endless barrage of obstacles.

Countless water holes, fissures, and skull-and-crossbones signs warning of landmines later and we finally arrived in M’banza-Congo. It was late afternoon, we were all tired and we were eager for a cold beer, a comfortable place to prop up our feet for the night, and some fuel for Pat’s bike. Unfortunately, M’banza Congo has precious little in the way of food, fuel, or accommodation and after an in-depth search produced a Catholic nun who was none to willing to let us camp on the mission’s lawn, we were forced back out of town in search of a place to stay for the night.

It was nearly dark as we headed east out of town and we knew that finding a bush camp was risky because of landmines and that finding a small village would be difficult in the waning light and next to impossible once it got dark. To make matters worse, the road was shit. A once paved road, now so filled with bomb craters and potholes and teaming with people, our progress was painfully slow. Fortunately, just as the last remnants of light were fading to black we got a welcome bit of trail magic. We blew a tire. Well, in truth, blowing a tire at dusk in Angola wasn’t that magical. The magic came when we stopped to deal with the tire and happened to spot the faint glow of cooking fires burning a short distance into the bush. A small village! A quick search of the village produced the chief (and every other person within earshot). The chief was very friendly and, I believe, very surprised to see four white people standing in the middle of his village. In typical African fashion he invited us without hesitation to camp just in front of his hut.

Relieved to have found a safe place to stay we went about setting up camp, cooking dinner, and generally going about our evening routine, much to the delight of the entire village who gathered to watch us like a drive-in movie in front of the chief’s hut. We had no idea of the size of our audience until well into dinner when our headlamps illuminated a couple dozen sets of eyes staring back at us.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Bush Camp - February 20, 2007
(Jim Writes): Today we got our first real taste of Angola’s infamous roads. Up early, we awoke to another impressive audience gathered just outside our tents. With 2,100K of horrible roads still between Namibia and us we were eager to get moving. But before I could tackle the road ahead I was forced to tackle the damage done from the road behind. The tire we’d blown at dusk last night was now completely flat leaving Betty leaning heavily to one side. Not exactly the a.m. welcome I’d hoped for but at least it explained why I’d woken up wedged tightly between the right tent wall and Sheri who was practically suffocating me. A fast and easy change of the tire and we’d be on the road. Unfortunately, much to the delight of our village audience, the job proved neither fast nor easy when the jack broke, leaving Betty suspended just high enough to remove the flat but too low to put on the fully inflated spare. As Pat and I debated the merits of using the highlift jack vs. deflating, installing, then reinflating the spare, the chief, with much support from the village, stepped forward and suggested I use our shovel to dig a hole under the tire to create enough room. It was a practical solution, which we adopted much to the delight of the village who was now thoroughly amused.

Winding east through a lush tropical landscape of remarkable beauty, the road to N’Zeto was every bit as bad as we were warned. A once paved main artery designated as a “red road” (major highway) on the Michelin map, the road was now so riddled with potholes and bomb craters that there was hardly evidence it had ever been paved at all. At first the going was slow (often less than 10kph) as we crawled along, carefully picking our way around and far too often through an unrelenting field of steep holes that continued for kilometer after painful kilometer. Careful to avoid straying too far onto the shoulders for fear of unearthing a landmine, there was little we could do to avoid repeatedly falling into potholes that were no doubt taking their toll on poor Betty.

For the first half of the day, Pat and Ness found the going easier on their bike as two wheels, nimble handling, and much better acceleration gave them a huge advantage in weaving through the worst of it. By early afternoon however, heavy dark clouds were gathering, signaling the rapid approach of what promised to be one hell of a storm. Going against my better judgement I stopped to photograph the approaching storm while Pat and Ness continued ahead. Soon the storm caught up to us and unleashed high winds and heavy rains, which quickly turned the dirt road into a slick muddy mess that became difficult to negotiate.

When we caught up to Pat and Ness about an hour later, they were parked at the bottom of a saddle between two high mountains. Standing in the rain, they were soaked and Pat looked dejected. The road was terrible - a steep, winding, rocky track, made dangerously slick by the rain. We’d found the going very difficult, even with four grippy mud tires and diff locks. Pat said that it was everything he could do to make it safely over the first pass. With an equally steep and precarious climb ahead and many more mountains beyond that, Pat estimated that, with no end to the rain in sight, it could easily take them another four days to make it safely through the mountains. Tired, wet, and hungry, we took a break for lunch before sorting out a plan.

After lunch we decided the best option was to pull all of their gear off the bike and load it into our truck so that Pat would have an easier time climbing over the slick rocks and mud. It was an idea Pat, a fiercely independent traveler, wasn’t eager to embrace, and one that I was nervous about as well as I was eager to overburden our already heavily burdened suspension (we were carrying nearly 300L of fuel). We all agreed however that it would save considerable time and significantly increase Pat and Ness’ safety.

After lunch it was still raining as we unloaded their bike. Once everything was repacked in Betty, we setoff again climbing slowly up a steep muddy mountain damaged by severe erosion.

Not far up the road we encountered a bush taxi stuck in a channel caused by erosion on the right side of the track. It was completely grounded out, all four wheels off the ground. Desperate for help, they begged for us to tow them out. Unfortunately, our winch had a screw loose and our recovery strap wasn’t long enough for a safe recovery so they proposed tying a thin nylon strap to the end or our recovery strap to extend its length. A bad idea, which I knew wouldn’t work, however I agreed to give it a go just to show that I was willing to help. Three snapped nylon straps later and they were no closer to being unstuck. Somewhat unwilling to take my advice on how to dig their way out, we bid them farewell and continued forward.

The rest of the afternoon we advanced very slowly, Pat’s bike struggling to maintain a walking pace as it fish tailed down an increasingly muddy red clay track. By dusk, we’d made it to the middle of nowhere, passing several stuck lorries along the way. With night approaching and no villages in sight we had only one relatively safe option – to pitch camp in the middle of the road. Fortunately, we weren’t alone. A short distance down the track we found two heavily loaded lorries from Congo (Zaire) who had a similar plan and who were more than willing to let us join them. To avoid being run over during the night, we positioned Betty and Pat’s bike between the two giant trucks. We pitched our tent on the roof while Pat and Ness pitched theirs just in front of one of the lorrie’s and the lorry driver’s erected mosquito nets under their trailers.

 
 
 
 
 
 

N'Zeto - February 21, 2007
(Jim Writes) Another long day… we got an early start in hopes of making as much progress as possible before nightfall. Breaking camp was easy. Finding a secluded place to do our morning business was not, as landmines and curious villagers gave us cause for stage fright.

A few kilometers down the road we reached a small village where our progress was brought to a halt by a carnival parade, which filled the street with a couple hundred colorfully painted singers and dancers. Not long after we arrived, we were welcomed by a drunken dwarf who led us into the dancing, drum beating crowd, pushing other party goers out of the way to ensure we had a front row seat along side him. A feisty little fellow, he was drunk, his feet were happy, and he was a dancing fool, his limps gyrating like he was possessed by a pint sized spirit. A good sport, Pat joined in the party dancing along side our drunken friend. It was quality entertainment like nothing we’ve seen in a long time.

Back on the road, it was another brutal day. More of the same - rain, mud, and more potholes than tar. The worst possible type of roads – physically and mentally taxing, vehicle destroying, hardly passable. Roads fringed by the ever present landmine danger, where we spotted our first bombed out tank, the first of many to come.

Shortly before dark we reached N’Zeto, a once grand colonial town along the coast, ravaged by war and in a terrible state of decay. A quick look around town produced no food, fuel, or hotels. Our only lodging option… a brothel recommended to us by a man we met on the side of the road. Had he not led us to it we’d have never found it (and indeed, we’d never considered a brothel as an option). An unmarked walled compound on a residential street managed by a woman who’s tight clothes were decorated with two dozen or so ready-for-business condoms. Needless to say, we slept in our tent!

 
 
 
 
 
  Luanda - February 22-23, 2007
(Jim Writes) From N’Zeto we turned south. To reach Luanda (Angola’s capital) took two more long hard days along roads that can simply be described as more of the same. Absolute shit! As we slowly progressed towards Luanda, the lush tropical vegetation that characterized the north slowly gave way to a more arid landscape dotted with giant candelabra trees and baobobs and we were accompanied by an ever-increasing number of biting tsetse flies. Carriers of African sleeping sickness, we were first introduced to tsetse’s back in Ethiopia a few years ago and remember just how painful their bite can be and just how hard they are to kill. In fact, I vividly recall being swarmed by aggressive tsetse’s while bouncing along a rough stretch of track in the Omo Valley. At the time we were accompanied by an Ethiopian boy we’d picked up in Jinka who demonstrated the tsetse’s resilience by smashing one against the car seat with his hand. It dropped to the floor as if dead, only to spring back to life moments later and fly away. Over the next couple of hours, the boy unleashed his fury on many more, but with little success. Each time one recovered and flew away he howled with laughter. Thoroughly amused, he was as amazed as we were at the tsetse’s defiance.

Five years later, we once again found ourselves under siege. Unable to outrun them, we were soon overwhelmed as they raced alongside us, entering by the dozens when the windows were down and banging against the glass in an unnerving attempt to get in when the windows were up. Inside the truck, we waged full on war. Our heavy Lonely Planet Africa on a Shoestring guidebook became our weapon of choice as we slammed it against the windscreen and dashboard with such force that we’re lucky it didn’t break the glass.

Outside, Pat and Ness were having a harder time. Without the protection of glass windows and heavy guidebooks to protect them, they were swarmed and bitten mercilessly straight through their heavy biker clothing. Ness did everything she could to fend them off but to little effect. They were bitten more times than one can count. Ness’ bites quickly became infected and turned into black open sores that she treated first with topical and then oral antibiotics. Sores that would take her well into Namibia to cure.

By dusk on the first day we were yet to find a suitable place to camp. With no villages in sight and dark upon us we stopped on the side of the road in front of a field dotted with two tiny mud and stick huts. In front of the huts an elderly man and his two grown sons greeted us and graciously offered us a place to camp for the night. Poor even by African standards, their tiny huts lacked enough mud to cover the walls and I couldn’t help but wonder how grown men managed to even fit inside. Wonderful hosts, they did what they could to make us comfortable, clearing a path for our trucks to a clearing in front of one of their huts. We reciprocated by inviting them to join us for dinner. A wonderful evening and another excellent example of Angolan hospitality.

The next day we continued south towards Luanda and as we closed in on the capital the roads slowly improved and more signs of war emerged as we passed a bombed out tank abandoned on the side of the road.

After five days in which we encountered very few vehicles, entering Luanda was a bit overwhelming. On the outskirts of town, we found ourselves in a chaotic traffic jam that resulted in a two-hour tour of Luanda’s shanties. It was classic African anarchy as all traffic laws were ignored and everyone jostled for position and Betty found herself repeatedly bumping mirrors with an overly zealous minibus driver – both unwilling to relinquish ground.

At the end of the traffic jam, poverty, and urban decay, was the Marginal, Luanda’s surprisingly modern and cosmopolitan core. Perhaps one of the most modern downtown areas of any African city. And for sure one of, if not the most expensive.

The only reasonable hotel option was Panorama Hotel, a once modern, now rotting business hotel in a terrible state of decay, on the Ilha de Luanda. With windows knocked out, letters from the giant neon sign missing, broken toilets, broken TV and broken A/C, missing doorknobs, clogged sinks, and general state of disrepair, Panorama Hotel more closely resembled an abandoned apartment block (read: crack house), than an $80/night hotel. Luanda is indeed expensive!!

And to further illustrate just how expensive Luanda is, after getting settled, we walked down the street to Wimpy’s for dinner (yes, much to our surprise, the only fast food chain we’ve seen since Morocco is in Angola). Four small hamburgers, four small orders of french fries, three milk shakes, and one can of coke later and we were down $50! Ouch!!

 
 
 
 
  Luanda - February 24-25, 2007
(Jim Writes) Tired after five very long and hard days on some of the worst roads we’ve seen and still facing another 1,620 kilometers to the Namibian border, we decided to take a couple of days to decompress. And the fact that we needed a break badly enough to decompress in an $80/night crack house situated in a city too expensive for us to eat speaks volumes about the roads. For the next two days we relaxed, worked on various to do’s like replacing our broken jack and exchanging our US dollars for worthless Kwanza, subsisted on a diet of sardines and crackers (all we could afford), and took in Luanda’s carnival celebration.

“Relaxing” was perhaps an overstatement, as much of the time spent hanging out in our hotel room was taken up sorting out how we could brush our teeth, use the toilet, and take care of other daily hygiene issues on the fourth floor of a hotel with frequent water outages, a clogged sink, and a dysfunctional toilet.

Unable to afford Luanda’s insanely expensive restaurants, we made due the best we could with what we could afford – saltine crackers, tins of sardines, Laughing Cow (cheese), English tea, and a box of cheap red wine. Relying heavily on Ness’ creativity, we gathered each afternoon for high tea, accompanied by Ness’ rendition of canapés (Laughing Cow spread on saltines). High tea was closely followed by happy hour, which involved consumption of large quantities of cheap, hangover inducing red wine. To be sure, our pathetic fare and dingy accommodation gave us all much to laugh about. Fortunately the company was of a far higher caliber than the food and accommodation!

When not partaking in high tea or happy hour we were hunting for a replacement for our broken jack. Easier said than done in a Portuguese speaking country that seems void of all consumer goods. Nevertheless, several hours of searching later, we managed to locate an old, leaky, hydraulic 10 ton jack, which we haggled over by using pictures drawn in the dirt. For a mere $50 the bush mechanic was willing to part with the jack. Highway robbery but far better than getting another flat and not having one.

And when we weren’t searching for a jack we were joining in on Luanda’s carnival celebration (sort of like a smaller version of carnival in Rio De Janeiro). Lots of dancing, thousands of colorfully dressed Angolans, elaborate floats, tons of food stalls, a picturesque setting along the Atlantic Ocean, and no other tourists made for a memorable evening.

 
  Bush Camp - Febuary 26-28, 2007
(Jim Writes) From Luanda it took another 10 days of hard driving to reach Namibia. Heading south from Luanda we followed the coast through Porto Amboim, Lobito, and Lucira to the port town of Namibe before turning east to Lubango and then south again through Chibia before finally reaching the border. It was a long, hard, bone jarring 1,620K slog that seemed like it would never end.

After our weekend layover in Luanda, we departed on Monday for Porto Amboim, making steady progress down mostly good tar roads. The only hiccup in route was losing Pat and Ness in heavy traffic on the way out of Luanda – their bike leaving us far behind as they weaved through the congestion. Without a contingency plan we figured it was the last we’d see of them, however a short time after we arrived in Porto Amboim and sat down for a cold beer at a quaint beachfront cafe (that let us camp for free for the night), they turned up -just in time to help us celebrate our forward progress. Only 1,350K to go!

A quick stop the next morning at a bush mechanic’s shop to tube the tire we’d blown outside M’Banza Congo and we were on our way to Lobito. Another drive along relatively good roads that put us in Lobito just after dark. A dusty but surprisingly developed commercial center with everything from a supermarket to a Toyota dealership, the problem wasn’t so much finding a hotel as finding a hotel that we could afford. Incredibly expensive, a lengthy search finally led us to the Soflam Hotel, a $40/night lack luster hostel sans secure parking. Far from ideal but even further from the crack house-esque hotel we’d stayed at in Luanda and the brothel we’d stayed in back in N’Zeta so we weren’t complaining.

The next morning we continued south from Lobito towards Lucira. The roads slowly deteriorated and the landscape morphed into a vast arid expanse of mountainous semi desert, very similar to that found in Namibia. Stopping frequently for photos, we were nevertheless making progress along increasingly poor roads. By late afternoon, our position can best be described as squarely in the middle of nowhere and we started to question whether we were still on the right track. The paved road we’d started on outside Lobito had soon given way to a graded dirt track, which had given way to a narrow sandy track – which seemed unlikely to be the major road depicted on our map. Since taking an unmarked right hand fork in the road at Dombo Grande, the only vehicles we’d passed were the mangled remains of a column of military trucks (destroyed by an ambush during the war) and the only sign of life was a three meter long African rock python that slithered across the road just in front of us.

Not sure whether to go forward or turn back, we continued down the increasingly questionable track until, shortly before sunset, we came across a small abandoned village at the base of a steep, rocky mountain pass. Among the handful of decaying thatch huts were the remains of an old series Land Rover. There was no welcoming committee and in fact no signs of life at all other than a couple of baboons watching us from a nearby hill and the sound of a baby crying somewhere in the distance. The whole place seemed a bit creepy but it was getting dark and we needed a place to camp so we decided to stop for the night, setting up our tents in a clearing littered with spent AK-47 rounds. As the sun disappeared behind the mountain, the abandoned huts took the form of ghostly silhouettes, and their was an eerie silence, broken periodically by the baby crying somewhere in the darkness. It was surreal and I started to feel like we’d inadvertently stepped into a scene from Platoon.

 
 
 
 
 
  Bush Camp (Near Lucira) - March 1-2, 2007
(Jim Writes) Woke up this morning to a mountain of problems – literally. A quick inspection of the road ahead revealed a steep rocky mountain pass that looked impassable. As we went about breaking camp, a topless woman wearing a yellow and white head scarf and carrying her breast-feeding baby walked into camp. Soon after, she was joined by a young man wearing several beaded necklaces. Together the three of them stood and watched us quietly as we cooked breakfast, boiled water for tea, brushed our teeth, packed away our tents and went about other mundane duties. Mundane as they seemed to us, our curious audience seemed entertained, sticking around until we were ready to depart.

Just after setting out we encountered the first of a string of problems that would consume the next three days. As Pat and Ness were dusting themselves off after coming off their bike on a sandy stretch of track, we blew the fuse that controls the instrument panel, windows, A/C, and far more importantly, the ignition. This was the same fuse we’d had problems with back in the Sahara and again in the Sine Saloum Delta. Now, once again, we were far from anywhere and faced with an electrical short. I quickly replaced the blown fuse with a spare 15amp fuse. Seconds later the spare blew as well. Not sure what was causing the short, I decided the best plan would be to shut down all the non-essential electronic devices and only use the spare fuses to start the truck – quickly removing the fuse once the truck started to avoid blowing the spare.

Moving again, we were soon faced with our second obstacle of the day – the long steep and very rocky mountain pass. At first glance, the track looked impassable. Covered with large boulders, I was concerned Betty didn’t have enough ground clearance and even more concerned that, heavily loaded with fuel, we’d break a suspension component. Pat had similar concerns and quickly determined that he’d have to unload the bike to make it up. Moreover, we were all concerned that there was no way that the rocky track ahead of us was the “yellow road” (a major artery connecting Luanda to Angola’s coastal ports in the south) depicted on our Michelin Map.

With Pat and Ness’ gear safely repacked in our truck we gave it a go. Going first, Pat struggled up the side of the mountain like a contestant in one of those crazy hill climb competitions on ESPN. I followed Pat, slowly crawling over the rocks up a left fork in the track. About three quarters of the way up, Betty got stuck on some loose boulders and I was forced to reverse halfway down again before giving it another go, this time with diffs locked. We made it, albeit with much slipping and a lot of flying rocks.

At the top of the pass was another pass. This one worse than the last, we (read: Pat, Ness, and Sheri since I was still not able to walk far on my ailing knee) decided to hike ahead to do some reconnaissance. Their report wasn’t promising. More of the same. Lots more. As far as they could see there was one rocky pass after another.

This was concerning. Concerning because the state of the road seemed to indicate that we were on the wrong track. It just didn’t seem possible that the main (read: only) coastal road on our map could be so bad and could be so void of traffic. We hadn’t seen another vehicle in over 24 hours. Not sure about our position we decided the conservative approach was to backtrack to a waypoint we’d received from another overland traveler. There we could double check our position and make sure there wasn’t a fork in the road that we’d somehow missed.

So back down the rocky pass we went and back through the abandoned village and across the desolate expanse of semi-desert to the only known waypoint that we had. In route, we saw only one fork in the road and it clearly wasn’t the track we wanted. When we reached the waypoint (the location of a bushcamp used by another overlander) we checked our position by mapping our coordinates on the Michelin map. Our coordinates indicated we were on the right track. Using the waypoint we’d taken at our camp the previous night, we mapped the coordinates of the abandoned village as well. It was also on the road. Further down the road we took our coordinates again and mapped them as well – they also indicated we were on the right track.

By the time we made it back to the abandoned village and started back up the mountain pass we’d climbed earlier, it was already mid-day. Another challenging ascent and we were at the top. At the top of the pass was another and another and another. For the next several hours we rock crawled our way up and down a steep track better suited to mountain goats than a heavily loaded Land Cruiser. It was hard going and it was stressful as, guided by Sheri, Pat, and Ness, I carefully crawled, often in low range first, over one rock obstacle after another, trying to minimize the amount of stress put on our overburdened suspension. Often we had to scout the route in advance, removing large rocks before going forward.

By late afternoon we’d reached a long steep downhill. Halfway down the hill Pat spotted what appeared to be a landmine on the edge of the track. Almost entirely buried by dirt and rocks, Pat could make out just enough of the rusting object to be concerned. He said he’d seen a very similar landmine on the border of Western Sahara and Morocco back in 1998. With only a small piece of rusted metal visible, there was no way to know for sure if it was live but common sense said we should stay clear of it. And to stay clear of it Sheri volunteered get out and guide me around it. As I slowly crept down the steep track following Sheri’s cues, I lost all perspective on where the mine was located, too involved in the business of getting Betty over several large rocks. Following her commands closely, I inched forward until all of a sudden Sheri’s eyes grew wide and she jumped backwards and took off running. BOOM! Betty slipped off a boulder sized rock and it went tumbling and Betty landed squarely on top of the mine. There was no explosion. Just the loud thunderous boom of rock against rock. Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I’d landed right on top of it – either by following Sheri’s commands (hmmm….) or by my inability to follow them. Nobody will ever know for sure but I’ve started paying more attention to what Sheri puts in my morning tea and now sleep with one eye open.

By the time we reached the bottom of the hill it was getting late and we were tired. In another clearing scattered with shell casings, we decided to make camp. A picturesque spot at the bottom of a saddle between two mountains, it was a tranquil, if fly-infested, camp. We’d advanced 5K. Not much of a bite out of the 860K that still stood between us and Namibia.

The following day proved to be a particularly long hard slog. After breaking camp the remainder of the morning was a hard boulder dash across several more passes before we finally reached the other side of the mountains and more topographically agreeable terrain. For the next several hours we followed a relentless track that traversed a never-ending expanse of semi-desert. It was a mind-numbing ramble broken up by short technical sections of track.

Along the way we passed the first vehicles we’d seen in days – three expedition equipped 79 series Land Cruisers who’s shiny exteriors indicated that they were at the start rather than the end of their journey - and the only road sign I can recall in Angola – a weathered sign pointing towards Lucira. We were on the right track.

Around 4pm we reached the coast and another mountain range. And with the mountains came more navigational woes. We reached a T-junction with no indication which way to go. First we went right, where we soon came upon a a collection of rocks in the road which indicated the road was closed ahead. This persuaded us to go in the other direction only to drive several more kilometers before our GPS pointed us back towards the closed road. We headed back to the junction and went right again, this time ignoring the road closure. Past the rocks in the road, the dirt track snaked its way into a deep gorge which seemed to be leading anywhere but Lucira. By the time we reached the bottom of the gorge the sun had disappeared and it was nearly dark. As we studied our GPS a boy passed us with several donkeys in tow. Where he was going was unclear, but he seemed certain that we needed to be going straight so we continued deeper into the gorge down a steep narrow switchback. At the bottom of the switchback was another track that wound through a narrow section in the canyon. When the gorge opened up again, we found a short section of paved road and a sign pointing to Lucira. We followed the paved road a couple hundred meters until it reached another narrow canyon and gave way to another dirt road. It was as if the government had decided to pave the road only to change their minds one-week into construction. We could deduct that Lucira must be somewhere on the other side but it was too late to go looking for it. Instead, we found a clearing on the side of the track and decided to ignore the landmine danger, setup camp.

 
 
 
 
 
  Namibe - March 3, 2007
(Jim Writes) As it turned out Lucira was only a few kilometers from our camp, just on the other side of a narrow canyon lined with pro-MPLA graffiti – carryover from the war. Our stopover in Lucira was brief. A small fishing town with little on offer, we stopped long enough to top up our supply of water at the local well before setting off again for Namibe.

Compared to the previous four days the road to Namibe was a marked improvement and we arrived well before dark. After a search through town produced nothing of interest, we headed south of town down the coast to a small café built into the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean. A beautiful setting, the restaurant’s manager said we could camp in the parking lot – a good setup aside from the fact that the café didn’t have any running water. Nevertheless, it made for a picturesque bushcamp and, after a quick bottle bath in the parking lot, we headed to the café for a cold beer and dinner. Not bad.

 
 
 
  Chibia - March 4-5, 2007
(Jim Writes) We broke camp early, breakfast at the café, and hit the road. On the way out of town we stopped long enough to provoke a local police officer who took serious offense when I tried to snap a photo of the bay and tried to grab my camera through the front window of the truck. Sheri hit the gas and we never looked back. I’d forgotten how touchy the Angolan government is about taking photos.

The drive to Lubango was wonderful. The only smooth stretch of tar in the country, the road was perfect. So perfect in fact that we were passed by a group of expats on superbikes who, much to the delight of the locals, must have been running at close to 300kph when they passed us while we were parked on the side of the road.

After a huge rainstorm we arrived in Lubango, a bustling commercial center. Like everywhere else in Angola, we found accommodation difficult as the two hotels we came across were insanely expensive and one was full. With no other options, we decided to head for Chibia, a small town a little over an hour down a poor tar and dirt road.

In Chibia we found a wonderful little hotel with decent rooms and a pleasant courtyard and restaurant. Pleasant enough in fact that we spent the next two nights there hanging out, exploring the town and watching an amazing sight – local tribal people similar to the Himba coming into town to register to vote.

 
 
 
 
  Bush Camp - March 6, 2007
(Jim Writes) From Chibia it took two more days to reach Namibia. Like the rest of Angola the roads were shit (although some roadwork indicated that perhaps things are changing), the scenery beautiful, the people friendly, and the blown up military vehicles plentiful. On the way to the border we stopped for photos often and enjoyed meeting some of the most exotic tribal people we’ve come across in Africa.

Our last night was spent at a pleasant bush camp just off the road. We pitched our tents in plain view beside a huge cattle boma and strangely there were plenty of villagers about, however everyone went about their day-to-day activities as if we weren’t there. A rarity in Africa. It was a wonderful last night in a country that we found to be as wild as it is friendly.