It’s a very unfortunate situation that Angola only issues 5 day transit visas to overlanders heading down the West Coast. We managed to pick ours up in Abuja, Nigeria, with very little hassle and for only US$30. We really recommend this, as it took one day, and in Matadi it takes 4 days and US$100. We managed to get a dual entry visa, which meant that Neil and I opted to head from Pointe Noire through Cabinda (which is Angola), into the DRC and then back into Angola again, with our second entry. We were then allowed 5 days again from the date of our second stamp, and with Angola being a large and vast conutry, with some excellent roads and some very, very poor roads, 5 days was enough time to allow us to get through, enjoy some of the country and spend a day watching the opening of the World Cup Soccer being held in South Africa!
So, it was with mixed emotions that we left the crew in Pointe Noire on the 7th of June. We had a great time staying with Jon, and their hospitality was out of Africa! So off we went, with a clean bag of clothing, full bellies, two members less in Maude, and one car less in the team. It was just Neil and I and the car and we had 6 days ahead of us to reach Namibia. We managed to get to the border for Cabinda as it opened and joined the locals in silence as the police saluted and raised the flag at 8am. Getting through Cabinda was not a problem at all and the roads were excellent. We then exited and arrived in the DRC. The road turned to a dirt track, but the scenery was really beauticul – open plains of grass and rolling hills. The road was great, despite being warned that it may be bad. I think the road may be bad in the wet season, but we cruised along at a very good speed. We got to Boma just before sunset, but decided to push on to Matadi so that we would have less to travel the next morning before getting to the Angolian post. The Boma-Matadi stretch of 200km was very pot-holed and slow going and we crossed the magnificent Congo at about 8pm over a very smart, new toll bridge that was quick and easy and by the sounds of things the complete antithesis of taking the Brazzaville-Kinshasa ferry crossing over the Congo. We stayed at the lovely Catholic mission and went to bed in preparation for an early start of our first 5 days of the Amazing Angolian Race.
Day 1: 8th June
Leaving Matadi at about 8am, after re-packing the car we headed for Luvo, the border post east of Matadi. Crossing in Angola was not a problem at all, but just the usual slow process you come to expect at border posts. We had to have a long chat to the chief of the border post about his 20 children and his Landrover and our Landcruiser…not always what you feel like! Eventually getting into Angola we were on our way and quite excited! We filled up with DIRT cheap diesel at R2 a litre, bought delicious portuguese rolls for dinner and pushed on. The roads were not bad at all, either good dirt tracks or tar and we managed to make it abou 20km before N’zeto where we knew the road were going to turn for the worse. We camped just off the road and had an early night as it was another pre-6am start for us.
Day 2: 9th June
We were up and on the road by 6am. We’ve learnt to eat breakfast in the car and muesli with yoghurt goes down like a treat at about 7am when you’re driving! The N’Zeto to Luanda section of the road was about as bad as they come. Partly tared, fully pot-holed, bumps and mounds of sand. 20 to 30km an hour is all you can manage and it took us about 6 hours of painstakingly slow driving. The crazy thing is that as soon as the road joins another road, you’re back on to great tar and steaming along at over 100km an hour. We made it to Luanda at about lunch time and opted for the ring road as we heard it can take 3 to 4 hours to drive through Luanda otherwise. We headed for the shopping centre that had a Shoprite and a Wimpy and had a delicious burger and stocked up on South African goodies for the road ahead! Having covered a good distance for the day, we headed to Cabo Ledo on the coast for the night and found a picturesque spot to camp on the beach – it really was idyllic and we quickly forgot about our day’s drive.
Day 3: 10th June
Up and at it by 6am again and down South we went. We wanted to get to Lubango and the roads were again excellent and some of the best we had been on. We stopped in Lobito for lunch at the Terminus Hotel and had a quick prego roll before we carried on. We managed to get to Lubango as the sun was setting and stayed at the Casper Lodge, where they have quite a nice set-up for campers. It’s not cheap at US$25 per person, but you do get to have the buffet breakfast that they serve to the lodge guests, and it definitely makes up for the price! It was freezing cold in Lubango and our first night with beanies and scarfs in a long time!
Day4: 11th June
Today we had the day off! For two reasons: One, we wanted to see a couple of things around Lubango and Two, it was the opening match of the World Cup and we were as fired up as we could be, sitting in our Landcruiser in Angola! We created an all South African playlist and set off for Tunda Vala – a dramatic crevice-like valley about 20km out of Lubango. We had hoped to camp here the night before, but as we arrive as the sun was setting in Lubango, we thought it best not to tackle the dirt road at night. The drive was lovely and Tunda Vala was spectacular, very unexpected and well worth the visit. After that we headed to the statue of Christ on the other side of town. It is modelled after the one in Rio and is also a good visit. We then continued to the small town of Chibia and eventually found a restaurant called Pensio Snak Bar where they had a flat screen and DSTV – exactly what we needed! We hoisted our flags and settled in to watching the opening ceremony and the build up and finally the match started! At this stage we had about 30 people with us watching and 15 minutes into the game the owner came and muttered something in Portuguese, the TV went off and everyone started streaming out. A little confusedand a lot distraught, we followed and thankfully some locals saw the disappointment on our faces and invited us to their house! Off we went and they were most hospitable; they fired up their generator, opened a bottle of wine and six of us sat around watching the match and celebrating in full force when Bafana scored their goal. It was very special, and we will never forget the experience. After the end of the match we left Chibia and went for another 20km or so, before pulling off the road camping in a very nice, secluded cattle path!
Day 5: 12th June
The final day to get to the border. As most other website comment, it is sad to have only had 5 days to see Angola, but it has now meant we are itching to get back and truly explore the country. It is a good mix of ‘roughing’ it and a few home comforts, such as Shoprite and Wimpy. The final stretch to the border was a little slow going at times, but we managed to get through with no real hassles and in to Namibia, where we truly were a hop and a skip away from home!