Well it was much harder than we thought.... The hardest day yet....By Far!....But we made it to Lubongo
19th February, 2014
Well the long wait for the visa, should have made us very expectant of the very worst, but somehow we thought the waiting was behind us, and we had now had all the keys to the Angolan border crossing doors…! How wrong we were….
At a relaxed breakfast in Namibia, we were psyching ourselves up for the bureaucracy that lay ahead. We were through the Namibian border formalities by 8h05, Namibian time, and then not realising that it was only 7h06 Angolan time by the time we approached the very confusing brand new office complex. Lots of lanes, and yeah also we were now riding on the right hand side of the road, and all the signs for choosing the right lane in Portuguese, and none seemingly obvious for us…..? Lots of local scouts wanting to help us, and show us the way, but I was super-confidant that we WILL do this alone, without help, pushed forward… Well, cutting through all the, less gory, details we finally rode through the last Angola gate into ‘freedom’, some four hours later! The paperwork was horrendous, and not only that but the queue flow we followed was just ridiculous. Back and forth to the same places, just with a new tick from the same previous place giving us the right to be back again… They even needed four photos of each of our motorcycles, front, back, and both sides, submitted with the final road tax payment. We weren’t being singled out, nor was there any expectation of bribes to shortcut things, we realised this IS just the process to be followed. There were many others going through the same process, one Namibian guy told us he does this every two weeks as his business brings him to Angola that often. He did put the fear of God in us, by telling us we needed a whole lot of Police clearances from South Africa, which we didn’t have, but fortunately we didn’t eventually need them…. He alo told us of the road blocks we would face once we were free, and how as South African passport holders we would be given a thorough run around…. Hmmm, I must say I was asking myself WHY I am doing this, and was very close to telling ‘them’ to forget their country and I’ll find a Plan B!
In all of this, we did very early on realise that we were total lost in what the actual process was, and what documents were required so do engage one of those earlier scouts for help. He proved invaluable, and we paid him on success, a sum that we thought was more than adequate, but he didn’t seem too happy with it…. Hmmm!
Anyway, once free into Angola, we immediately found a place to have a snack lunch, and most of all a huge drink. As it had been very hot and dry, with lots of walking in those fun 4 hours! I was very impressed with the infrastructure we saw: Banks, ATM’s, good fuel stations, the road looked good, and money changing from Dollars to Kwanzas, was easy ….
Our goal was Lubango, some 420 kilometres away, and it was already 1pm. We were soon into rural country, on a good road, with little traffic, but lots of domestic animals either side of the road. The scenery wasn’t that inspiring, but the kilometres flew by….
Around 250 kilometres, we hit our first challenge: Road construction work forced a rough dirt road detour. I was used to these detours, from Mozambique and Tanzania, so quickly switched to a very focused dirt road mode, where one has to watch every centimetre of the road, for changing surface, as it switched between, stones, soft sand, mud, and even mini lakes of open water across the road. Combined with this is the occasional bus, truck or car that comes part with no consideration for you as a motorcyclist. Sometimes it’s just a sand cloud, other times it’s stones onto the visor, or maybe a mud bath. It’s tiring stuff and the worst is you don’t have any idea how long it will go on for. I could see Rob was struggling with this, but we each had to focus on our own patch… I must have drawn quite far ahead of Rob, because I stopped to wait for him to catch up and it seemed like forever. We had gone about 35 kilometres on this dirt detour, averaging no more than 40 km/h. In waiting I searched around and found the newly tarred, unfinished road that was running next to our detour. Aaah, I found a way to get onto it, and yippee, the road was usable with no other traffic on it… This was for us…! Rob arrived, shaking his head and saying how stressful this riding was…. I showed him the path to the tar road, he followed, up and over a rubble mound, and soon we were on the unfinished road….. Bliss, except that every couple of hundred metres there was a huge branch laid right across the road to prevent people doing exactly what we were doing…! Fortunately, many local motorcyclists in days before us, had worn small paths down the roadside and around the obstruction, which now was merely a slowdown piece, rather than a total obstruction. We had a few more scares, where we were forced off the unfinished tar, and had to deal with fairly deep mud. It clearly had been raining quite a bit over the past days….. We were soon to experience this rain too…..
The detour ended after about 70 kilometres, and we were then on the newly tarred road, but yet to be marked with lines… No problem though. We could see the dark clouds building, getting more threatening, and eventually I said to Rob that we should stop and don rain gear. Well, that wasn’t a minute too soon, as we were putting the final touches to our rain gear, all hell broke loose, and we had our next challenge. Time was not on our side now, and it looked like Lubango would be negotiated at night…. Not our preferred position. So we had to push the pace, and yet the rain was teeming down…. Soon it turned to hail, and with my thin rain jacket and juts a T-shirt underneath, my arms were actually stinging from the hail impinging at 110 km/h!
Something inside we flips and under conditions like this I just start revelling, and I feel totally alive…… So different from the long, straight, boring times from Namibia, a few days before.
The heavy rain lasted about an hour, and then we just had ‘on and off’, stuff, with moments of bright sunshine, almost quite pleasant. The road surface deteriorated a bit, and we had to be constantly on the lookout for potholes, as well as livestock.
Then our first road block. I said to Rob, that I should stop first and speak in my best Portuguese, so we don’t come across as arrogant and insensitive to the country, it’s language, and people. Well, at first this didn’t seem to matter, as my greeting was ignored and I was given a surly demand: “Pasporte?” They took Rob’s too, and the one guy disappeared to the office. After perseverance with the remaining two policemen, we finally started joking and talking about less serious issues. It did take forever, but we eventually got our passports back, and told to ride safely and enjoy out time in Angola. All very nice, pleasant, and surprising!
Well, as expected we were 10 kilometres out from Lubango, and it was pitch black, with rain. I was dismayed to see that every third car almost hadn’t turned their headlights on, making for very hazardous travel for all… Coming into Lubango, the traffic steadily increased until once in the city it was bumper to bumper chaos, huge potholes, crater lakes, and the typical African big city, struggle for position, where the bravest wins, and the meek get left behind! It was now time to find a hotel, and there I was, and disadvantaged competitor, not just dealing with the rad struggle, but also having to scan the immediate environment for a ‘suitable’ hotel / pension / residencial…! After trying the first one, and being told it was an unlikely U$250 / night, we realised we needed to change domains.... and headed in another direction. Exploring the city, while also searching for a place to stay we covered quite a big area, and then eventually found what looked like just the place… A boutique, residencial. The outside impressions were right, just for us, and we were soon unpacking our panniers in a room with a one double bed, and one single bed. We both agreed offering the double to the other wasn’t giving them something they highly valued, and so there was nothing in it, making for me to easy accept Rob’s offer to take the single for himself! This place isn’t cheap, but we had been warned about the prices in Angola.
What a day it had been, and we decided to reward ourselves with a nice dinner out… Not much choice in the area where we were, and so we had to settle for a nearby, hotel restaurant. Time to sample the local, ‘N’gola’, beer brand, and some Portuguese fare. Prices weren’t cheap, but after the day we had experienced, it was time to celebrate Angola day 1, success!
We both agreed that this had been the best day by far, although there were many times when at the moment, we wondered why we were doing this, and whether this was actually fun? The strange dichotomy of adventure life!
Angola, Day 1 was complete, and we had survived, I can’t even remember trying to fall asleep…
The picture that says it all: