Big bad Luanda delivers at the highest level!

"Into Africa" More than a Motorcycle Adventure
Howard Fairbank
Thu 27 Feb 2014 08:11

08:49.59S 13:12.85E


25th February, 2014


The plan was to leave just on sunrise, to try and avoid the traffic, so the alarm went at

5h30, and we were out of the pension gate by 6pm. The sand road was easy with the overnight dew, but to our surprise the road was busy with taxi’s clearly taking people to work, and in a huge rush with no regard for two ‘green’ visitors to the big city! A few near misses, but we were eventually back on the tar road, and in the thick of things. Within 4 kilometres we were in deep, bumper to bumper traffic, that had us weaving our way in and out of cars buses, and trucks, millimetres to spare between our protruding side panniers and the adjoining vehicles. This is clearly not what we had imagined this time of the morning…!


Anyway we had another three and a half hours of this heavy traffic, and parts of it we weren’t even sure if we were on the right road….? This wasn’t relaxing stuff, and I could see Rob, wasn’t happy with  the situation, as he told me he had already hit a few cars with his panniers. Part of the challenge was also us staying together, as we individually chose our own, opportunistic routes through the chaos. I thought best we stop a few times, stand back from the micro picture and embrace the enormity of what we were experiencing…. This is the worst I have been in, Dar-es-Salaam, Nairobi, Kampala have nothing on this…..



We were aiming for a landmark roundabout, near the downtown section, which had an easy recognisable statue in its centre. Almost unbelievably it came into view a few kilometres off, and our spirits perked up…. Only to have mine seriously dowsed by a formidable police officer who stepped out into the road to and waive me down to pullover. I was selected out of this whole mass, for special attention. Rob was a way behind me, but as the officer was aggressively ordering me to cut my engine and push my bike to the side of the road, Rob appeared and saw my dilemma. Well, this cop went through every paper I had, bike licence, registration, driver’s licence, passport, the lot, and in a very aggressive and humiliating way. I passed, and was soon back on the bike, and caught up with Rob. Well, literally at the traffic light at the roundabout I get pulled over again, another police officer, wants all the same documents. Rob goes by and once again sees me caught and indicates he will wait through the roundabout…. Hmmm, you have no idea how these two police incidents in 20 minutes, turned me against Luanda first, and then Angola second. There was no malice, not bribery objective, I could see the guys were just very diligently doing their job, but, other than the obvious, why me? No logic, just my emotion after a big struggle…!


My spirits were soon back up for the final challenge to get to the Marginal, the esplanade that runs along the ocean front, demarcating the ocean boundary of the city, and a major arterial road. Following my gut, and bobbing and weaving through the traffic, then down the spoken about hill, we could see the Marginal ahead, and we had made it! Robbie looked tired and stressed and I said we should just find a café, some coffee, snacks, and relax for a long while…. Well to find a café was a challenge and we rode around the inner city for at least 30 minutes, dodging potholes, traffic, and taking chances across traffic light intersections where one wasn’t sure it the lights were working or not! I estimate 30% of the traffic lights don’t work, and it’s a most courageous crosser wins situation!


 Robbie trying to work out how we got into Luanda!

We eventually found a café, parked the bikes on an unofficial pavement, as there were no open parking spaces anyway…. Gee, was I happy when we finally sat down, ordered coffee, cakes, and then downloaded our individual experiences of the last 4 hours….! For some bizarre reason, I had enjoyed rising to the challenge, and really felt I’d managed the whole adventure well, not let it get the better of me, and still have my sense of humour, in being a positive team member to Rob. He was never keen on visiting Luanda, and I’d convinced him that it was all part of the holistic picture, but I could see him working out how quickly he can get out of this nightmare…. We shook hands in a deep embrace, each thanking the other for the truly amazing shared experience. For me, I know it will be filed in the special experiences file, one that is needing of a larger storage space, but I sense for Rob the enormity of what he has done will only hit home, once he is back in Durban.


Luanda port is also a nightmare. We counted more than 50 ships waiting at sea to come into the harbour. A view from the embassy road, looking down into the port / harbour area showed that there was as big a ship traffic jam in the harbour as there was in the city centre roads. A new port is being built further north.


    The rocks at the end of Ihla Cabo: Luanda’s prime beach spit

The inner city is a maze of cranes and new high rise buildings going up. Many very modern expensive corporate offices, all linked to the current boom.



My lucky day:


While waiting for Rob, I was checking my motorcycle and to my horror, I found that the rear tyre had a large nail going sideways through one of the tread ‘knobbles’. How it got there, and how it hadn’t gone deeper, penetrating the tube, I have no idea! I wonder if it wasn’t vandalism, but would like to think not! Anyway, lucky boy, I just removed it and hope my luck continues……




I’m heading out of Luanda today….. Feeling a bit apprehensive, as I have to cross the Congo river and get into Cabinda, without entering the DRC somehow. I was hoping to take the ferry from Luanda to Cabinda, but it seems like it either doesn’t operate, or maybe will leave around the 5th of March. Nobody was really clear on the schedule, and I’ll be a poor man, if I carry on staying in Luanda!


So next time I blog, you’ll know what happened……Hold thumbs for me!