Day 124: Stuffed by Shrove Tuesday

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Tue 8 Mar 2011 20:11
Day 124: Tuesday 8 March 2011, Sleeping in the car in No Man's Land between Congo and Cabinda. S04 59.350 E012 03.357 Distance driven 37 km
As we had only abut 150 km to go to Cabinda, we figured there was no rush to leave so we spent the morning stocking up with food at the very expensive, and very French, Casino supermarket and then doing email.  By the time we had had lunch and were ready to leave it was 1315 and we immediately ran into a mega-traffic jam leaving Pointe Noire.
Leaving the Congo was a dream, so very helpful, so very friendly and laid back, that I remarked to Jenny how different it was from most of the north and west African borders.  Then we rolled into the No Man's Land between Congo and Cabinda - 200 metres of scrub smelling of urine and populated by a mass of thieves, vagabonds, hustlers and money-changers all trying to make a fast buck off any susceptible travellers. The first shock was not being able to understand a word of Portuguese. We had become used to struggling along in French and were generally able to understand what was going on, but this was new - a 100% lack of understanding.
We presented our passports at Immigration, filled out the entry cards with some difficulty and then waited and waited and waited.  Boss man of Immigration sat with our passports on his desk and spoke continuously on two cell phones.  Nothing we did seemed to cause him to stamp our passports.  Whilst we waited I went next door to Customs where I met two extremely pleasant English speaking officers and very quickly had the Carnet stamped for the car.  Back in Immigration nothing was happening.  It was only as the 5pm closing deadline approached, and an English speaking officer appeared, that we found out what the problem was.  It seems that the border Immigration post had been trying to contact Immigration in Cabinda "to obtain information" but as it was a public holiday in Angola there was no one there.  They agreed that there was no problem with our visas but they still needed Cabinda's clearance to let us in.  No matter how much we argued, nothing would change the situation.  we were told to go back to Congo for the night but refused as we already had our exit stamp and, in any case, the car had been admitted to Cabinda!
Here we are, sitting in the car, parked in front of the Angolan border guards prepared to sleep in the car.  It is hot and sweaty and plenty of mosquitoes but it is too dangerous to erect the tent.  We have just started the engine to run the AC and one of the border guards has come over to check that we are OK so at least they are on their toes.
We have just had a beer from the fridge and a jar of picked herrings and cheese, so we are not starving! As jenny remarked, it is probably no worse than spending the night on BA bound for Johannesburg!