Seven hours it took to cross into Angola. Seven hours.
They wanted photographs of all angles of the truck and Motorbike, they wanted us to get them stamped and then take them on to another department and then another and another, but most of all, they wanted our American dollars.
So, we entered with a mindset that was soon to be dashed thank goodness.
I don't think I have ever met a more friendly bunch of people in my life.
Everyone had huge grins and waved at us as we passed shouting greetings in Portuguese whilst Obrigada was all we could muster up.
Pretty good when your life expectancy is only 63, it used to be 41!
All I really remember of Angola was the grainy black and white TV footage from my childhood showing the war taking place and the MPLA and UNITA battling for supremacy. Remember Princess Diana in body armour walking in an active mine field? Yes? That was Angola in 1997. Thankfully that's all behind them now and Angola was until recently, growing at a phenomenal rate partially due to its Oil which it has lots of.
Buying Diesel for the truck in Angola was most enjoyable with Diesel topping out at around 20p a litre. Much, much cheaper than beer or water and when you have a big thirsty beast as we have, it's a real joy.
After spending so much time crossing the border, the day was almost over so we looked for a place to stop as there are few if any actual campsites in the country.
We found a small path leading off the main road and managed to get the truck in a position where we couldn't be seen, so we felt safe for the night.
As we settled in, a group of women presumably on their way home from working in the fields walked by and stopped to check us out. They were simple countrywomen and I guess and I guess working the fields all your life, you don't learn about personal space and they congregated around our stairs and stared up into the truck gesticulating that they wanted food.
This is something that everyone now does as we drive past and we are not sure if it's learnt behaviour or a real need?.
Anyway, we gave the women cooking Oil, flour and a few other items and they went away happy. What we then saw were two little boys who had stood behind the women and looked terrible. Assuming they were with the women, we carried on with our day assuming they would at least be fed that night. The next morning the boys reappeared and I produced a shiny new bat and ball set in fluorescent pink and yellow that I gave them as a gift and I took a photograph of the occasion for my own satisfaction.
They looked happy but not ecstatic with the offering.
As we drove away I thought about these boys and it hit me like a train. They wanted food, not some fancy toy produced in China. I have regretted that day ever since and we even went back to try and find the boys to no avail.
Where are they now?
On a similar theme, the next day we hit the town of Lubango just as the heavens opened. We sought sanctuary in a large 5-star hotel and asked if we could park for the night to which they instantly agreed and said we were most welcome.
The carpark was full of shiny new 4x4 vehicles and we parked at the back away from them. On closer inspection, we realised these were all vehicles belonging to various charities.
Later that day, as we wanted to repay the kindness of the hotel, we ate in the restaurant that night and watched as legions of charity workers ordered lavish meals and clicked their fingers at waiters to be topped up with the free-flowing wine.
The next morning the weather was good and we watched these charity workers get into their chauffeur-driven vehicles and head out through the gates patrolled by armed guards whilst through the fence of the hotel, starving children held out their hands wanting food as the convoy of vehicles sped past completely ignoring the needs of the children.
Oh, the Irony of it all.
There wasn't water everywhere in Angola, many areas were experiencing a drought and at a later date, we were flagged down by a woman desperate for water to drink and cook with. We helped her fill all her pots and pans from an outside tap we have on the truck and we thought about the parallel universe of this poor woman taking life-saving water from a vehicle she would never be able to dream of never mind afford.
Still, in many areas, the rains continued to fall and that made driving difficult at times and never more so than when we traversed the notorious Serra da Leba. A series of hairpin bends led to the bottom of a mountain and we passed down it in heavy rain.
Before we started our descent we passed a police checkpoint and after checking our papers the officer said something, I asked him to repeat his words and then Google translated it.
He said “Good luck and may God go with you”……
I have attached a library photograph from Google it's classed as one of the world's most dangerous roads and we somehow didn't fancy stopping for a photo opportunity?
That's all sounds really dramatic but we are enjoying every minute of what we are doing and Angola is truly stunning with the landscape changing, twisting and turning at every corner almost.
Unlike many African countries, Angola has two sides.
The country people live in mud huts and the cities that wouldn't look out of place in Europe with Luanda, the capital being the jewel in the crown.
Superfast wifi, Tall glass-clad buildings and oozing wealth with the townships surrounding the stunning centre.
Whilst in Luanda, were able to stay at the Naval club or Yacht club as we would call it I guess?
The President of the Naval club is a keen Overlander and welcomes all Overlanders to stay for free in the carpark that doesn't sound glamorous but with with a view of the Ocean and the city, we didn't complain and this kind gentleman also took Charlotte and I for lunch, with his wife and daughter. Such a kind jesture.
The conversation was very interesting as Jorge spoke perfect English and the conversation soon got around to the big C that we all hate.
Jorge informed me it wasn't Covid the big killer in Angola, Malaria was and he reminded us that we were in the Malaria belt and told us we must always use nets (which we do) and always cream up (which we do).
Jorge then settled our nerves by telling us that although Malaria is a huge killer, the hospitals know how to deal with it and test for Malaria just like we have our Blood pressure taken. It's just routine he said.
I think that made us feel better?
Sometime later and we were heading to see some waterfalls where we intended to spend the night as we had read that are a must-see.
Around 20km shy of the Falls, we were stopped by the Police which we assumed was to be a simple document check. It turned out the bridge ahead had been washed away by the rain and the road was unpassable.
Now I'm no stranger to foreign languages but being told that information in Portuguese and then trying to translate it into English …. Well, let's just say it took a while.
Once we had the facts we faced 150km of backtracking along a narrow unmade road that had taken many hours to pass and darkness was just around the corner so we enquired using sign language again if we could sleep by the checkpoint for the night, but that was a breeze at the side of the last information exchange!
The Policeman told us to wait a while and then pointed to a house (there were only 4) where we must park outside.
We parked as instructed and to our surprise, a gentleman in a shinny uniform came from the house and introduced himself. He was the police Comandante of that area and as he spoke English, he told us we were welcome to stay outside his house and we would be safe.
We slept well that night!
Angola is a place we will return and savour. It's a place that deserves a visit.
It's a place of two faces. In Luanda, the capital we bought 3 Green peppers and some bread - £10.00!
In the country, we bought a bucket of Avocados from the side of the road. We estimated around 6KG of Advacodo’s - £2.00?
Fuel 20p a litre?
What does it all mean?
A fascinating country. Please go and take a look.
Population - Around 34 million
Size of the Country - Around 3to 4 times the size of the UK
Average monthly income - $35.00 a month
The population of the capital Luanda - is 2.5 million
Angola, what a lovely place. It will stay with Charlotte and I forever.
Our follow on from Angola was to drive into the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC for short…… Hmm, not that's a place!