February 16, 2008 GMT
Angola

The cockerels woke me at some ridiculously early hour as I slept on the front steps of the police station. While I was waiting for the immigration to open I sneaked back into The Democratic republic of Congo to find some breakfast; baguettes and La vache quirit that is a one of the good things the French did for Africa.

At eight oíclock the policeman came out with our passports, which he held in the police safe over night. The six passports had been stamped in using yesterdays date so we had already lost a day off the expensive and stingy five-day visa.

Customs hadnít shown up for work apparently he was still sleeping. We didnít have time to wait so headed off without getting our carnets stamped in.

It was time to ride! I had been looking out over the beautiful view of the Congo River and the green hills for too long, I wanted to get amongst it.
So with only four days to cover one of the biggest countries in Africa and no stamp in the Carnets we rode off into the valley. We would over stay our visas and no stamp in the carnet could be a problem at the next border but this was going to be next weekís problem.

It was a technical ride along rocky and wet roads in the north of Angola after eighty miles we still hadnít seen another vehicle and I was concerned about getting petrol I hadnít topped up fully in DRC as fuel was sup post to be super cheap in Angola. With only enough fuel for twenty miles left in my tank there was no way I would get to the next town. I ended up buying some brown petrol out of a jerry can from a midget I canít imagine what he mixed with it, it didnít even smell remotely like petrol but the trusty GS lapped it up and didnít let me down. The machine had to have a couple more drinks of this suspect fuel before I reached Luanda, which had petrol pumps and fuel for a very reasonable price. (Twenty-five pence per litre).

Angola has only been at peace for the last five years but no one has told the millions landmines which still scatter the countryside. After the heavy rains these mines move and sometimes they are washed onto the roads, nowhere is one hundred percent safe. There are reminders of the war everywhere you look I donít think I saw many building that werenít riddled with bullet holes.

The country has had more war than any other country in Africa over the last forty years. The war of independence, from Portugal between 1961 and 1975. Followed by the civil war that waged between 1975 and 2002 one side was funded by diamond sales and the other by crude oil. There were also many international influences from the USSR and Cuba and the US and South Africa. Iíve heard that this got as complicated as US oil companies Chevron and Gulf drilling for oil with Cuban soldiers defending the rigs from American armed rebels. Stupid it may sound but then that is the word that best describes war!

We decided to stop for the day in a little town called Tomboco, the nuns at the catholic mission took us in for the night and weíre very welcoming! In the morning we rode the short distance to Nízeto and made camp on the beach we bought some crayfish from the local fisherman and cooked them over our campfire on the beach, it was good to have a relaxing day.

The traffic into Luanda was like running the gauntlet sandy streets filled with trucks, buses, cars and motorcycles. People dashing through the traffic it was complete mayhem and thick with fumes we rode through the ďsuburbsĒ which were ramshackle and rubbish strewn. The centre of Luanda was completely different. There are many ships anchored in the bay of Luanda the city has coloionial Portuguese architecture alongside modern buildings it has the energy of a prosperous thriving city. Although itís very similar to other African cities where the people ether have money or nothing at all.

Luanda yacht club allowed us to make camp on their hard right on the waterís edge. Carlos and his friends made us very welcome it was a real shame that we could only get a visa for five days, everywhere I stopped in this country made me want to stay longer and not one of us had to pay for any accommodation once during our stay in this country.

I went for a walk along the spit of land, which surrounded the bay of Luanda past flashy waterside clubs, kite surfers, Porsche Cayenneís, and shanty towns the contrast of wealth in this capital city is huge!

After the jungles of the Congoís Angolaís landscape was rocky rolling hills and plains I loved the ride through this stunning country. You could see for miles and miles, which is how far we had to ride, well around fifteen hundred miles. In between the terrible roads there would be brand new perfect tarmac. The Chinese are busy building all these new roads it seems crazy that Africa imports labor from China!

The roads in Angola are hard going pothole after pothole; this is extremely hard going on the bikes. I hit one pothole hard; the rear wheel took off when it landed again something didnít feel right. I stopped to check it out and could immediately smell burning rubber. The torsion bar that runs along the top of the swing arm had bent and was rubbing against the rear tyre. This was the first major problem that Iíve had with the BMW and I was going to have to pull some creative bush repair to get rolling again. Nothing a tyre lever, hose clamps and cable ties couldnít fix. I ran eight hundred kilometers all the way to Windhoek in Namibia like this.

While we were filling with fuel after an epic dayís ride a few sports bikes past us and signaled for us to follow. We did and they led us to the Falcon motorcycle club. It was Joseís place and he welcomed us with cold beers, he fed us all and gave us a place to stay as well as welding up Chrisís frame and a luggage rack on one of the KTMís. Jose really was a top shelf bloke! He showed us his old yellow land cruiser, which he had owned for twenty-eight years. In the frame of the windscreen was bullet hole he then pointed to a scare on his ear lobe, the bullet may have only scared him but it went into the arm of a soldier that was sitting in the back.

So I was ridding along, lovely blue sky the only clouds are the clouds of dust in my mirrors dodging the potholes and loving life. Thinking that itís pretty good making it this far through Africa, and then I see another bike approaching in the opposite direction. Thatís not an African bike, we both pull over on the road and introduce ourselves itís Richard heís ridden from England to the Cape down the east coast of Africa and now heís heading home back up the west coast but the best part is heís ridding a 1956 Royal Enfield. Heís keen to make it home for Easter so we all have a quick chat and exchange road info before we head off in our different directions.

It was a shame to leave Angola, only just seven days. There was no problem over staying the visa if Iíd known I would have stayed longer the people we met were very warm and friendly and Angola has fantastic scenery. Iíd like to return one day.

Posted by Michael Beckett at February 16, 2008 12:48 PM GMT
 



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