Day 113 - Tuesday 13/02/08 - N'Zeto to beachcamp south of Luanda
With comedy timing, the suspicious rattling sound that developed yesterday turned out to be a broken shock absorber! No chance of replacing it now until we get to Namibia, but hopefully it won't stop us moving. The first couple of hours were on a horrendously potholed road and the ride is definitely a lot more bouncy with only three shocks. Just as we were thinking it surely couldn't get much worse, we hit a stretch of perfectly smooth tar and were plunged into the mayhem of Luanda. The capital's traffic problems are notorious - there's no bypass and the city was designed for half a million cars, but now has over four million. We crawled along, inch by inch, for four hours negotiating our way through the various one-way systems and roadworks. Add to this the 38-degree heat and it was pure torture! Most overlanders seem to camp at the yacht club, but we couldn't face the idea of a morning 'rushhour' so pushed on through. Eventually out the other side, we followed a sandy track down to the beach where we collapsed into camp, exhausted.
Day 114 - Wednesday 14/02/08 - Luanda to bushcamp near Chongoroi
Whoever decided that five days is sufficient to transit through Angola obviously lives in Luanda, because the roads north and south of the capital are in excellent condition - unlike the rest of the country. Still, it was quite a treat to drive on smooth tar for a few hours and we made really good progress. The road ran through a national park, dotted with baobab trees and cacti, and along a beautiful stretch of coastline that could have been the Peloponese. At Porto Amboim we stopped for a coffee and to buy some bread. Angola is notoriously expensive so we've been stockpiling food and supplies. (Believe it or not, corned beef is actually quite palatable as spaghetti bolognaise.) Diesel is really cheap though (15p a litre) and, like Nigeria, there are often long queues outside fuel stations. Passing through the towns of Matadi and Benguela, you can still see loads of bullet holes in the buildings - a reminder that the civil war isn't long over. We also saw signs warning us about landmines - you have to be careful where you bushcamp as there are apparently still more landmines than people (cynics say that the teams paid to remove the mines actually just move them a couple of miles down the road to keep themselves in business!). We pulled off into a deserted quarry for the night - clearly visible from the road but no-one seemed that interested in us. I guess after 40 years of war they just want a peaceful life - or maybe it's just that we haven't showered for a couple of days.
Day 115 - Thursday 15/02/08 - Chongoroi to bushcamp near Cahama
Up very early again and back on the road by 7am. Unfortunately the smooth tar road only extended about 50 km inland of Benguela, but the Chinese road-builders are working hard and it had at least been graded. In a couple of years the country's infrastructure will be a whole different story and the five-day transit visa might not be quite so unrealistic. By afternoon, the road had deteriorated once more into a potholed nightmare - very slow progress, but the scenery kept us going as we passed through forested hills and spotted our first Himba tribespeople (typical of northern Namibia). The light also seems different down here: much clearer and the colours seem more intense. We're feeling really tired now after these long days of driving, but making good progress and should be on target to cross into Namibia tomorrow - can't wait. Just hope that it's not an anticlimax, because after this the adventurous bit of the journey will effectively be over. But I think we're both ready for a holiday. Followed some cow tracks to a selcuded bushcamp hidden from the road and crashed out.
Day 116 - Friday 16/02/08 - Cahama to Nakambale campsite, near Ondangwa (Namibia)
Our last day of transiting - hooray. We've actually really enjoyed Angola, even though the immigration rules make you want to hate it. Lucifer's Highway continued until about 50 km from the border when it turned back into blissful smooth tar and we felt a wave of relief. Entering Angola from Namibia you might wonder what all the fuss is about - apart from the old tanks rusting by the roadside. The border was packed with Angolan traders crossing into Namibia to stock up at the cheap warehouses and wheeling bicycles loaded 10-feet high with bags of cement, buckets, flour etc. It was extremely satisfying to have four Angolan officials check through our passports, desperately trying to find a reason to fine us, but knowing that they couldn't (although we had to work hard to convince them that England is the same as Great Britian and the United Kingdom and that we don't need a visa for Namibia). It was with a great deal of satisfaction and big smiles on our faces that we drove through the gates and into Namibia.
Wow, what a culture shock: smooth tar roads, driving on the left, people speak English and there are so many shops. We had to really control ourselves on entering our first supermarket. Evidently they're quite big drinkers here, too, as virtually every building seems to be a bar, bottle shop or shebeen. Excellent. Found our way to Ondangwa and camped at a Finish mission, on a lawn, with hot showers and flush toilets. OMG. Sank a cool beer and felt very content. Definitely not an anticlimax - and still two months to go.