Angola Part One!

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July 15th 2012
Published: September 1st 2012
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the beach opposite the missionary where we stayed
July 15

We drove along smooth tarmac all the way into town and found the Catholic Mission with ease. Situated opposite a beach, the guys put up their tents and legged it across the road and jumped in. The sand was black which had made the water look dirty from a distance but it was actually quite nice. Denise, Suse and I stayed along the water's edge watching the sun setting over the horizon. It was lovely and peaceful until Justice ran out of the water towards me, intent on hugging me and I ran to Denise who held the cameras. We got a good photo out of it though!
It was the perfect night to snuggle under the sleeping bag and I found ear plugs necessary with the wall behind my tent backing onto the main road. There was also more mosquitoes than we'd seen thus far so when I unzipped the tent, they all flew in. Sigh.
I'm wearing my Gabon football jersey so I look like a little ball of sunshine on this overcast day. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border isn't too far from here and after unexpectedly having sealed roads from the Congo border into Cabinda, we're hoping they've also fixed the roads to Matardi. In 2007 it took Suse eight days to get there but it if takes that long, it cuts into our time in Angola so we'll see.
We stopped at the bustling market on the outskirts of town for two cook groups to pick up food. Talbot and Rhys are both used to going to markets not understanding a word of French and were therefore calm enough not understanding Portuguese. For me on the other hand, it's the first time in quite a while that I haven't been able to communicate to some degree and I found it frustrating and also a bit embarrassing. Even if I could learn some numbers it would be handy but until then, we used sign language and the calculator on my phone and smiled until our cheeks hurt.
Leaving the market fairly satisfied with what we found we were on our way again, climbing a steep incline and driving past a large expanse of flat land off to the right. After the initial forest, trees stood alone in no particular pattern and I imagine it's how the Serengeti will look but with animals dotted everywhere!
After a quick toilet stop near a eucalyptus forest, we drove a little further down the empty road until the truck slowed, pulled off into the car park and the engine was turned off. We'd reached the border before 09:30 and settled down with books, Kindles and writing materials to await instructions.
We didn't have to wait long but it wasn't what we were expecting to hear: the DRC border was closed for a holiday and Angola obviously weren't going to let us through theirs! So it was back to the Catholic mission for another night and a chance to explore Cabinda for a day - yippee!

And explore Cabinda we did. Denise, Nico, Suse, Toni, Talbot and I went walking yesterday and Suse spied a Meat Man hiding behind a bar. A goat's head hung above the fire watching the rest of itself get cooked and announced to passersby what was on the menu.
We chose a couple of pieces that were then hacked into smaller bite size pieces and cooked. Goat tends to be a tougher meat so it's cooked to seal the juices and then again to order. Seeing as we were going to
Bar #2Bar #2Bar #2

Eggs to accompany our second beers
eat it there, we ordered drinks and seated ourselves at the plastic table and chairs and watched the car wash crew next to us. It never ceases to amaze me how busy the car washers are when they live in such dusty environments! But they all do take pride in their vehicles.
From there we wandered along the streets, randomly choosing where to turn. After making a few enquiries, it turned out there isn't an actual city centre and being Sunday, a lot of places were closed. We happened upon another bar with a beer garden of sorts and set ourselves up there, this time ordering from The Egg Man. They carry up to five trays of hard boiled eggs on their heads and will peel and serve them in a small plastic bag, chopped with mayo or maybe spice. Toni bought ours plain and we snacked on them while watching a break dancing competition on the television. Riveting stuff (no seriously, I was glued to the tv).
Eventually we decided to head back to base camp and waited outside to hail a taxi. They all seemed to be going in the opposite direction or had people in them but
Checking out the foreignersChecking out the foreignersChecking out the foreigners

The kids sat on the wall watching us and then joined in dancing
when an oversized silver ute drove past, did a u-turn and came back towards us, we knew we were in luck. The man offered us a lift and Nico and I sat in the cab while the others climbed on the back. At the mission he refused all payment, accepted our gratitude and drove on. Awesome.
I opted out of the next destination in favour of a shower and then met Suse, Denise and Nico in a bar not far away. Sitting at the bar, we watched African music videos on the tv before she changed it to American music videos which were nowhere near as amusing but at least we could sing along. I ordered soup, having watched locals come in and do the same; the meat looking delicious in a clear broth with some vegetables. So I was sorely disappointed when I had fish soup placed in front of me. The others ate it for me and I picked at a tiny bit of the fish and resorted to bread with oil and salt (you can see how I end up eating so much wheat).
Our final stop lasted well into the evening. We walked out of bar and turned left down a dusty side street to a small bar I'd spied earlier. A small hut with two plastic tables and chairs and a DJ with a full set up sat on the side of the road. Friends sat together, some with young children and greeted us as we approached. Choosing to sit on the palm trunk was met with protest and an offer of seats but we were happy sitting there soaking in the scene, thrilled to have been unable to cross the border!
It had been early afternoon when we arrived and it didn't take long for people to hear we were there and come over to check us out. Children giggled behind hands in small huddles, older women pulled up chairs to sit and watch us dance and others our age came over to say hello. One man spoke excellent english and showed us where he lived and introduced us to his friends. It was such a fun, happy atmosphere full of laughing, music and dancing. Requests were put in for 'Chop my money' which was played several times throughout the course of the evening and had everyone up on their feet.
By the end of the night we were joined by the majority of the gang, Cecilia ending up having dance lessons from local women and then dance offs with the young children (who are most definitely born with rhythm!) while Denise managed a conversation with a young mother who spoke no english and she spoke no portuguese! This write-up doesn't do the night any justice at all but it is definitely one of the best nights I've had on the trip so far.
July 16

Managing to get to bed for 10pm last night meant I found it easy enough to get up for a 7am departure. There were quite a few sore heads on the truck, some people having continued well into the morning but there's no doubt that everyone had a fantastic night. I only have vague memories of the 02:30 wake up call for bug spray and the bizarre conversation that followed....
Hanging out the window, I watched women bent over, sweeping around their homes on another overcast day. Being Monday, people were dressed for work and waiting for buses or hailing taxis. School children walked in small groups carrying books in arms or in a variety of bags that wouldn't look out of place in most countries. The market was again teeming with people buying and selling.
It was a bit of a wait at the border but nothing like the wait to get into the country! Officials on the Angolan side took their time and we spent a few hours lounging about on the truck. Once we were stamped out, we crossed through and again waited while this time DRC officials sorted us out. People shouted greetings in french, portuguese and english and the hive of activity gave those who were interested plenty to watch. Thankfully the Congolese were speedy and after grabbing some goat for lunch (I'm still not sure about it but I ate it) and changing money, we were bumping along on our way, heading towards Matadi.


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