Sunday, October 23, 2011

Back together for the finish

Memories: Ambriz town center

Our first few days in Angola we spent at Tomboco and Ambriz, and then decided to take the old road down the coast instead of the 'new' road that had become a nightmare as the tar disintegrated. For the first few kilometers we followed the tracks of military vehicles that patrol the coastal cliffs, but these petered out and we ended up taking small and smaller tracks until we ended at a village where a motorcyclist offered to lead us back to the 'tarred' road.

We stopped at Barra dos Dandes, our insides shaken up once again. South African hospitality came to the fore, and some people in the oil industry offered the facilities for us to camp, shower and make them a nice dinner.

Radiator repairs
After a few days with friends in Luanda we took the road to Benguela, where the radiator seam opened again. Maestro Jose offered to solder it with his soldering iron, but once the radiator was out he doubled his quotation. Not a successful business relationship! The repairs held over the next day, but the state of the road, which had been under construction in 2008 and now had disintegrated had us resort to epoxy patching again.

Ship's graveyard outside Luanda
We spent two nights in Lubango, while the Swarts came racing down from Tomboco, putting in twelve and fourteen hour drives. They had just made it through the Dolisie road as the rains came down, and where we had to deal with powder dust, they were up to the doors in mud. A few days later and the road would have been closed.

And at last, at Onjiva, they caught up with us! We went slowly, sparing the radiator, and marveling at what could become of a main road when it is not maintained, and badly overloaded. The tracks through the bush were better than the road. Hans came zooming through, and we had dinner together like in the Sahara!

South African hospitality
And the next morning we tackled the border, a relatively quick and painless exercise.

What did we make of Angola? We were pleasantly surprised by the speed of development. Some cities, barely slums and construction sites three years ago, now have lovely roads and beautiful buildings. Some ex-patriates complained about the lack of capacity of Government and the impossibility of finding good workers. Yet we found some pleasant, efficient young people, keen to study and learn, eager to serve, and a good basis for development.
Fun on Luanda beach
Politically the country is interesting. On the main square we saw imposing provincial headquarters of the MPLA, but flags of opposition parties were to be seen in many villages. The people were pleasant and welcoming, but the officials were often surly and aggressive. We had the impression that the central control was beginning to crumble, with fuel distribution by the state run SONANGOL not keeping up with the rate of development. At the same time the private sector seems to be booming and taking over especially around the edges of the country.

Luanda sunset
Ex-patriates we spoke with confirmed this impression, and aded that they thought the Government was quite worried about the 'Arab Spring' effect among the youth, but that there was still a window of opportunity to use the oil wealth to build up a solid economy.

Let us hope that the beauty of the country, the fertility of the land and the hospitality of the people could be turned into assets.

Tundavala view

Leba falls

Palm nut vulture?

Sunset: Leba falls

The Landy rejoins! Onjiva

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