Angola

15th of February – 11th of March 2020: 

On the Angolan side was a similar chaos and we were glad to see the immigration building behind a gate. The friendly officials even spoke a bit of English and did their work efficiently. We were allowed to sleep behind the building. A bit later, the police came and tried to explain to us in Portuguese that they needed a picture of us, to send to the headquarters.  

After we continued cycling into Angola.  Luckily, we found someone who speaks a bit of French in each village to help us with the communication issues. Using gesticulation, we tried to exchange the rest of our Congolese money and a few Dollars into Angolan Kwanzas.  

In each village, the people gave us a thumb up and shouted “Amigo”. Especially the children were very energetic and ran after us. Most of the vehicles were converted motorbikes with a loading platform and they transported the famers from the fields back to the villages. This kind of vehicle is very popular in Asia and called “Tuk Tuk”. Here they are called “Keweseki”. 

In the first city, we bought a SIM-card with some effort and internet data. After the border we had to cycle some gravel road again, but then we enjoyed the comfortable paved road. The hilly savannah landscape and the heat drained us and finally we could spend the night in an unfinished hospital. 

The only two men of the village who spoke French invested a lot of effort in preparing some fruits, manioc and sugar cane for breakfast. A few kids caught a small bird and held it as a pet. In the beginning, we joked and said that the bird will not get very old like that, since they treated him in a horrible way. An hour later, the bird was already dead and we heard that the children only caught the bird to later eat it. 

The rain started and we were cold, since the many steep hills greatly accelerated our bicycles on the downhill. The rain did not stop until the evening and we asked a few teenagers, if they had a place for us to sleep. At the end, we could sleep in their living room. 

Unfortunately, Adrian realized during the last kilometers that his free hub made problems again and we could not cycle far anymore until the drive train would not work at all. At least we could cycle 440km since we fixed the free hub last time. 

In the morning, we searched for a bicycle mechanic in the relatively large village, to open the free hub and eventually to clean it as well. Like that, we wanted to at least reach the coast. When we had this problem the first time in the Congo, we contacted already a few bicycle mechanics in Luanda, the capital of Angola. One of them said that he already found a spare part and we tried to find out if it was possible to send it to us. 

Quickly, we found out that there was no bicycle mechanic in the village and a few motorbike mechanics helped us instead to open the free hub. They had to make a tool and could open the complex piece after a short amount of time. We cleaned the interior of the free hub and optimized the order of the small balls and the metal rings. 

Like the talented mechanic already told us probably a few times in Portuguese, the drive train worked again after we reassembled everything. The only question was for how many kilometers, since it was still more than 400km to the capital. 

Therefore, we took the route down to the coast and made good progress, despite the late start. A heavy storm approached us and suddenly it came down in buckets. We were soaking wet in a few minutes. The locals who came back from their fields were happy despite the heavy rain and greeted us always with a huge smile. Sometimes we are surprised how these people are so happy with so little in their possession. After a long day at work in the fields, they return to their scabby tin shacks, which mostly are not even completely waterproof and then have to spend their evening using a half-decent torch. 

Since we reached the coast, the air got more humid, there were more trees again and the landscape was even less populated than before. It was very difficult to find something to eat and the drinking water was only from streams or rainwater. This is not a problem for us, since we were used to this kind of water. 

The landscape was clearly dominated by the mighty baobabs. Quickly, we got used to the hilly and almost ten-meter-wide main road in the direction of the capital. After the challenging roads in the Congo the paved roads were more than welcome. 

After a restless night thanks to thousands of mosquitoes in and around our tent, we ate four huge papayas and we started our day on the empty road. Shortly after, we were attacked by dozens of horseflies, which sat on our bags profiting from the slipstream and from there tried to sting us into the back or the bottoms. The person in front was lucky, since he could profit from the warning from behind if one of the insects would sit down somewhere. 

Unfortunately, we spent all our local money the day before, since we underestimated the prices and we searched vehemently for a money exchanger. Sadly, nobody wanted to exchange money for a decent black-market rate and we had to cycle around 90km with only a low-calorie breakfast in our bellies. 

In the stinky and dusty city traffic, we fought ourselves on the wide main road through the slums of the suburbs and waved at the numerous women and children on the side of the road. Those people live in minimalistic constructions out of rubbish and must get water with canisters from far away. 

Shortly after, we saw the immense skyline of the large city. Due to the oil wealth in Angola, there are many skyscrapers and investments going on. The money flows, but as usual in resource rich countries, the income gap could not be bigger. On the beautiful esplanade, we cycled to the sailing club “Club Naval”, where travelers can stay for free and use the showers. Shortly after we pitched the tent on the parking lot, a fierce storm approached and the sky was suddenly black. When Adrian took a shower, a gust of wind caught the tent and broke a tent pole at two different positions. The rain started and Fabian could only hold the soaking tent with all his force until Adrian was back, to carry all the equipment under a protected area. Luckily, the owner offered us a room for the night, so we did not have to sleep in the wet tent and were not exposed to the heavy rain. On the parking lot, we met a Dutch and an English couple travelling the continent with their cars and exchanged our experiences in Africa. 

 

We said goodbye to the two couples and cycled along the promenade to the first cycle store. Gicate is a state-of-the-art bicycle shop with sports clothes, luxury bicycles for several thousands of Euros and a perfectly equipped workshop. The sympathetic owner named Nuno looked at our bicycles and explained his best mechanic our problems. The professional former cyclist saw immediately what was wrong with our rides, took them apart step by step, cleaned certain parts and replaced a ball bearing at the front hub and the free hub, which kept us busy in the last two weeks. We were in contact since a few days with Nuno and his mechanic was looking for the small part that was difficult to find and truly found one. 

This took almost the whole day and the friendly, calm mechanic worked without any breaks on our bicycles until most problems were solved. Nuno charged us only a minimal price, which was more like a tip and wished us a good journey. Shortly before leaving the shop, a helpful customer exchanged us some Dollars into the local currency (Kwanza) for a great rate. 

Around fifteen kilometers further south, we visited a second bike shop called Link Connection and were received enthusiastically. Immediately, they started taking pictures with us and we were celebrated as if we already reached Cape Town. The excited cyclists gave us each a jersey and a pair of socks with the label of the shop. 

Some minutes later, we reached the residence of the teacher’s couple Mags and David, who we contacted via Warmshowers. The attentive globetrotters cooked a delicious non-African dish for us and we enjoyed a pleasant evening together. 

We once more enjoyed the luxury of air conditioning, a sofa and a shower and had interesting conversations with the well-travelled couple. Both already worked in a few international schools in Asia and are already eight years in Angola. Soon, the bicycle enthusiasts take a yearlong sabbatical to discover South America by bicycle. 

For one evening, we discovered a hip, local restaurant with a teacher friend called Bruce and another night; we watched a movie together in the comfortable apartment. The school campus offers a pool, a tennis court and a large library. 

Already a few days before we arrived in the capital, a new solar panel including a battery arrived per post in Angola, generously sponsored by Tinu (Link), since the old panel died back in Guinea. 

Despite proper food and clean drinking water, Adrian suddenly had strong stomachache and had no appetite. Normally, those complaints vanished after a few days without any treatment, so we awaited the outcome. 

In a state-of-the-art computer lab, we could read out our memory from the broken laptop. Fernanda, the friendly head of the department did not charge us anything and was happy to help us out of this uncomfortable situation. 

Accompanied by David and Mags, we cycled along the main road southwards out of the large city. After a while, the two bikers left us and returned on more challenging trails. 

Despite Adrian’s stomachache, we made good progress. In a small restaurant, we suddenly saw another touring cyclist and stopped to say hello. The 70-year-old Henk was taking a nap and was rather surprised when he saw two white cyclists as soon as he woke up. The sporty Dutchmen started in Morocco and had South Africa as his destination as well.  

We talked for a while and continued our talks in another restaurant. Time was flying and we had to continue, since all of us wanted to reach the resort “Carpe Diem”. There were still 50km between us and this place and we had to hurry to arrive there before dark. After we crossed the mighty Kwanza River, we cycled ahead and finally reached the resort after a few hills. After dark, Henk reached the destination as well. The humorous and generous owner showed us where to pitch our tent and offered us a soup and a shower.  

Paulo invited us to the incredible breakfast buffet and we refueled our energy levels. There was everything three hungry cyclists would wish for. In the afternoon, we relaxed at the stunning beach and Paulo showed us the surf beach including a bar around three kilometers further. At the same location on a hill, he started to build a few eco-houses with amazing views over the beach. The smart engineer knows exactly what tourists want and fulfills his own dreams by constructing accommodations using local materials. 

The Carnival and therefore the long weekend were finished and due to that the resort emptied overnight. Adrian’s stomach problems kept him awake half of the night and therefore the energy reserves were even lower the next morning than when we arrived. Despite all that, we tried to cycle, even if it was not too far. Fabian took the lead and thanks to the flat terrain and only side wind, we managed better than expected. 

After around one and a half hours, we met Henk again, who just started to repair his flat tire. The landscape got drier and we saw more and more cactuses and thorny bushes that decorated the landscape. 

Bas, a Dutch touring cyclist gave us the telephone number of a farmer on the way and we could spend the night there. Henk reached the farm shortly before sunset and we shared our food items. 

We left the mosquito-rich, swampy valley and reached the next large town after Luanda around lunch time. We ate a large portion of rice and local fish and let the strong sun charge our solar panel. 

The landscape got hillier again and far away we saw already the approaching, high mountains, which will be our challenge in a few days. On the side of the road, we bought some delicious pineapples, bananas and carrots, to refuel our energy storage. Henk did not want to cycle as far as we did and therefore our paths separated again. 

Since we left Luanda, we noticed that the agricultural fields were managed more professionally and systematically. The reason for that is large landowners employ people, which take care of the plantations. Mostly we saw corn or potato fields. 

Repeatedly, we had to climb steep hills. Afterwards, the road led us back into the next valley and each time we had a beautiful view on the ocean and the steeply descending cliffs. Angola is furthermore famous for its many and stunning sand beaches. 

Soon, we left the coast, cycled a bit inland and therefore approached the mountain range. Amazing rock formations caught our eyes and we enjoyed the welcome change. In the tiny villages we were always welcomed with big smiles and a “bom dia”. 

After a rather cold night, we continued our journey in the hills. We cycled up and down from one and our already tired legs signalized that they needed a break. The air got noticeable drier and at the same time, the landscape changed. The scenery remembered us of the South of Spain or Morocco. 

Despite strong wind, we reached Lobito and therefore the coast. Afterwards, there was a 40km long, flat stretch until we reached the large city of Benguela. There, we met Mario, a friend of David and Mags, whom we met in Luanda. Mario invited us for a late lunch and we could stay in his guesthouse. In the evening, we witnessed the sunset from a stunning viewpoint. Afterwards, Mario and his girlfriend cooked a delicious dinner for us and we celebrated that we already cycled 30’000km and that Adrian’s stomach problems were finally gone. 

The energetic South African went spearfishing at the nearby beach in the early morning with Fabian. Afterwards, Adrian had to go to the dentist, since he had discomfort while eating and this increased lately. The local dentist did not speak one word of English and with the help of a translator, the communication worked. The doctor saw the hole immediately and repaired it instantly. The assistant carried her baby on her back, which was amusing and typical in this part of Africa. After the anesthesia declined, Adrian still had pain while eating and was worried due to that discovery. 

In the afternoon, Henk reached Benguela as well and joined us thanks to Mario’s generosity. He got a room in the extension of the guest house. In the evening, Mario invited us all to a delicious, local diner and showed us one of the fish processing facilities of his company. 

Mario lives in a huge villa and nearby there are locals living in self-constructed metal shacks. Those contrasts are very present in Angola and one can see them every day. Besides the state-of-the-art shopping malls from South Africa, one can see expensive cars, fancy restaurants and pretentious governmental buildings. Unfortunately, only a few can enjoy this luxury. 

At least the difference between White and Black is less extreme on a human level. The Portuguese mixed more with the local population during the colonialization and therefore there are many white Angolans. We never saw this in the Francophone or Anglophone countries in Africa and white people were always received like people from another class. 

After another visit at the dentist, the pain was gone. He polished the inserted filling, so that the teeth match each other more precisely when closing the mouth. 

Afterwards, we started cycling towards the mountains, since an altitude gain of 1800m expected us during the next 350km. The last days, we cycled directly southwards, but now the road led us inland and away from the coast (Link Route). In the beginning, the landscape was desert like and extremely dry. Soon, spiky bushes decorated the scenery and the wind got stronger. After a long downhill, we could finally profit from the wind and made great progress. 

Rocky mountains surrounded us and the region got greener and therefore more and more trees were visible left and right from the road. Many herds of cattle and goats walked next to the road, driven by children-shepherds. At many places, milk with added sugar was sold in large plastic bottles. 

A woman, who owned a small shop, understood that we wanted to fill our pot with a warmed-up dish and gave us a tasty meal. After we did not follow a bypass, because we were too lazy, we had to carry our bicycles across a collapsed bridge. 

The distances between cities in Angola are mostly around 60km or more. Therefore, we had to plan well, how much we wanted to eat or how many snacks we should bring for the road. Next to the road, women sold milk, bags of coal or huge pieces of meat. 

Although Angola has the third largest economy after South Africa and Nigeria in Sub-Saharan Africa, a large part of the population lives in poverty. Especially in the villages, people life simply and build their huts from natural materials. 

After a calm night, we attacked the steep hills again and soon, we overtook Henk. Impressive, how he cycled the same distances thinking about his age. After all, we completed 120km in the last two days while gaining many meters of altitude! 

After we reached an altitude of 1500m, the terrain got more flat and large corn fields replaced the scattered sugar cane plantations. 

During the last nights, we needed our sleeping bags for the first time in a while. The air was still cool in the mornings and in general much drier than in the weeks before. Quickly, we reached Lubango and therefore the last large city before the Namibian border. 

At first, we had an Angolan Couchsurfing member, who wanted to host us, but then he cancelled due to the Corona Virus. He did not want to take a risk of a potential infection. Mario recommended us to pass by the English school, to ask there if somebody maybe could host us for a few nights. Indeed, we met Paul, the son of the founder of the school and he said that we can stay with his mother. A bit outside of town, we were warmly welcomed by Janet and even got our own room with a bed. 

A highlight in Angola is the Leba Pass, which drops more than 1000 m outside of town. The road contains several hairpins turns and reminded us of a Swiss mountain pass. The view and the imposing cliffs impressed us immediately. On the way there, a friend of Janet showed us a modern hospital, which is supported by the Catholic Church. It was no problem at all to hitchhike to the pass and get back to town. 

In the evening, we were invited to a social evening by the missionaries, who mostly work at the hospital. We were in the focus of attention, since nobody knew us and the guests were interested in our journey. 

The 82 years old Uncle Steve promised to show us the viewpoint called Tundavala. The energetic and still active eye surgeon picked us up with his frail Jeep and drove us to the impressive escarpment. In addition, Gordon, a Canadian dentist was with us as well. The precipitous cliffs and the panoramic view were a highlight of our journey. On the way back, we visited a waterfall and a Swiss cheese factory. Gordon, who cycled through Europe a while back, bought us some cheese and a sausage. 

The immense house of Janet, which she invested countless hours, is not finished yet, but the view is unique. With lots of love for the details, Janet decorated the floor for example. 

After an extensive breakfast including Tilsiter cheese, we left the city and approached the border to Namibia. Step by step, we lost lots of altitude and made good progress, despite strong wind. 

Slowly, the mountains disappeared and only from time to time, we saw rock formations. In a bar, we were allowed to cook our Spaghetti and a tipsy employee helped us. The cheerful women and men were happy to see us, but unfortunately it was very difficult to communicate, since we still could not speak many words in Portuguese after a month. 

To our surprise, we cycled passed many granite quarrying locations. The hills disappeared and we saw more and more shepherds who observed their animals. Mostly they were kids with shredded clothes and dirty faces. 

Suddenly, we saw a cyclist approaching us. We already knew that it was Francis from Belgium, since we were already in contact with him since a while. The sympathetic and language affine adventurer started more than 2.5 years ago and travelled already across Asia, Australia and Eastern Africa by bicycle. 

While Fabian repaired his flat tire, Adrian bought a watermelon form a woman who passed by. Shortly after, a young woman approached us and was interested to meet us. We always think it is very brave when young Africans come to our camp and ask us questions. 

Due to the heavy rains, all rivers overflowed and many villages and meadows were under water. Last year, there was no rain at all and this year there are floods. The badly constructed houses made of wood, mud or tin, are not built for that much water. 

A friend of Janet invited us to stay at her place in the border town to Namibia. Jackie, an emigrated Englishwoman, told us about the civil war, which lasted around 30 years and the difficulties in daily life. Already on the way we spotted many rusty tanks and military vehicles from that time. 

Jackie and her husband Tomas offered us each a hotel room with diner and breakfast. We were completely surprised about this generosity and enjoyed the unexpected luxury a lot. 

After a relaxing night in the air-conditioned room, we left the generous couple and pedaled to the border. At the border, we bought many snacks with our remaining money and then we got our exit stamp. 


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