After Namibia, the next stop was Angola. The border crossing to Angola was a convoluted procedure that required police clearance documents and the other usual vehicle certificates, as well as printed photos of the front, side and rear of the vehicle. We used our Polaroid camera to photograph the vehicle and print tiny photos on the spot which were accepted and stapled to other official documents. One photocopy was required, which the customs official could do but not without a steep bribe!
Our Angolan experience
Angola far exceeded our expectations. The people were kind, friendly and without malice. In general, we felt very safe and wild-camped most nights. Roadside food was cheap and basic. A fresh bucket of mangos R3.50 and fresh, delicious Portuguese rolls R3. We stayed in the capital city Luanda at the yacht club where we met several other overlanders - most of them from Europe - and formed a large table with all of them for beers and local food. The only English speaking people we would meet in the next month. The language barriers of Angola would prove to be vast. We headed East to do some rock climbing at Pedros Negras and to see Calandula Waterfalls, which were spectacular in their grandeur and solitude; no tourists other than ourselves and one other overlanding vehicle in sight. We managed to drive Agnes to the base of the waterfall for some spectacular footage. Spray from the falls were misting the windows and we had to shout to each other to be heard above the roar of the water.
A bent bumper
In the city, a convoy of diplomatic vehicles screamed past us with their sirens on. One of them tried to pass through a ridiculous gap in traffic and clipped our bull bar, wrenching it forwards. We sat down in the police chiefs office where he used two toy cars on his desk to establish what happened. Manoeuvring one past the other between a stapler and paper clips. Then he went outside, took one look at the damage - which in itself shows what happened - and scolded the driver. All we understood was “... company car!” while he used his two toy cars to illustrate how one should give more space when overtaking. We left with a handshake from the chief and a bent bumper which will remind us of the time we took the police to the police station.
We started for the Jimbe border to Zambia and along the way we encountered the worst tarred roads we’d ever seen. The potholes were wheel-barrow sized and often stretched across the entire road, made worse by long stretches of good tar which deteriorated again without warning over a blind rise or sharp corner. As a result, we hit big potholes twice with great force, and could swear we were airborne. On inspection of the wheels and leaf springs everything seemed unscathed, but later, down a very remote sandy “Jeep-track”, our rear-left wheel fell off! We suspect that the stub axle cracked in one of the big pothole incidents.
Changing parts on the go
We had the spare parts needed. a new side shaft and stub axle. We reassembled everything over a couple of hours and made it another 100 meters before our brake master pin snapped. No brakes at all! Some would say this is Murphy's Law. We drilled and tapped a long nut of our own which we used to extend the thread of the brake booster pin, joining it to another bolt. All was done on the spot in two hours. It was a blessing they happened within such close proximity of each other and at low speeds. During the whole day only one car passed us on the sandy track, a Portuguese Professor in a new Landcruiser who worked locally in conservation. We waved him on and were ready to go by sunset.
The worst road we'd ever seen!
After the sandy track we continued down a road recommended by locals and the Professor we met the day before, which had deep ruts, roots and wooden bridges. It was the worst road we’d ever seen. Sometimes it changed to a single track; sometimes there was no road at all, only a walking trail weaving through tall grass. The wooden bridges had surely never taken such a load. They creaked and cracked as splintered logs dislodged and fell aside. Further on some of the road had such deep, uneven and muddy tyre tracks that we would have tipped had we not kept our speed through them. Our feet got wet upfront in the cockpit as a result. After 3 days, we had covered 160km of this road when again we saw the only other motor vehicle, it was the same Portuguese professor, this time in a Polaris ATV. He was very impressed and said he’d placed bets with his colleague on how far down the track he’d find us bogged in the mud.
On the last hundred meter stretch of road to the Zambian border gate we powered through the thickest bog of deep mud we had experienced yet and joked how ironic it would have been to get stuck in sight of the gate. The guard rushed to lift the boom for us, knowing that if we stopped we would be thoroughly stuck. Upon having our passports stamped out of Angola at this remote border gate, we noticed the officer change the date on the stamp from its position some years back, suggesting - as the road had - that nobody had passed through this route for quite some time.
Next, Agnes and the gang adventure into Zambia, so look out! For now, you can see what we've been getting up to here.