Date: 19 June 2017
Location: N’zeto on the northern Angolan coast about 80km south of the DRC border.
I departed Kafue National Park, Zambia on the 7 June and in the last twelve days we’ve driven across Western Zambia and Eastern Angola. Despite trying to enter the DRCongo south of Kikwit, our attempts have been thwarted by the 1.3 million refuges fleeing the humanitarian crisis in the Congo. Angola have closed all their northern borders except the crossing at Matadi, so we’ve had to drive a few hundred kilometers further west than anticipated.
The beginning of my third month in Africa coincided with entering my fourth African country, Angola.
Leaving Zambia :
At the end of the main street of Mongu the road turns right onto a new $300 million bridge across the mighty Zambezi River and it’s impressive 30km wide floodplain.
As I travelled across what must be one of the world’s most impressive and surreal wetland ecosystems, it was eerily devoid of large animals, almost certainly a result of the 27year long Angolan Civil War.
Sikongo was the last town in Zambia before entering no man’s land in between the two countries.
After leaving what was basically a lonely dusty outpost on top of a sandhill the road quickly deteriorated back into floodplain. It didn’t take long to get bogged but after a bit of shovel time and using the sand mats, we made it across the water and back onto soft sand.
We drove across open plain for the rest of the day before camping by the road under a full moon in the middle of nowhere.
An early start and another full day of soft sand driving, eventually crossing into my fourth country of the trip through a wooden gate with a painted flag and another remote immigration outpost.
So rarely visited is this portion of the continent that it took us a day and a half of driving to get from the Zambian to the Angolan customs gate, compared to what is usually a few meters at most border crossings. The immigration official said we were the first tourists through the border in over two years.
Once in Angola the deep sand continued for another day as we past through small villages of about 30 people with just about everyone speaking only Portuguese. The children from the villages ran behind us waving and smiling as we past by.
We stopped on the outskirts of a village and were greeted by a fellow visiting from the capital, Luanda which is 1600km away and spoke English. He gave me a tour of the village where I spoke to his uncle who told me the local villages were full of people who fled the war to Zambia and were still returning.
We continued to travel north through Moxico Province (Mo-cheek-o) and after five days of bush camping we found a clear fast flowing creek with a nice swimming hole. It was good to have a swim and wash off the sand and dirt.
The concept of tourism hasn’t made it to Eastern Angola yet. It’s a landscape of poor villages, forests being cleared, rusting post civil war tanks, mine fields and security check points. The first two days heading to Luena our papers were checked four times and the vehicle was searched three times.
After another three days of driving north west past countless small villages and through dry savanna and patches of Moimbo Woodland and I arrived at the highlight of my time in Angola…. Kalandula Falls in Malanje Province.
The falls are the second biggest in Africa and certainly have to be one of Africa’s most breathtaking attractions, particularly from below with the daily accompanying rainbow.
Victoria Falls receive hundreds of thousands of international visitors a year, while these falls would attract just a handful. There’s no motels, signage, cafes, ticket offices, souvenirs or even guard rails near the edge.
From Kalandula Falls we drove west to Luanda, Angola’s coastal capital and then north along the coast to N’zeto.
We arrived in the Atlantic Ocean coastal fishing town on a dull overcast day with accompanying grey ocean, with only the local fishing boats and nets to add colour to the beach.
From here we’ll hopefully cross into the DRC (Congo) either tomorrow or the next day and then make our way to Kinshasa, we’re I’ll spend 4-5 days exploring the city and surrounding area.
Apparently the vehicle ferry used to cross the Congo River from Kinshasa to Brazzaville is ‘out of order’, so we’ll have to retrace our path and find another crossing further west sometime next fortnight.
Hopefully I’ll be in the DRC for about 10-14 days prior to entering the other Congo and heading north towards Cameroon.
Bye for now.