Writer’s Block

/ Friday, 25 April 2014 / Angola


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Seems that the more I move this year the harder it gets to write – perhaps writer’s block, perhaps finding other things to do, but one thing for sure is that the longer I go without it the more memories disappear, so this seems to be a forced update instead of something I’ve actually wanted to do. Pardon the briefness and lack of detail even though so much has happened.

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I still find myself in Angola, likely the most beautiful country I’ve visited yet on my travels, and certainly one of the friendliest ones. I’ve been in the capital city of Luanda for near 2 weeks waiting for a DRC Visa to be issued, with hopefully today to be the day where I’m going to be able to pack my bags moving forward again. The rest has been good, but now reached its point of monotony and I’m eager to get back cycling. Luanda is a real masterpiece. 5 to 8 million people crammed into a city that was designed for half a million, and steadily expanding daily. The rumors were true – It’s expensive here. Once holding the title as the most expensive city in the world it’s been taken down a notch by Singapore but that doesn’t change the fact that its near impossible for someone to survive here without making a tonne of money.

These Buns can be found for 10 cents each USD. I eat about 10 of them and face a serious stomach ache afterwords

Likely the cheapest food you can buy in Angola, these little Portugese style buns in the south cost 10 cents USD. I would go through 10 of them a day. Sadly, they have disapppeared.

Rents for housing in areas are high – $3000 for a small place, all the way up to $45,000 a month in a gated suburb lined with trees, sidewalks, and private stores that makes you forget you are actually in Africa at all. Oil is the driver here – companies from around the world have setup shop and throwing their funds left right and centre in order to keep their employees happy but at the same time creating a huge gap for survivability for the locals who tough it out here. I had quite the fear from day 1 of entering into Angola hearing of all the horror stories of rampant crime, nasty traffic, and bad conditions, yet I don’t see it that bad whatsoever. I’ve been to a few large cities in this world and this is just yet another one struggling to cope with a massive population boom. Sure it takes 4 hours to travel 12 km in the city, but not on a bicycle if you ride in between the stalled cars and stay alert for an opening to keep moving. I manage 15km in the city fully loaded an hour, and much faster when the bags are off the bike. With minimal hills it’s quite a scenic and refreshing ride each day as I scuttle about doing my business, doing my best to stay off side roads that have not been tarred, or are in the process of being ripped up to replace the cities aging water and power network. When it rains however chaos ensues. Flooding occurs even at the smallest amount of rain, and you have to be careful that a small puddle doesn’t end up going 2 ft. into the ground and sending you over the handlebars (done it!).

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This sucked.

During rainy season, it’s quite a mess, finding yourself pushing your bike and then plucking mud out of the drivetrain for hours afterwords to get moving again. Usually there is a footpath running parallel that is in better condition. Sometimes…

Getting here took a lot of energy, leaving Namibie back up to Lubango and heading to Huambo – basically the halfway point of the country where one has to continuously climb hills to cross over the hundred or so rivers that criss cross the area.  Luckily in the mountains the temperatures stay moderately cool and there are ample spots for shade and camping at the end of the day, and certainly enough spots where one can dive in the water and catch a wash.

Huambo was one of the centrepoints of the civil war where the two opposing factions were staging many battles. Water lines had been destroyed leaving all residents having to hire 3rd party sources in for delivery, whether it be a truck filling up a 5000 drum, or paying $1 to a street person to haul 100 gallons up 6 flights of stairs every few days to deal with cooking and bathing. Showers in the old part of the town just don’t exist. Buildings that had been destroyed by mortar shells still stand, as a reminder of how deadly the war was. Locals explained to me about searching for supplies out of town and being stopped at many roadblocks. Upon arrival the police and military looked in the vehicles and told drivers to let everyone out who didn’t speak the local language of the opposing side. If you didn’t, you were to get out of the car, and were shot dead at the side of the road. After decades of problems Angolans are more than happy to let these days stay in the past and instead are focusing on unity, and living a nonviolent lifestyle.

After leaving Huambo I found myself falling into a hole while dragging my bicycle up a hill to sleep in an abandoned church. Trying to hold onto the bicycle as I fell I felt a nasty crunch and seemingly sprained my wrist, the same one I broke 2  years back in Mozambique and then shortly thereafter when I was hit by a taxi in Malawi. Once one thing goes in the body soon others follow as the exhaustion set in, followed by internal issues where I just couldn’t keep anything solid in my body for 2 weeks, eventually resulting in a collapse at the side of the road, hanging my head down returning to a lodge at the great Kwanza River for some forced rest. Signs of Malaria were showing, along with some random digestive problems. I solved it by taking anti malarial, anti biotics, deworming, and bilharzia medication all at once. The doctors in my experience frequently misdiagnose – and I figured I couldn’t do anymore harm by annihilating whatever was going on in my system. Sure enough – 3 days later I was back to 100%.

I realized that I wasn’t going to make it all the way through the country in my 30 day allotment, and luckily was intercepted by a friendly couple from South Africa working at a local concrete plant, who let me stay at their place for a few days as I worked with Immigration authorities to extend for yet another 30 days. Problems ensued – It seems that I was issued the wrong visa, and I spent 3 days trying to convince them that no, I wasn’t working in the country, and this was simply the tour operator who invited me to come and stay. Try doing it in Portuguese with no English – definitely an exercise in tolerance. $100 later I was on my way, eager to get into Luanda knowing that there would be more bureaucratic hassles at the embassies trying to head north whichever direction.

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A very rare self photo. Taken by a friendly couple from South Africa who were curious about my story and invited me for a few days rest at their place.

I opted for the DRC Embassy first. It’s gotten to that point where spite is kicking in, and I just want to get into the country so bad after being denied so many times. I arrived on the Monday morning, only to find out that they were only accepting applications on a Monday, but were requesting a signed letter from the Canadian Embassy authenticating that I am indeed a tourist and who I say I am. I thought that was what a passport was for, but obviously not. Finding the Canadian Consulate was easy enough, only to find out that they couldn’t issue this letter – only from Zimbabwe. They could Stamp my own drafted letter but only on Tuesday. And so the loop began. Letter in hand, various contacts I met did their best to expedite and get the DRC Embassy to open for my application without success, forcing me to wait the entire week with little or nothing to do but rest. It got worse when I appeared at the embassy and they rejected the application outright because it didn’t have Canadian official letterhead on it. Of course the Canadian Consulate was closed due to it being a holiday, and not being able to do something until the next day as well. I persisted, worked my way into the Embassy getting past the first wave, and eventually was able to succeed at putting in my application form for a 6 month multiple entry visa at the staggering cost of $550 USD. I don’t know how much of that is going into pockets or not, as I never received a receipt during the process, and refrained from asking for one hoping that this would achieve success. I’ll know in a few hours.

Lightning storm in the distance. It mvoed over to me fast! 31mm overnight.

Lightning storms appear out of nowhere, and dump 30mm of rain overnight making for a very wet morning and tough cycling conditions.

I’ve decided that seeing as the visa is near impossible to get, I should get my moneys worth out of it. Originally intending to go from the Angolan border to Kinshasa, DRC’s capital city before crossing into the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) it would be only 350km of cycling on fairly easy roads. I’m due for a rest and was planning on flying back to Lusaka Zambia in June from Cameroon, forcing me to leave my bicycle with someone and limiting my movement back in Zambia while I rested for 3 months. The obvious decision was to cycle back to Lusaka instead from Kinshasa – some 2500km through footpaths and crossing rivers along the way. What could possibly go wrong? This would allow me to rest, have a bike, and then simply fly back to Kinshasa DRC after I am done, and then continue to move forward on the original route plan. Apparently after DRC the visas become a bit easier to procure, but that remains to be seen.

Old burned out Police Station

Buildings like this dot the side of the road more often than not. A reminder of when the country was in much better shape. This was a police station at one point. Excellent for camping in at night.

Police Station Perched on a rock

This is now the new Police Station.

I’ve been staying with a British Teacher at the International School here in Luanda, and found myself presenting to a few hundred children of varying ages using my old dated presentation – Still working on this old laptop, waiting for my repaired one to be back in my hands, which apparently might happen in the next few hours thanks to some lovely people who heard my cry for help on the internet, went and picked it up from the repair centre in Johannesburg, South Africa and handed it to someone who was flying into the city as well. Carrying two laptops will be a pain, and I’m almost quite tempted to sell this one that I have here at the going rates here (which oddly enough are more than what I paid for this unit 4 years ago) and just buy a new one for the person who loaned me it back once I return to Zambia. 

As I wrote before, it’s a bit of a struggle to write these days, so I’m just going to leave off right here and caption photos going forward that have been taken in the past month.

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Fishing is quite popular in Angola, and just look at the size of them, this is a small 15kg one found just at the mouth of the Kwanza River and the Atlantic Ocean.

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Painted on this rock is the logo for the beer one would find North of Huambo, Cuca. It’s miles ahead of the sludge that I was drinking for the first half of the country.

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For the geology nuts, Angola by far blows away any of the other mountainous formations I’ve seen in Africa. This is just one of a thousand I passed enroute to the coast.

Foggy Mornings

In the mountains the fog didn’t lift till near 10am from the 6am sunrise making for cool riding conditions, yet a frustrating tent packup/followed by a mid day dry out.

Two Wheeled Scooter Cart and Bicycle

These wooden scooters are everywhere. For kids to play with, but this one seem to have a more utilitarian usage for hauling products from village to village.

Bush Meat for Sale.

Random Bush meat for sale at the sides of the road. I managed to figure out that for $2 usd I could have this in my belly. I kept moving.

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A typical village in the mountains. Rocks on the tin roof in to make sure it doesn’t fly away. Life is simple, and people get by.

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Reason why I don't eat Goat Meat

This is why you don’t eat goat meat.

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Here is some history. Old Cannons to protect the coastal perimeter still exist in forts.

Shipwrecks

If one follows along the coast one is sure to find a few shipwrecks.

Not so bad camping spot for the night.

There are some fantastic stealth camping spots along the coast, where the temperatures reach 30 during the day – humidity brings it up to 40, and nighttime rarely falls below 26.

 

Elevation Chart

Totals

Distance Travelled: 1162.52 km
Distance Ascended: 9,913 m
Distance Descended: 11,575 m
Energy Consumed: 53,959 calories
Overall Cost: $66.43
    Food: $37.61
    Drink: $16.66
    Lodging: $0.00
    Transport: $0.00
    Entertainment: $0.00
    Equipment: $12.18
    Misc: $0.00
 
Longest Day: 2014-04-05 – 147.07 km
Most Climbed: 2014-04-05 – 1393.00 m
Most Energy Burned: 2014-04-05 – 6089.00 calories
Most Expensive Day: 2014-04-09 – $ 17.72

Click to show Daily Statistics

Date
Location
Distance (km)
Cost ()
Map
2014-04-14 Luanda, AO 31.00 $1.54 Map
2014-04-11 Barro de Kwanza, AO 74.02 $1.54 Map
2014-04-10 Middle of Nowhere, AO 106.73 $0.00 Map
2014-04-09 Middle of Nowhere, AO 89.14 $17.72 Map
2014-04-05 Sumbe, AO 147.07 $1.54 Map
2014-04-04 Middle of Nowhere, AO 101.61 $3.69 Map
2014-04-03 Middle of Nowhere, AO 102.82 $6.40 Map
2014-04-02 Middle of Nowhere, AO 97.56 $4.61 Map
2014-03-29 Huambo, AO 47.84 $2.96 Map
2014-03-28 Kilometer 25, AO 69.72 $3.89 Map
2014-03-27 Monguenta, AO 103.42 $4.61 Map
2014-03-26 Unknown Village, AO 114.50 $4.61 Map
2014-03-25 Middle of Nowhere, AO 77.09 $13.32 Map

Maps and Elevation Chart



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2 comments

  1. April 25th, 2014

    I had to read the staggering figure tor the multiple entry visa twice to make sure that I had not misread it. USD 550 for a tourist visa is absolutely crazy and a sure sign that they do not want tourists there. And also, the whole hassle and games that they make people play just to get a TOURIST visa. Countries that make it easy for tourists and do not insist on visas get my vote. And what is the use of a visa anyway? Time that visas were consigned to history.


  2. April 25th, 2014

    Dave, I haven’t. Commented for a while however I continue to follow you and your travels. This is Bruce Manko we met at the beginning of your travels in the USA ( Shanksville, Pa. Flight 93)
    We traveled from Pennsylvania to California where we have now resided for a little better than 2 years . My wife Laurie Ann
    Fell off a ladder at work and severed the left humorous the ball from the shaft of the bone on her left shoulder .That happened
    1/20/14 ,surgery 2/20/14 . Now her body is rejecting the medal used in the repair. They should have used titanium but used surgical steel. So I have not commented on your last couple POST as I’ve been busy with my wife . Besides that we are enjoying our travels. We are,still pulling the 31 ‘ fifth wheel trailer with the Chevy Silverado diesel. We do not know where life will eventually take us but for now we are here in California.
    Laurie ANN needs another surgery. So we have that to deal with. All in all we are playing the hands we’re dealt.
    Stay healthy my old road FRIEND. If you ever get a minute drop me a hello..
    Be Safe,
    Sincerely,
    BRUCE MANKO


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