Saturday, 9 April 2016

Angola 1

After leaving the Angolan border it wasn't long before our car started making a horrendous squeaking noise and then silence. The revs had dropped and the steering seazed up. We radio'd Charles and Cat to pull over to check the problem. The auxiliary bolt tensioner was lying loose in the engine bay. The bolt had stripped the thread in the housing and worked its way loose. Rob quickly fixed it, but did notice the water pump had too much play in it and we needed to get that replaced sooner rather than later before it caused more damage.

We headed to the next big town called M'Banza Congo where we could change some dollars on the black market (normal rate $1=Kz180, black market $1=Kz350), stock up, get some welding done on Charles's body mounts, and gather ourselves in a very nice European style hotel. Yes a shower was more than welcomed!! The brown coloured water coming off my body in the shower was revolting! We had officially become proper hobos and probably smelt like ones too! So seeing this disgusting brown water wash away was more satisfying than anything you'll ever know. We were meeting some people the next day and needed to be semi presentable, so this was a welcomed stop over after slumming it in the Congos!
We woke up the next morning and were very pleased to find out breakfast was included!! Cheese and ham rolls with cereal and coffee! Just what the doctor ordered! 

We needed to get fuel before we headed anywhere, but like most of Africa, they were experiencing a shortage of diesel. We joined the mega long queue and waited just under 2hours before we got to the front of the line where we could fill up and change some more cash. We had been stuck in M'Banza Congo for so long, that we now needed to move quickly to get to the beach where we were meeting Andrew and his family. Andrew was the one that helped us get our Angolan visa, so we were excited to meet him and thank him for his efforts with a cold beer or 5!!

We drove off the main road and followed a dirt track until we reached the beach where we were going to bush camp with them for the long Easter weekend. While driving, we watched the amazing sunset over the sea while dodging a massive migration of crabs crossing the road. I was sat in the car clenching my seat as we heard one crab after another being crunching and being crushed under the wheels. The poor things had no chance! The only thing making me feel better, was that there were thousands! As we crept closer and closer to the beach we saw groups of campers with roof tents. This was the first place we have seen people camping with incredible gear. We had arrived in the south where the camping tradition was in full swing. We didn't know who we were meeting, so we drove past one group after another, hoping we would see someone that recognised the cars and would wave us down. Eventually we drove to the last group and was even more surprised to see Kars and Simone jumping up and down waving their arms to signal us. What were they doing here??? How did they know Andrew? How did they know about this spot as its on no map we were looking at! This was such an amazing surprise!!

We jumped out the car and it was hugs all round!! We met Andrew, Kristina, their kids and their incredibly welcoming friends, Kristiana and Kels. We could tell, this was going to be an awesome weekend! 
We found out that Kars and Simone met Andrew in Luanda while they were having car trouble. Andrew helped them out and they were overwhelmed by the help they were getting from him and his family. This family were incredible and loved to help overlanders as they were treated with the same love and warmth when they did the same trip we are doing. So this was their way of giving back. 
That night we were treated like royalty as they fed us amazing food and the drinks were flowing. We had gorgeous steaks, rolls, fish, pasta salads... the list just continues. We couldn't believe our luck as we enjoyed every second chatting and getting to know these amazing people. The boys were in and out of river under the stars and Cat even got dunked as Kars picked her up and carried her in, clothes and all!! The rest of us danced the night away under the stars, while Rob had pulled his usual trick and drunkenly fell asleep in his chair! What an incredible night.

The next morning, the sun was shining and we could take in the beauty that surrounded us while we camped with the ocean on the one side and the Onzo river on the other. It was just magnificent!! We were treated to pancakes, chorizo, eggs and bacon for breakfast!! This was right up our street and we were in heaven! The rest of the day we enjoyed swimming in the river, canoeing in the mangroves, getting to know our hosts and of course more drinking and eating! 
The rest of the weekend continued to be amazing. Patrick and Kris even turned up which was incredible! We were all there, and loving every second.
Our last day camping with them we went to an amazing seafood restaurant and enjoyed shrimps, crayfish and squid. This weekend would forever be a highlight in our travels!!

We were shocked to see the contrast Luanda would present to us as we drove into the city. We entered through the outskirts of the city which had incredibly potholed roads, rubbish lining the streets, with mud and tin build houses squashed on top of each other. Then, to our surprise, we reached a tar road and everything became extremely civilised and quite European. Massive skyscrapers, beautifully kept gardens and an impressively beautiful boulevard that overlooked the ocean. This place had money!!!
We continued on till we reached the yacht club, which offered free camping to overlanders with full use of the showers and toilets. We enjoyed a couple more drinks with Andrew and the family and Paolo before calling it a night.

The next day Andrew and Kristina offered their driver to us so that we could find a water pump. So Stallone collected us all in the morning and took us back to their house where Cat and myself would enjoy the comforts of their home. Enesh, their house worker, ushered us in taking all our dirty laundry (including our sheets!! Machine washed sheets... AMAZING!!!!) and gave us fresh towels so we could have a proper shower. We were in heaven!! 
The boys went off with Stallone and found a water pump easily, changed more dollars on the black market ($1=Kz370) and organised a SIM card with Internet access. 
They returned in no time and we spent the rest of the day enjoying the free wifi and machine made coffees. We even got to Skype all the family which is always so special!

Andrew and Kristina arrived back from work and we all piled into the cars after collecting our amazingly clean washing! Until you do a trip like this, you will never understand the power of machine washed clothes and sheets!! A serious luxury!!! But enough about washing machines.....
We headed to a restaurant on the beach front called Miami Beach where we watched the sun set and ate more amazing food while enjoying the company of our new friends.

In the morning, Rob got straight to work in replacing the water pump. Rob eventually had a crowd of people watching him and asking him questions about the engine and trying to learn what he was doing. Unfortunately, the new water pump had a crack in it and we needed to return it and get a new one. The only problem was Andrews driver was not available, so we needed to find another way to get there as the car was in bits. Luckily there was a taxi service for workers using boats to get to work, and the men surrounding Rob were some of the drivers. They couldn't use the cars but one guy that spoke a bit of English said he would walk with Rob and do the translations at the shop. 
It was absolutely roasting, so when Rob got back, he was hot and bothered. Charles, Cat and myself made some lunch, but he wasn't having any of it. He wanted to fix the car and didn't need any distractions. So after asking him one last time if he wanted food, and getting a very annoyed response. I decided to leave him to it!!

After Rob put the car back together, he was feeling much happier so we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Luanda. We walked up to the Fortaleza de Sao Miguel, a military museum representing the war. It was absolutely amazing, however all the information plaques were in Portugese so we couldn't understand any of it. But we did admire all the army vehicles and a museum with hand painted artwork on the walls, which housed examples of the early African weaponry to the latest guns. We wandered around the fort walls and took in the amazing sights as it offered a 360 degree view of Luanda. It is a very divided city between rich and poor. On one side was the European style boulevard and on the other the shanty towns. Incredible to see.

We wandered back along the boulevard and found a lovely spot to enjoy a drink before heading back to the yacht club where we would meet Andrew and Kelse. Back at the yacht club we enjoyed another with them and then headed off to an Ethiopian style restaurant. It was Devine as we were brought out a big sticky pancake with all sorts of different sauces, meats, and veggies. We all got stuck in as this was a use your hands and share. It was a real treat and absolutely devine! We sat chatting about some good routes to take and were again, spoilt as Kelse had printed out a massive map of Angola for us. They got us incredibly hyped about all the amazing this to see and do in Angola. We were itching to head off tomorrow after their infectious love for their country had rubbed off on us. What a fantastic night!!! 

We woke up the next morning buzzing to move on. We packed up the tent and just before we were about to head off, Rob and I noticed a puddle of oil on the floor. He started the engine and left it idling to see where it was dripping from. After about 15min of leaving the engine on, Rob noticed the oil was dripping a lot more and was coming out of the exhaust. Well, this was not good!!! We decided to drive it to Shoprite where we had planned to stock up before making our way into Angola. It's safe to say the car was not well and certainly not happy. She was chucking out heavy white smoke out the exhaust and Charles and Cat said it was like driving in an awful sand storm. Rob knew exactly what it was and immediately said, the turbo has given up. It wasn't long before the cops pulled us over and wanted to fine us for the smoke. We told him we were going straight to a mechanic and would get it sorted. After a bit of persuasion he gave us our documents back without payment and would let us continue. At that point we contacted Andrew who could advise us on a decent mechanic. While we sat there waiting for the coordinates to come through. Another officer came over to say he was going to fine us for illegal parking. What?? We mentioned his colleague who was stood next to him, pulled us over. This is all very difficult when we don't speak Portugese and they don't speak English. But they eventually let us go and we headed straight for the garage.

We sat at the garage for ages and ages while we waited on word from Andrew. Again we couldn't have asked for better treatment. He had 3 of his mates looking for a turbo for us while his driver would go to every 4x4 shop searching for one in town. Unfortunately there was no luck! We would need to source one from somewhere outside of Angola. The car was immobile and we were now sitting ducks. Charles and Cat had gone back to Andrew and Kristinas house earlier that day, so Andrew sent his driver to collect us and bring us back to his place. They were overwhelmingly hospitable and were more than happy for us to stay at theirs and sleep in Savannah's (their little girl) air conditioned room while we sorted out our car trouble. 
That night we got treated to yet another amazing meal, with wine, chocolate, Amarula... The lot! This was incredible! Charles and Cat ended up staying there the night as we had far too much to drink for them to drive back to the yacht club. 
We thought about getting a turbo from South Africa, and even put a plea on all the 4x4 sites in hope someone would be able to help or suggest other options. Everyone was amazing and we had people messaging us from all over the world. Rob eventually found one in the uk, which would be sent via DHL airmail. It was going to be a long weekend so the earliest we could collect it was next Tuesday, 6days time. We ordered it and would hope it didn't get held at customs in Angola (something that happens regularly here in Angola) 
We all agreed that it would be silly for Cat and Charles to hang about in Luanda after paying so much for our visas. So we said goodbye to them and they would go and see the country without us. Yes, jealous is an understatement, but a much better plan! We would hate to hold them back!

We spent the next week enjoying the home comforts that Andrew and Kristina were offering us. I got to know their adorable kids and enjoyed playing and having a good time with them. We played with playdough, paint art, read books, watched cartoons, splashed around in the pool and just had a really good time! Rob on the other hand was being a typical guy and avoided them when he can, but he still couldn't resist a goodnight kiss and cuddle from them. There's a soft side somewhere in him! Lol...

During the weekend we had a great time enjoying a braai at Kristiana and Antoinne's house. More amazing food with the drinks flowing. After food we walked over the road and onto the beach (yes they have an amazing spot on the beach front!) where we swam in the sea and watched the sun go down while in the water. Such an amazing experience! Life really isn't that bad being stuck in the city.
We carried on till late that night, with the boys even venturing onto the roof to do some home repairs during the wee hours of the night. Probably wasn't the best of ideas considering the amount they had drunk. You've got to laugh at moments like this as they stumbled all over the place! 

The next day we all piled into the car and headed for the yacht club where Antoinne had organised a speed boat for us for the day. We would motor along the coast admiring the city sights with large ships scattered all around us. We eventually pulled up close to a very popular beach which had all sorts of activities going on. Wind surfers, jet ski's, knee boarders, and people playing on the beach. It was a little slice of heaven. 
We stayed on the boat and made some lunch before diving in for a dip. Rob started feeling incredibly sea sick as he's generally not great on boats. Before we knew it he was dangling over the edge throwing his guts up, while the guys cheered him on as he fed the fish. Like a champion, he carried on partying and enjoyed a beer straight after to wash his mouth out!! Lol....

That night it was early night before saying our goodbyes to Andrew who needed to be up early the next morning for a business trip. No words could express our gratitude for his generosity and hospitality. He would never know how much we appreciated his!!
The next day was a joyous day as we got to pick up our turbo!!!! Yes, this beautiful package had finally arrived and we were over the moon!!! We went straight to the garage where Rob could get it all installed with the help of the guys at the shop! While Rob was busy with that, Kristina took me to a Shoprite where I could stock up on a few things before setting off in the morning. 

Finally we could be out of their hair and back on the road!! That morning we said goodbye to Kristina, Marley and Savannah. It was actually a really sad moment for me as I had grown to really love this incredible family. Marley and Savannah were great kids and I just loved spending time with them. I hope our paths will cross again in the future!! Thank you just doesn't even cut it!!!

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