It has been quite a few years that we have been wanting to visit Angola (see only the photos or maps of our itinerary)
Since its independence from Portugal in 1975, Angola suffered a civil war between MPLA and UNITA for 27 years, a surrogate battleground in the midst of the Cold War between the communist bloc and the USA and its allies, including South Africa.
More recently, it was totally closed during covid, further stifling opportunities for travellers to explore. As soon as we heard that the borders were open again, we made plan with friends Chanan & Maria from Cape Town for an adventure in Oct-Nov 22.
An adventure that started with us, irish/canadian and belgian citizens, trying to obtain a tourist visa. The embassy in Windwoek did not have a consulate section for visa, so our only option was the e-visa. The system is only designed for tourists flying in although there is an option to select a land port of entry... but even if you travel by car, the system will ask you for a return flight ticket. Even an employee of the embassy advised us to upload a fake ticket! After multiple discussions with the secretary of the ambassador and the staff at the Angolan consulate in Oshakati in the north of Namibia, it seemed that our only option was to drive 700 km to show ourselves in person at the Oshakati consulte (strict requirement), wait anywhere from 3 to 12 days then go back to pick up our visas on our way to the Angolan border. Totally not acceptable and too expensive! Fortunately, we had another idea... to replace the return flight ticket by our work permit and a letter explaining the fact that we were resident in Namibia and travelling by car. That did not work immediately as the first reply was that the letter needed to be in Portuguese! Thank you Google... Finally the third attempt to get an e-visa worked out... but only for Paul... Lisa still had to make a fourth attempt and add an explanation that she was travelling with her partner with a copy of Paul's e-visa. Less than a week before departure, she finally got her e-visa. The price was not very attractive either... 120 USD per person (which went down to 80 USD if you pay in Kwanza at the border)!
A few days before our departure from our home in Windhoek, Paul had spent some time with Chanan to upgrade their Disco4 with a sliding drawer system for the fridge and ammunition boxes. Both cars were ready for the adventure and we drove in direction of Etosha NP to spend our first night at Onguma Tamboti campsite. That was luxury... a well equipped campsite, a refreshing swimming pool and an excellent meal at the restaurant.
The next morning, we crossed through the park and enjoyed some wildlife at a few waterholes on the way. A kind of shortcut that takes a bit more time!
We arrived at Santa Clara border post around lunch time. The Namibian side was very quick, but as soon as we crossed to Angola, it was a different story. Firstly, driving is on the right side in Angola, so a quick adjustment was needed. Secondly, a bunch of people immediately surrounded the 2 cars to "help us" navigate the border formalities. And third, was about the covid-related entry requirements. A week before departure, the Angolan consulate and embassy in Namibia both confirmed that a PCR test was not required any more if we were vaccinated. This was also clearly indicated on the e-visa. We thought we would save a few bucks there! Although it was clear that the PCR test was not necessary anymore, it seemed that the officials at the border had not heard the same story... so they insisted that we had to get a PCR test on the spot. We initially refused but after more than an hour of discussion with various officials, we decided we had to comply... and it was a total joke! We were charged 400 NAD per person and had our nostrils (and tonsils...) rubbed, and within seconds our passports were stamped (an impossible time frame for a negative result to have been processed). So really there was no test at all, just the paperwork... obviously we were negative which was positively good and necessary to cross the border. With the bureaucratic matters ticked off, we were in. Welcome to Angola.
Finally we were in Angola... quite a different scene... so many people everywhere. As fuel was 5 times cheaper than in Namibia at the time, we carefully calculated to arrive in Angola with empty tanks... and empty stomachs as well due to the 3 hours spent crossing the border. At the Santa Clara petrol station, however, there was a queue of at least 100 cars, trucks and motocycles. At that price for fuel, many Namibians cross the border to fill up their cars... no need of a visa for them... in and out in no time. We drove to the next town Ondjiva where there were less than 50 cars queuing at the first service station. We trusted Maps.me that was showing 2 more service stations, so we continued driving... We were very surprised to see how the main road of the town was so clean compared to some other areas. And we were pleased to find a brand new Sonangol fuel station totally empty... 160 l of diesel for 21600 kwanza equivalent to 750 NAD or ZAR!
That first day was a long one... so our first Angolan night under the trees was just a few km off the main road outside of Ondjiva. The country has a good reputation for being extremely safe, so wild camping is definitely the best (and often the only) option there.
In the next town, Xangongo, we got sim cards and data. There was so much traffic, people, motorcycles and tricycles often with a cargo box carrying anything you can imagine from 20 people to 1-ton of cement blocks. Many of them are Angolan Kewesaki, not to be mistaken for the Japanese Kawasaki!
So far, the tar road had been good with only a few potholes. The road along the Kunene river to Calueque, however, was another story... Although there must have been a road many years ago, the road was now so bad that sandy tracks on the sides were often much better.
At some point, the road gets close to the Kunene river... wow the river was so wide!
We might have been distracted at some point because the track we were following led straight into floodplain of Kunene river, which was entirely under water due to the dam down river. So we had to find our way off-track through the trees in order to reach the main track to the next town. And so many big baobabs like this gigantic spider-like one which offered a nice shelter for lunch.
The last fuel stop before heading into the desert was at Calueque - a fuel station in a shipping container... when we arrived, there were 3 cars in front of us and the owner was busy counting money... It must have been a lot of money because it took at least an hour before he started re-fuelling vehicles again... such a bad attitude! We made the best of it though. Local cantinas along the road are the best place to enjoy a cold beer... So we found one just a couple of hundred metres away. In our opinion, the best Angolan beer is N'gola but it is only available south of Lubango where it is brewed. The biggest beer bottle or tin is only 33 cl in Angola and costs 200-250 KZ (about R9) in the roadside cantinas.
iOverlander, a very useful app especially for wild campers, was showing a few wild camps around Ruacana dam but they were either inhabited by local people or quite exposed. We finally found a better one next to some clean water and only a few hundred meters away from the Ruacana falls which were only a tiny little stream falling along the tall cliff at the end of dry season when the dam was still filling up slowly.
The real adventure started the next day... There was a hopeful question about whether we'd be at Epupa Falls for lunch... well we arrived at lunch time... but only the next day. The road was very rocky at first, passing through amazing landscapes with many baobabs and mopane trees, and granite outcrops between them... we even found a hand water pump which was extremely refreshing.
The disco4 had some difficulties with the sandy riverbed where we stopped for lunch under a big ana tree... even in sand mode, the wheels of that sophisticated and luxury car were spinning too fast. In the afternoon, it was time for a cerveza in a local cantina in a little village almost in the middle of nowhere. Wild camping on the shore of the Kunene was so peaceful and beautiful.
We were getting close to Epupa, only another 20 km to go... which took us almost a full day. OK we had lunch along the river, and stopped for a swim amongst the crocodiles, stopped at the Ponto Negro police to report in and show our passports...
The track was getting smaller and smaller, often only showing motorcycle tracks, even disappearing totally for a while... but we managed to make our way, moving big stones out of the way, driving off the track to get around trees, cutting branches with the machette, winching a tree which had fallen across the track... At the end, the track climbs on top of a small hill that offers a nice view over the palm trees and baobabs between the many channels of water above the Epupa falls. It ends next to a small Himba settlement and we found the perfect camping spot nearby with good shade under the trees and next to a little side stream of the Kunene water where we could not resist lounging several times to cool down.
In the late afternoon, Chanan, Maria & Paul crossed a few channels of the Kunene river in order to reach the big rocks before the waterfalls for a great view of the gorge and the many chutes. Paul was very pleased to fly the drone to take amazing photos and videos of the many baobabs, gorges and falls that define the amazing landscape around Epupa.
The next day we decided to bring out the maple syrup and campfire waffle iron. Making waffles on the campfire, however, requires some thermodynamic knowledge... We were getting better at each attempt... the third one was the right one! We could even share it with a Himba couple who came to sit under a tree in our camp. Himba people are very proud and they show it by how they decorate their hair and the intricate jewellery they wear on their necks, arms, and ankles. A group of girls and women with babies from the village sat with us in our camp for a while. They were very interesting to interact with (in spite of the language barrier) and their lifestyle did not seem to have been altered by tourism activities, which made our experience there very special.
On the way out, we kind of lost the track and ventured into an area where trees had been roughly cut for fencing. Both vehicles got a puncture driving on these almost invisible stumps. Unfortunately, the tyre of the disco4 was badly cut... so no more spare tyre from now on!
The way back along the Kunene river was much faster this time as we had already cleared the track on our way in. Our next night was again along the river where we could enjoy a refreshing dip. Chanan recognized the call of some elusive cinderella waxbill birds in the trees above our camp but, unfortunately, he didn't manage to see them... so no new species for the list (Chanan intends to take publishable pictures of 1000 bird species and he has captured about 650 so far)! Oh that night was pretty windy.
We were sad to say goodbye to the Kunene river but the next day was a long drive north through arid but beautiful changing vistas of the Iona NP.
First there were many photogenic butter trees along the road, then big welwitschia plants everywhere, and most of them in flower.
Welwitschia are often called a living fossils and have a wooden trunk mostly underground. They are gymnosperm male and female plants with only 2 leaves (rarely 3) growing very slowly from each side of the wooden crown above ground level. The largest specimens can be more than 2000-years old. Strangely, for us welwitschia can be extremely photogenic although many think they are very ugly plants!
Our camp in a dry riverbed next to a big granite outcrop was very close to the headquarters of the Iona NP which is managed by African Parks.
The staff was very helpful but their opinions on how interesting it was to drive to the Kunene river mouth were very different. As the 90-km road was apparently faster than many we had driven before, we decided to go for it. It was ok, but not exceptional, especially since the light was a bit dull most of the time. One of the attractions is the old rusted 1968 Cadillac abandoned along the track.
There were also a few major erosion cuts in the flat arid landscape creating wide canyons and, as we were approaching the ocean, the scenery became more sandy with some small challenges in soft sand. After an advised stop at the border police control - officers living in post-war destroyed buildings - we finally reached the extremely flat ocean shore. The big dunes unfortunately only start 10 km north of the Kunene river. Apparently there was an old Portuguese fishing village there, totally abandoned these days. We turned back and slept next to the natural cave just a few km south of the park HQ, a very nice camp that is being developed.
The park people said that the road from Espinheira to Namibe only takes about 6 h and we had a full day. Our intention was to drive to the coast and stay at Flamingo Lodge as some people in our group had to catch up with work online. The road was indeed much better, even with sandy sections where we could drive in 4th gear at 80 km/h - a first in nearly a week! There were still many welwitschia plants including a giant specimen located in a dry river bed... at leat 1.5 m tall and almost 3 m in circumference!
The landscape continues to vary - at some stage turning into a moonlike cataclism with hills covered with sharp schist slates.
The river crossing just before the park gate was covered with salt deposits.
Approaching Subida Grande - São João do Sul, the rock formations were becoming very impressive.
We were also glad that one of the rangers at Iona NP told us about a little detour to see amazing yellow-red rock formations. We could not believe our eyes when we approached the Colinas Rossa at Morros Vermelos. We should have stayed the night there but the plan was to be in a place with connectivity to allow some of us to catch up with work. Paul flew the drone over the red rock formations and at 2 occasions the drone crashed into the rocks... very strange... it seemed that the sensors were not able to detect the cliff... but fortunately with no major damage... just a broken propellor!
All the rock formations in that area are spectacular and certainly worth another visit with more time to explore. Lagoa dos Arcos once provided food and livelihoods for the local villages but for almost 13 years the lake has been totally dry. Once again the landscape appeals for more exploration, especially down the canyon and around the natural rock arch.
When we reached the tar road to Namibe, the sun had almost set. The turn-off to Pelican bay (and Flamingo Lodge) put us on a track to our destination but we almost regretted our decision... The 30-km track to the coast following the dry Flamingo riverbed had the worst corrugation ever... and in the dark, it was even 10 times worse! Finally, the sound of the waves from the ocean and the lights of the Lodge marked the end of that terrible end of the day.
When we climbed the stairs to the lodge and met Hannes, he immediately welcomed us with the appropriate question... "I presume that you want some cold beers?" YES! It did not take long to convince us to stay 2 nights in the cabin for only R1250 pp full board and most importantly infinite number of cold beers! Everyone could catch up with email and work while we were pampered with fresh fish from the ocean for lunch and dinner. Hannes even took Chanan & Paul to the nearby canyon which was worth a few photos.
There was absolutely no way that we would drive back through the infamous corrugated riverbed track that led us to Flamingo... so the only option was driving on the wet sand along the coast line to Namibe... a big town with several new service stations and even a shopping mall with Shoprite, but almost everything in Angola's grocery stores is more expensive than Namibia and South Africa.
While driving north, it is worth to drive the side tracks to explore the yellowish sandstone cliffs along the deep blue ocean, which offer nice views on the little fishing villages nestled in the bays, such as Baba.
Hannes had advised us to spend the next night at Praia do Soba. The access road was incredibly beautiful at sunset. We camped under the huge cliff and had a quick swim in the waves of the ocean... perfect temperature even after sunset! We were treated by our friends with a very special buffet dinner... OMG there were at least 50 different home-made preparations and the fresh slongo fish was a pure delicatesse.
The journey the next morning was again incredible, including the scary climb and descent of the highest plateau overlooking the whole valley.
From sand and loose rocks, to bouldery patched and then eventually the tar road again, we were forever checking our tyre pressure. Adjust for the different type of road was important, not only for comfort but more so to avoid punctures and getting stuck.
Driving on a good tar road was also nice for a change, but we don't connect to the landscape in quite the same way as when driving on a rocky or sand track. The first 50 km took us across a large green plain before crossing the Munhino river with many mango trees between the village huts. Then the road starts to climb from 720 m to reach the top of the escarpment at 1700 m through the famous hairpin curves of Leba pass, which is certainly one of the most well known highlights of Angola.
What was even more interesting is to watch the traffic weave through the switchbacks, which we could do from a road along the edge of the plateau, where we had lunch under the shade of the trees.
So many trucks use that road - we lost count of how many carrying one or two huge blocks of granite driving down the sinuous road at low speed.
Along the road to Lubango was also our first encounter of villagers selling their little harvest for a few kwanza... such as these gigantic mushrooms (we ate them for at least 5 meals), carrots, tomatoes, mangos... It was such a treat, and nice to spread a bit of money around to the various rural areas.
In general, we tried to avoid big cities such as Lubango but the disco4 was in urgent need a 2 new tyres and front brake pads. Fortunately, Hannes (from Flamingo Lodge) had put us in contact with a man at Trentyre who spoke English really well. An expensive but necessary surgery for the disco4 followed! People are extremely helpful and always smiling in Angola. It was also time to visit the local supermarket to replenish some of the basic groceries.
From Lubango there is a 15-km paved road going to another viewpoint and a must-see highlight of Angola, the Tundavala fissure - a very narrow and impressive gorge of about 800 m slicing through the plateau, which culminates at 2240 m.
There also seemed to be a point of interest on a side track according to iOverlander but it simply ended at an enclosure with several satellite dishes. The detour was not worth it but allowed us to stop under a big tree where the signal was good enough to send a few urgent work emails, far away from the chaos of the city.
This was also the day that our party of four was going its separate ways... Chanan & Maria driving South on their way home, and Lisa and Paul going North-East to explore more of Angola for another 2 weeks... Such fun memories made together on this amazing adventure, and hopefully more to come one day!
From Lubango, Paul and Lisa encountered very different landscapes... always green with a lot of big trees, and villages with rectangular mud/clay brick huts with corrugated roof sheets held down by stones, as well as round huts with thatched roofing. For our first night on our own, we took a side track towards a catholic mission. There was quite a lot of motorcycle traffic and we just stopped off the road under a big tree. In the evening a nearby farmer came to greet us but we were not exactly sure what he was saying. He gave us a laugh and a wave as he left, so we presumed all was well.
The next day, Lisa saw on the map that the route Paul had plotted seemed to be an unnecessarily long detour and that it could be wiser to cut through this mission road to reach another road further north. What we did not expected was that the road all but disappeared after the mission and that only a barely perceptible motorcycle track continued further. Anyway we trusted ourselves and with the help of a few village people, we managed to cross the forest and reached a bigger track at the village of Sendi. Then we were back on another main road and stopped at a local cantina for a refreshing cerveza.
Lisa's idea was to follow a shorter road and cross the river to reach the Gobi forest - our destination for the day - in no time... After stocking up on a few fresh produce items along the side of the road, we were on the final stretch. The road was a brand new tar road with no potholes at all and we got confirmation from a motorcyclist that the road was good, and there was a good bridge over the river. As we continued over the 60km journey, the nice tar road became a good dirt track, and then a worse dirt track, and worse from there. It ended completely at the huge Kunene River where only a concrete pillar had survived the war... A pontoon was taking motorcycles across, but not quite what we needed for our 4x4... If only we had trusted Maps.me which insisted that routing through was not an option. If we had zoomed in, we might have seen that the route ended, meaning there was no bridge. Tricky to know sometimes whether to trust the technology, or local intel...
Our not-so-small detour of 120 km gave us the opportunity to give a lift to 2 young guys to the next village. They even offered to pay us for the lift, which we obviously refused! Lisa could engage in a Spanish-Portuguese conversation and learn of few things about the people of Angola, local crops and farming techniques, and options for earning a livelihood in such remote areas.
There was still quite a long way around to our destination and the surroundings were so interesting, so it took a while. At some point we thought we were saved by a new tar road but it was just a joke because it was just preparations for opening a new road with large felled trees or a huge pile of soil blocking the way. We learned later that this was to ensure that the road was in perfect condition (i.e. not used at all) until it had been officially opened by the Minster of Transport. That way, s/he would see how good the workmanship was. So until they drive it, no one can!
Slash and burn is common practice by loca farmers for maize, manioc, and casava crops, as well as for selling charcoal along the road. It was also a shame to see electrical power line coming from Gove dam hydropower plant crossing over the top of villages but giving them no access to electricity.
There were so many things to see along the way that we were driving the last stretch of road - a logging road through an eucalyptus plantation - in the dark. The plantations were a bit of surprise, give our search for the ghosty Gobi forest... To find a place to camp, we took a side track and found that there is almost nothing left of the indigenous Gobi forest, only a few patches of it between eucalyptus trees and newly ploughed fields between the roots of the cut trees. It was heartbreaking...
Was the Gobi forest worth the detour? In a way we believe that there is always a reason and it is good habit to find a good thing about everything we do... so yes... the green ferns growing under the eucalyptus forest contrasting with the red-soil road made the detour worthwhile for Paul's photography. Lisa's still not sure....
Buying veggies and fruit from the local people along the road was always a good occasion for Lisa to practice her Spano-Portuguese. We could find almost everything we needed, although not always in the quantity we needed. Vendors preferred to sell by the bucket and didn't like the idea of smaller quantities. So while we couldn't imagine buying potatoes, tomatoes, and onions by the bucketload, we managed to negotiate half buckets of avos and manageable branches of bananas.
On the horizon, stormy clouds were telling us that the rain was coming but as we moved eastward, they seemed to be pressing on in the same direction... we were lucky to only see rivers flowing through green grass and drive through relatively dry tracks with some huge ponds, sometimes passing abandoned army tanks.
We also came across the wonderful landmine removal work being done by the Halo Trust all over the country. We stopped to chat to them at their base, learning that many mines remain to be cleared, a reminder of the senselessness of war, creating so many innocent victims.
Cuemba waterfall was our first Angolan waterfall and we arrived, once again, as the sun was setting. We got there just in time to cross (on foot) what was left of a bridge that had been bombed during the war, to see the waterfall diving into the green gorge. As the waterfall is at the edge of the town, we decided to ask permission from the security guards of the construction park for the new bridge to camp next to the river. They immediately accepted and as seems to be the way in Angola, informed the chief of the local police who called us and even visited us later to wish us a good night... Angolan hospitality!
After a good walk around the falls early the next morning, our intention was to drive North through the Luando Special Reserve... but the maps were not really showing tracks crossing the 2 rivers that border the reserve on the East, West, and North borders and we certainly did not wanted to repeat our past mistake... With translation provided by a man from the Halo Trust, we met with the chief and elders of Chindumba village for some local insight. It became quite a gathering in the village with our meeting place under the tree surrounded by locals. The Chief and elders sat, inspected the maps and after a 20-min discussion, it was clear that the road going into the reserve from the village was only a cul-de-sac!
Change of plans... back to Cunje and en route to the next waterfall north via the main road EN140... did you say main road? At first the road was a decent tar road with a few potholes but quickly became the worst tar road ever with truck-gobbling potholes of up to 80 cm deep. Many cut across most of the road, forcing vehicles to drive on the bumpy and narrow sides... A total nightmare for covering about 200 km in about 10 h. A very tiring journey to the Kwanza river at Condo.
It seemed that arriving at our daily destination just before sunset was becoming a habit. Paul remembered the feeling of insecurity during an expedition through Africa many years ago - when you are still driving at the end of the day and don't yet know where you'll be able to camp safely... Well in Angola, we never had that feeling. We always knew that we could take a side track away from towns or cities and wild camp safely almost anywhere in the countryside. That night, we followed a track along the fields at the edge of a small village and stopped before a bridge - it was extremely small and Lisa insisted that we not cross it with the camper. Farmers passed through to late in the evening and again in the very early morning on their motorcycles or by foot... It was actually a very nice spot beside a running stream where we could wash in the morning.
To the north of the Cuanza River, the signs of a slightly more developed province started to appear, including these solar street lights along the bridge. Angola must have had a big deal with China as we could see them everywhere... Paul was wondering what was going to happen when the battery (at the top of the lights) would die after a few years...
Once again, we just had the time to capture the beauty of Cuenza Falls at sunset from the northern banks, but then decided to drive to the south ridge to camp because of too many aggressive and demanding kids in the parking area.
It was a very good decision... As we were driving on the track to reach the falls on the opposite side, we had to ask for directions in a tiny village and then literally slalom our way through it, guided by a bunch of friendly kids. When we arrived at the falls, the chief of the village and a few adults joined them to greet us. We wild camped just next to the falls... spectacular! Early morning, a group from the village came to show us the best views to the falls and as a thank you for their hospitality, we offered fruits and veggies as well as a donation to the man in charge.
The last waterfall we intended to visit was Calandula Falls, the second biggest one in Africa after Vic Falls, It was only 100 km away and via a good tar road. But before that, we found the perfect place in the city of Malanje for Lisa to send an important report via email. In the meantime, Paul went to exchange more US$ for our onward journey. By the way, it is strongly advisable to bring new USD bank notes to exchange for Kwanza in the street where you get a much better rate than the bank. And cash is king in Angola, with very few opportunities to pay by debit/credit card.
The facilities at Calandula Falls viewpoint had seen better days but still offered one of the best views over these majestic falls. Paul could not resist flying the drone and the result was very impressive especially the views from above showing the curtain of water falling into the gorge below.
When we arrived, a friendly young guy speaking just a few words of English explained he was a kind of an official guide to show us the waterfall. As we generally appreciate such initiative and want to support local people, we went along. He took Paul down to the river through a very steep trail and a bit longer than the 10 min he was advertising! The challenge was really worth it to see the river and the waterfall amphitheatre from below, although Paul had pain in his legs for the next few days... but no regrets!
In the meantime, Lisa comfortably enjoy the views from above and prepared lunch. We also followed the guide's advice to cross the river above the falls and hike through the deep forest to the other side. There is a bridge he said... indeed there were a few fallen trees over the water channels but we also had to walk through the rapid water occasionally to get to the other side.
There was a fancy (but empty) hotel on the other side with a nice view of the falls. We inquired about camping there but the price to camp in their parking lot (with no services) was prohibitive so we decided to keep moving and find another spot. It ended up being beneath 2 mango trees on the edge a village - another idyllic spot where checking in with the elders of the village (and entertaining the visits of a few passing locals) was met with warm smiles and greetings of "todo bem"!
Pedras Negras was one of the 5-star points of interest Paul had selected long before departing Namibia. These huge granite boulders emerging in the green savannah can be seen from 50 km away... that was the beginning of the excitement, at least for a photographer's eye.
In contrast with what one would expect from the name Pedras Negras, meaning black stones, our approach revealed boulders covered with multicolor lichens. Long pinnacles extended about 200 m above ground level and are agglomerates of mostly granite pebbles. The lichens and other vegetation took root in any crack or gully they could find to live in.
A little village named Pungo Andongo is tucked in the middle of the boulders and seemed to be mainly abandoned with only a couple of the buildings occupied by locals.
Nearby, we found the absolute best wild camp ever, tucked at the foot of the huge boulders just next to a small clear stream.
From our camp, the views were exceptional and flying the drone 2 km away over these big rocks was totally mind-blowing. Only the photos can describe the beauty of the area where luxuriant green vegetation, baobab and other tall trees grow between these huge boulders. Paul wants to go back for a week!
That night, we had some heavy rain, and experienced for the first time the totally absence of waterproofing in the canvas of our pop-up tent. Fortunately, we had decided to stay 2 nights and the next day was sunny enough to dry out everything that was wet!
The original plan was to stay in Luanda for a night and camp in the yacht club parking where overlanders are apparently warmly welcomed. We wanted to drive along the coast north of the city to see all the shipwrecks but the idea of a busy city of 9 million people was not appealing any more after the peacefulness of our journey... so we decided to cut across Kissama NP to reach the coast south of the capital. Kissama is a natural beauty with many baobabs, candelabras and other big trees emerging from a dense green forest but also a shame that the forest is being cut down for low yield farming activities. The country has many national parks but most of them do not warrant that label as no protection is in place.
The coast south of Luanda is much more developed compared to the South of the country and has major fishing activities. Queiroz point was our first stop... a luxury beach resort for wealthy Portuguese and expats where 2 fillo Eka beers (barely 40 cl, on tap) cost us 2500 kwanza (more than quadruple the 'normal' price)! A single main course starting at 15000 kwanza was enough to chase us away in search of the value for money and unpretentious hospitality we had enjoyed up to this point.
As we spent Paul 63rd birthday in the middle of Kissama NP, we aimed for a special day along the coast to celebrate. We treated ourselves with a huge plate of at least 16 small crayfishes at a restaurant on the beach after a very refreshing dip in the ocean. Formal campsites are really difficult to find in most parts of the country, and almost non-existent in / near towns so that night we camped between the same restaurant and the police station. It was a very convenient place that only cost 2 cokes for the old policemen to take care of us!
Driving South was more and more pleasant as there was less and less traffic, more rivers and smaller fishing villages.
Paul had highlighted a spot on the coast South of Benguela, a diving center near the Caotinha cliffs. The base of the dive shop was in the middle of a small new development and the price to camp on a tiny little spot of the drive way behind a huge German MAN truck was not appealing at all to us so we headed for another spot on top of the cliffs with a spectacular view on the bay. It rained a bit that night but our trick to turn the car with the wind on the rear door (as opposed to on the end where our pillows were) worked very well to keep our bed dry!
Binga beach was our last night along the ocean. A pseudo-organised camping with no running water but still asking for 15000 kwanza entry fee! Having the place all to ourselves and good snorkeling made it worthwhile though... despite the jellyfish bite Lisa got on her shoulder!
The further south we went, the more arid the landscape became, but still so beautiful.
There was a road going through the mountains that Paul suggested we take so we did not have to drive the same tar road through Leba pass to Lubango... but we never found it... There was quite a bit of road construction in the area so we suspected the access was hidden in the process. However, we found another one which was not on even Maps.me. At first we were a bit sceptical but several motorcyclists we came across confirmed that it was ok... 170 km in absolutely the middle of nowhere... total adventure! That wild camp in between massive granite outcrops and the next morning drive through the mopane forest was spectacular.
We arrived in Lubango in the afternoon, and stopped at Trentyre for a quick check on the transmission of the Ranger that was making an unusual noise. They found a lot of play in the right CV joint bearings on the side of the front diff so we adapted our routing home in favour of taking the most direct option possible through mostly tar roads.
Again we stopped along the road near a small village and had quite a few visitors during the evening. As the ominous storm clouds were building on the horizon, we decided to put the roof down and slept in the cab during the heaviest part of rain... Fortunately, it stopped before midnight so we could put the roof up again and spend the rest of the night in our much more comfortable bed. The next morning, the camper was surrounded by thick, slick mud. Walking around was not easy but extremely funny... And even getting back to the main road was more like sliding than driving!
The next day was a very long one... but crossing the border was very quick and easy. We arrived safely just past 10 pm after 1200 km... that shower and night in our own bed were so good!
Maps & Downloads
If you are interested, you are welcome to download the tracks, wild camps and other POIs (gpx format) as well as a road report (pdf format) of our expedition in Angola.