Angola, a country which is only just out of the throws of a extended civil war, is great. With a huge injection of cash from oil money, this country is on the up, and this is obvious immediately. Angola is also one of the most expensive countries in the world, with Luanda being up there as the most expensive capital, so you can imagine in our planning, we had decided to fly through the country. However, we had discovered that since the fall in oil prices, the price of dollars had gone through the roof, and we still had the good fortune to be holding some. In the bank, a dollar will get you 185 Kwanza. On the black market, a dollar will get you upwards of 400 Kwanza, and this made for a very different experience for us. Suddenly, one of the most expensive countries in the world, has become very manageable.
The roads are stunning and we follow them to the next town where we immediately check into a hotel, with hot water, air conditioning and chilled beers and wash about three times each. It is no exaggeration to say we left a trail of mud from reception to our room. The town itself, Mbanza Congo, had supermarkets, parks, boulevards and most interestingly to us, no interest in white people. It was bliss, and such a change.
We head on from there to Luanda, where we have the privilige of being the latest in a long line of overlanders that are allowed to camp at the yacht club for free. It seems incredulous that after the poverty, mud and horrendous roads of the DRC we are 200 miles further south, and scoot in on beautiful roads to camp overlooking the harbor of the yacht club, with a line of skyscrapers glistening on the other side of the water. We spend a couple of days recovering from the Congos, and have the pleasure of meeting a couple of oil workers, Rob and Neil, who on hearing in was James birthday, insisted on taking us out for an excellent Indian meal, our first in a very long way. It seems the numbers of internationals in Luanda has plummeted with the oil prices. The country is in for a big change.
Whilst in Luanda, we have one big job. Laundry. It’s not exciting or glamorous but it is at this stage beyond essential. All our clothes are thick with mud from the river we lived in for a few days, and everything is beginning to hum. Prices in Luanda, so far, have been great for the worlds most expensive city. We can get a beer for 1 dollar fifty in a bar. Meat, and food in the supermarlet is cheaper then we’ve seen it all the way down, so we head off in search of a launderette. After going to a couple if dry cleaners and being unable to get them to just put them in the washing machine, we find a launderette. They make us count out all our clothes, and say they’ll be a big discount, so just count it all out and we make it very clear – no ironing, no dry cleaning just wash and dry. After they quote us 92000 Kwanza – just below 500 dollars at the official exchange rate, we can’t retrieve our knickers fast enough. We draw the line at setting up a washing line in the yacht club and have to leave for more laundry friendly facilities.
We head down the coast to Lobeta, driving on roads are lined with cacti and Baobab trees, and spend another few nights camping in Zula bar, which is another overlander friendly spot with he opportunity to camp for free. It is nice beachfront restaurant, not far from the town where we are able to finally shed a couple of extra kilograms of mud by getting Stanley washed, and setting up our own launderette on the beach. From there it is to Labango, where we camp on a farmyard - since getting to Angola, the land of no campsites, we have had to get a bit more inventive for our accommodation. Here, we visit the Serra de Leba which has to be the most fantastic mountain road I have ever driven on. After guiding Stanley through hairpin turns with views that take your breathe away, we found a bar at the top of the mountain where we could savour the view stationary. Whilst having a few beers, every Angolan tourist who is there to see the view becomes extremely interested in Stanley. They all notice his English reg and come over to talk to us, and have photos taken with him. We are very proud, and extremely glad we got round to having him washed! After about 30 minutes, another car arrives, and a film crew falls out. They come over and talk to us and ask if we would like to be interviewed for a documentary of tourism in Angola. With the fall in oil price, the country is looking for new revenue streams, and somehow this results in James and I talking about our trip with a map spread out over Stanley's bonnet. What an odd turn of events.
Angola was a lovely country, with bucketfuls of stunning scenery and charming people, however Stanleys handbrake hadn’t worked since a particularly stressful hill in the DRC and everywhere we went there was a strong smell of diff oil, so it was time to get him to a service. As we left Angola, their parting gift was the most advanced border we’re passed through yet, with our biometric passports getting scanned, tarred parking spaces and helpful and efficient officials. We wander through in amazement, and heave a sigh of relief when we see the obligatory goat walking through – it is still Africa.