Original Touring Africa Diary – Yaounde to Windhoek

As Milan was still not 100% from the malaria, we took it easy out of Yaounde and stopped in the southern town of Ebolowa where we stayed at the lovely Hotel Port Jaune. The next day we crossed the border into Gabon and decided to stay at Hotel Ngue in Mitzic for the night. We arrived quite early so we walked down the street to get a drink and relax a bit. This is where we found a bottle for sale called ‘Gin & Tonic’ – since the locals drink from morning to night we decided to join in with a beer and a G&T and watch them down a milk carton of red wine in ten minutes, get back in their car again which was loaded with goats and chickens and drive off.

We carried on to Lopé from where you can go on mandrill and lowland gorilla treks. Having been to eastern Africa before and knowing how good the wildlife is there, we decided to skip any upcoming national parks and not take the chance of being disappointed with the western/central Africa NP’s. We had the coordinates of a well known overlander bushcamp just after Lopè, S00 09° 110, E011°44.449 on top of a hill overlooking the surrounding savanna. It was a beautiful location and we watched the bush fires burning the dry grass in the distance. Next day was Franceville, then Lekoni where we were searching for the well known canyons which are supposed to be about 10 km’s after you exit the town. We drove around for hours trying all the small tracks off the main track but without any luck. We gave up and found a bushcamp in the middle of the hills with nothing around us at all – it was so peaceful. Little did we know that once the sun goes down, lady bug looking things come alive and millions of them fly around in the air. We quickly packed up and escaped into our tent, where it sounded like rain drops where hitting our tent all night, but it was in fact the little bugs.

We continued the sandy track to the Congo border, and thought we had gone back to Europe when we entered the town of Oyo. We later found out that this is where the president was born and hence is full of European looking houses, street lights, fancy motor boats and jetties on the river, its the Chinese invasion. We carried on early and on our way to Brazzaville we met Pawel, a Polish cyclist who has been travelling from Morocco to Congo in 5 months, the same as us. We had a chat with him on the side of the road and said we would meet again at Hippocampe (Vietnamese hotel and restaurant where overlanders can camp for free) in Brazza in a few days. When we arrived in the city we met a German/Austrian retired couple who have driven their Magirus from Europe to Brazza in 2 years(!), so they like to take things very slow. We applied for a transit visa at the Angolan embassy but gave up after realising we were not going to get it since only 2 visas have been issued by them in the last 4 years!

Pawel showed up on the Friday and together we attacked the Brazza (Congo) – Kinshasa (DRC) ferry / border crossing the next morning. We had ‘pre-booked’ fixers on both sides of the border to help us get through. Many travellers get turned back on the Kinshasa side with their visa for DRC cancelled, without any reason. The officials claim that this is because you don’t have a visa for onward travel, meaning Angola, but currently the only way to get the Angola visa is either in Nigeria or in DRC Matadi. We were particularly nervous that we would not get off that boat on the other side. The whole endeavour took almost 9 hours and we witnessed officials beating people for no reason, and the Red Cross people just turned a blind eye to it. It was the worst thing we had experienced on this trip so far. Luckily we made it together and we arrived at the Catholic Mission St. Anne and celebrated with a few local beers! Note for other travellers – the Brazza side is so much worse than the Kinshasa side, and on the Kinshasa side they will spray your car for health and safety reasons which costs around USD 50. Glad to have made the hardest border crossing in Africa, we went to bed in good spirits with smiles on our faces.

Wanting to reach Namibia as soon as possible we headed for Matadi the next day where we applied for the Angolan transit visa, it’s a 5 day visa and the only one they issue apparently. We had heard from other travellers that the visa is issued on the spot, this was unfortunately not the case for us. After filling out the forms and having an ‘official’ interview with them, they said we should come back tomorrow for the visa. Happy to have that done we were well tired by this point and decided to spoil ourselves by checking into Hotel Ledya which is USD 100 per night.
Next day we headed to the embassy only to be told that the visa was not ready and we should come back tomorrow. Having no patience for their embassy bollocks anymore, we argued and argued with them, the crying trick didn’t work either unfortunately. The visa cost USD 80 each and all they need to do is put a silly sticker in your passport. Could we at least have our passports back please so we can leave Matadi and explore some surroundings? No this was not possible, they did not have the key for that safe. We returned to the hotel where we found out that the Hotel Director knows the Angolan Consul in Matadi. We spoke with him the next morning where he called his friend and we were told we would get it that afternoon. The Hotel Director was an extremely nice man who said we did not have to pay for the coming night’s room and dinner, since it was not our fault that we were still in Matadi and could not leave.
At 4pm we could pick up our passports with the visas in them. We have no idea where our passports had been. Had they been flown to Angola to get stamped, or Kinshasa? We got them finally and left the staff without any thank you’s – they were the rudest and most unhelpful people we had met. We don’t know any consulate where the staff is watching ‘24’ during working hours. Maybe our voodoo dolls can come in handy here….

Happy to leave Matadi we headed for the Songololo border early. It was an easy border crossing and our impression of the Angolans was good. The Angolan roads are known to be the worst on this continent and only too soon did we realise the damage to Edmund. The 2 shock absorbers on the back right had come off. This was not such good news as that meant that we would only drive on the worst roads possible with 1 shock on each front side and 2 shocks on the back left. Spirits were down but we carried on driving 30 km/h on the sandy road and made it to Nzeto for the night. Up at 5 we drove and drove, through the capital on the day of elections (no problems at all – it was good to see they all wanted to vote) and found a place next to the road, in a dug out area, for the night, S10°50.261, E015°02.266. Having a huge landmine problem from the recent war we decided it probably best not to go off road and be blown up in the process.

Angola turned out to be an extremely beautiful country which could be a great place for tourism. The nature is stunning and would be perfect for hiking, rock climbing etc. Angola was a bit of a shock to our system as this is the first country we have visited which was Portuguese. This was also the first country we had travelled in where the people in the villages were asking us for food. After 4 days of early starts and early nights, we crossed the border into Namibia on the 7th and were extremely happy campers! (The Chinese are building the roads in Angola so a lot of it is brand new tar).

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