Josh and Lisa have recently completed our Trans Africa Expedition and told us all about their adventures of travelling through the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Angola.
Throughout West Africa we’d felt welcomed by all, from children running after the Truck, waving at us with two hands and beaming faces to the adults laughing and shouting and, in some cases, even dancing to our arrival.
The DRC and Angola were somewhat different. After exhausting every method we could think of, from letters of recommendation from our home embassies to using our ‘contact’ in the Congolese military, the majority of the group failed to secure visas to Angola. Only those who had taken pre-emptive measures before the start of the Trans to obtain second passports were lucky, and so it was that a much depleted group (5 passengers along with Nev and Kristy our Oasis crew) left our friends and our Point Noire cabin-fever behind for a week of long drive-days and tinned food before reuniting with our friends in Namibia.
Our first stop was to be Cabinda, an Angolan exclave. Crossing the border was fairly easy, and while Lisa stayed in the truck for the Cabinda side of the crossing she overheard the locals chatting amongst themselves, amused by the fact that we had some ‘cadenas’ (French for ‘locks’) on the truck. But then one of them said something to the effect of ‘Well, this is Africa’ and the other agreed it was a sensible idea! A change of countries and a change of language, we had to be 100% sure at our first service station whether ‘gasolina’ or ‘gasoleo’ was diesel (it’s the latter).
Less than a day’s drive and we were through Cabinda and into the DRC. Our first night was an experience I’m sure none of us will ever forget. Sitting round for a few beers and a heated game of Trickster Scrabble, we soon noticed as the sun began to set the presence of a beetle or two. A couple stubbornly clung to Lisa’s shirt – one fell into Josh’s hair. And then suddenly, months away from Egypt, we were suffering from one of its Biblical plagues. Swarms and swarms of beetles filled the air as a ghastly cloud, and while Nadeem took refuge in his tent, the rest of us swatted and slapped ourselves and cowered. There was no escape, and dinner became a game of avoid-the-beetle in the food. Josh still maintains that crunch was just a piece of onion. Needless to say bed was an early one, and when we awoke most of the beetles had disappeared … though the ramifications of that night were felt long after, as beetle carcasses appeared every now and again in the locker spaces.
Crossing the Congo was a big highlight, and we paused briefly to take pictures at another of Africa’s great rivers. Then it was into the heaving, dirty but fantastic town of Matadi where we stopped for lunch and some food shopping. We received a distinctly mixed reception, with some (shop owners!) welcoming us warmly, but others throwing clods of mud at Truck as we drove through.
The following day (after camping at the border, which had sprung up into a town complete with shack bars!) we entered Angola, and began our massive drive, a race against time as we attempted to get through in 5 days before our visas expired. The abiding memory of Angola is landmines, and their evidence was everywhere, from mine-clearing vehicles to red-tape warning us not to enter certain areas. Going off for a toilet-break was somewhat difficult as there was just a slight chance you’d come back with a blown-off limb.
We encountered our second Biblical plague on our second day’s drive, as the Truck became infested with Tsetse flies, annoying little bitey flies which hurt quite a lot, can cause Sleeping Sickness, and surely serve no purpose on this earth at all –an evolutionary anomaly. So irritating were they that the girls, Lisa and Lee, decided their only option was to hide in their mosquito tent, and set it up on the floor in Truck – to the bewilderment of the Angolan checkpoint official who came on Truck to check our passports, and was clearly wondering who these bizarre white people were who put their women in small flimsy cages on the floor.
The roads ranged from very good (new tarred roads constructed by the Chinese) to very bad (with us averaging between 6-15kmph on them). We got bogged in mud at one of our bush camps. Nev, being unable to reverse back onto the road, had to drive further up the dirt road and find a place to turn around. A spiky Acacia tree had fallen over onto the road, however. Cue Nev with his chainsaw and all of us tugging at the branches with entangled spikes and moving them off to the side of the road. Once cleared, Nev drove up the road, managed to turn the truck around and then rejoined the tarred road. All we were then left to do was to extract a few thorns from our hands.
It’s fitting that after two Biblical plagues of locusts and a storm that had us all wishing that Truck was actually an Ark, Angola is where we found Jesus. Christo Rei, that is, the Angolan equivalent of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer, our one tourist stop in Angola where we took the opportunity to stretch our legs and take some snaps.
The week and a half driving through DRC and Angola was a very different experience from the rest of the trip – but it was real adventure, with some hard work (admittedly mostly from Nev and Kristy!) and a complete absence of luxury. A great experience. And the absolutely stunning and diverse scenery that we got to gaze upon for hours on end didn’t exactly hurt.
So if you fancy following in the footsteps of Josh and Lisa and experiencing your own African adventure, check out or trips as we have something for everyone!