Angola May 2019

In April and May 2019, I drove from Cape Town to Rundu in Namibia, where I joined a group led by Live the Journey for a two-week road trip in Angola. After leaving the group at the Omahenene border post between Angola and Namibia I travelled into Botswana and on to Livingstone in Zambia where I left my vehicle. The total distance was 8,600km.

When I quote prices, I use the original currency. At the time of my trip the exchange rates to the GB pound were: South African Rand 18.50; Namibian Dollar 18.50; Angolan Kwanza 460; Botswana Pula 13.90; Zambian Kwacha 16.40.

I was travelling alone in my Toyota Fortuner without my trailer (more details at end of article).

This trip was built around the Angola trip. My first task was to travel 2,200 km in six days from Cape Town to Rundu in Namibia. The route was entirely on good, fast, tarmac roads with little traffic, so the challenge was to avoid falling asleep.

Day 1 Cape Town to the Namibian Border – 700km

At the end of the first day, 26th April 2019, I crossed the South African border with Namibia. The South African side was very quick. The Namibian side took about an hour. It would have been faster, but I got caught behind a coach load of people in immigration and was faced with a very slow computer and a slower operative when paying the road fund. This is the simplest of crossings with only those two actions necessary, all the requirements are clear and no corruption or fixers.

Day 2 Namibian Border, with South Africa to near Mariental, Namibia – 560km

50 km before Mariental, I came across the Gibeon Commonwealth Graves Commission Cemetery. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was created during the First World War to honour those who died in the service of the Commonwealth. More than a million burials are now commemorated in 2,500 cemeteries in 150 countries and territories. Until the 1960’s British soldiers killed abroad were buried near where they fell. For the following forty years their next of kin were given the choice of having them buried abroad or brought back to Britain. Since 2003 all British soldiers who die abroad are brought back to Britain.

Tibby and I believe that Commonwealth War Graves Commission does a wonderful job in caring for their cemeteries and keeping records for future generations. Two of Tibby’s great uncles, who died in the First World War near Ypres in Belgium and in Northern France, are buried in CWGC cemeteries near where they died, we have visited both their graves. In April 2016 we visited the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery near the Bridge on the River Kwai where 6,842 soldiers are buried.

Gibeon is an abandoned rail station, 450 km north of the South African border, 330 km south of Windhoek and 50 km from the nearest town, Mariental. It is an arid area between the Namib and Kalahari Deserts. When war was declared in 1914, Namibia (then known as German South-West Africa) had been a German colony for thirty years. Britain asked the Union of South Africa (then part of the British Empire) to perform ‘an urgent Imperial Service’ and take control of the ports of Walvis Bay and Luderitz and destroy the wireless station at Windhoek. The South African units performed this task. However, in doing so, on the night of 26/27 April 1915 (104 years anniversary on the day I was there), a South African mounted rifle force surprised a German contingent at Gibeon. The Germans fought back in the bright moonlight killing many South Africans. The Germans fled in the morning. Thirty-three South African soldiers and six German soldiers, all who died in this battle or its aftermath, are buried here. The area is too arid for grass to grow, like in most CGC cemeteries but this small cemetery is neat and clean and a wonderful memorial.

On a Namibian autumn day at midday today at the cemetery the temperature was 34⁰C.

Gibeon was a city to the north of Jerusalem, is mentioned in the Old Testament and was abandoned after the departure of the Romans.

I stayed at the Kalahari Anib Lodge in the Kalahari Desert (descriptions of all my accommodation are recorded at the end of this article). I joined a game drive with a well-informed guide. We saw eland, oryx, springbok, steenbok, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and ground squirrels and a good sunset.

Day 3 Mariental to Waterberg Mountains in northern Namibia – 600km

On the third night I stayed at Waterberg Wilderness Lodge. The focus of the game drive was entirely on their collection of five white rhinos. I do not believe in zoos. They may have been appropriate fifty years ago when television and travel were limited but no longer. Similarly, I also do not support lion or animal parks or rehabilitation places where the animal’s movements are severely restricted. These rhinos were in a large reserve with almost no grass, so hay was left for them. They were guarded 24 hours a day and were so habituated to people that we were invited to leave the vehicle and get as close as five metres from them. I got a good photo, but this was not a happy experience. Otherwise the Waterberg Mountain rises above the plain providing wonderful views from the lodge and with spectacular rock formations. I visited the neighbouring Namibian Wildlife Reserve and was disappointed to find that the only way I could get about was on an expensive game drive.

Day 4 Waterberg to Ghaub Nature Reserve, near Grootfontein – 175km

I moved on to Ghaub Nature Reserve, a sister camp to Waterberg Wilderness Lodge. That was a waste of a day. Nothing interesting to report.

Day 5 Ghaub Nature Reserve to Rundu, Namibia – 350km

Halfway between Grootfontein and Rundu I saw the turnoff to Mangetti National Park, so I followed the sign to find a register showing a single arrival every few days. Three hours later I knew why this park was visited so infrequently. It was incredibly dry, poorly signposted with hardly any animals.

Our group travelling to Angola met that evening of Wednesday 1st May 2019 at Kaisosi Lodge near Rundu. The trip was organised by Live the Journey, with whom I have travelled before. The leader is Jakkals (English translation: Jackal), 48, Afrikaans, living in Walvis Bay, has been a guide for thirty years and guides about three weeks a month. He was to prove to be a knowledgeable, competent and compassionate leader. He was assisted by Anton and Lucky, neither of who have been to Angola before, but both have assisted Jakkals before. Jakkals told us to expect an adventure and recognise that there would be plenty of ups and downs.

I also met the group which, including me, comprised fifteen, being five couples, a father and adult son and two friends travelling together. Except for the 34-year-old son, most people were in their sixties with one at 75. Of the eight guest cars, four were from Pretoria, three from Cape Town and area and one from the north coast above Durban. The eight people from Pretoria all knew each other, had travelled together before and six of them had just completed a five-day trip with Jakkals from Swakopmund to the Kunene River mouth. The couple from the North Coast knew some of the Pretoria contingent. Except for one couple and me they were all Afrikaans although they were all fluent in English.

If we needed medical care on the trip, we were better staffed than many Angolan clinics. We had two radiologists, an ophthalmic surgeon and a neurologist with us. We also had a marine engineer, a counsellor and businessmen. Three of the men had established businesses which they had exited in the recent past. So, this was a well-educated group.

With eight guest vehicles and two crew vehicles the winner was Toyota with eight including five Cruisers, two Hilux’s and my lowly Fortuner. There was also a Mercedes G Wagon and an Iveco (more of that later). Eight vehicles ran on diesel and two on petrol.

Just before we parted for the night, at Jakkal’s invitation, Luis from Angola, and his plain clothes Angolan police friend, came in from the night with a paper bag full of Angolan Kwanzas and exchanged them for South African Rand and Namibian Dollars at a rate of 25 to the Rand (apparently better than the official rate). I fear that I was already participating in the corrupt Angolan society.

Day 6 Into Angola – 224km

In the morning two way radios were fitted into our vehicles. We used these extensively to receive instructions from Jakkals, to share information and to guide cars behind us to pass slow moving vehicles.

Jakkals had to do some last-minute tasks so we left late at 10h00 from Rundu, first doing the 135 km to the Katwitwi/Katuitui border post. On the way we were stopped at two police check points where they checked our daytime driving lights and our driving licences respectively.

It took us an hour to get through the Namibian border post principally because the officials were writing everything into big ledgers. Jakkals had warned us not to talk Afrikaans or Portuguese at the Angolan border post, to park exactly where indicated, show no impatience and open all our doors when searched. All went well and we were through in ninety minutes.

Forgive me while I give you some background information about Angola. The size of Angola is 1.25 million km². It is about the same size as South Africa and five times as large as the United Kingdom. It has an Atlantic coastline of 1,650km and stretches inland for 960km. It has a population of 31 million (2018), most of whom live in and near Luanda on the long, narrow coastal plain.

The Portuguese had a five hundred year involvement with Angola arriving in 1482 to trade, establishing a settlement a hundred years later at Luanda, then increasingly claiming more parts of the country, fighting against the local population wanting independence for fifteen years from the 1960s and abandoning the country, with little notice, to the Angolans in 1975. The Portuguese arrived seeking gold and then found slaves to be more profitable so transported four million slaves, principally to Brazil, but also to the Americas over 360 years until Portugal banned the slave trade in 1836. Slaves continued to be used in Angola for another fifty years until 1888.

The official language of Angola is Portuguese with 42 other ethnic languages spoken in their locality.

The country is a democracy but the MPLA party has ruled since 1975 and follows a centrally controlled system. The reach of MPLA is significant. Most villages that we passed had an MPLA flag flying (A few had UNITA flags). At a filling station a MPLA car arrived and gave us MPLA caps.

Angola is the second biggest producer of oil in Africa and oil accounts for 50% of GDP and 90% of exports. Other major exports are petroleum gases and diamonds.

Life expectancy at birth is 61. Angola has the highest birth rate in the world with an average of over six births per woman. Six per cent of all deaths arise because of low birth weight and a further six percent from birth trauma. Angola has the highest percentages of any country for these two factors.

A major reason for the high levels of poverty in the country arise from Angola ranking six in the world for corruption which enriches a few and impoverishes most.

As we left the border Jakkals reminded us to drive on the right. This was an academic issue for the next 220km as a road that had once been tar had now deteriorated to the extent that 98% of the tar was gone, the road narrowed at places to a single lane and repeatedly we left the road for a side track that appeared to be faster. In some place’s roadworks had started with the building of culverts which stood above the road level requiring another deviation. The landscape was flat with low bushes and low numbers of people although one never drove far without seeing someone. Since leaving Rundu we had been following the Kavango River which is known as the Cubango River in Angola. It flows from the Angolan highlands and forms the border with Namibia from the Katuitui border post and then turns into Botswana to flow into the Okavango Delta. After following it for 90km we camped in a dry flood plan of the river for the night.

I chose to travel with Live the Journey because (a) I was very uncomfortable about travelling alone in Angola on my first trip (b) Jakkals was a mine of information about all aspects of Angola (c) the other participants in the journey were very knowledgeable about some aspects with Johan being an expert on the war with South Africa (d) Jakkals took us down narrow beautiful tracks that I would have been hesitant to follow alone and (e) dinner and breakfast were supplied. Jakkals did all the cooking and produced an amazing tasty array of meals. The group were religious and each night a different person said grace before dinner.

Day 7 To north of Menogue – 292km

The night was relatively cold as the temperature dropped to 12⁰C. Darkness had lasted about twelve hours since about 18h30. The pattern for the mornings was set with coffee and rusks at 07h00, breakfast soon after 07h30 and departure from the camp site between 08h30 and 09h00.

As we continued on our way, we communicated by use of two-way radios that had been installed in our vehicles in Rundu. The radios were not only used to ensure that we all knew when to make a turn or when to stop, but also to help each other pass other vehicles when the road ahead was not visible and also for knowledge to be shared including reading extracts from the Bradt guidebook. Jakkals pointed out that all government buildings including hospitals and schools were painted pink and all police buildings were painted blue.

We stopped to inspect a camp full of abandoned road working machines. A South African civil construction company, Teichman, had partnered with an Angolan and had successfully bid to rebuild part of the road that we were travelling on. The Angolan partner diverted the second stage payment to his account, leaving Teichman without funds to continue. (Our first example of corruption). Teichman decided to abandon the contract but were prevented by the Government from taking their equipment out of the country. There are now signs that indicate that the contract and machines have now been taken over by a Chinese contractor.

The bad road ended at Caiundo and after a police checkpoint we crossed the Cubango River and found a faster tar road to Menogue a sprawling, low level, desperately poor town. We stopped at a Unitel cell phone shop, showed our passports and for KZ1,300 received a SIM and 500mb data.

We camped 40km north of Menogue in a noisy clearing next to the road.

Each night the crew set up a chemical toilet and a shower tent. If one wanted a shower you filled a bucket with about eight litres of water, heated it by pumping it through a portable gas boiler and then wet yourself, turned off the water, soaped yourself and then rushed to rinse before the water ran out.

Day 8 Through Chitembe, Chinguar and Huambo – 491km

We started to see locals selling honey by the side of the road and man-made cylindrical hive baskets measuring one metre in length with a radius of 200mm.

Deforestation is a significant issue in Angola with large reductions in forest and no replacement. Wood is the fourth biggest export of Angola. There is also a process of ‘slash and burn’ where subsistence farmers clear the land to plant crops, deplete the soil and move on. Another contributing factor is the production of charcoal. Charcoal is made by heating hard wood in a controlled environment getting rid of water and other volatile constituents leaving carbon. This is lightweight, can be burned to high temperatures and a small amount can go a long way in communities where fire is the principal way of cooking. Locals make charcoal which is then collected by middlemen with trucks. Throughout Angola, as we drove, we saw bags of charcoal waiting collection.

We stopped to inspect a burnt-out military tank from the South African war.

I, like all my South African white peer group, did national service of nine or twelve months.  I did mine in 1972. Many of those who served after 1975 were involved in the Angolan border war. On independence of Angola in 1975 the principal groups fighting for independence turned on each other resulting in a civil war that devastated the country and lasted for 27 years until 2002. The MPLA faction were supported by Russia who persuaded Cuba to send 50,000 troops. They were opposed by UNITA who were supported by the USA and South Africa. South Africa was particularly focused because the independent Angola had allowed SWAPO, freedom fighters for the independence of Namibia, to base themselves near the border with Namibia (then called South West Africa). The South Africans fought a bush war on the border and in Angola, from 1975 until 1988 when the Brazzaville Protocol resulted in all foreign powers withdrawing from the country.

Much of what happened during the South African Border War was not public at the time. The most public and well known of the battles, was The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale which was fought intermittently over a seven month period between August 1987 and March 1988, south and east of the town of Cuito Cuanavale, Angola, by the FAPLA (the armed wing of the MPLA), Cuba, South Africa, and insurgents of UNITA. The battle was the largest engagement of the Angolan conflict and the biggest conventional battle on the African continent since World War II. UNITA and its South African allies defeated a major FAPLA offensive towards Mavinga, preserving the former’s control of southern Angola. They proceeded to launch a bloody but inconclusive counteroffensive on FAPLA defensive positions around the Tumpo River east of Cuito Cuanavale. Both sides claimed victory. The Cuban and FAPLA defenders had interpreted the SADF’s campaign as part of a larger effort to seize the town of Cuito Cuanavale itself and presented their stand there as a successful defensive action. The SADF maintained that it had achieved its basic objectives of halting the FAPLA offensive without needing to occupy Cuito Cuanavale, which would have entailed unacceptable losses to its expeditionary force.

We learnt a lot from Johan who was part of our group, and who had studied the war in depth. Today there are battlefield tours in Southern Angola which include Cuito Cuanavale. The town is located 190km south east of Menogue. We did not visit Cuito Cuanavale.

Although there were elections in Angola in 1991 the civil war continued until 2002. It is thought that one million people died and 2.5 million were displaced during the civil war.

On the outskirts of Chitembo we came across a community water point and filled up our water supplies.

Jakkals had warned us to be prepared to drive 1,000km before refuelling. We were delighted that there was fuel in Chitembo, and everyone filled up. In South Africa there is a distinction between 500 and 50 ppm diesel with leisure vehicles running on the latter. There is no such distinction in Angola, so we are probably running on diesel that is not ideal for our vehicles. At the service station I bought two different types of local lager at a price of KZ200 each.

The scenery in the afternoon was like the Highveld in South Africa with rolling hills, fertile fields and few large trees.

In Chinguar we passed the HQ of Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA, until his death in a battle in 2002. We also crossed the Benguela Rail Line which runs from Lobito through Huambo to Tenque in the Democratic Repubilc of Congo. Tibby and I have booked to go on the Rovos Rail journey in July 2022 from Lobito to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and we will be travelling on the Benguela Line.

We passed through Huambo, a low-level uninteresting town and camped 120 km north on big flat rocks with a view of a rock mountain.

Day 9 Through Quibala to Fazenda Cabuta Coffee Farm – 304km

We were losing track of the days but early in the day, in a small town, we realised that it was Sunday, as we came across a Catholic church with the sound of hymn singing bursting out of the open doors.

The land was flat with lots of rivers and what looked like fertile land, but there was no agriculture.

Over the next hour we descended from an altitude of 1,200m to 400m and were hit with an increase in temperature to 28⁰C and high humidity.

After lunch we turned off the main road heading east. For some distance the road was once again tar laid decades ago but not maintained so with huge potholes.

The road climbed back to 1,000m and we were surrounded by beautiful sub-tropical forest. Every few kilometres we passed a village where the poverty of the people was clear to see although the children greeted us with great joy.

We arrived at a coffee farm where Jakkals had previously camped, to be told that the farm had been taken over by an army general from Luanda and that we were not welcome to stay.  One was left with a sense that the purchase had not been an open market transaction.

Thirty minutes later we arrived at Fazenda Cabuta coffee farm who agreed that we could camp on the terraces where they dry their coffee beans. That was our hottest night to date.

Day 10 Fazenda Cabuta Coffee Farm to Pedras Negras – 138km

In the morning we toured the coffee factory. They produce 800 tons of coffee pa from 8,000 hectares with 500 staff in the field. That makes them an important employer in the area. I was left with a sense that production was down from earlier years. Coffee beans and ground coffee sold for K3,600 for 250g. I stocked up and later enjoyed the coffee.

We departed at 09h30 heading north on a very small track through the jungle, taking 2.5 hours to do 25km. The forest was overflowing with avocado and banana plants. We stopped for a while near a village in a clearing and were surrounded by children. One of our party found a rugby ball in their vehicle and gave it to the children who were not sure what to do with it, so tried to play football.

We stopped for lunch at the bridge crossing the Kwanza River, downstream from the Capanda Dam. The volume of water in the river seemed to me to be high. A few members of our party dived into the river to cool down.

We turned on to a tar road and a while later arrived at Pedras Negras, a wondrous collection of granite mountains, 250m high. The road took us into the heart of the mountains leaving us the last 100m to walk up so that we could see the magnificent views.

It was very clear that this was once a busy tourist site with many visitors. Now, however, all the buildings and paths were in a bad state. Unfortunately, this state of disrepair was to be found at all major sites that we visited.

We camped at the base of the mountains that night. Our best camp site to date.

Day 11 Pedras Negras to Calandula Falls – 230km

The previous day, as we arrived at the Pedras Negras car park, the radiator of one of the Land Cruisers blew with a spectacular show of steam. Jakkals towed the vehicle to Malange this morning where it took fours to replace the radiator in a makeshift repair, in a Chinese workshop. It did not take us long to explore this run-down city which had lots of damaged and poorly maintained buildings. Fortunately, we found an air-conditioned bakery to have lunch.

With the cruiser running again, we headed off to the Calandula Falls. The falls are very special. They are the third highest falls in Africa and are 400m wide with a 100m drop. Once again, the tourist infrastructure was visible but falling apart.

We crossed the river downstream and arrived at the Pousada Calandula, an hotel on the opposite bank giving a different view of the Falls. The hotel was being renovated. Jakkals had previously camped in the car park. Jakkals had difficulty ascertaining if the hotel was still owned by the same person. Eventually a site manager agreed to allow us to camp in the car park. A fine mist from the Falls rained on us all night leaving us with wet tents to pack up in the morning.

Day 12 Calandula Falls to Barra do Dande, north of Luanda – 392km

Fairly quickly we settled onto a long tar road towards Luanda. It was initially very potholed in the forest but then improved. We dropped 1,000m. We checked every filling station along the road, looking for fuel, without success. We skirted Luanda on a ring road and headed a short distance north, before Jakkals turned off the main road into an area of shacks emerging a few kilometres later on the beach of Barra do Dande. He knew of a quarry where we set up camp.

The reason to be here was to marvel at the sight of about one hundred ships, stranded over about two kilometres of beach and shallow water. The story is apparently that on independence in 1975, white Portuguese ship owners, planning to leave the country, were told that they could not sail their ships away from Angola. Instead of leaving them to the new government they wrecked their ships in the shallow waters of Barra do Dande. Forty-five years later the ships are still there in varying states of decay. They present an eerie sight but wonderful for photos, especially when the sun sets through them.

I had hoped that we would drive through Luanda, but the consensus of the group was to avoid Luanda.

Day 13 Barra do Dande to Kwanza Lodge 70km south of Luanda – 119km

We started the day at 08h30 by driving south along the beach, marvelling at yet more shipwrecks. We came across a group of fishermen pulling a large net on to the beach. We stopped to watch the process as they brought their catch of (what looked like) sardines in. I was surprised how small the catch was, given the number of people participating. Each person’s share must have been very small.

We inflated our tyres, skirted Luanda and arrived for lunch at Kwanza Lodge where we stayed in bungalows that night. A few of us participated in a pleasant sunset cruise near the mouth of the river.

Day 14 Kwanza Lodge to breakdown – 215km

At dawn several of us took a cruise up the river for a few hours. The banks were heavy with vegetation and we saw lots of birds, some monkeys and a few boatmen. A delightful experience.

We headed south on a reasonably good tar road when Anton called over the radio that he was having problems with his Iveco. It transpired that his model had been extended by Iveco and the extended drive shaft that they had fitted had previously broken. This seemed to be a recurrence of that issue. Jakkals towed the Iveco to a side gravel road and we set up camp on either side of the road. Johan called Iveco who dispatched a mechanic from Luanda. Locals who passed by herding cattle and carrying wood, were intrigued by us.

A group of children were initially frightened, and then fascinated by Gareth’s flying drone.

The mechanic called after sunset and it was agreed that he would stay overnight nearby and find us in the morning. We were plagued by mosquitoes all night.

Day 15 Breakdown site to near Seles – 160km

The Iveco mechanic arrived at 09h00 to find that the part that he was carrying almost fitted. Jakkals and the mechanic went in search of a roadside welder who fashioned a solution. We departed at 12h00.

Not very far further south we turned off the main road to the beautiful Binga Falls and followed that with a two-hour spectacular circular drive through forested mountains. We camped in a field near Seles at an altitude of about 1,000m.

Day 16 Seles to Lobito – 247km

We had a lovely drive descending back to the coast and then spent a few miserable hours heading south on a poor-quality tar road. We drove into Lobito through a slum and then found a city that was once beautiful but is now run down. Jakkals had arranged with the owner of the Zulu Restaurant that we could camp on the beach next to his restaurant. To fit into the space, we camped cheek by jowl in an area that was relatively busy with people. We had a lousy dinner at the restaurant.

Day 17 Lobito to Klofie, just north of Namibe – 303km

We could not find fuel in Lobito nor at the few other possible places during the day. We took photos of abandoned steam driven sugar cane processing machines on the edge of Lobito and then took the coastal road south.

This was initially good tar and then we had 90km of roadworks through the desert with fifteen bridges in different stages of construction. The going was tough, softened by the fact that the route was beautiful in a Karoo like way.

We passed by an isolated prison town and then Jakkals turned off the road taking us to a place where the desert met the beach, where we camped. This was a spectacular site with amazing red desert cliffs above the beach. Some vehicles were now very low on fuel, so others gave up some of their spare supplies.

Day 18 Klofie to Tundavala – 370km

This was a busy day full of experiences. We drove into Namibe which seemed to be more vibrant than Lobito. The bay was pretty with lots of fishing boats.

We found a filling station with fuel, so we all relaxed on that score. Jakkals took us to the local market where everything was available. I bought six pieces of colourful material for possible use by Tibby in her quilting.

We then turned eastwards and inland arriving an hour or so later at the foot of the Leba Pass. This is a marvel of engineering as the road winds and zigzags 1,000m up to the escarpment. Having reached the top there is a viewing area nearby where one can more fully appreciate the view of the road. The temperature dropped from 39⁰C at the coast to 25⁰C on the escarpment.

Near Humpata, Jakkals led us on to a private property, which contained graves of Voortrekkers who had arrived in the area in about 1860.

A little later we arrived in the thriving city of Lubango and drove to a mountain above the city where there is a statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Rei) looking down over the city.

We crossed the city and followed a climbing road to enter Tundavala, which is a cliff top viewpoint on the edge of the escarpment with spectacular views to the valleys below. There are two major viewing points with one including an amazing gorge. We camped that night close by.

Camping locations in Angola
Date May 2019Co-ordinatesDescription
2S16.45.8005 E071.54.9572Banks of the Cubango River, 90kms from border
3S14.22.6665 E017.38.7824Clearing next to main road
4S11.52.4198 E015.22.6386120km past Huambo near a rock mountain
5S09.49.1644 E014.52.0640Coffee farm – Fazenda Cabuta
6S09.40.3277 E015.34.1273Pedras Negras – the best
7S09.04.7169 E016.00.1064Hotel grounds overlooking Calandula Falls
8S08.38.3020 E013.24.7981Quarry near the beach – close to the shipwrecks
9S09.20.5260 E013.09.2155Kwanza Lodge – stayed in rooms
10S10.55.4958 E013.52.1110Broken down on a gravel road – not recommended
11S11.22.0069 E014.13.5740At 1,000m near Seles
12S12.19.0521 E013.34.7830On beach at Zulu Restaurant, Lobito
13S14.13.9707 E012.20.9760Klofie. Desert riverbed on coast, north of Namibe
14S14.49.1496 E013.23.1713Tundavala area

Day 19 Tundavala through border – 425km to Kunene River Lodge, Namibia – 87km

We had an early start at 07h00 for our last day together as a group. We had a long drive on tar to Xangongo where we were disappointed by a lack of fuel. We then turned off the main road and followed a bad gravel road to the border with Namibia at Calueque/ Omahenene.  (This is a small border post located at S17.39.1834 E014.32.6036, 15km east of the Ruacana Border Post). We had done 3,750km in Angola. Farewell kisses and hugs and a quick border crossing through both border posts and I was once again on my own.

Some of the group were immediately rushing southwards but most of the group had booked into Eha Lodge near the border. They were full when I checked, so I headed west along the Kunene to Kunene River Lodge. I hoped for a bit of luxury after two weeks of camping, but the room was basic. I joined a sunset cruise on the Kunene which was pleasant.

Day 20 Kunene River Lodge to Onguma Etosha Lodge, Namibia – 430km

I left early to do the 430km to Onguma Etosha Lodge on the eastern edge of Etosha National Park. I stopped off to see the Ruacana Falls to find that they were not falling. The little water that is in the river is being diverted through the hydro-electric plant. I had some concerns that the road via Oshakati might be poor quality, but after the Angolan roads it was an absolute delight. I entered Etosha at the northern King Nahale Gate, had a lovely sighting of massed zebra at a water hole, exited Etosha at the Von Lindequist Gate and immediately turned into Onguma.

Onguma is a 34,000-hectare private game farm with five lodges and two camp sites. There is a wide price range between the lodges. I had previously camped at their Tamboti Luxury Campsite where each site has their own bathroom. I now stayed at their Onguma Etosha Aoba Lodge which is one of their mid-level lodges. This was wonderfully comfortable and a chance to get my laundry done.

Day 21 Onguma and Etosha, Namibia

This was a relaxing day with a drive in Etosha during the day and a game drive in Onguma in the late afternoon with the interesting sightings being a lioness and dwarf mongooses.

Day 22 Onguma via Grootfontein and Rundu to Shamvura Camp in Caprivi Strip, Namibia – 540km

An easy drive on good roads. Towards the end of the trip, probably near the village of Ndiyona there was a police check point with a stop sign. The policeman stood two metres past the stop sign. I slowed and stopped next to the policeman. He then fined me for not stopping at the stop sign. I suspect that he does this deliberately several times a day. He held my passport until I had paid the fine at the local police station.

That night at Shamvura Lodge the only other guest was Roland Goetz, who told me that he was responsible for the Luengue-Luiana and Mavinga National Parks in the south-west corner of Angola. These parks are at an early stage of their development and still include villages in the area. The northern border of the parks near Zambia are still heavily mined from the civil war. The number of people working for the parks is still very low and animal numbers are also low. However, these two parks together are four times the size of the huge Kruger National Park in South Africa. Importantly they are also part of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) an initiative including the five countries of Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The goal of the KAZA TFCA is “To sustainably manage the Kavango Zambezi ecosystem, its heritage and cultural resources based on best conservation and tourism models for the socio-economic wellbeing of the communities and other stakeholders in and around the eco-region through harmonization of policies, strategies and practices.” Roland told me that an important early benefit has been a coordinated approach to poaching so that poachers can no longer escape by crossing international borders. He also told me that the longer-term objective was to relieve the overcrowding of elephants in Botswana (particularly in Chobe National Park) by giving them a route across the Caprivi Strip in Namibia and into the above-mentioned parks in Angola. May their project be hugely successful.

Day 23 Shamvura Camp to Livingstone’s Camp, Namibia – 380km

The next morning, I stopped off at Poppa Falls which was a disappointment and then checked into Livingstone’s Camp near Sangwali around lunch time and was shown my attractive camp site. I then proceeded to the Nkasa Rupara National Park. Given that this park is across the Linyanti River from the Linyanti area of Chobe I was expecting to see lots of game and elephants. It was all quite disappointing with sightings limited to small antelope and birds. I had planned to stay three nights at Livingstone’s Camp, but I decided that it was not worth returning to Nkasa Rupara, and that I would move on in the morning.

Day 24 Livingstone’s Camp via Chobe Riverfront to Kasane, Botswana – 250km

I had an easy run through Katima Mulilo to the Botswana border post at Ngoma Bridge. There was an easy border crossing. I entered the Chobe Waterfront area of Chobe National Park and immediately noticed how low the river was. For the first while I saw little game and wondered if the animals were staying away from the river. How wrong I was. In the next four hours I saw a herd of 400 buffalo, 200 elephant and lots more game. This really is a magnificent game viewing area.

I had booked a camp site at Ihaha Camp Site on the river in the Park for two nights later. This is a magnificent camp site, often overrun with elephants. However, because I had left Livingstone’s Camp early, I was now ahead of my booking. I pushed on to Kasane to find an hotel.

Day 25 and 26 Kasane to Livingstone, Zambia – 100km

A year previously I had experienced a horrible border crossing from Botswana to Zambia through Kazangula. The bad experience was partly due to my inexperience of more complex borders in Africa and my complete lack of preparedness. Other travellers had told me that crossing at Kazangula into Zimbabwe and then entering Zambia at Victoria Falls was a lot easier, despite including a second border crossing. And so, it proved. I passed through the two borders as one of only a few vehicles (there were several pedestrians) relatively quickly. In Livingstone I had my vehicle cleaned, emptied my fridges and water tanks and dropped my vehicle off at Foleys Africa to be stored for the next four months. On 22nd May 2019, Day 26, I flew from Livingstone via Johannesburg to London.

My thoughts at the end of the trip

I will not be returning to Angola for a long while. I am pleased that I did the trip, but we did a huge amount of travelling for little payback. There were no animals. The six highlights were Pedras Negras, Calandula Falls, Barra do Donde shipwrecks, Klofie, the desert riverbed campsite on the coast on Day 17, Leba Pass and Tundavala. Jakkals was an exceptional guide and it was great to travel with this group.

Etosha and Chobe National Parks were wonderful, as always. The Waterberg, Mangetti and Nkasa Rupara were disappointing.

Descriptions of Accommodation 

I was travelling alone so in some cases have paid a single supplement.

Felix Unite Provenance Camp – On Orange River in Namibia close to Nordoewer border crossing with South Africa. Felix Unite run multi day kayaking trips from here. Tibby and I did such a trip in October 2015. R1,150 (£62) per standard cabana per night with no meals included. Accommodation adequate but tiring. Great river views and great pool. Unexciting restaurant. Wi-Fi R25 per 250mb.

Kalahari Anib Lodge – 40 km from Mariental, Namibia. Part of the Gondwana Collection which has reliable three-star hotels around Namibia. N$1,007 (£54) per room per night including Gondwana Card 25% discount. No meals or game drives included. This lodge was rebuilt in 2017 and is up to date, modern and comfortable with a good pool and good dining room and bar. Disappointing buffet dinner (but all buffet meals disappoint me). Wi-Fi first 250mb per device free; thereafter N$50 per 250mb.

Waterberg Wilderness Lodge – 250km north of Windhoek. N$2,017 (£109) per night in a Plateau Lodge Chalet including dinner and breakfast and free but slow Wi-Fi. Comfortable but tiring rondawel on edge of cliff with spectacular views of plains below. One-man private plunge pool. Minimal selection of unexciting food and staff that are indifferent, bordering on insolent.

Ghaub Nature Reserve – Near Grootfontein in Namibia. N$1,886 (£88) per night in a standard room including dinner and breakfast. This is a sister lodge to Waterberg Wilderness Lodge

Kaisosi River Lodge – Near Rundu, Namibia on the Angolan border. N$800 (£43) per room per night excluding meals. This was where I met the group that I travelled to Angola with.

Live the Journey – The fifteen-day trip including dinner and breakfast. I paid R19,850 (£1,073) which included a single supplement. The price included the guide, camping fees (the very few times they were incurred), a night at Kwanza Lodge, all entrance fees and two meals a day.

Kunene River Lodge – 46km west of the Ruacana Falls on the Kunene River. N$1,600 (£86) per night including dinner and breakfast. Wi-Fi in the communal area. Functional.

Onguma Etosha Aoba Lodge – Just outside the eastern boundary of Etosha National Park in Namibia. N$2,320 (£125) per night in a Heritage Bungalow with dinner and breakfast. A little bit of luxury after fifteen nights of camping. Wi-Fi in the communal area.

Shamvura Camp – On the western edge of the Caprivi Strip, Namibia. N$800 (£43) per night in a cottage including dinner and breakfast. Falling apart. Won’t use again.

Livingstone’s Camp – Near Sangwali, Caprivi, Namibia. N$350 (£19) per night for a camp site. No meals included.

Cresta Mowana Safari Resort and Spa – Kasane, Botswana. BP1,850 (£130) including breakfast. Last-minute walk-in reduced rate. Very comfortable. Wi-Fi in the communal area.

Green Tree Lodge – Livingstone, Zambia. US$65 (£50) per night per room including breakfast.

I spent £2,057 for accommodation for the 26 nights on the trip Including the cost of the thirteen day Live the Journey trip in Angola. I travelled 8,575km, consuming 1,063 litres at a cost of R11,778 (£636) and an average consumption of 8.1 kms per litre. The fuel cost was lower than normal for this distance because diesel was dramatically cheaper in Angola. The average cost of diesel per litre in £p was South Africa 89p, Namibia 75p, Angola 29p and Zambia 75p. So, I spent £2,700 in total for accommodation and diesel. Other costs were country and park entry fees, meals not included with accommodation, vehicle servicing and the cost of my Carnet de Passage.

Description of my vehicle and equipment

I drive a three litre, diesel 2010 Toyota Fortuner which I bought in 2014 with 76,000 km on the clock. At the beginning of this trip it had done 160,000 km. I have added the following: ARB front bull bars, Fortuner bash plate, Safari snorkel, enhanced coils, springs and shock absorbers, secondary battery system, 72 litre built in extra diesel tank, Rockshokerz purpose built rear bumper and carriers for two spare wheels, Front Runner roof rack, a pull out awning fixed to the roof rack, Front Runner stainless steel/aluminium camp table, two diesel jerry cans and a 60 litre Engel Combi fridge/freezer.

For when I get stuck I carry a box of towing and snatch ropes, a high lift jack, two other jacks, an ARB portable compressor, two Desert escape sand tracks, a 9000 winch fixed to the front bumper, a spade and an Iridium 9575 Satellite Phone.

Whenever I can, I stay in hotels or self-catering units but if these are not available I am ready to camp in relative luxury with an Oztent RV5 tent, camp bed, one sleeping bag for temperatures down to 7⁰C and another for temperatures below that, Oztent Goanna chairs, gas cookers, a selection of pots, pans and cutlery, braai grid and a sixty litre tank of fresh water.

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