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I recommend the mud

A contraception idea

sunny -30 °C

If you draw a straight line from Heathrow to Auckland airport, its likely the part of the world furthest from that line will South West Africa. Africa was the fist continent Flypaper and I explored together. By the time we’d reached Cape Town I was over it – but Flypaper, in that strange feminine way, retained a sentimental attachment to that harshest of all landmasses. The parts we missed previously were North East (Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan,) and Southwest Africa (Angola, Namibia) so at a moment I was distracted she claims to have said, “Lets fill in the gaps”. For all I new she could have been doing a crossword puzzle. Nek minute (duh) I’m advised, “The civil war is over, so I’ve booked us a few days in Angola”. The war may be over, but the land mines still exist.

Angola is likely to be the most difficult country outside the Russian influence to obtain a visa. After many abortive attempts online and discussions with the UK Ambassador, we arrived in Sao Tome without a Visa for our next destination. I’ve been refused entry to a Night Club and some other places I’ll not name, but never to a country. We fronted up at the Sao Tome Embassy for Angola totally confident that our extensive documentation augmented by my natural charm, would do the job. Even that charm failed to avoid the run-around to copy shops, banks … and a delay of a week – followed by a rejection because the ambassador was too busy at a meeting to apply his signature (that’s code for we want a late application fee). With hours to spare we had the most impressive addition to our passports.
Angola, like most of Africa is a basket case. It isn’t going to change much in the foreseeable future. Angola is arguably among the wealthiest countries in Africa and on the list of significant oil, diamond, copper, cobalt, gold, and other mineral resources counties of the world. Everyone wants a piece of Angola and its ripe for plucking. And there's plucker's on every horizon.

There are 3 faces of Angola. (1) The fabulously wealthy oil and mineral resources driven capital city Luanda, dominated by wealthy corporations in huge towers – all controlled by corrupt politicians. Its considered the world’s most expensive city for expats and is now known as the ‘Paris of Africa’. (2) the shanty towns snuggling into every nook and cranny among the wealthy of Luanda and the enormous hinterland that expends over the horizon getting more destitute at the edges, and (3) the poor subsistence farming people of the rural regions.
The 23rd largest county in the world (out of 234.) Officially the population is about 32 million and the population of the capital Luanda is 11 million. However, these official stats are accepted as being grossly understated. The numbers could be 40 million and 15 million – who knows – its impossible to undertake an accurate census. The birth-rate is high and urbanisation is growing at about 6% annually. The net population growth is estimated at 1 person every 25 seconds. There is a slowly growing middle class but the vast majority are living hand to mouth day by day.
Noticeable on the streets are barrow boys. These are young men who have managed to scrounge together enough scrap timber to build a basic wheelbarrow. They hang about everywhere hoping for an opportunity to carry a load for someone usually only a short distance. Eg. Business to vehicle. But they are not on the bottom of the labour heap. They may get a few cents per job – but they can employ another boy to actually do the lifting and pushing for a portion of those few cents. They average wage of these lads is a dollar a day. The rural people often live for less. On a good day, the various “guvmint” ministers will syphon of a couple of hundred million dollars into their respective tax free offshore accounts.
While pondering the inequities I spotted a picture representing the Angolan Scales of Justice. In most countries the scales are balanced. In Angola they are decidedly unbalanced. A Freudian slip?
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Many still manage to climb the ladder of success. I was impressed with the promotional skills of a hairdresser who boldly advertised … “Come in ugly – leave beautiful”. Tempting.
I was told, “Since the civil war there is now freedom of speech – but we never test it”. (Such wisdom from one so young.)

We all have reason to be grateful to our parents. The act of conception ranks pretty high and we can all think of other things. One that springs to mind for me and certainly wouldn’t have been a conscious program of forward planning for me by my parents, was the freedom as a young child to sit outside and eat mud. The immunities gained, the acceptance of soiled clothes and tolerance of the taste has served me well over the years. If you love your children and suspect they may become wanderers – feed them dirt asap.

Luanda has restaurants ranging for superb to preferring starvation. They are consistent in terms of poor service – except for one task. The waiters hover around waiting to snatch up your plate the moment they consider you finished. Sometimes you’re still eating while following them out to the wash-up area. When you do receive food it is a big plate and its full. Sometimes one wonders what its full off but if you poke around you will find some delicious stuff. The rule when traveling in Africa is ‘give it a go’. It can only kill you. The odds are better than not eating and dying of starvation.

An interesting feature of driving in Angola. On 2 lane highways always cruise in the centre lane – pass on the inside. This is because all the taxi buses (and everyone else) simply stops to pick up passengers without pulling off the road. If you drive on the inside, you’ll inevitably crash into the back of someone or at least, take 10 times longer to arrive. Rush hour traffic congestion in Luanda is among the worst in the world. Expatriate workers all have a company driver. If they drive themselves, they will be subject to police harassment or worse … boys on motorbikes (with a pillion passenger witness) will jamb on their brakes in front of you to cause an accident. When the police arrive they advise its cheaper to just pay for a new motorcycle (or even car). The scales of justice in action.

We headed south out of the city for a river cruise and game park visit – both reminiscent of experiences 40 years ago – but Africa doesn’t progress very quickly or much out in the rural regions. There’s birds and animals to be seen and the experience is better than holding your nose playing dodgems in town while fending off pickpockets. We overnighted in a lodge on the river which provided some memorable moments. The first was arriving at 7.30pm – in the dark. We had experienced a flat tyre in the game park so lost an hour. As the only guests’ dinner was left for us. Curried goat we guessed – but other options abound. We crept through the darkness to our cabin – stumbling over tree roots, poor paving and things that moved. The door responded to the key but we couldn’t find the light switch. It was finally discovered in the bathroom. Everything electrical was in the bathroom – but things like shower doors, hot water, towel rail, hooks, etc were missing. While Flypaper unpacked, I decided to take my LED torch and creep back to the jetty to take a photo of the moon across the river. Beautiful – and the crocs around here are quite small. On the way back (looking for the only cabin with a light glowing and a woman silhouetted on the window) I sensed something in the dim glow of the LED scurrying toward me. This is tropical Africa where unknown creatures are genetically programmed to eat white men. Especially white men who can no longer run very fast. I’ll be honest. I nearly had a spontaneous involuntary discharge. The kick delivered to the creature would have cleared the goalpost bar from the halfway line. A very satisfying result. In the morning we discovered lots of 100mm holes dug in the sandy soil beside the pathway. That’s where the giant land crabs live.

Next morning we observed the owner of the lodge creeping around with his air rifle trying to ping the rump of the neighbours pig. He explained it was a positive learning experience for the pig which kept it off the lodge property for as long as 2 days. Flypaper suggested he get a dog. “My wife has one”, he said, “It sleeps between us on our bed. I call it condom”.

Angola does at least have one deep thinker and one who is a wordsmith extraordinaire. The front page of his menu advised … “Wine is made to be enjoyed – but sooner or later it must be consumed. This does not require skill or knowledge”. Profound.

Posted by Wheelspin 09:48 Archived in Angola Tagged land mines angola crabs corruption condom

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