Third Leg: Destination Kinshasa


Day 5
Driving from Lubango to Benguela.
Leaving Lubango which was part of the effected towns during the South African Angolan war.
Lots of blown up tanks and military vehicles still laying abandoned around the town. The road was
good tar for about 40 km and then the dirt deviations started. Very bad rough corrugated sand road
people stop and stare when they see me approaching on a motorbike , they do not get a lot of tourists
driving through the country.
Eventually arrived in Benguela and found a guest house for the night , as there was no option for camping.
Stayed at Nancy’s English school/guest house. 65 dollars per night for a room with no windows and communal
bathroom. The people were very friendly and gave me a lot of ideas about what I should see in the area.
Went to Lobito for the day which is about 30 km down the coast. both Benguela and Lobito are beautiful little towns
with great beaches and good restaurants. in Lobito I needed to get some welding done on my bike.
Stopped a guy on the side of the road. He said he will show me were to go. He jumped on the back of the bike.
We drove into the nearest township and found a local welder. Fixed the problem, but i also needed to buy some new allan keys, so off we
went to a guy he thought might have. Found a Portuguese guy called Renaldo. Firstly when he saw me and the bike he got very excited and said he would
like to show me his workshop. There inside he had 3 new bikes Yamaha royal star, a motto guzzi California and a Honda Trans alp.
After giving me 2 allan keys, he then said he wants to take me for lunch. Off we went to an amazing place called the alpha bar.
3 off his friends joined us. He paid for lunch and beers. I wanted to pay but he insisted he was treating me. It turned out he was the
head of the local motorcycle club. I was giving a cap and shirt with the clubs emblem on .
What amazing hospitality!
drove back to Benguela for the night.

Day 8
Long drive to the capital Luanda, absolute chaos. Took
 me about an hour to find a place to camp.
Went to the local boat club were the manager Ricardo said i can put my tent up outside the club house

He then went and got me a cold beer/ he also said i could camp for free, what a bonus.
Met 2 guys 1 a South African on business will pitching my tent.
They invited me for supper at the clubs restaurant, had a great evening chatting about Angola which he knew very well
from living there for a number of years.

Day 9
Woke up, and would you believe Ricardo invited me to his house for breakfast. Met his daughters and son
and got a big send off with lots of photos and goodbyes. Angolan hospitality is mind blowing.
Then set off on what I knew was going to be a tough day of off road riding to Nzetso. Difficult was an understatement the
road was hardly there, very thick sand and lots of corrugation. Keeping from falling was not easy.
After driving 250 km for 9 hours i was exhausted when I reached Nzetso. Needed fuel, asked a local who pointed me in the direction
off a local house. Luckily they had some fuel in containers, so toped up the tank. Found the local guest house/ run down place with
very dirty rooms. Luckily they had cold beer.  While sitting outside on the veranda the local police chief saw me and came to introduce himself.
We had a beer together while the whole town came to watch us. Very friendly guy. Shortly after I saw another white guy walk in.
Had a chat, he is working on putting in solar energy in the villages; he was from Spain working for the Angolan government.
All in all had another fantastic evening.

Day 10
Next day was an easy ride 230 km to Mbanza. Great scenery as i am travelling more north it getting very tropical so lots of greenery and
forests. When i arrived in Mbanza i was immediately follow and pulled over by the local police . About 10 policemen heavily armed with
machine guns surrounded me and seemed very suspicious off me arriving in the remote town on my motorcycle. They wanted my passport
wanted to know what i doing there and were i had being in Angola.
After convincing them i was not a spy. They escorted me to the front of a long long cue to fill up with fuel. They then asked me if i would like a police escort to the
border between Angola and the DRC. They seemed quite concerned for my safety. From research i had done i thought this section was relatively safe so convinced them to
let me drive alone. Left town on a not so good road and rode about 100 km to the border. Getting through the border posts was a real mission, lots of paper work and questions.
eventually i was in the DRC, started driving to the capital Kinshasa  immediately after entering the first small village i was pulled over by the local traffic police. They were quite aggressive
toward me and were pointing to my head lights on my bike. I immediately realised they wanted money to let me go as there was no problem with the bike. I just played dumb until they
realised i was not giving them anything. Drove on towards Kinshasa on a road winding its way through heavy tropical forest road.  realising I was not going to make Kinshasa before dark I
stopped in another small town called Mbangu Ngungu. Found a place to stay for the night, it was like a fortress with high walls and heavily burglar bars on the windows. Very unfriendly
owner who wanted to charge me 40 dollars for a room with no lights . The communal toilet was filthy and there was no water. Luckily i had kept an extra 2 litres with me from Angola.
The staff kept hassling me for money, I just ignored them but could see I was not very popular. Left early the next day for Kinshasa, again lots of road blocks and questions about what i was doing
riding my bike alone in this region. Eventually arrived on Kinshasa and made my way to the catholic mission where i knew they have rooms they rent out -  fantastic place with clean rooms
and good outside area to sit under huge big trees. I befriended a car guard in Cape Town who’s brother lives in Kinshasa. I phoned him and asked if his brother could show me around Kinshasa.

20 minutes later his brother arrived in a new jaguar and dressed in a really smart suit. His name was Alpha he also brought an English speaking friend called Izaak
with him to translate from French as very few people can talk English. Very friendly guys. Jumped in the car with them and was taken to the
hotel Memling for drinks, this is a 5 star hotel of a very high standard in the middle of Kinshasa. Sat next to the pool and had a primus beer.
He then wanted to buy me supper but i knew the prices were exorbitant. He then said he is not happy with me staying at the catholic mission and was going to reception to pay for 2 nights
in the hotel. I took about 20 minutes to convince him i was fine at the catholic mission and could not except his kind offer. The rooms would
have being about 350 us dollars a night.

 They then took me to a great local restaurant were we had a fantastic meal; again he paid for the meal and drinks. They then told me there was a big concert
on and would i like to join them. I agreed and off we went. The artist was a famous Congolese called Coffee. Cost 50 us dollars per person were again they would not let me pay, went into
the outdoor stadium and ordered some drinks and waited for the show to start. I could see that this was a place only frequented by the rich of Kinshasa. What a fantastic experience for me, the artist was
amazing and atmosphere of the crowd was unbelievable.  These people can party!!!
After the concert they took me back to the mission at about 3 30 am. Great experience!
Slept for about 4 hours and was woken with a knock on the door. It was Izaak the English speaking friend from the night before. Told me he had come to take me for breakfast and give me a tour around
the city. So got dressed and off we went, walking through the streets of Kinshasa, lots of people staring at me as they don’t see allot of white guys in the city. Felt very safe though. Found a local Lebanese restaurant
and had the best shwarma in my life. After that we caught a taxi to the rich area on the banks of the Congo River were all the embassies are located. Beautiful area with huge big houses
were all the embassy staff live. Walked along the edge of the mighty Congo, this is a really spectacular, probably about 2 km to the other side but apparently at certain points
it can be as much as 19 km to cross at certain sections. We then walked to the nearby grand hotel were his friend worked. Sat around the pool and had a few beers great location.
Stopped off for a quick bite to eat on the way back to the mission. Had a shower , got changed when Alpha arrived this time in a new grand Cherokee jeep. Took me back to his house, really big place with servants and permanent
watch men outside. I met his lovely wife and 5 kids. She had prepared an amazing supper for us with good wine and beer to go with it.by this stage i was completely blown away by their hospitality. they then asked me if i would like
to go to a private family party were a local family cousin had just completed her degree. Drove through the slums of Kinshasa and arrived at a house with about 50 people dancing and drinking. I was welcomed by everybody like i was part
of the family. They grabbed me and i was pulled into the centre of the courtyard were they wanted me to dance, this was an experience i will never forget, i am not much of a dancer but
I gave it my best shot. There was a lot of joking and pointing but all in good humour. Amazing people! Then off we went with the girl who
was celebrating her graduation to a really upmarket club. Sat in awe watching the Congolese boogie, they could put anyone to shame. Again i was the only white guy in the whole place
but felt very safe. People would keep coming up to me to chat; unfortunately i cannot talk French so the communication was not good.
Left the club at about 4am, but by this stage i was really tired. Went back to the mission and had a good night’s rest. For all in all i paid for nothing food beers entrance fee were all paid for by Alpha, i had wanted to pay but was told by Izaak the
English interpreter that the custom was that when u can help a Stanger u do not let them pay for anything and they would be offended if i wanted to pay my way... i felt embarrassed by this generosity, as i like to pay my way in life
Turns out Alpha is the head of tax collection for the government and is very well connected in Kinshasa.

1 comment:

  1. Great story and fantastic adventure, enjoy!! Onno

    ReplyDelete