Angolan Odyssey

Killer beauty

There is so much building work going on in Luanda I hardly recognise the place by the afternoon. Its centre is the perfect place for architecture buffs, with buildings of every era spanning the waters of Luanda bay along the Marginal. Square dirty 70s blocks sit next to 60s space age designs, the neoclassical central bank next to unfinished glass constructions, all looked down upon by the sixteenth century fort.

After much debate by security guards and a policeman (who checks my passport) I’m told to get a Toyota Hiace minibus to the district of Sao Paolo. From there, its another to Kwanza, and then the departure point for northern buses. There isn’t one until next morning. Kwanza is a place white men don’t go. I feel no tension, but there are stares of astonishment. A couple of 8 year old girls stroke my arms at a busy junction, and a boy of similar age does a comedy double-take on passing me.

The road to Soyo is slow going for most of the way, but strangely satisfying. Northern Angola (as far as my detour takes me before returning south) is the home to big baobab trees, though sadly not much tarmac. It takes until 11pm, having left at 8am to arrive at the depot in Soyo. And then, well, its back south again at last.

We pass more minefields. Small areas are marked off, the tape so old its lost its colour, the red-topped indicator sticks lost in the tall grass. And just a metre or two from the main road to Luanda. It seems strange such beautiful land really could be deadly.

Back to the oldest European city in sub-saharan Africa (founded 1575, given city status 1605), Luanda. At 40km across with its 400 years of suburban sprawl, it spans a greater distance then all of the DRC’s coastline. We arrive late once more, and head to the bus agency, some sandy open ground where we can sleep. A young mother shows me the way, and shares her matting with me. It has the convivial air of a well-heeled refugee camp, TV and lighting and all. I sleep rather well.
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