The border crossing was a breeze on the Congolese side, we exchanged some money and entered the highly modern Angolan border complex. We did not really know where our passports went in between but eventually got them back already processed. Our tries of signing a vehicle insurance were a bit fruitless as we could only get a 15 day validity for an outrageous price so we drove off without any. The road through the countryside was beautiful, police controls surprisingly friendly and the city Cabinda very developed and modern.
Cabinda is an Angolan enclave and responsible for a majority of the country’s oil revenues. The people of Cabinda tried to claim their independence for a long time and the rebel activities only recently calmed down. There is no land border between Cabinda and Angola nor a regular ferry service so we had no choice but to use up our tourist visa for the transit. We did go to the SME (immigration) though and tried to find a solution as we were only granted a single entry but they were not able to help us. At least we found a nice place to stay in the grounds of the local catholic mission with is more than liberal boss Futi who turned out to be a delightfully intelligent man with open eyes and great tolerance towards all people. Cabinda itself was very expensive with a single small onion costing 0,40€, perfectly dressed and quite beautiful people and clean streets.
So after only two nights in Cabinda we crossed into the Democratic Republic of Congo through once again highly efficient and professional Angolan and cheerful Congolese immigrations. The good tarmac ended once again and we continued on a sandy piste trough savannah without any human population. At some point a toll booth awaited us where foreign registered vehicles had to pay 20US$ to drive on a pretty bad piste to the town of Boma. Here we found the real Africa again with busy roads, street vendors and life in every corner. Boma also turned out to have the highest density of Volkswagen T3 transporters we have encountered with 9 out 10 cars being one of them. En route to Matadi on a potholed tarmac road the sun left us once more and we continued through the darkness until hundreds of lightings lit up the distant sky in a stunning show. Well eventually we hit the torrential downpour that accompanies a thunderstorm in this part of the world. The windscreen wipers were unable to cope with the sheer amount of water coming down, the road turned into a fast flowing river and it was impossible to determine whether we were driving on it, next to it our through someone’s driveway. So we stopped for a while until it calmed down a little and continued towards Matadi. You could see its lights already from a far distance nestled between and on rolling hills but once we got closer the view of the sprawling town at night with the massive river Congo in front of it became just stunning. We crossed the massive bridge crossing the river for a lot less toll than we paid earlier for an awful piste. The local convent opened its gates and the sisters welcome us in its inner courtyard.
As it is our permanent habit we arrived on a Friday night in Matadi but were actually here to sort out another visa for Angola. As embassies have the nasty habit of being closed at weekends we instead decided to explore this town on foot as we had done in many places before. To quote Marc (www.africaclockwise.co.za) here: “Something out of a Tim Burton movie with its crooked houses”. A very good definition we think and we absolutely loved the place for it and its friendly locals. So the weekend passed with a mix of internet stuff and exploring and we were woken up by hundreds of pre-schoolers on Monday morning. The convent also or mainly acted as a school so about 500 3-5 year olds were filling the courtyard with laughter and noise. The pre-school teachers put on a special show with dancing, drumming, shouting French words to be repeated by the kids and demanding a lot of discipline. Quite different from a European kindergarten or pre-school we think but a much more active and involving approach to teaching. This ceremony repeated itself the following days. On Tuesday the Angolan consul was back from doing whatever and with a bit of hick hack we received our new tourist visas. That evening an even more torrential downpour than ever before came down, the weight of the water broke Marc & Doro’s rooftop tent, Fabian had an outdoor shower in the rain and the whole inner courtyard was standing under water. The following morning we finally left for Angola.