Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Spoons did not write Romantic Traffic while visiting Luanda

We had planned to go the past few weekends on an adventure about 150 km out of the city, it got delayed, but we managed a few short-haul adventures.  Going outside Luanda requires a little planning and here is why...

Driving and Traffic
Traffic here is, at times, dense with soul-sucking jams.  An urban population explosion combined with poor road infrastuture makes for some interesting commutes to the office.  Marcus gets up at 4:30 every morning to take a 5:30 bus that will take him to the office in Luanda.  Apparently it was once 5 am, perhaps an indication that road works have had some improvement over time.  An hour later, and he is at the office.  It is about 15 km away.  To leave later would mean waiting in the van for two hours plus.  We don't drive in the city due to some company restrictions that requires us to have a driver.  In the after noon our driver, Kininno, picks Marcus up and he misses the usual rush hour and is home with in an hour.   As Marcus takes the commuter bus in the mornign, this leaves the driver free to take me any place in the morning, usually grocery shopping.  After 5 months of living here, Marcus is free to apply for a drivers licence, but I think he is discuraged from driving to work.  The licence will come in handy for our weekend trips, as of now we have to use our driver - which is ok, but we are limited to day trips, no over nighters.  
Company cars have driving security features that will not allow you to drive over 60 km/hr and will beep angrely at you if you do.  It also has an annoying way of transmitting that information to the office, so that Big Brother knows when the rules have been broken.  It is in Kinnino's best interst to drive carefully and safely.  We had the the same system in Libya and Italy where we drove ourselves.  There was one month where Marcus has enough alarms go off that the company told him he could'nt drive for a week as punishment.  It beeps if you break too fast or take off too slow,  it beeps if you think about yelling at another driver and it beeps when you feel fairly smug that you havn't made the car "beep" in a few days. I HATE it.  Kinnino is an exceptional driver however, so I rarely hear it.
The Car will also freak out if you go ourside a certain city limit.  You have to have this diabled to go on a big roadtrip, and if you want to get somewhere faster, you also can have the security features disabled so you drive faster without wanting the rip the bloody beeper out.  There is also a tracking system so that should anything happen, the company can locate your vehicle fairly quickly.  Anyhow, every weekend you want to do this, you have to apply for an exsemption. Lots of sticky red tape.  But well worth it I think.
The other thing about driving is, you have to have all your documentation on you (as you would any where in the world), but even passengers should travel with their passports and as ours are being processed for our visas, we were without for a few weekends, and thus grounded.  Once we had a "receipt" for our passports, we were able to go again.
Is driving any dangerous than Libya, or Italy for that matter?  I don't think so.  It seems fairly normal.  Traffic can be dense and bus drivers are certainly a liability, but it isn't Libya.  Perhpas Libya was my first real ex-pat experience, but Marcus agrees, Libya was a special place for driving.  I remember reading in a travel book that discibed Libyan drivers as treating road sinage as mere suggestions and traffic lights as pretty distractions.  Not to mention that run-in's with the police could end you up in prison.  I got yelled at by the fuzz there and lost my license for a month - and that was enough for me (long-story, best left as repressed memory).
Meanwhile, Marcus was in a "fender bender" last week where a Fire-truck hit the back end of the car.  No one was hurt. I will post this without the picture, but I'll get him to send it to me.  


Discribed by the Bradt guide as a spot for Luanda's "glitteratti", this place is about a 15 min. boat ride from the city.  Its not really an island, so much as an giant sand spit created from the waters of the Kwanza river.  Apparently it also has a large amount of mangroves and as such, is a favourite spot for Manatees. Didn't see any. It was more of a reconansance mission, as we ended up at a resort not knowing where else to land on the  island.  The resort was, I guess, a bit swish - we got left on a dock, all donned out tilly hats and fast-dry adventure wear amist half naked bikini and speed-o clad oiled bodies.  Tourist alert!  Nevermind - we got to have a bit of an adventure and next time we will research our drop off point better.

Marcus fashioned his own fishing net from the flotsam

Cabo Ledo

We actually didn't get to go to Cabo Ledo.  After applying for an exception and receiving an approval, we set off across the Kwanza River Bridge, only to have loud alarm go off.  Fearing the car would just shut-off if we continued on, we turned around (not on the bridge, but just before it) and went to a local beach.  Apparently we need to have it physically disabled the first time, and after that it can be done remotely.  When you live in a compound/fishbowl, you spend all week dreaming of your big adventure, and as mine fell to pieces I had a non-advisable moody snit-fit worthy of a child.  Until Marcus got us involved in building a beach hut - and I managed to get over it.  Next weekend perhaps!

Emma's creativity astounds me.  Kite made from beach rubbish.  Brilliant.

You have to walk before you can run, I realize this, but its still hard to understand.  Hierarchy of needs dictates that rubbish bins follow after health care, sanitation, clean water and freedom.

One of my favourite sights on the road  - pack as many people in a truck as possible and drive.