Late at night, a knock on the door …

This post is dedicated to our young French friend Joffrey, who explained to us what ‘gasosa’ means here. Estamos juntos – I wish I’d remembered to say that to the nice policemen last night and this morning!

The Portuguese word ‘gasosa‘ means soft drink. The Angolan meaning has been slightly twisted, and here it means paying a small bribe to a local cop. We have been stopped at a lot of local police checkpoints, up to 4 per day sometimes, but haven’t ever actually been asked for a gasosa. For the last couple of days, whenever we’re stopped and the police realise we’re touristas tourists, they wave us on.

We’re heading east to Huamba, 2nd largest city in Angola. It’s been a bit trickier finding places to camp, and iOverlander has been a bit light on with suggestions. This area has a lot more agriculture, villages and people than we’ve been used to in the south.

Last night we found a spot seemed to be okay – down a side street behind an abandoned factory in a village 30kms north of Huambo. We did the usual thing, set up camp, cooked dinner and had just decided that we’re going to head south to Namibia, not do a side trip to Cuito Cuanavale, site of the bloodiest battles of the Angolan civil war. We don’t really have time and it’s still heavily landmined. I think I heard that collective sigh of relief from our parents when they read that.

We heard voices outside the camper and after sitting for a minute or so hoping they would just go away, Greg opened the door to 3 policemen! We introduced ourselves, emphasising that we’re tourists and that we love Angola. One of the cops asked if we had any weapons (what?! us?! of course not!), then insisted on looking in our under-seat storage boxes. The commandant told us to take down our shade and to get packed up. Every time I smiled at the 3rd cop, he smiled back, so I was hopeful that we weren’t in too much trouble. No one ever asked to see our passports or any paperwork, and as we’ve mentioned before, Africans love paperwork.

So, we’re all packed up, sort of. Actually, we had just thrown everything into the camper and figured we’d sort it out later. And suddenly there’s another guy there, a civilian. Then the commandant indicated that we had to take the 4 of them with us to … somewhere. We made space for 3 along one bench and left the door open at their request. The commandant and I sat in the front with Greg and we drove back out to the main road and parked near a single-room police ‘station’. We realised that the 3 cops who had visited us had all walked down to us from their station in the dark.

We waited there for a while with the commandant, who spent most of the time on the phone. The civilian went into the office with the 2 other cops and eventually a young man came out to talk to us in English. He explained that we weren’t in trouble, but that the whole area fasenda was owned by someone and they had complained about us being on his property. He said something about the area not being safe, which Greg and I interpreted differently – I thought he meant that we were unsafe there because of I’m-not-sure-what. Greg thought he meant that it was not okay for us to camp anywhere in the area because of the owner’s feelings about the matter.

And then the commandant indicated that he, Greg and I were going to drive somewhere else, following the other 2 cops who were on a moto motorbike. I hopped in the camper with the door closed, we drove about 5kms down the road towards Huamba and parked in the grounds of a larger police station, where there were at least 6 cops sitting, standing and chatting. The commandant indicated that we should get our shade out, meaning that we could camp there for the night. Still no requests for passports or any paperwork. As soon as we got the shade up, with the commandant’s help, I got out our stash of cans of Coke Zero and Savannah cider and presented them to him and indicted they were for everyone to share. His face lit up, we thanked each other profusely, shook hands and that was that. The nice policemen enjoyed their beverages, we got set up for the night and after a while the commandant walked out of the compound, presumably to walk back to his own station.

This morning we just got packed up, got the 4 on-duty cops to stand with me by Clancy so we could get a photo and headed off on our way.

At all times, all the police we interacted with were polite and professional, and there was never any suggestion of a ‘gasosa’. We did see the irony of handing over a dozen or so cans of soft drink and alcohol, but were happy to do so, and they were happy to have them.

All smiles, we are about to leave
Camped in the Police compound

Police stop number 4 yesterday

Angola

Oh. My. God. We’re in Angola!

It took us 4 hours to get through Immigration and Customs yesterday, I’ll write more about that when our internet access is better, but to be honest, I didn’t even think we’d have internet access here, other than in large towns.

We spent last night camped near a huge baobab tree near Xangongo, about 130kms from the border. It’s reputed to be the largest baobab in Africa. We met a young Frenchman today and spent a couple of hours chatting with him (Hi, Joffrey!) and we’re staying here again tonight because it’s a nice place and we’re all set up and comfortable. We’ve said bom dia good morning and boa tarde good afternoon to visitors and locals. The locals walk near where we’re camped to go and get water to take back to their village. The visitors, including a local policeman who was born near here. come to see the tree.

    1. More later.

      Dealing with some locals selling Sim cards for mobile data
    2. Russian Tank from the civil war by the side of the highway
Thorn bush fences for keeping cattle and goats in. We have seen lots of these in Angola
Greg, Joffrey and Judy at our campsite near the Giant Baobab Tree

Judy fixing our insect screen door

Meeting the locals

We now have our e-visas for Angola, thanks to a lot of hard work on Greg’s part – scanning, applying online and emailing. The process was (fairly) straightforward, but there were a few hoops to jump through, in terms of getting the scan sizes right. Lonely Planet’s Thorntree forum has a very helpful thread/post on how to do it.

So, we are now committed to crossing the Namibian/Angola border at Oshikango/Santa Clara on Saturday. Distance from Windhoek to the border is around 750kms, which is 2 days driving for us. We did 420kms to Tsumeb yesterday, so we’ll have a shorter drive today. When we reach the northern border, we will have driven the length of Namibia, all on the B1 highway. Some parts south are pretty ordinary – just a narrow strip of bitumen with a line down the middle. And then there’s the new bit just north of Windhoek – new road, still being built, 2 lanes on either side, lovely.

There’s a police checkpoint a few kms north of Windhoek and we were stopped by a young woman wanting to check that we had paid our road tax. We had paid the N$295 AUD$29.50 at the southern border, so we just had to show her the official bit of paper, plus Greg’s passport and driver’s licence and that was all good.

There’s a particular form of greeting here that I’d forgotten about until our exchange with this lovely young woman

Her: Good morning, how are you?
Us: Good thanks
and then before we had the chance to enquire after her own wellbeing, she replied: I’m good also
Then got down to the reason for stopping us. It’s a friendly, efficient way of getting pleasantries out of the way. She also had a quick look in Clancy, because he’s interesting both in terms of where’s he’s from – South Australian numberplates, AUS sticker on the back – and what might possibly be behind the side flaps and door.

So, our first brush with a Namibian official was fine.

Later in the day we stopped at a SuperSpar in Otjiwarongo, which is near a couple of popular national parks – Waterberg Plateau to the east, and Etosha to the north. A lot of overlanders, travellers, tourists and buses stop there to get fuel, food and whatever else they need. The SuperSpar is big and very well-stocked, including a whole aisle of imported German food in cans, packets and jars. Anna, Henry and any other Germans reading this – it’s worth a visit if you’re missing anything from home.

As we were parking, a local man went up to Greg and started talking, asking his name, how it’s spelt, where he’s from, why we’re there. Then another man started the same with me, asking the names of my kids and if I had any grandkids. By the time we had locked the car and camper, the men had carved our names on pieces of stone that they wanted us to buy. Our standard reply to this kind of sales pitch is ‘we aren’t allowed to bring it into our country’, and these days I just don’t buy souvenirs, I don’t need any more stuff. So that went on for a short while, then I found a car guard who happened to be carrying a big stick, asked him to watch Clancy and we went into the retail haven that is SuperSpar. We didn’t buy much, having already stocked up at Food Lover’s in Windhoek – cold drinks, a South African power board, razors for my hairy legs (just checking to see who’s really reading this – ha!). Our stone carvers were still waiting for us when we got back to Clancy, but quickly changed to just asking outright for money ‘for bread to feed their children’. No, sorry guys, we don’t give money to beggars, although if they had just asked me to buy a loaf of bread before we went into the supermarker, I probably would have.

And so … onwards, towards Tsumeb and our final and most interesting encounter of the day.

We got about 80kms up the road and were stopped by another police officer. This wasn’t a checkpoint, just a single police car with a couple of cops parked under a tree near an intersection. He told Greg that we had been driving 86kms in an 80km zone. The speed limit on the B1 is 120kms, unless otherwise signposted, but this particular short stretch of road is 80kms because a lot of heavy vehicles turn into and out of the intersection.
Okay, so we missed the 80km sign, but Clancy doing 86kms on a flat bit of road is extremely unlikely, he just can’t go that fast unless we’re going downhill with a tail wind. Anyway, Greg was very apologetic and contrite. Cop asked for his driver’s licence, but no other paperwork, which seemed odd. He told us it was a N$400 AUD$40 fine, and that we would have to pay it at the town we had just left, 80kms south.
Us: oh gosh, well okay, that’s what we’ll do then. How do we tell the station what we have to pay?
Him: Oh, I’ll give you the paperwork, but you have to drive 80kms to pay it because we don’t have a receipt book here.
He made a big point of what a hassle it would be for us to drive all that way back.
Eventually he gave up waiting for us to just offer to give him the money, and he let us go without paying, so he could move on to some other poor sucker who would cough up on the spot.
We didn’t realise while it was happening, but as we were driving away, we figured it was a con. Greg was definitely not driving 86kms/hr, but because we appeared to be prepared to drive back to pay the fine, the scam came undone. A lot of people would have been needing to get to Etosha or wherever they were going before dark and would have just paid … we were intending to get to Tsumeb, but that wasn’t essential, so … sorry sir, we don’t give money to people in uniform just because they ask for it.

To anyone reading who might get caught in a similar scam in the future – tell the cop you’ll go with him to his police station so it can all be sorted out. If it’s legit, you’re doing the right thing. If it’s a scam, he’ll back right down and let you go on your way.
We stayed at a lovely campground just south of the town in Tsumeb, part of the Kupferquelle Resort. Grassy sites, lots of trees, swimming pool and probably heaps of other stuff that we haven’t found.

Camped at Tsumeb, its getting dark earlier and earlier as we get closer to the equator
Some slightly different Jam flavours

Crossing into Nambia

We crossed out of South Africa and into Nambia. The border crossing took about an hour, with many offices visited to get the Carnet processed. After a puncture in a front tyre only 2km from our destination, we are now camped at “The White House” camping area about 20km north of Grunau, Namibia.

Crossing into Namibia, about to enter the Namibian border post. Greg is wearing his special Border Crossing shirt
The wide flat plains of Southern Namibia (click on the pic for a bigger version)
Camped at “The White House”, close to dark because we got held up by our flat tyre
Almost full moon

 

Still in Cape Town, still waiting for Clancy

Things are progressing, but very slowly. The container ship docked on Tuesday and ‘our’ container was unloaded, then yesterday it was taken by truck to a freight forwarders depot.

Now we’re waiting for an appointment with Sth African customs to come and inspect the contents of the container, ie Clancy and Willie. Then, hopefully,  we can hand over the remainder of the freight / customs / fees payment and drive Clancy away.

We are staying at the Airbnb until tomorrow, but then they have new guests booked in, so we hope to stay at African Overlanders which offers vehicle storage, a campground and other services not far away from where we are now. It offers some cabin accommodation and camping.

So, we’re feeling frustrated and powerless at the moment, but very grateful that we have comfortable accommodation. And the weather is beautiful!