Monday, 28 March 2016

Congo part two.. The quest for the Angolan visa

I will first correct a mistake from my last blog, I was writing last Sunday and not Monday.. Days seem to roll and merge into each other rather like that bizarre period between Christmas and New Year. 

Any way.. We headed towards Dolise on a road renoun for bandits and car jacking.. I did not inform my parents of this before we left for obvious reasons! The road however was fine, no drama, no problems just lots of pot holes. The pot holes were for the first 80km and then as if by magic the road was perfect tar.. This happens a lot! You could be driving in middle of no where on a horrific road and out of the blue the most amazing road will appear.. Africa! 

Whilst on the road Rob's car was still leaking oil, something he had tried to fix in Brazzaville. It was a little tense as he relayed the information that it could be fatal for the car and the onwards trip.. To be continued (cliff hanger).

We got to Dolise just as the heavens opened.. Raining 'cats and dogs' as one of the owners was proud to point out (think he wanted to use this phrase he had just learnt!). We stayed at Salla Ngolo, another amazing place doing great work. It is a Catholic run vocational training centre, for children between 14 and 20 who have left school because they find education tricky. We asked to camp and were allowed to park up next to the hotel which provided much needed funds for the centre - like many places across Africa funding is hard to come by.. In many cases the EU pump money in to begin with then pull out funds when their agenda for the country changes. We settled down for the night in the rain ready to get to the Angolan embassy in the morning.

Bright and early we woke up and arrived at the Angolan embassy.. It was a small consulate in the middle of town with obviously very few visitors. We walked in, and sat down in the office. Initially we wanted to find out what was needed so I was nominated (mainly for my French speaking ability.. Not necessarily my charm), and was ushered into the small air conditioned room with a stern looking man.. He asked what we wanted and why we wanted it, did we have the paper work (he wanted only a hotel reservation however we had luckily been given an invitation letter .. Addressed to the wrong embassy however!). He told us to come back at 12 to see the consulate. 12 came around and I had a phone call from him saying he wanted our letter printed out.. It was a mad dash to find an Internet cafe to print all 25 pages of the letters and get them back to the embassy. Again I had another interrogation, the letter said we wanted multiple entries (so we could go through Kabinda) but on hearing the price (double the cost) we decided we didn't! I had to come up with a story in French as to why we now only wanted one entry.. Something along the lines of when our friend wrote the letter we though the DRC was not safe  and wanted to do little as possible, but now we think it is safe so we want to see some more of it. He seemed to buy that and we were allowed to fill in the forms (which cost us 2000CFA per person!). Forms filled and they said they would call us when it was ready...

In the mean time we enjoyed not having to drive. As explained earlier Rob's car gained an oil leak and was blowing out white smoke.. He felt it might be fatal. However two days of draining the fuel and cleaning the engine it was diagnosed as not fatal but dirty fuel - he had filled up at a different pump to us. This was to the delight of both Mandy and Rob as they were able to carry on with the intended route not the stressful one of finding plan B! We visited the grand marche, buying some fabric for a dress to be made. Mandy and I had been talking about it all trip and finally we were in one place long enough. Buying fabric is a great experience, they have so many to choose from and in different shops the prices different considerably. In one shop it was 16000CFA for 6 yards and in the shop we finally bought from it was 14000CFA for 12 yards.. About £15. The dress cost us £6 to be made.. Lined and with a zip up the back! Just amazing prices! Something you would not get in England! We also ate lots of food, finally getting back into the routine of cooking .. Tinned foods mainly again but we had corned beef and tinned veg spaghetti one night and tinned veg curry another night. We also bought the local starch.. Hardened Foufou (type starch) wrapped in palm leaves. Again another nice food. 

(The local starch - 100CFA  and very filling!)

(Sky just before it tips it down!)

(Being meausre for my dress and trying to communicate what I want in French.. Whilst sweating buckets!)

(Finished product)

(Enjoying a celebratory drink after getting the Angola visa!)

We met and chatted to the manager for Salla Ngolo whose English was very good, he had been posted to Ghana and Nigeria so had learnt there. He showed us around the place, talked about the work they do, and then sat and had a few drinks with us. He was very knowledgable and good company, telling us about the upcoming elections and the local area. 

By this point it was Wednesday and still nothing from the embassy.. So we traipsed back to find it closed (it closes at 2pm). Thursday morning arrived and we arrived there early ish.. Again we were told it was not done because the consulate had not come in yet (he had not been in all week). The visa was fine but needed the signature... They again said they would call but it would be either tomorrow (Friday) or Monday! Monday was not really an option because we wanted to be in the DRC by then but what can you do. On our way to the bakery.. A little place we had found by chance and had been eating breakfast there regularly, we decided just to pop in the embassy.. To see the progress and chivvy them along a little. I spoke to the main man who said the consulate was coming in at 2pm and we could get our visas then.. He also informed me he had no credit .. Obviously phoning would have been out of the question... Lesson learnt.. When someone says they are going to phone don't hold your breath! Back we went at 1.30pm to be told the consulate had arrived and it was being signed. A sigh of relief as our passports came back with the visa!! All the hassle was worth it! $300 later (for two visas) paid in CFA (a lot of notes) and we had them our hands! Celebratory drinks all around! Our letter addressed to the wrong embassy was fine, my dodgey French was fine and our attempt at filling in a form that was written in Portuguese was fine! Winner winner! 

We had planned to leave on the Sunday, after spending Saturday picking up our dresses (which looked good), walking around the market and eating in our favourite bakery, however we were told the elections on Sunday meant all the roads were closed. This scuppered our plans to be in Louzi by Sunday however we decided to take our chances on a smaller border apparently near Dolise on the Monday! This is where I write off.. On Saturday afternoon, preparing for a day of staying put tomorrow whilst the election maddness continues around us tomorrow and to hopefully be in the DRC on Monday! Timings whilst again have been tight in the Congo, and whilst we have driven for half the time we have been here I think we feel like we have been able to ground ourselves in one place and get to know the people a bit more than in Cameroon. We haven't seen anything amazing or any spectacular sights however the scenery is always stunning where ever you drive here, the rain itself is amazing and the people lovely. 

#africa #overlanding #travelling #thisisafrica #congobrazzaville #congo #visa