Congo-Brazzaville - the exodus

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 - Pointe-Noire - added by Steve

It took us 2 days to do the 200kms that separate Dolisie and Pointe-Noire, as the road can be more likened to "muddy quagmire" than "main highway connecting the 2nd and 3rd largest cities in Congo"! However, snaking it's way up and down jungle-clad mountain passes, it must be said the scenery was incredible, although only briefly glimpsed in moments snatched away from the focus required to navigate the various pitfalls that beset the road!

The plan was simple... the Angolan consul-general in Dolisie would phone ahead with our details, and explain the situation to the Angolan consul-general in Pointe-Noire. Upon our arrival in Pointe-Noire, we were to present ourselves to the Angolan consul-general and he would alter our visas to allow dual entry, thereby allowing us to transit Cabinda and still get into Angola mainland, instead of having to traverse the dangerous Poole region enroute to Brazzaville. Naturally, as is the case in Africa, and more so when dealing with the petty and unfathomable Angolan bureaucracy, the plan didn't quite work out like that! We arrived in Pointe-Noire around midday, so immediately went to the Angolan consulate, hoping to be able to leave for Cabinda the following day. The security guard at the gate hadn't got the message that we were expected, and no matter what we said, refused to even call inside to see if the consul-general had heard about us. Arguing back and forth, we were clearly making no headway, so eventually gave up, deciding we'd have to try an alternate method of attack.

To cut a very long story short, we got back in touch with the consul-general in Dolisie, but made no headway in securing a visitation. We met a South African lady, Miriam, who is living in Pointe-Noire, and she put us in touch with the South African embassy in Brazzaville. They introduced us to the general manager of Angolan Airways in Pointe-Noire, thinking he would be able to get face-time with the consul-general. The consul-general heard him out but told him since we already had a valid visa, he couldn't issue a new one. All we wanted was for them to either cancel our visa and issue a replacement, or alter our current visa to allow 2 entries. Unable to explain the circumstances surrounding our request, we were left frustrated and no further in our endevours! For 8 days we went back to the consulate every day, taking Miriam to translate our requests into French, calling the MD of Angolan Airways out to try get us in, calling the South African embassy to get them to call the consulate and arrange us entry. Nothing worked, we were never able to get past security. It seemed it just was not possible to get them to even hear us out. As luck would have it, the South African ambassador was to have dinner with the Angolan ambassador in Brazzaville, and said he would bring up our situation. The Angolan ambassador said he would happily help us out, and would send word to the consul-general in Pointe-Noire instructing him to meet with us and help us out. More to'ing and fro'ing from the consulate, and still the consul-general refused to see us... apparently not liking these instructions having been sent down from Brazzaville, he was digging his heels in. The South African ambassador was incensed, unable to comprehend how SADC members could be treated like this. He voiced this to the Angolan ambassador, who we hear was also angry with the consul-general, but saw no way to force him to help us. He then suggested we come up to Brazzaville where he would help us out himself. Seeing no alternative, I got onto a plane and flew up in the morning. Arriving at the Angolan embassy with one of the South African embassy staff, we were still unable to meet the ambassador, nor get any headway with the visas. It seemed the Angolan ambassador would say one thing to the South African ambassador, but quite another when it came to dealing with mere tourists. It took the South African ambassador having to come to the embassy himself to eventually get face-time. At this point we were told that they actually couldn't help us at all, as there was very recently a law passed in Angola that outlawed any vehicles from crossing Cabinda's borders. He was sorry, we would have to go around! I flew back to Pointe-Noire empty handed, and rather frustrated that this could not have been told to us 2 weeks prior, when we first arrived in Pointe-Noire. We now set about looking for a way to get our truck up to Brazzaville without having to drive through the Poole region. Perhaps the train... no, it would take a month to get a space. Perhaps get someone else to drive it up for us and we would fly up to meet it... they wanted 450 euros to drive the 350kms, too expensive for our liking. Eventually we decided we'd just take a chance and drive ourselves, dangerous, but we were stuck between a rock and a hard place!

Due to leave the following morning, we met another South African, Louis, working in Pointe-Noire. Relating our tale of misery to him, he immediately said it was all bullshit, there was no such law! There was a law that relates to no commercial freight vehicles passing the borders, as the Angolan's wanted to promote their own freight companies, but nothing about private vehicles. We couldn't believe the Angolan ambassador or his advisers wouldn't know their own laws or outright lie to us, so were not convinced. However, Louis then said he was planning to go the Cabinda the following morning, and would let us know one way or the other. True to his word, the following evening he arrived back at the campsite having successfully driving into Cabinda and back, no problems experienced at all! The following morning another overlander couple we had met, Robin and Diana, left for the border. We shortly received a message, they were through, no problems at all!

We just couldn't believe this, and eventually decided that we would just use our visa for Cabinda, and deal with the problem of a further visa for Angola later. We were now getting further and further behind schedule, and had had quite enough of Pointe-Noire over the previous 2 weeks! You guessed it, we got to the border and were through in about 20 minutes!

Before I sign off, I must just send out massive kudos and thanks to Miriam, who went out of her way to help us; everyone at the South African embassy for pulling all strings available to them, and to Rob, Floris and Bastian, 3 Dutch guys working at the Congo Brewery, who took us under their wing and helped take our minds off the Angolan bureaucratic nightmare we were experiencing!


1 .
Folks! good to hear you made it through with the Big Blue Pokertruck :) Good luck for the upcoming stretch! Rob.
Robert - 16 Mar 2009, 7:24
2 .
Well done for keeping your cool, guys! Super quote from Thomas Jefferson I found "Nothing gives a person so great an advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under ALL circumstances!" Looks like you have developed a full head of curls, Steve!! LLOL Mum
Germaine Lorimer - 16 Mar 2009, 8:05
3 .
OMG - I didn't even recognise you in that photo with that hair!!!! Well done for making it to civilisation!
Trish - 16 Mar 2009, 13:07
4 .
OMG - I didn't even recognise you in that photo with that hair!!!! Well done for making it to civilisation!
Trish - 16 Mar 2009, 13:07
5 .
please please please bring that hair back to LDN! good to hear you finally made it through. i hope its slightly smoother sailing from here on out
Seamus - 18 Mar 2009, 8:53
6 .
please please please bring that hair back to LDN! good to hear you finally made it through. i hope its slightly smoother sailing from here on out
Seamus - 18 Mar 2009, 8:53
7 .
I like your hair Steve. I know the feeling, banging your head on the wall, but isn't it nice when you stop,such a good feeling. To quote my friend Jeffrey, keep trucking.
Gran - 20 Mar 2009, 7:15
8 .
Brings back memories of arriving at the Yugoslav/Italian/Austrian border in 1969 with a Southern Rhodesian passport! The country between Dolisie and Pointe-Noire is very reminiscent of Rwanda and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. A huge CONGRATULATIONS to you two, and many, many more adventures together!
Cindy Coster - friend of the fossils - 21 Mar 2009, 20:34
9 .
Hello Stev and ROxy - many, many congratulations on your engagement - we look forward to celebrating with you when you hit Egoli! Lots of love, AA and AU xx
Wens - 22 Mar 2009, 10:15
10 .
Knock knock...
Steve - 3 Apr 2009, 4:37

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