Filed under: *Travel Diary
made it to benguela at 3am. filomena said to get dropped off at this gas station and wait. eventually she and her friends drove up in an suv with beer and birthday cake. they just came from a seven year old’s birthday party. did i mention it was 3am?
took the omnibus from luanda. took over 11 hours i think. my ass still hurts a day later. a long and cramped and ultimately awesome trip.
we planned to catch the bus in rocha pinto early in the morning but ended up in the offices of CIAM (press center) for nearly 5 hours trying to get a letter from medina press signed and emailed and printed and delivered. i ran back and forth between the offices and a cyber cafe trying to get everything done and when we finally got the document sent to us, it turned out that the cyber cafe had an old version of windows and we couldn’t open the file. we eventually worked it all out, got it in CIAMs hands and then had to wait for another hour before jims press pass was signed. basically – given the national holiday – it took us three days in total to get jims press pass. something which anywhere else might have taken 40 minutes to figure out. but i guess that’s the way it goes. in the meantime i met an old school communist who was just sitting in the press offices reading the newspaper. he spoke french, portuguese, serbo-croation, kimbundu and four other local languages that i had never heard of.
paulo (jim’s friend, not paulo mendes who traveled with us) drove us to rocha pinto and we found several small busses heading to benguela, chose one, climbed inside, scrunched up and off we went to get stuck in traffic leaving luanda. finally on the road to benguela, we were in a bumper to bumper traffic jam for about two hours. and then finally off. the van was stopped along the way about once an hour to have papers checked. one stop for gas in the middle where we could get out, stretch our legs, buy some peanuts and small stubby bananas from kids who walked up to the van at the gas station and then scrunch back into the bus, climbing up onto our luggage. (jim was lucky enough that the guy next to him let jim stretch his legs out over his lap. i guess as recompense for eating a can of sardines and then passing out and snoring on jim’s shoulder).
throughout the trip, the police pulled us over about once an hour to check the busses papers. the guys on the bus kept passing up cds to the bus driver to put them on. there was solid music for eleven hours. kizomba, semba, r&b, kuduro, and stuff i wouldn’t even know what to call it. at some point we came across a bad car and truck accident. the whole bus became solemn and fascinated, craning to see blood. and when we passed it, the music was back on and people began to sing, louder and louder and louder.
just after we got gas in the middle of the night, the bus driver pulled over and asked for everyone to pay. for some reason, you usually pay towards the end of the trip, but before you arrive. it was like this in the candongeiros. i could never figure out how they would decide when to pay. it was like they heard something and it was clear. on this ride, some of the guys who had been singing, drinking and getting rowdy, got all indignant that he was asking for money in the middle of the ride and not towards the end. who had ever heard of such a thing.
when we finally got to benguela, it turned out that there was a guy in the back of the bus who had missed his stop in lobito. he’d have to wait until the morning for a candongeiro to take him back. he said he’d wait in the nearest disco until then…
the night before paulo jim and i met up with erika and her surfing buddy ricardo, a young and fun italian guy from turino working for some company and flying all over the country. the directions were to go to the musseques near erika’s house, make a right on the street past the car display window, drive four streets, make a left and go through a black unmarked door. there on the other side we found ethiopia.
an ethiopian family set up a make shift restaurant in their courtyard, a fold out card table with a couple of chairs next to a tv where they had big brother africa running without sound. ethiopean music was playing on a boom box in the next room and the food was amazing. just great. the family sat eating popcorn, drinking beer and hanging out in front of the tv until a particular song came on in the next room and three of the men jumped up, went in there and started to dance. a dance i’ve never seen before. extremely minimal. just lifting the feet in unison and moving in a circle. maybe sticking their thumbs in their belt loops and curving their lower back up until they looked ever so slightly like a rooster wearing a tuxedo giving a toast at a wedding….does that make any sense? have i just watched too many disney cartoons over the years?
we got up and joined in and danced with them. and the night went on and on as luis jimbo joined us and then his friend bruno who lives right around the corner in the neighborhood. and eventually we went out onto the street where some kids were listening to music out of their car and sharing some kuduro moves.
the night ended with us going to a pool hall on ilha. it turns out we were five of the absolute worst pool players in the world – me, jim, erika, paulo and bruno. it took us forever to finish a game…
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