A few kilometers after leaving the bush I once again met again with the Atlantic Ocean in Benguela. I began a new stage in this country that I had already fallen in love with. I already left behind the Angola of the ancestral tribes and the arid climate to pass to a flourishing Angola divided asymmetrically between modern glass skyscrapers and extreme poverty. A present that has the disparity necessary to give our Commander Che Guevara a heart attack, had he lived to see it for himself. Pictured on the walls of almost every Angolan city center, and symbol of the struggle for the ideals of equality and social justice, which its current leaders once proclaimed in Angola in the times of independence and througout the subsequent 27 years of civil war with the support of Cuba, today his iconic image, as in many other places, symbolizes nothing more than another dream that seems to have been buried under the feet of those who long for excesses of power and money. This is the Angola that lies ahead for me.
I could not have chosen a better place to rest for several days, after the often brutal ride through the bush that had led me here. It had been more than two weeks since I had crossed the border, very little rest and my tired body was inviting me to a more relaxed pace. As soon as I arrived in Benguela, I discovered the two most characteristic aspects that would be repeated over and over again throughout my experience in Angola. The first is the sweet warmth and simplicity of the Angolan people. In the people of this country I perceive the same quality that I had already discovered in Mozambique; a kind of inner joy and lack of concern for the irrelevant things of life, no matter how many material possessions they lacked. Here you can see people dancing by the sea along the waterfront, playing sports on the street, walking hand by hand. I breathe in a relaxed air of friendliness.
The second is the mesmerising beauty of the Angolan women. I do not know if it is because there have not really been too many beautiful women in almost all of Africa so far, or because I have spent 3 years deeply in love with the beauty of the person that had accompanied me through life until 7 months ago; whatever the case, and now starting to leave the pain behind, Angolan women eclipsed me. It is the great sensuality of their dazzling physical beauty combined with a natural friendliness and seductive charm, enhanced by the sweetness of the Portuguese language, which can make them bring a man out of coma. That was what captivated me from day one. And a lot of care had to be had because there were a few times that from Benguela onwards, when I almost took a bad fall off the bicycle for giving free will to my eyes getting lost in these women. As there were also many days in which I had to shake off my head to be able to keep going and not stay flirting indefinitely with some beautiful Angolan I would meet at some stop along the way. Had I done that, it would take me more than a year to reach the Congolese border, if I got ther at all! Mullheres!
That is why, and perhaps not to lose coherence because of the "Angoleñas" so soon, I spent my days in the residence of who would become almost like an Angolan grandfather to me, my adorable Father Bongo, who has looked after and spoiled me like a grandson during my stay in Benguela. I had the honor of being invited to the Sunday Mass he gave, where he spent several minutes of it to introduce me, to talk about my history as an example and to make me speak to an audience of about 400 people who were in the church that morning. An experience that transcends religion, because I do not have to be Catholic to share a pleasant moment with who they are, in their special spiritual gathering of the week. A healthy life is based on respect and tolerance for the beliefs of others and with all my heart I opened myself to an audience of Angolan Catholics, a beautiful moment that filled me with happiness.
Days by the sea
From Benguela I continued along the road that leads straight to Luanda along the Atlantic coast, an easy road, sometimes with a lot of traffic, but above all with many lovely people, and always precious women - mulheres !! - I already said that, right ?! Anytime I would stop to eat or drink something, I would not pay for it because someone would always invite me. As I pedaled, again and again, an echo sounded around me as I passed by the villages or coming from the vehicles that were passing me, people would exclaim effusively - FORÇA AMIGO! - (BE STRONG, FRIEND!) when watching me pass. What a magnificent country, how comfortable I feel here! I enjoyed those days immensely because despite being more boring from an adrenaline level perspective, people touched my heart over and over in one way or another. In the meantime, to compensate for the lack of adventure, I had fun with things as simple as stopping to play with some of the many snakes I ran into.
The villages and small towns on the way to Luanda are nothing more than reduced versions of what would later see as being pushed to the extreme in the capital city: material poverty. The slums extend for several kilometers a time, they decorate the backstage of all Angolan urbanizations. The lack of basic infrastructure, electricity, running water and sewage, is constant. And yet there is a deep dignity that prevails in the spirit of people who, despite adversity, smile radiantly in life as if they lack nothing! Because ... is it not just that they actually have everything if they are able to be happy having nearly no material comfort? There is no dignity in material poverty, but that does not necessarily mean that dignity is lost, as the Angolan people teach me every day.
It was in the last 100 km before Luanda, riding right next to the Atlantic Ocean in the beautiful coastal town of Cabo Ledo where I would start to notice the brutal contrast that I would soon experience in the capital. A sudden gust blows right next to me, a vanishing vehicle passes me at an unusual, even nonexistent speed for Africa standards. That would be no less than 180 km / h maybe 200. It was a Porsche Carrera plated like a bullet, and this was most definitely not the Autobahn! Despite the speed, it is easy to recognize a car for which you have had fascination since childhood. Not much later a Maserati passes, followed by a Jaguar and for the rest of the day one after another and another luxury 4x4. Landcruisers, Patrols, Cayennes, Pajeros, not the basic models but the most onerous ones. Yes, it was clear that I was soon to arrive at the famous Luanda, the capital of squandering and unreal cost of living. But before submerging into the urban African world, I would stop to enjoy a bit more of nature at a unique viewpoint on top of a cliff from where I could get more breathtaking views of the Atlantic ocean, and of course, more chances to enjoy encounters with more mullheres! !! - Yes, I already said it! :)