Cabinda, Angola to Luanda, Angola on TAAG
Having survived the night, it was time to head to the airport to fly down to Angola’s capital, Luanda. The problem is, there are only like 40 taxis in all of Cabinda, and despite the hotel front desk guy promising over and over that one was on the way, for 30 minutes there was no sign.
Of course, there were plenty of share taxis puttering by in the street, and eventually Jordan and I made the decision to chance one. We had the front desk guy flag one down, negotiated a good price…and we were off. Until….BANG!
This wasn’t just a flat tire, it was an absolute blowout. We’d agreed on approx $5 to the airport, so after realizing this car was going nowhere fast, and the driver seemed completely unphased by it, we used him to flag down another taxi to go the rest of the way. It already had three people in the little car (think sub-compact) but in went these two large American guys, two large bags, AND smaller bags. I think we were all sitting on each other, absolutely packed in, three african women, two large american guys, a few chimpanzees, a goat or two, a flock of chicken, and a couple of elderly cattle. Hmmmm, I might be imagining the cattle…but it sure felt like it. This was no luxury sedan, but about 10 minutes later we did make it to the airport, for the princely sum of $1 each. To be fair, we did give a little money to the guy with the blown-out tire – he’d definitely need it for repairs.
Having made it to the airport, the task was to find the check-in counter. Which was way more difficult than it sounded. There were four counters that LOOKED like check-in counters, but no lines, just a swarm of people around them. We just started wildly waving our arms around and saying TAAG? Luanda? Sim? Eventually, we were pointed by different people to each of the four different counters…so I tried a new tactic. Executiva? Business Class? That seemed to work, and someone pointed us to a lady at one of the counters.
She looked at us…looked at our passports…and said in all seriousness: “Why did you not check-in LAST NIGHT.” Excuse me? We have to check in the night before, are you serious? She was, indeed, serious, and pointed to a sign on the counter, that either said “please give me a $100 bill if you want helpful service” or “please check in two hours in advance, for passengers on the first flight of the day, check-in is the night before.” I couldn’t be sure – I don’t read Portuguese.
Having decided she’d not be making any bribes off us today, she asked for our tickets. “E-tickets…in computer” – “No. I need a printed copy. Go to TAAG office OUTSIDE AIRPORT and get a printed receipt.” Seriously? You refuse to look it up, and we have to go outside and around the corner to another guy with the same computer, who will look it up, and print us a receipt? Ugh. To the office…and the same question “why didn’t you check in last night?” Um, I’ve been to over 150 countries, and have never heard this “check in the day before concept.” Angola, you’re truly unique.
He did, however, print us very nice receipts, which we took back to lady #1, and she was kind enough to check us in. Security was…a complete joke. I’m pretty sure the x-ray machine wasn’t working, and people were walking through with the body scanner beeping like R2D2 in a moment of excitement. Anyways, we made it to the waiting lounge…which was packed.
Right when we were supposed to be departing…we saw the plane come in. About 20 minutes later a TAAG person appeared, which apparently meant “every man for himself” and everyone started swarming the boarding door. We’ve had enough African experience to know that if you don’t do your share of shoving, you might as well wait until everyone has passed, so….shove we did and we managed to get out the door. We were overheard by a couple that noted it was our first time in Angola, and said they’d been there something like 10+ years. They had the missionary or NGO look to them….and I give them a lot of credit. Angola’s certainly not for the timid!
Queuing to board:
Misc military stuff on the tarmac:
TAAG flight 167
Cabinda, Angola (CAB) to Luanda, Angola (LAD)
Depart 8:25, Arrive 9:25, Flight Time 1 hour
Boeing 737-700, Registration D2-TBJ, Manufactured 2006, Seat 2A
Unusual for me, I’d selected a window seat to watch the world go by. It was a short flight, so wasn’t worried about getting up and stretching. Boarding was relatively efficient, and soon we were under way. Seats in business class were three rows of 2×2 for a total of 12 seats. I would say it was perfectly comparable to domestic first class in the U.S.
A small snack of muffins was served, which was more than reasonable for the short flight. Given the trauma at the airport I briefly considered a glass of wine, but decided to pass. Just to note, it was on offer….
About 30 minutes into flight, it was announced that we were already on descent into Luanda. I managed to snap some good shots of the sprawl as we approached:
Upon arrival, we were bussed to the terminal, where there was a passport/ID check. Locals just seemed to be showing their IDs, but for foreigners they were checking visas. Not quite sure what they were looking for – probably just ensuring we had a valid visa and entry stamp, and then they sent us to the baggage area to get our bags. We waited maybe 20 minutes for bags, which was nice and easy. I thought maybe my hotel had a shuttle, but there was no sign of one.
There were, however, meter taxis waiting! Piece of cake! Jordan joined me in the taxi to my hotel, knowing his wasn’t far away, and we set off through the traffic for the next stage of the adventure.
First off, I would like to say that this blog is incredible. I am extremely impressed with your mission to visit all of these African countries. That is NOT an easy task, and I really admire your persistence.
Having been to Angola and traveled on TAAG, reading your Angola section made me smile. I had very similar experiences, so I can totally relate to a lot of what you went through.
I am not well-traveled enough to know if this issue is specific to Angola, but problem-solving happens in extremely counter-intuitive ways, with an apparent inability to “think outside of the box”. Your check-in experience is a perfect example. The check-in lady could have easily accessed your reservation on the computer, but instead required that you present a printed receipt. I have taken several TAAG flights, and each one of them has required that I present a printed e-ticket which they “validate” with a stamp at check-in. It is the most pointless thing I have ever seen, yet nobody seems to question it!
I also had my camera confiscated by the police in Luanda. I was shockingly able to get it back several months later, but it was a process that I hope to never repeat again.
With that said, Angola also has some of the most welcoming and generous people I have ever met. A country of contrasts for sure.
I am looking forward to reading about your future trips. Eritrea should be interesting.