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: