Luanda, Angola 2022
After two days at sea the morning of November 30 found us in Luanda, the capital and largest city of Angola. Angola was another Portuguese colony, first settled by Europeans in the late 16th century. It was a central portal for the export of slaves, mostly to Brazil, during the 17th and 18th centuries. It won its independence in 1975 after a bloody revolutionary war that lasted some 15 years. Then it suffered through a bloody civil war that lasted until 2002. Luanda has been rebuilding since then but many, if not most, of its 6 to 8 million people still live in poverty in shanty towns called musseques. Angola’s huge oil revenues have enriched a tiny elite in the country but have not done so much for most of the population.
We visited Luanda once before in 2018 and took an extensive excursion that enabled us to see much of the city. If you want to see the city you can look here:
The excursions available here were mostly repeats of what we had seen in 2018 (and they are pretty expensive . . . Luanda is one of the most expensive cities in the world), so we decided not to book one. It was raining pretty vigorously during the morning and Luanda is not a very safe place for visitors to wander about by themselves, at least away from the water front, so we decided not to do that either. Mostly we spent the day on the ship.
However the skies cleared somewhat in late morning so we took the shuttle to the port gate, which has a tall clock tower (far left in this photo). As the photo shows, we were berthed this time on the other side of the port warehouse and unloading area, much further from the main part of the city than last time (when we got much better pictures).
Across from the gate is a large square that is used as a market (at least when a ship is in town). We visited there on our last visit and it was crowded with vendors selling everything from clothing to paintings to crafts. On this occasion, probably because of the rain most of the morning, only a handful of vendors had set up booths. A couple of dancers and musicians were there as well.
One woman from the ship spent a long time examining textiles that a vendor had spread on the ground, collecting quite a few after careful examination of each one. Then they brought out some more and she started again, putting back most of what she had selected and examining all the new ones. She bought some, not sure how many. But Mary bought a nice one that this woman had abandoned. What appeared to be a news crew with a video camera was there for a while and interviewed at least one of the ship passengers in the market. We think we were the first cruise ship in port for several years, since the pandemic began, so our presence must have counted as news.
We returned to the ship, greeted at the gangplank by the usual “Welcome Home” sign although it didn’t feel like we had gone anywhere. We spent the rest of the day on the ship, then sailed away as evening approached. We passed a large cliff looking almost red in the fading light and saw the sun set as we set out to sea.
Three days later we arrived at nowhere and saw nothing (at least that is how the captain described it). We were sailing from Luanda to Takoradi, Ghana, a course that takes you through a vast expanse of ocean called the Gulf of Guinea. During the morning we crossed the equator and the prime meridian at the same time, at 0 degrees longitude and 0 degrees latitude. We had done this in 2018 as well, but around midnight so we couldn’t see anything (the ship did hold a pajama party in the Crows’ Nest that time though). You can read about that in the first part of this post:
This time it was broad daylight and we saw . . . nothing but water. So, woo-hoo! We have read online that there is a weather buoy here (called the soul buoy) but we sure didn’t see it and we didn’t hear of anyone else on the ship seeing it either. We don’t actually know for sure that it is still here, but we found a photo online from 2017 that shows what it is supposed to look like. We received a certificate designating us “Emerald Shellbacks" for having done this, although we were already emerald shellbacks from doing this in 2018 (with certificates to prove it).