LUANDA, ANGOLA 5 MARCH 2014
Arriving around 8.00 am we entered the large bay and docked in the container port. We caught the shuttle to the central square, which was only a short distance from the port entrance, and walked across the road to the President Hotel in the hope of using the internet. We were directed to the top floor café but our hopes were dashed when the staff member there asked for our room number.
There followed a fruitless search along the Marginal, Luanda’s palm tree lined road running along the Bay for any cafe or internet facility. This road unfortunately appeared to house only banks and government offices with never a decent cafe or restaurant in sight. After a 15 minute walk we gave up and retraced our steps to where we had left the shuttle bus, this time walking along the sea side of the Marginal. The Marginal has obviously been upgraded recently with a play area set aside for children and landscaping with various trees and plants and we met others from the ship, similarly promenading
Our ship’s tour left early afternoon, and we passed the Marginal and the Baixa district and headed to the Cidade Alta area, as its name implies, which is the upper part of town. The traffic was heavy and we first stopped at the cathedral, which was nothing special, and thence to an anthropological museum with a variety of old figures and musical instruments which was quite interesting. The highlight came last when our coach swept in to the São Miguel fort, once the home of the Governor and built by the Portuguese in 1576. This stands on an imposing site, high on a hill with a lovely view of the ocean on one side, and the urban area on the other.
The large courtyard had an array of heavy weapons used in the struggle for independence which included a "shot down” Puma helicopter and a Mirage jet, both of which were little more than twisted pieces of metal. Entering inside one of the rooms we were surprised to see all the walls were covered in azulejos (the Portuguese blue and white ceramic tiles) but depicted African wild animals rather than the pastoral agricultural scenes found in mainland Portugal.
Unfortunately there was not a "shopping opportunity”' and indeed the Alta area appeared just as run down as that we had seen in the morning. We were obviously not taken to the Luandan upmarket shops where jeans cost £000's!
Our final stop was to the President's mausoleum housed in huge grounds with some marble statuary. This covers three floors and we were taken up in the lift, and unfortunately all the floors were polished marble and extremely slippery, and it was very difficult to keep your footing, so we tiptoed very carefully round the exhibits. The top floor was open to the elements and apparently President Agostinho Neto's favourite flower was the Welwitschia which was carved out in marble on the floor. We remained here for about ten minutes and then returned to the ship.
An interesting codicil to our visit to Luanda; we not only had a police escort, but also an ambulance equipped with the latest apparatus and staffed with both doctors and nurses. Apparently this was due to the fact that should any passenger be taken ill, they would probably not survive, should they need to wait for medical help due to the horrendous traffic! This also probably accounts for the very high cost of the shore excursion