Angola, which in October abolished visas for 98 countries, including Portugal, wants to enter African tourism routes, but for now there is a lack of hotels and restaurants, roads, transport and tour operators, as well as water and energy in many parts of the country.
Nothing that prevents, however, the most adventurous, with the means and desire to pioneer a path, from setting out to discover, as happened with a Portuguese-Angolan caravan that traveled, from Luanda, thousands of kilometers, until reaching the only conservation reserve private sector of Angola, in Cuatir, near the border with Namibia.
The initiative came from the Overland Club of Angola (COA), which decided to organize the first land trip between the Angolan capital and Cuatir, mobilizing almost 40 people who, between roads, trails and even crossing a river on a raft, crossed the provinces of Luanda, Cuanza-Sul, Huambo, Bié and Cuando Cubango in their powerful off-road vehicles.
Hidrisi Miguel "Aussländer", one of the organizers of the expedition to Cuatir and member of COA, tells Lusa that the idea of going to that remote region, 1500 kilometers from Luanda, was due to the desire to explore yet another new destination, in this type of adventure tourism, carried out independently, seeking to reach remote or little-known places.
Founded in January 2022, COA currently has more than 80 active members, "a family", as Hidrisi Miguel describes, explaining that the club is open to anyone "who has the spirit" of an "overlander", even if they do not have means of transport.
"You have to have that spirit of getting there, of being supportive, lending material, helping to organize things, all members are welcome", he highlights.
"Overlanding", which requires some prior preparation, as it is necessary to ensure all the logistics to remain autonomous for a certain period, is a suitable modality for a country like Angola where many of the potential tourist attractions, which include deserted beaches and untouched landscapes , do not have the infrastructure to receive visitors.
Carla Cardoso came from Portugal with her husband to join the caravan and attests to the good coexistence she found on her first visit to Angola, where she joined the COA to participate in "a unique adventure", highlighting the "very unique network" she found in Angola: "It's a family, no one knew us and we were very well received, very well treated, everyone integrated us into the group."
After the Angolan experience, Carla Cardoso, resident in Estremoz, admits to now joining future "safaris" through Alentejo lands, which are certainly less wild.
The most difficult thing, he confesses, was the tiredness: "The journey is very hard, it's a thousand or so kilometers (..) for those who aren't used to it, it's hard, we're shop kids, we're sitting in our comfort zone, it's a huge challenge ", which, however, "exceeded any and all expectations", she says, showing herself prepared for more trips.
Divided between "Princesses", "Swords" and "Solitaires", the "overlanders" left Luanda at the beginning of November, following in caravans that facilitate mutual help when problems arise.
The rule is to leave no one behind, as the hot sands and potholed roads punish vehicles and, in some cases, require repairs.
Entertaining themselves between the asphalt and the trail, dodging holes, animals and other obstacles that appear on the way, the "overlanders" parade for kilometers and exchange, via radio, information about the condition of the road, breakdowns and roadblocks, helping to ward off the sleep that invades drivers during long hours on the road.
The group is heterogeneous, with people of different ages, professions and experiences, who have in common the taste for engines and nature, for travel and socializing, but also for solidarity and the social aspect, as highlighted by Paulo Diogo, another member of the COA.
He recalls, by the way, that during the covid-19 pandemic he discovered that the poor condition of the roads was making the work of Portuguese missionaries in the Gungo mission (Kuanza Sul) difficult.
"And I decided: that's where I'm going", highlights the owner of a workshop, adding that since that date a group of "overlanders" continue to visit the mission to "share a little" of what they have "and return with their souls cleansed ".
With the "overland family", Paulo Diogo, owner of a workshop, shares the enthusiasm for off-road and adventure.
"We are self-sufficient, we take the vehicle and go wherever we want, wherever the world allows us", he points out, saying that he has always enjoyed "setting up the tent", a taste that he has not lost since arriving, 20 years ago, in Angola.
Nothing is missing in the vehicles, from ice for whiskey to "good food", including the essential machine in the café, he jokes.
"Princesses", "Swords" and "Solitaires" gathered in Menongue, capital of Cuando Cubango, continuing from there in a single caravan, which required a few more hours on the sands that lead to Cuatir.
The arrival is greeted with enthusiasm and, above all, relief. It's time to rest for machines and people. Tents are set up and snacks are prepared, while mechanics look at the engines and others enjoy playing petanque.
There are "overlanders" all over the world and some travel for years. Many pass through Africa, including Angola, where they meet the local network that supports them in everything necessary, explains Hidrisi Miguel, civil engineer.
For Paulo Diogo, belonging to the "overland family" and sharing a common goal: "to go as far as you want" and "to reach where others cannot reach".