Driving down the Serra da Leba pass in Angola is like stepping off a cliff. Doing it in the thick fog that often embraces the pass is like doing it blindfolded.
Joaõ Fillésberto Zaiei gears down and puts both hands on the steering wheel of his truck. He hoots before every bend to warn oncoming traffic before he uses every centimetre of the road to get around. Sitting in the passenger seat I constantly find myself hanging over the edge of the cliff while he’s negotiating the tight hairpin bends. It’s a thrilling experience to say the least. For Joaõ it’s just another day at work.
This is road EN280, connecting Lubango in Angola’s inland with the coastal town Namibe. I’m here to report for a Swedish client on something as mundane as the Angolan trucking business and I have met up with Joaõ who’s a driver for Volvo, by far the leading brand in the country, to learn about his thoughts on being a truck driver in Angola.
The stretch between Lubango and Namibe is a narrow piece of tarmac cutting through a brown landscape. Low, weathered bushes line the road, with the occasional jacaranda trees sprinkling its lilac flowers over the surface. Oncoming vehicles often swerve over the centreline. The road is in good condition, but the general traffic environment is somewhat challenging. People and animals share the road with everything from slow moving trucks to speeding BMWs and in a way I’m happy that the Angolan authorities keep the death toll on the roads to themselves.
Having said that, the Serra da Leba pass is nothing short of spectacular. Particularly in the late afternoon when the fog usually lifts and the setting sun colours everything golden. It’s a classic road in a country seldom visited by tourists.
Angola is a strange place indeed, with an oil-fuelled economy making it one of the most expensive countries in the world, yet large parts of the population lives in absolute poverty. Luanda is a modern metropolis with a European-style boardwalk where you pay 15 Euros for a beer, while the countryside is beautiful, mountainous, and friendly. At some stage we’ll get back to Angola in this blog because it’s both worth discussing and visiting, but for now, if you love exciting roads and passes: put Serra da Leba on your bucket list.