The New York Times, November 28, 1886:|
ANGOLA AND ITS TOWNS
CONVICT LIFE SEEN THERE AND PORTUGUESE NEGLECT
Picturesque Features of the Country--
Going Ashore and Looking About--People in Better Health
St. Paul de Loanda [Luanda], South Angola, Aug. 30.--At last we are in the capital of Angola, the southernmost limit of our African cruise, and beyond all question one of the most striking places... For one thing, it appears that the richer and more respectable society of the town is composed exclusively of convicts, and as our Captain tells me that the "convict ladies" do not associate with the rest of the population, I presume that I shall have to commit a peculiarly aggravated theft or burglary in order to secure admission to any decent local drawing room, and to be put in irons immediately previous to my introduction.
But my chief interest in this district at present is in connection with the famous "transcontinental railroad" which is to strike inland up the Bengo Valley from Loanda, follow Cameron's route to the Upper Congo, and cut out the Congo International Association by drawing away the traffic which was to flow down the long expected railway between Vivi and Stanley Pool. Col. Davenport, the head of the works, told me today that his engineers would return this evening from surveying the first 40 miles of track, and that further operations are to be commenced as soon as possible...
The seaboard of Angola, along which we have been slowly working our way for several days past, represents the third of the four progressive stages through which the southwestern coast of Africa passes as it trends southward from the Bight of Biafra to Cape Colony.
In the first of these sections--that bounded on the north by Germany's new settlement upon the Cameroons River, and on the south by the Sette Camma--the great equatorial forest is still paramount upon a soil fed into rank and unnatural luxuriance by the torrent rains of the tropics, and as far as the eye can reach, the whole landscape is one dark, impenetrable mass of bristling tree tops.
Between the mouth of the Sette Camma and that of the Congo this dense wooding concentrated itself along the banks of the rivers, while the open country presents the appearance of a vast natural park, consisting of undulating slopes clothed with a brownish grass, and dotted with clumps of trees.
To the south of the Congo these clumps become smaller and less frequent, while the sandy soil which has supplanted the deep, soft clay of the equatorial seaboard gives place in its turn to a rocky surface, rising at times into bold, uneven bluffs of considerable height, such as those Aravat Hills behind Kinsembo.
The tenth parallel of south latitude--which falls not far below St. Paul de Loanda--marks the southern limit of the oil palm, and thenceforth the growing bareness of the country progresses with ever increasing rapidity until it culminates at length in the savage desolation of the great Kalahari Desert and of the new German colony at Angra Pequena, where the flag of the Fatherland waves in triumph over a cheerful perspective of sun-scorched rocks and barren sands.
But despite its growing dreariness the coast of Angola contains more than one spot which, however uninteresting to a trader, would be of priceless value in the eyes of an artist. From the crest of the rocky ridge behind Musserah (a tiny trading station between Ambrizette and Kinsembo) there stands boldly up against the sky a very curious natural pillar of pink granite nearly 60 feet in height, and balanced upon such a slender foundation--the earth having gradually crumbled away from beneath it--that it looks as if the touch of a finger would suffice to send it thundering down into the valley beneath...
Between this ridge and the lower one that flanks it lies a deep, narrow valley which no white woman was formerly allowed to enter, the gloomy superstition of the natives dreading some mysterious evil from her presence. Times are changed since then, and a European lady may now be carried in a hammock from Musserah to Kinsembo, right through this ill-omened gorge...
Not less pictuesque is Kinsembo [Kisembo] itself, the glistening white buildings of which, perched on the flat top of a reddish brown bluff with rounded sides, are irresistably suggestive of sugar ornaments upon an enormous plum cake... were the shock of civilized warfare ever to disturb this remote corner of the earth Todleben himself could find no better site for a sea-fronting fort...
At the opposite extremity of the same charming little bay... stand three or four of those long, low-roofed, one-storied, brilliantly white houses which stud the whole African seaboard from the Senegal to the Kwanza [River, also spelled Cuanza, Coanza, Quanza, or Kuanza]. Several others dapple with a row of white spots the gray uplands in the background, while five or six more are scattered along the wide, tawny sand beach like the toys of some infant giant. High over all, upon the summit of the headland, flutters jauntily that historical flag beneath which for centuries the foulest and bloodiest of all abuses has been supported by the weakest and worst of all Governments; for this is the Portuguese town of Ambriz, the most considerable of the Angola ports after St. Paul de Loanda itself.
...the Captain and I went ashore in the steam launch at 5:30 in the morning... Our clothes... were suddenly spattered with a perfect rain of half liquid soot from the engine... "You look like a literary man now, and no mistake," remarked the Captain...
As we neared the shore, signs of Portuguese neglect and disorder began to show themselves on every side... The sole visible token of care was the broad, smooth, rock-cut road leading up from the shore to the town overhead, a great improvement upon the steep, slippery, breakneck footpath of which some traces are still to be seen among the flanking rocks.
The first man whom we met was of course a Scotchman--there being little doubt that, if the North Pole is ever reached, a Scotchman will be found, settled there, and doing a thriving business, too...
We went forward into the town. It appeared to consist of three or four perfectly straight and immensely wide streets, planted along either side with various kinds of African trees, the glossy leaves of which looked strangely out of place amid the ankle-deep dust over which even the heavy bullock wagons passed as noiselessly as shadows. The houses were all of one type, which I had already seen in Northern India often enough to recognize it at a glance, viz., a long, one-storied, white building, forming one side of a vast hollow square, the other three being formed by the sheds, outhouses, and servants' quarters, and the wide courtyard in the centre being known as the "compound." But the arrangement which in British India is perfectly simple and harmless has in this land of slave trading a grim suggestiveness of the cooping up of "black ivory" for transmisson across the sea, Ambriz having been formerly one of the most notorious slave stations on the whole southeastern coast.
At the end of the principal street stands a queer little fort with a wall high enough to protect against the attacks of the strongest and most malevolent kid in the settlement the two aged and infirm guns which are defended by it. On our way back from inspecting it we halt to have a friendly cup of tea with a Portuguese trader and his two quaint little half-breed children... But he is hastily called away by two tall black customers who have taken a fancy to some of the rifles and colored handkerchiefs in the store, while we make our way down to the beach and push off again to the steamer...
Saô Paulo de Loanda (St. Paul of the Mats) presents as goodly a picture as it did to Cameron's weary eyes 13 years ago, when the great explorer was struggling painfully over the last miles of his famous "walk across Africa."
Breakfast is hardly over when we are honored with a visit from the British, American, and ex-Brazilian Consuls, the agent of the British and African Steam Navigation Company, and the Manager and proprietor of the Coanza River steamers, all these dignitaries being comprehended in the single person of Mr. Robert S. Newton, a genial Scotchman, whose 18 years' residence upon this half-savage coast has not abated one whit the frank and kindly hospitality of which every recent traveler in these parts has had ample experience.
This African "Pooh-Bah" loses no time in carrying us ashore to his house in the lower part of the town, where a warm welcome awaits us from his charming wife, whose pretty English face is an indescribable treat after the sallow, flabby sickly visages that have haunted us all the way down the coast. The only drawback to our enjoyment is the fact that all the servants of the house are in prison for theft and not expected out again till next week, their places being temporarily filled by what we used to call at Oxford "a scratch crew."
The interior of our smoking room after dinner--on the walls of which the firm soldierly faces of Sherman, Grant, and Sheridan group themselves picturesquely around the worn, sad-eyed countenance of their great leader, Abraham Lincoln--would make a fine study for any painter or novelist, for our genial host keeps "open house" in the hospitable style of the olden time, and his guests are as motley a crowd as the passengers of a Levantine steamer.
A big Scottish engineer, lately returned from a toilsome journey through the "bush," describes his disappointment at seeing the broad, black back of an elephant vanishing into the jungle before he could snatch up his rifle, and invites the company, with the air of a schoolmaster giving out a sum, to consider what a time he must have had of it in a region where there were "14 mosquitos upon every blade of grass over an area of 200 acres."
An officer belonging to one of the gunboats in the harbor pours into the sympathizing ear of an Irish doctor from a homeward-bound merchantman the details of a fever which has disabled several of his best seamen.
Two clerks, a Portuguese and an Englishman, attempt to talk each other's language, and laugh heartily at their respective mistakes, while an American surveyor discusses the prospects of the new railway up the Bengo from St. Paul.
See also: Congo News - Zambia News|
Namibia News - Botswana News
All of Angola is
one time zone at GMT+1,
with no Daylight Savings time.
Angola is rebuilding its country after the end of a 27-year civil war in 2002. Fighting between the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), led by Jose Eduardo DOS SANTOS, and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), led by Jonas SAVIMBI, followed independence from Portugal in 1975.
Peace seemed imminent in 1992 when Angola held national elections, but UNITA renewed fighting after being beaten by the MPLA at the polls. Up to 1.5 million lives may have been lost - and 4 million people displaced - in the quarter century of fighting.
SAVIMBI's death in 2002 ended UNITA's insurgency and strengthened the MPLA's hold on power. President DOS SANTOS has announced legislative elections will be held on September 5 and 6, 2008, with Presidential elections planned for sometime in 2009.
CIA World Factbook: Angola
Area of Angola:
1,246,700 sq km
slightly less than twice the size of Texas
Population of Angola:
July 2007 estimate
Languages of Angola:
Portuguese official, Bantu
and other African languages
Angola Reference Articles and Links
Wikipedia: Angola - History of Angola
The Economist: Angola Country Briefing
LOC: Angola Country Study
BBC Country Profile: Angola
UK Foreign Office: Angola Profile
US State Department: Angola Profile
UN Map of Angola
Maps of Angola
Historic Maps of Africa
1885 Map of Africa
Angola Embassy, Washington D.C.
US Embassy, Luanda, Angola
Governments on the WWW links
US State Dept Angola Travel
Angola News Websites
ANGOP Angola Press Agency
Nexus in Portuguese
Jornal de Angola in Portuguese
Jornal dos Desportos in Portuguese
Radio Nacional in Portuguese
Televisao Publica in Portuguese
ABYZ: Angola News Links
Angola Internet Directories
Yahoo!: Angola directory
Google Angola directory
Reservations: Hotels, Airlines, Car Rental
Economy Travel - Airline Flight Tracking