Tag Archives: Luanda

5th September – Angolan Election Day

A Good Day for Angola! A BAD Day for us! The day started quiet and slow, without any issues. No gunfire, shouting or misbehaving. Fine so far. 🙂

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Election Flags; Election FLAG! (The size of a car)

The roads outside the house were really quiet, and it was around lunchtime that we decided we were going to head out to Ilha and go check things out. We were also gonna look for Carvao (Charcoal) for the braai we were gonna have later on. Tango Delta wasn’t driving that day, unless specifically required to do so, like airport trips, etc. So all staff jaunts were out. I called up The Architect and we picked him up on the way thru. Everything was closed and we just drove down to the end of the Ilha to the lighthouse. At the end of the spit we found a market on the right that was half open, they weren’t really selling anything except food and drinks, so we pulled in to find out if we could get any carvao nearby.

We landed up asking the one stall seller, who was serving a policeman. He spoke really good English, had apparently worked in Namibia for a while, so was interesting conversation whilst we waited to hear where we could get carvao. Well, no one knew, so we chilled at the lighthouse on the corner, and just watched the people for a while. 2 things were soon very apparent about the lighthouse corner:

1) It was a great place to park off and watch literally everyone who drove past wheel spin, handbrake, wheelie or rear-wheel slide trying to get attention. It could only be a matter of time before some taxi, 4×4, or bike would wipe out here. Saturday nights must be legend here with a camcorder. But, it was not to be our time. As much as the taxi and bikes were pushing he envelopes on that corner, there were no such entertaining moments. 🙁

2) It appeared to be a good place to get picked up, if you were looking to . . . as we were being eye-balled by everyone on the way round. One person chatting us up after they stopped, by emergency breaking, to put the child’s safety belt on in the back. Classic.

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THE Lighthouse; Torres Atlantico 

Well, from there we were headed back towards the house, without carvao, when we decided to call The Techie and pick him up on the way. We took a short detour via town first to get The AV/VC Techie. I had been to the staff house that Techie was staying in before, but I couldn’t fully remember the way, so Architect said we would give directions. We were about 100m away from house, which is situated in a one-way, which was about 50m ahead of us on the right, when The Architect called out “Right, turn Right now!”. The Namibian who was driving at the time, our driver didn’t arrive, suddenly turned right. Almost into a Traffic Officer on his Motorbike. Almost hitting the Traffic Officer on his Motorbike, who was the front rider to a motorcade or 2 Black Volvos! With Flags on them! FUCK!

We backed up immediately. Well, the copper definitely wasn’t very chuffed at all. Firstly, he almost shat when the Namibian hit him, and secondly he was fuming when he got off his bike. He stormed over to us and started shouting at us in Porra. Well, we don’t speak Porra and said so. He wanted The Namibians License, which he duly handed over. Then he wanted the vehicle papers and we handed over what we could. It is a bit of a mess in the glove box and all the papers are all tattered and old in an old envelope. He looked at them and grabbed what he could get hold of and told us to follow him. Which we did. We followed him into the city and stopped outside the a building where the other vehicles of the motorcade were. The building was the CNE. Comissão Nacional Eleitoral. The National Electoral Commission. And we had almost hit their motorcade. We were sooo fucked now! 🙁 The cop called The Namibian out, I followed but was directed to stay in the car. I returned and The Namibian was escorted inside the gates. The property has slatted wooden fencing on the street front, through which you can see the movement of people inside. Not very safe for a big wig I must say. Out vehicle was stopped on the right-hand side of the road 5 metres up from the building, so we could see the goings on. The next thing we were all called inside.

There were about 15 guys here all in suits and all looking at us very gravely. We stated we don’t speak Portuguese and asked if anyone speaks English, where to our amazement, we found out that no-one spoke English. No-one here with all these guys in suits and could speak English? That is very, very surprising. Even our guards at the house understand a bit of English, and most people will help out if they can’t speak it. So 15 guys, who work for am official of sorts DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH?? Right. The one guy who appeared to have assumed control was very disapproving and kept shaking his head, with a very stern look his face.

The Namibian had already called The Girlfriend, a local, who spoke the language. She had been speaking to the copper, and now he passed the phone back to her. His take on this was that we had just made an attempt on the President of the CNE! Haha, legend! Well, at the time it wasn’t that funny. This was ridiculous. He informed his girlfriend of this and she spoke to the copper again. He stuck by his story. Us . . . 4 guys, 2 in baggies, 2 in jeans, 2 with caps on, none speaking Porra, driving a hire car 4×4, not fully aware of our way around the city, one with a local girlfriend, all profusively apologetic! What a joke. And what a bunch of morons for thinking that! Around about now they kicked the 3 of us out, and told us to go back to the car . . .  with the keys! What the hell? Yeah, you let assassins go back to the car with the keys? Right. Shortly afterward we got into the car, a guy ran out, whom I think was the driver of the one car, looked at us and mimed handcuffs on our wrists. That was when I laughed. I still can’t tell if it was a nervous laugh or a truly, this is funny, laugh. I got a call from The Girlfriend said that she had called her brother, The Shipper, who just happened to be in country and that he was on his way around to help out.

I gave The Namibian a call and he answered. We had a chat about what was going on and he told me that they did speak English as the one guy had told him he could take a seat, in English. When he questioned the guy about his English, he suddenly switched back to Porra. The 3 of us sat in the car and got chatting about our predicament. We didn’t think we were really in that much trouble as we wouldn’t be in the car with the keys if we were. If they suspected anything, we would be inside with guys going the car, and us in cuffs already. We also wouldn’t be allowed to make calls on our mobile, and The Namibian definitely wouldn’t be allowed to make or receive calls. I did comment that we were lucky it wasn’t The President’s motorcade we had almost run into as if it was, one of the many, many armed guards would have shot us already, onsite! They don’t stuff around here. Also, it was noted that today was not the best of days to be almost bumping into the President of the CNE. We considered contacting The Architect and AV/VC Techie’s company’s security department and ask them for help, but that would only get us, and likely them in serious shit as there was a ruling that they weren’t really supposed to be out and about today. The fallout from that call would be serious, and they would most likely be shipped home for ignoring and breaking company security policy. So I decided against going that route, unless really really necessary. Like handcuffs necessary.

The Shipper arrived and got chatting to The Namibian and the copper. Well, after much back and forth he came and informed us that it comes down to the following:

1) The driver of the car needs a note from the car hire company in Angola to drive the car.

2) The company who the driver works for needs to issue a letter allowing the driver to drive the car.

3) Today was the wrong day to be doing any of this. Election Day. The FIRST true elections in 16 years or so. Bad day to be running into the President of the CNE.

As all 3 points were against us, the driver was looking at jail time. He would need to be taken downtown, booked and arrested. The car would be impounded and then that was a mission of paperwork to get it out. The car hire company would need to come to get the vehicle out and we would have to pay a fine – a large, hefty fine – to get the driver and the car out.

Alternatively, we could just sort things out here . . . ah-ha Welcome to Africa!

Show me the MONEY!!

There was a catch . . . there were 7, yes, SEVEN guys in the mix! The 2 cops, the 2 drivers, a few security guys, etc, etc, etc. Fuck me! So now we got counting. The Architect pulled his cash out and tried to pass it to me, sitting in driver’s seat. “Whoa dude, keep your cash down” I said, pushing his hand down. You don’t blatantly show your cash in these situations. Well, we had about $500 in mixed currency on us, and The Namibian reckon he had about $130 or so in US. So about $630. Hmmm, not enough. They wanted $700. $100 a piece. Man what a RIP! So, we called The Big Zimbo  back at the house and asked to stand with a little extra cash that we could pick up. The Shipper returned and advised us that now it was $1000! WTF!!! Well, now the others weren’t happy, and wanted more in case someone mentioned something and reported them. What we would never do that . . . willingly! 🙂

So we made a plan. There was more cash at the house as that is where The Zimbo’s were, and they had cash on them. Okay, The Shipper had organised for us to go get more cash. The copper held our papers and we drove off to organise. We stopped off to get The Techie, the original plan, and continued on to the house,  where we got the cash together and The Shipper and his mate returned to the copper and shortly returned back with all our papers and The Namibian’s licence. Fantastic. They informed us that the Angolan cops here were just plain unfair and had previously put The Shipper’s mate in jail for the night as he had left his licence at home when he was stopped. Crazy huh?

So we got about getting the fire going. Ahhhh . . . . No Carvao! After all that. Still no carvao. We decided to go look for some in the hood, and were about to get in the car AGAIN, when I asked our guard if he could organise. A few minutes later there was some random at the gate, and he said he could organise. So we sent him off to go get 5 bags of carvao, a case of Cristal cervesa and garaf of Vodka. Well he returned empty handed stating he needed the cash first, so The Namibian and I ventured off with him, thinking it was just down the road. Well 15 minutes later we were still walking, through the hood. An hour later we returned to the house, on foot, carrying 10 bags of carvao, a case of Cristal and a garaf of Johnny Red. At least we learnt where to get all the things we need afterhours, should we run out again! 🙂

So, the braai proceeded and we al got a bit wrecked, me waking up in the early hours of the morning, still fully clothed! What a night!

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Not Being In Jail! 🙂

 

 

organise carvao, booze, walked a good few kms

The National Public Holiday – Luanda

So yesterday Wednesday was a National Public Holiday. No one however knew about it. The entire country was only informed of this decision at 18h on Tuesday evening on national TV. Classic.

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The Elections are Coming! Both MPLA and Unita flags proudly displayed in the capital. The pic is a bit out of focus. 🙁

We were sent an email about it, well I wasn’t, but the BP guys were, and they forwarded it on to me. I then called Maria who would be in the know. It was 22h15, and not too late I thought. Well, I woke her up. I apologised and asked her about the public holiday.

“Yes, it is a National public holiday!” she exclaimed. This as opposed to a normal public holiday?

Well, I landed up going to work as I was in town in the morning to get my work permit sorted out at SRC – that is turning into an even bigger nightmare, but more on that later – and then I had a telecon in the afternoon for another issue, so just decided to do the work thing and catchup with documentation and emails.

Crap, but I got through a lot, so it was good.

The evening was spent at Cais de Quatro, a restaurant on the Ilha on the bay side, which was nice. I ordered the 2400Kz Garoupa fillet with chips. It was pretty good. The entire bill came to 15 300Kz for 3 of us. Bradley (the architect), Steven (the techie) and myself. Yip R 1 500 for 2 guys and that is pretty much the norm. Madness huh!

Well Elections tomorrow, on Friday the 5th. Gonna be interesting.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Living Life

82 Days . . . Let’s Do IT – Luanda

So, I am back. Have been for just over a week now. I am blogging again too, as my WordPress is fully working again now. Thanks Andre! 🙂

What did he do to fix it??

(11:08:06 AM) Andre: try it
(11:09:00 AM) Nunnsby: busy trying . . . angolan telecoms f*cked, so net access tempermental
(11:09:13 AM) Nunnsby: ahhh, u biscuit!!
(11:09:15 AM) Nunnsby: so what was wrong?
(11:09:21 AM) Andre: erm
(11:09:25 AM) Andre: very good question
(11:09:28 AM) Andre: i have no idea
(11:09:28 AM) Nunnsby: yeah?
(11:09:33 AM) Nunnsby: so, what you do?
(11:09:49 AM) Andre: i tweaked and touched a few things but i’m not sure what actually made it work

Gotta love mates in the know! Well, all I know is that it is now working fine and that is cool.

So, I am now in country for 82 days. Why 82 days?? well that was always part of the deal. In fact 90 days at a time was part of the deal. Discovery Health cover us out of the country for up to 90 days, so we return to South Africa every 90 days to make sure our Discovery cover doesn’t fall by the way. Also gives the guys a bit of time back with their families and loved ones. which you definitely need after having worked anywhere in Africa for any period of time.

But you said 82 days, not 90. Well, I have a wedding on the 15th November. Alan’s. And as he is Technical Services Director – I think – I don’t quite see anyone giving me grief about heading home a week early for that. So I will be heading home on Fri the 14th November. A big night at Oblivion that night that is for sure. 🙂

So, I’m up for 82 days, and that gives me plenty of time to get my blogging fingers back in action and write down all the usual stuff that is keeping me occupied. And plenty on things on the go this time around: Elections, Offshore to the Sedco Express, Torres Atlantico Project, House renovations, etc, etc, etc.

Pictures to follow soon.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Living Life!

Having a Whale of a Time Fishing – Luanda

I managed to get to go Deep Sea Fishing today with a few of the BP guys, and it was pretty cool. We didn’t get any fish, but we did see a pod of 3 whales! Nice!

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Shipwrecks – Ilha – On the Beach, and in the Bay!

The Angolan coastline, and ironically enough the inner bay, is absolutely littered with wrecks of all kinds. The trip from the Club Nautico – the “yacht club” is an interesting one. You motor past wrecks of all shapes and sizes, in various different locations. Some in the middle of the bay, others tucked up against the beach, some just left to sink where they are moored.

The swell as we rounded the point out of the bay was a tiny bit compressed and we got a few good jumps travelling at the speed we were, considering we had 2 x 200HP motors on the back, it wasn’t surprising. 🙂 We headed out past the various cargo vessels, 20 in all, all at anchor just outside the bay, and went directly west for a few miles. The swell was very flat and long out here and if there was a meter difference it was a freak swell. Talk about the fish pond effect.

The weather was overcast and pretty nippy and we were all wearing jumpers. That extra bit colder here out on the water. Luanda is definitely not as warm as it is supposed to be this winter. But hey, still warmer than Cape Town! 🙂 After having trawled for around 2 hours or so, with not even a strike, we came across a baleia (whale) just off a car carrier vessel in fairly deep water. We slowed down and tried to get closer. It dipped back down after we saw it, but then surfaced again off our starboard bow. A minute or 2 passed when suddenly 2 surfaced just behind us, literally 15 meters off our stern. They majestically rose, blew out and slowly arched over back into the water. On the next surface, there were the 2 on our port side when suddenly a 3rd surfaced on our starboard. They were together on the surface and we in pursuit from there.

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A Pod of Angolan Whales! 🙂

We followed them for about an hour or so, keeping a fairly manageable distance, and I must say they seems pretty un-phased by us. They went under the boat twice, and even surfaced really close, like less than 10 metres, running parallel to us on the one time. It was quite amazing how majestic and graceful they moved, and on a few occasions we got the “tail” as they disappeared below the water.

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Angolan Whale Tail!

Around 12h30 we made the decision to head back in. This after we had passed about 5 local fishing “boats” who all reported no catches, apart from one little fish the size of my forearm.

The rest of the day spent watching the Tennis!

Yes NADAL! 🙂

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life

Luanda Landscapes

So, I finally managed to get right onto the building roof, and remembered to take my camera. 🙂

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Looking down on Luanda!

This is not so much a blog, as just a series of pics of what Luanda truly looks like. Well the CBD that is.

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The SanLuanda hotel construction site.

A new Luxury Hotel with about 240 rooms, 50 suites, indoor pool, 3 restaurants (I think) – one panoramic one right at the top, bars, and a gym. It’s going to be pretty sweet when done. You probably can’t see, but there are 11 cranes in this picture. Now that is development!

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Beauty in the Beast!

An old original building that is being renovated, and made into a restaurant – I think once again.

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The Lovely Banco Nacional de Luanda.

Even better view from the front, but I don’t have those pics here. Those are dredging pipes in the background, not oil -pill pipes.

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Torres Atlantico, with Fortaleza in the background.

The fancy new Torres Atlantico building stands out in stark comparrison to what is around it, apart from the Sonangol building, which I couldn’t see from this roof. Hmmmm . . . maybe I can get onto the TA roof. 🙂

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A new apartment block being built by our friends the Chinese.

It will house retail, office, and residential, and will be massive as you can see.

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Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life

Getting Out . . . To The Ghettos – Luanda

So on Sunday we, PG and myself, went to Bellas to go see a movie: The Incredible Hulk, which was actually really good. I thought it was cool. The really scary thing for me was how much we actually just take really good special effects for granted nowadays.

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The “This Is Africa” German Coke Truck!

After seeing IronMan a few weeks back :), and now this, it is just normal to see a CGI movie, and actually think that what you are seeing in there, you could walk out of the cinema and see in real life. Some green dude running down the road. Really freaky the way it starts to blur the lines of reality.

Well, at R60 for the Movie and R60 for the Popcorn and a Can on Sprite, it was an expensive experience. Little Portuguese kids shouting and talking the whole time through-out. Really little Portuguese children crying – like months old babies – who’s parents obviously decided they weren’t going to miss out on this on the big screen, and just had to come. And no one said anything about it. That is the most amazing thing. It is just the done thing. Man, and I like my quiet movie theaters! Haha, experience of note.

So on the way back the driver, not one of the usual 2 we have, they have the weekend off now, decided that he was not going to go the normal route, as the road was rammed, so he would go another route, a shorter route. Cool, PG was happy as we would be back in time for the Footie: Spain vs Germany!

Well, we drove and drove and then the light was gone and the road went from being 2 lane tarred, to one lane tarred, to one lane dirt, to just a complete tailback. We were stuck in traffic. Lots of traffic. Then we got nudged from behind by another vehicle in the middle of this chaos. Our driver, though not very good with the Safety Procedures just climbs out, leaves the door open with the engine running and walks back to check the damage. I leant over, closed the door, and locked it. Now it’s not like anyone would try hijack us, as we were going nowhere in that traffic, but the safety factor is till very much an unknown! And not a f#ck was I getting out to check the issue. These guys still carry guns around here. Plus the location wasn’t the most inspiring I will say.

So, the damage was minimal, just a nudge actually, nothing doing, and we carried on at a walk. In fact at one stage people walking past were going faster than we were. We continued on this road a while longer, and then the road stopped. There was some detour and loads of construction, and the driver was a bit foxed, but we carried on down another “short-cut”. It was around about now that I saw a plane coming into land on our left, about a km away. This was mildly concerning as the airport is a way out of town, and should have either been in front of us, or to our right on this trip back. We went through a fairly busy crossroad/taxi-rank intersection, and had to slow down considerably as we did so. All the onlookers on the side of the road were inquisitively peering into the vehicle to see what was inside. Plenty of chaps staring directly at me or leaning closer into the vehicle to get a good look. It was around about now that I started to feel, for the first time since being in Luanda, uneasy about being a non-Portuguese speaking expat. Hey easy for PG and our driver, the 2 BLACK dudes in the car, however for the white guy upfront, it could be a problem. The thing that I was actually nipping about the most was not really me being white, but the fact that we had a driver in full uniform, easily identifiable by the lapels and clothes he was wearing, so I was more nervous about us being identified as being of a “wealthy industry” and therefore “hijackable”. Blame the stories I hear from certain people about Nigeria I guess.

We continued on along this dirt road, the traffic now becoming less and less, and far more free-flowing, until it took another detour . . . to the right. i.e. further away from Luanda. At around about this stage the driver pulled over again, flagged down a passing car, and walked over, once again leaving the door open. Here however was a perfect place for Hijackings, so once again I leant over, closed and locked the door. This time he got “better” directions . . .  back the way we came! I asked him if we now knew where we were going, and he replied everything was good. “Don’t worry, you are Safe.” he chimed. We turned around and started along the road for a while longer, this time slowly heading back in the general direction of the airport.  A bit further down the road we came across a police man, on foot, walking in the direction we were travelling. Appears the directions we had gotten were still not sufficient, so our driver pulled over and we got a bit of direction advice from the policeman. After both repeating the same few words time and again, something to do with forwards, the driver suddenly tells us the Cop is getting a lift with us to help with directions. “Don’t worry, it is good for us.” Appears our driver wasn’t feeling as “safe” as we were supposed to be! 🙁 So our cop got a lift, and we got fairly good directions.

About 30 minutes later of driving through the slums, we emerged onto the main road back into Luanda. We were now quite a few miles past the airport, and it was very interesting to figure out roundabout route we had taken. On our way out of the “slums” we passed loads of sidewalk “shebeens”, with guys standing around drinking and chilling. The taxis out here controlled the road, and had absolutely no regard for the rules of the road or anyone else. A few constantly suddenly stopping directly in front of us, without any sign of a warning, and not caring a damn when the driver leant out and shouted or hooted at him. Once again, the Angolan Attitude showed it’s colours – Me First!

Yet, the surprises were not going to end here. At the one junction that we were definitely supposed to turn left, the driver decides to turn right. Into a one-way. Man, that delayed us another 30 minutes. At thsi stage I was fuming, but there was no point in getting cross now, as there was nothing further to be done. We were now less than 3 kms from home, so it was just sit back and wait.

So, over 2 hours after leaving Bellas, A trip that should take just less than an hour, we arrived home, to just get the last the 30 mins or so of the footie.

PG was well pleased.

So, looking back now in hindsight: It was a bit nerve-wracking at the time, but very informative and interesting to see “how the other 80%” actually live. To see the environment and habitat. The challenges for the Government are HUGE! Can something like this ever be undone? Unlikely. Can this poverty ever really be eradicated or the people truly uplifted and provided for? It is going to take a while. A long while. I don’t think it will ever happen in my life-time. Nor my next generation’s. Something like this doesn’t change over night I can promise you that much. Not even with the amount of money that Angola currently has, or is making. It starts with education and empowerment. And, the way things are going with the amount of Chinese coming in and most of the infrastructure work being outsourced to them, it is a long way off. A lot of Angolans are already very upset with the way things are going, the slow rate of progress, the lack of visible infrastructure, the lack of creation of jobs or better conditions for the local people, the excessive wealth that Sonangol (the state owned oil company) is displaying. However with only one ruling party, there isn’t much they can do about it. Unfortunately.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving being Alive! 🙂

Back on Land – Launda

Bummed! 🙁

Well here I am back on dry land. The flight back from the Rig was fine, and direct, which made a change to having to route via Soyo. This we were told when the pilots arrived on board with the inbound flight. They said the Wind was good and they still had enough fuel, so it was good to go. Great. Just a quick 1h30 flight, and we were back in Luanda.

2008-06 04 - Lunch CGI

My R 135.00 Lunch!

Got take-aways today, we do this every now and again. I just couldn’t resist this though. This was lunch from a few days ago. There is some steak, chips, and egg, rice and a bit of coleslaw, along with a Sprite, and 2 x Pastis de Nata. Nice. All this for a mere 135 Bucks, and I am talking South African Rands! Yeah 1350 Kwanzas. Okay, fair play that is one of the more expensive meals, but that is the general quantity and quality of food you get over here. Pretty mental huh?

Weather has been cooler now, but I have also been told that apparently this is their dry season.  Winter the dry season, so more in line with JHB weather. Which kinda makes sense I guess.

Hopefully getting out another rig next week for another site visit. The Sedco Express, which is more of a platform than a rig vessel, though it does move around. Do a  search on Google Images for pictures of it.

Hopefully that means I get to do a bit of the living large bit, travelling by chopper and all, otherwise, I guess I will have to hang around here with the rest of the landlubbers and minions.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life

Offshore 2 – GSF Explorer – Luanda

After arriving back in Luanda from my quick excursion to the FPSO, I was immediately bundled into a little 12 seater twin prop and was flown off to the GSF Explorer.

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A CGI of the GSF Explorer – for size compare the height of the Derrick to the size of the Heli deck. It is massive.

So I arrived back at the Sonair Charter Terminal,and was required to check in again for my next flight. Destination: Soyo, a little town right on the northern border of Angola, just below Congo. This time round however the passport emigration official decided that my visa wasn’t good enough to allow me to fly to Soyo. This after I had just seen him write down that an American was a South African in his passport register. And they wonder why we call it Africa? So, after a brief discussion with the man, to the amusement of the 6 or so yanks that were all going to be my travelling companions, he decided to hold my passport and continue with the rest, as he wasn’t happy. I spoke to the check in official, who came and had words, and the next thing I knew I was being very unhappily waved through the door, with passport in hand. It still hadn’t been registered in the Register, but hey, that wasn’t my problem.

I managed to get a cake out of the food counter, before we headed off to the plane. Twice! The first time we stopped, got out and started offloading our things from the bus, when the guy hastily rushed back and told us to get back on. 2 planes down, we got out again. It was a tiny craft, you could probably squeeze 3 economy seats in it in a row side to side and that would be it. There were 2 rows of seats on either side, with a very restrictive aisle in the middle. I landed up next to an emergency exit, but default, but was happy with arrangement, as the aisle wasn’t going to be serving anyone in an accident!

We landed at Soyo, after circling for a few minutes, another plane was landing,so we had to wait. We were met on the tarmac by a slick looking gent in half a fancy suit who took our passports whilst another dude herded us through passport control and out to the bus. On the bus he told us he would take care of our passports, and that he would bring them to us at the base, as we needed to watch the safety video. My 4th in 4 days. Nice! There is a bit of a funny procedure when entering Kwanza base. The bus stops at the entrance, you get out and walk past barriers, whilst the bus drives through, and then you get back in on the other side, with no intervention at all. The base is huge and the choppers are housed in just a massive warehouse, and it doesn’t appear that BP actually has a presence there. It is mainly only a chopper terminal/hanger where we went. I befriended a stocky looking chap on the way to the chopper. He was from Louisiana, and had pretty much worked everywhere, except here in Africa. All the guys in fact besides myself were Yanks, and they were all returning, apart from Kirk, the Louisiana dude, who was here for his first time. The flight out was good, in a different chopper this time, but still pleasant, and I actually got a few mins dos time on this one. Our pilots were Saffas and they were really good. Touch down was pretty good I must say.

So once again, I arrived on yet another really imposing vessel. The Derrick  (lifting tower) sticks out meters above the deck and on this vessel is particularly huge. I’ll be honest in saying that I don’t know much about the oil industry at all, especially the drilling side. The only thing I know is Oil Strike on Discovery Channel,and even then I’ve only seen a bit. I know they drill into the ground using the Derrick to guide pipes and push the drill bit down, but I don’t know much else. Well, we had another safety briefing, this time far more focused on Fire and Escape plans, and especially alarm signals. We got another tour of the vessel, and it was immediately apparent that this was definitely an older, working vessel. There was no lift, the stairwell is the backbone of the vessel, the cabins are older in appearance, with communal bathroom areas – we were advised to wear towels as there was a woman on board, I’m guessing the medic – and the vessel itself was much more worn and used.

Once you are on the deck you suddenly begin to realise just how huge the Derrick is. We were shown where all the life rafts and emergency muster points were and once again had the alarm signals and the drills reinforced.

After the tour I returned to my room, then went for supper, and then off to do some work and find out if I could actually fix the problem, as at this stage I wasn’t sure if I was the man for the job, or of I could actually do what was required of me! Supper was pretty good, but very much boarding house/canteen food. But the vessel was predominantly American, funny that considering it belonged to Transocean, which is a giant Rigging company out of the States, so it makes sense that the food is American style. They have syrup on the tables, with all sorts of other American things, including a Hurricane Watch board for the Caribbean.

So, the number one phrase on the vessel: “What’s going on?” This however has to be pronounced “Watts goin ahhhhnnnn?” in a thick Southern American accent. Then you fit right in.

I got down to work and managed to fix the problem in about 2 hours, which was pretty good for me, considering I had to reconfigure a switch from scratch, and I haven’t been on a switch in a long time! 🙂 The guys were happy that I sorted them out and I was pretty chuffed myself too. The old bugger still has it in him. I do enjoy the techy stuff! I retired to the bedroom,which I then discovered was mine as the other occupant was off rotation at them moment, so I watched half a DVD on my laptop before going to sleep with one hell of a headache, that I can only think must have been caused by either dehydration, or possibly the motion of the vessel. Just weird that. At one stage before I fell asleep it was so bad I actually considered going to the Medic for paracetamol, but it was alright and I eventually fell asleep.

Day 2 saw me getting out with the one BP guy Iain, who gave me a full tour of the vessel with all the explanations, and answered all my questions, very patiently I might add, and I am now a pro on this drilling thing. For laymen only that is! I even got to go across the drilling deck, which is just amazing to be there, having seen it so many times on TV and documentaries. I got to the control room too, and watched the operations as they continue, and it is quite an experience, coming from a completely external outside environment. All I can say is the Oil Industry, specifically the exploration side, like this, is just mind-blowing.

This vessel the GSF (Global Sante Fe) Explorer was originally built as a submarine retriever for the CIA, for project Jennifer,  by Howard Hughes, from Avaitor Fame in 1973, and was later retrofitted to be used for drilling purposes. I have included a few links at the bottom of this page, for those interested, and it is pretty interesting actually. This is a deep water rig,mening that they typically only start drilling a deep depths. Anywhere between 500 and 2500 metres down. Which is pretty amazing if you think of it, and is really incredible for me who has come from a diving background too. So once again I can’t say much about what goes on, only that this is a seriously advanced vessel, and to me makes the FPSO look pale in comparison, but I suppose I didn’t really get a technical low-down on how that vessel operated. Plus this to me is far more technical oriented, as you actually get to “see” what you are doing, or at least “see” the things happening!

Anyway, I am due to be off here tomorrow, was supposed to be off today, but there was no flight, so no doubt I will have a few more stories then. Bed time now, and hopefully a lot more sleep.

Info on the GSF:

GSF Transocean Page

The Cold War of Terror

US Hands over Info on Sunken Soviet Sub

Wikipedia – USNS Glomar Explorer (T-AG-193)

Wikipedia – Project Jennifer

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life.

Offshore – FPSO – Luanda

I managed to get scheduled for a trip to the BP Greater Plutonio FPSO (Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading) vessel just offshore from Luanda. At this stage I unfortunately don’t have any pics, as I wasn’t sure what the procedure for pics was, and I know they are pretty tight about it, but I have asked the Telecoms guy there to send me a few, so hopefully I’ll be able to update this a bit later with some then.

2008-06 01 - FPSO CGI

A CGI picture of the FPSO – Looks small? It is 310m long, and 12 stories high!

Okay, I can’t really say much about the vessel itself, the layout, or operation, or any of that – NDA stuff, but what I can say is it is pretty amazing! (I have included several links at the bottom of the blog for those interested in knowing more). It is 310 Metres long, and 12 stories high. It has a lift inside that services 7 floors. It can accommodate approx 140 people. The accommodation section is the big white building at the rear, and this is split from the “plant” area by a fire break/safety “air area” – the gap just in front of the accommodation block. We arrived by chopper, and what an experience.

So the flight was from the Sonair charter “terminal” at the airport and was scheduled for around 14h. We checked in at 12h30 and everything went fine. I only had my laptop bag, with my laptop, and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – you are required to take as much of your own PPE with you as they can’t provide everything for everyone –  overalls, gloves and goggles in my bag, along with 3 shirts, 3 boxers and 3 socks inside it. My boots and helmet were separate in a plastic packet. Well, that got turfed. You are not allowed to take any plastic on board, so they gave me a mail bag, with Explorer written on it (BP use a drill rig called GSF Explorer in another area further out to sea), that I put my helmet and boots in. We then waited for the flight to be ready.

After the bus ride through the airport tarmacs, we arrived at a Sikorsky S-76C+ helicopter that was to be our ride.

2008-06 02 Sikorsky Chopper

A picture of a Sikorsky S-76C+ chopper. Similar to the SonAir ones.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikorsky_S-76)

This was pretty much my first time in a chopper, though I do think I have been in one  before, in fact, yes, I have been in a chopper before, but this was great. It actually taxis down onto the runway,and you pretty much expect it to travel down the runway on the wheels before taking off, but whilst you are in place, it just lifts up straight up, leans forward and flies off. Pretty strange feeling. The noise as the engines power up for the lift is pretty nerve wracking, and the whole heli shakes quite a bit. Next thing you are airborne and flying out past the Ilha and soon the coast is behind you.

The one thing they teach you in the HUET course, or advise you against, is sleeping in the chopper, yet within 5 minutes virtually everyone on board is asleep. This is due to the very monotonous and soothing vibrations that he flight produces. As it was my first offshore flight I remained awake the entire time. Though I don’t know if I’ll be doing that again on the rest of the flights. Soon we were above a cloud base that had appeared offshore, and about 30 mins later we descended through this to see the ocean once again. As we cleared the cloud base, everything around us was pure white, and you couldn’t see anything. I was watching the guy opposite me, and it was obviously his first flight as I could see the entire white of his eyes. He was nervous as hell. However, once we cleared the clouds, he was cool.

We soon arrived at our destination, and the pilot informs you of this before you arrive. This according to statistics is the highest risk time for accidents – Landings. I once again checked my exit strategy, luckily being right next to the door you kinda have THE exit strategy. 🙂 The vessel looks small at first, but the closer you get to it the larger it gets, until you soon realise that this thing is friggin massive! The flame was burning a bright orange colour from the top of gas flare, the long tower at the front of the vessel, and that was an incredible site to see it so close.  There was virtually no smoke coming from the vessel at all, and it was just gigantic when you finally arrived. The landing was great and we waited for the signal from the HLO’s (Helicopter Landing Officers), before removing our earphones, unbuckling and exiting, just ducking as you reach the rim of the rotor reach. Once inside we removed our foam inner ear plugs, and started to take in our surroundings. I noticed my mailbag being carted off to the admin section, and quickly retrieved it.

We were met by Steve our Telecoms man on board, and first thing had to attend a Safety briefing. After that we were shown to our cabins, and given a tour of the vessel in full PPE, as you are required to wear it every time you are outside. The vessel’s structure is quite amazing, and what is even more amazing to me is that there are people out there who thought this up! How to build something like this and how to put it together! That blows my mind more than anything else. This module to that module to there and there, and then eventually to the tanker waiting for the oil. So, as you can all read, this puppy can produce up to 200 000 barrels of oil A DAY, with storage capacity for 1.7 million barrels, and exports of 1 million barrels per cargo, every 5 days. Now you have to admit that that is seriously impressive. You do  the math,using an approximate oil price of $130 per barrel. Ouch!! 😮

On our tour around, I got to put my hands on the oil pipeline that comes in from the sea, and the most interesting thing is . . . it is warm. Apparently the oil comes in at around 50-60 degrees centigrade. Now, it is not something that I had ever thought about, the temperature of oil, but I was surprised to find that it is warm. We were also shown the sun deck, the most important part of the vessel, and the only part you can go without PPE gear. I also happened to see a pod of dolphins frolicking in the sea quite close by. The vis out here is awesome . . . and that’s not due to it being cold! 🙂

I fixed the issue we were sent out for, and also had a really good site visit of what is onboard, and what is fully expected of us in a support role.

The vessel is stationary – fixed in place, yet at times I could definitely feel it move. Not a lot, but ever so slightly. Steve reckons I am mad, but I tell, I could feel it moving. Whether it was rolling or just rising in the swell, not a lot of that either, I couldn’t tell. But, it definitely moves.

I got a wee bit of time in on the sundeck the one day. Half an hour in the sun before lunch, and I now know why a lot of the guys have such dark tans, for blokes that spend their entire time indoors or in PPE kit. They don’t! There were quite a few chaps outside on the sun deck, and it is like a magnet I am told – sun. Especially since it is overcast quite a bit apparently.

The accommodation was okay, apart from the fact that I think a tank had slept in my bed before, as the mattress was squashed flat on the one side! Other than that is was okay, and each cabin has it’s own bathroom with a shower with great pressure in it, which makes a change from the Luanda Res! Our pressure is crap! The food was decent too, as ship food goes I guess, though I still must say the FSV Bourbon Oceanteam 101 had the best food I have yet had offshore.

There is a gym onboard, I never got to use it as I wasn’t feeling great, and a little cinema too. The one lounge also has table tennis. 3 or 4 TV rooms litter the vessel, with each cabin also having it’s own TV. And overnight/same day laundry.

Outside the heliport entrace door is a big sign bolted onto the side of the wall: HYUNDAI. They apparently built this vessel. Ummm, okay, that is a change from the crappy cars we get back home!! 🙂

The one thing I must say, is that it appears to be very well organised and everything is in it’s place. Very “Prim and Proper”, in typical Brit style.

Thursday I was contacted by the offshore network manager and told that we needed to send someone to the GSF Explorer – an offshore rig, as they required someone for an installation/support issue there too. I offered myself as it was Francisco’s 30th Birthday on Sunday, and his wife had plans for him already. Friday morning I suddenly find out all hell has broken loose as there was now a chopper coming out to get me specifically for the trip to GSF and it has caused absolute chaos as it hasn’t been properly approved, or the correct channels haven’t been used. Classic! Eventually that was straightened out and I was scheduled to head out Saturday morning via chopper to Kwanza base in Soyo, up North on the Congo border to refuel and then fly from there to the GSF. Cool,  I haven’t been there yet. 🙂

I arrived in the departure “lounge” at 08h Saturday morning, watched the safety video – another one again – and pull out my laptop to do a bit of last minute work. A while later, I realise it is past 09h. Hold on, my flight is supposed to be at 09h. I check with the guy to be told that everything has changed. I am now going to be flying back to Luanda with the Sedco Express guys (a rig close by) and then heading by fixed wing to Soyo on a plane, and then to the GSF by chopper from there. Cool, even more travelling, and experiences. Throw it at me. I reckon this travelling is costing them a small fortune, like my entire yearly salary (haha), but that is the nature of the beast I guess. 🙂

The flight eventually arrived around 11h or so, and I was gone. Grabbing my bag on exit, I once gain noticed EXPLORER on the side of the mail bag . . . Coincidence? I think not! Once again a quick look at the incredible structure before it slips out of view, and we ascend to the heavens again.

Interested in the BP FPSO – Greater Plutonio? Read more:

Production Begins at Greater Plutonio

Plutonio – Transportation and trade

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life.

Avoid the Cops – Luanda

So, I got back to Luanda around 13h in the afternoon to find everyone at the house fast asleep. I was also knackered from my really late night the night before, like 2 hours sleep or something stupid . . . my fault, so I hit the bed too the minute I arrived. This was after about 2-and-a-half hours of on-off sleep on the 2 flights up.

2008-05 01.Wimpy

Yes that is a Wimpy. The “Best” of South Africa! 🙂 Taken whilst travelling, so a bit blurred.

So the flights were interesting. I got the Emergency Exit seat, not that I would have been any good in the case of an emergency, as I was really exhausted from the night before. Got to bed around 03 I think, and had to get up around 05h for my flight. And I wasn’t even out partying.That would have been explainable at least! 🙂 But it was a good evening, regardless. So I literally passed out in my seat. I woke up about 20 mins before we landed and saw the guy next to me had a whole of papers out on his tray. I happened to notice the logo at the top, as one does . . . and said:

“Quinton or Sigi?”

He looked at me and said “Quentin”. My my, what a small world. I had just been on the phone to Quinton from Unison in Cape Town about 2 days earlier regarding a BP installation in Luanda, but we had never met. He was on his way to Windhoek for a business trip. Not going to Luanda. Lucky for him! So weird man, what a small world huh!!

The flight from Windhoek to Luanda was different. We were on a much bigger plane this time, something in the upper 737 range, a really big one, with 4 seats in the middle.Luckily I got stuck next to my favourite type of passenger, a young Portuguese Angolan Family, consisting of a mother, who didn’t give a toss about anything else, and 2 young kids who were an absolute nightmare, and kept kicking and knocking me, and hitting my leg with her hand, the little bitch, whilst I tried to sleep. And the plane was RAMMED, so there was no escape for me! 🙁

I arrived and cleared customs, which was a primary concern, considering I had our new House Asset in my laptop bag, along with 3 x controllers, and about 8 games . . . the asset is the new XBox 360!! Something to keep the kids happy. And I was worried as I don’t speak Portuguese and decided not to use the services of our protocol man, as he is just a waste of money in my opinion. So,I was nipping a bit. But cleared without having my normal bag scanned. Sweet!

So, got home and slept for 2 hours. The guys were chuffed when they found out about he XBox. That’s cool. After the last “tour of duty” I really needed something to keep the guys happy and busy at night.

Sly and PG told me their rather “hectic” & funny story about the night before. They had gone to a club called the Da Pub, know to be rather dodgy apparently, and as they were leaving, they had organised for Jeje  the Driver to meet them outside as they didn’t have their phones with them, they walked out meet him. They spotted him across the road, and they were just about to cross, when a Police Van pulled up, and bundled them onto the back. The Police vans here are all pretty much open-top Landcruiser bakkies. Pickups for you foreigners. With a bench on the back that the cops sit on, facing outwards towards the sides. So Sly and PG get hauled onto it, and Jeje decides to follow. The cops drive them around a bit, and then decide that they’ve spent enough fuel, and now need to make their costs back, so they have a feel,of their trousers, remove their wallets, and lighten their load by about $120 between the 2 of them. Oi. They got dropped off on the wrong side of town. Luckily Jeje had seen them and had been following otherwise they’d be stuffed. They started arguing with the one guy, who realises that they may have made a mistake when they find out they don’t speak any Porra, and he has a chat to them. Their money however is not returned. They returned to the house, considerably poorer!

The following week they logged it with BP’s Alpha Zero, security department, and told another guy who works there. His old man managed to track down the vehicle and occupants from that night, as they had gotten the vehicle number. To date nothing has come of it I don’t think.

Well, its been a fun return to Luanda!! 🙂

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Written on the 30th May 2008.

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