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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

EXPLORING ANGOLA


Now that we are in Angola, I am not going to bore you with border crossings or road conditions. But I will mention that diesel is the cheapest on this trip at 42 cents Aus per litre. We head across the country after checking the best route to Luanda with the locals. It takes us down to the coast, and it is lovely to camp right beside a gorgeous, nearly deserted beach. It is nearly even litter free.

In the morning we wander the beach and finally head off when locals start arriving. The main road continues south through lush forests with heaps of boab trees & what we call Dr Seuss trees. Occasionally we get close enough to the coast to see fishing villages. By lunchtime we head out to Shipwreck beach near Panguila, to look at all the wrecks that have been scuttled there. Quite an amazing site – there are dozens of them. Lunch break over we head to the city of Luanda. It is Friday afternoon so we are prepared for crazy traffic, but get side tracked when we spy a large supermarket. We really need to stock up. Then continue on the main road (and yes, it is an awesome road) with not much traffic, all the way in to the centre of the city and to the Yacht Club where we can camp for free! Awesome. Extra bonus: the views are amazing across yachts to the high rise of the city.

We are delighted that there is a German Overland vehicle there and we spend the evening & the next morning chatting to Christine & Thierry. Then we head our separate ways. We drive past the sights – the fortress (which looks pretty modernised), the Obelisk and the Presidents Palace. We are heading to the money changers street near the airport. The black market gives a much better rate than the bank – and as you know John can’t resist a good deal. Then we head out of this massive city (of over 8 million people- fortunately they don’t all have cars!)

We are heading to Angola’s famous waterfall, but with so much talking we really won’t make it today. We check on I-Overlander and find a spot off the main road. Perfect. We discover that our side road goes out to Pedras Negra (Black Rock) that Christine recommended, so we alter our plans and head out there first. Despite the drizzle they are pretty amazing rock formations. Here we meet a Lebanese guy who stops to chat. Always interesting to get a different perspective on a country as he has worked here for 7 years. Then we head up to the lookout for awesome views. As we leave, we stop to see the owners of another Overland truck we have spied camping in a scenic spot. We spend a while chatting to the four South African guys who are doing their dream trip combined with some serious rock climbing & drinking.

Then we head off to the waterfalls – Quedas de Calandula. We are heading to the Pousada that is on the eastern side of the falls where we can camp. We overnight in the carpark, walk to the bottom of the falls and have dinner in their rather expensive restaurant. The food is good, but no one else is there. In the morning we can’t resist taking GR2 down the track to the bottom of the falls for some photos. It would be a great camp spot, but it is a bit muddy at the moment.

When we head out in the morning we decide to go to the other side of the falls _ and this proves to be another magical perspective of the falls. Finally, time to retrace our way back towards N’dalatando and then start heading south. Such a variety of scenery as we pass through jungle, undulating farmland dotted with trees, countless thatched villages and of course people everywhere. The street is their zone to meet and chat, to sell their produce and for the kids to play. After many hours driving we pull over in a huge flat quarry for the night just north of Quibala. It is very peaceful. Foot traffic stops soon before dusk as the workers head home, shovels over their shoulders.

Today is a driving day with great road & magic scenery. There are huge smooth granite boulders and rows of mountain peaks. Awesome high alpine countryside. Occasionally black storm clouds roll over bringing bursts of rain. We reach the town of Huamba with its devasting history of many years of Civil War. Many of the buildings are still in ruins. It is also the food bowel of the country and there are crops everywhere, plus men, women (often with babies on their backs) & children working in the fields. Here too they are using their cattle to help with the ploughing. And it is here at Huamba that we have to decide which route to go. Both a policeman and the road signs point the inland road and all looks great for a while with brand new road, but then we get diverted off the new road and do not get back on it. For over 50km we trudge along a nasty rutted muddy track. Suddenly the seal starts again – much to our relief, but it is getting late and we need to find a campspot. The landscape is flat & there are villages & people everywhere. Not a quarry in sight! Finally, at the edge of the town of Caluquembe we see a petrol station. Perfect – we just need to give the guard a bit of cash and all is good. As it then proceeds to pour with rain, we are glad not to be in a quarry.

This morning when we stop for coffee, we meet some more Overlanders. A German couple in their huge MAN truck coming from Namibia. They stop and we swap travel info, before we head on to Lubango. We head right through the city and towards Namibe. We want to drive the iconic Leba Mountain Pass. First, we stop at the lookout for photos, then we tackle the drive. As we are not planning to go to Namibe we turn and head back up the pass. The sun is still high so we head to Tundavala Gorge with its great rocky escarpments to explore and we can camp here for the night at 2300 metres.  It is nice to have a cold night for a change

As we head further east the landscape gets dryer & the villages poorer. We see a lot of ladies in traditional garb, but find it very hard to snap a sneaky photo of them. In the end John asks for a photo!  We have a little detour out to see a giant Boab tree (32m in diameter) and rows of Russian tanks left over from the war. We could camp here but it is a bit early to stop so we carry on to a Catholic Mission not too far from the border (our very last this trip). The singing of the boys from the Seminary is lovely. Tomorrow we will head to the border.


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