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Sunday, 18 September 2011

Angola, part 1

On the evening of the 13th, out group had all gathered at Ruacana. We had a full briefing from Koos Moorcroft (the tour leader) and then a BBQ with a few beers.

Day 1 (14th September). We had a leisurely start to the day, leaving the camp ground at 09:00. Namibian Immigration and Police were very efficient. However, the customs chap decided to have a sleep in, so we had ~ 1.5 hours spare. Koos & Jose (our Portuguese translator – speaks 12 languages) went to the Angola side to get everything organised and the rest of us went to look at the Ruacana falls (which are unfortunately dry due to irrigation and hydro electric demands). There is something quite sad about a great waterfall with no water.
The Angolan side was efficient – but very slow. The police checks were very meticulous. There was a small issue with our Angola visa – but a phone call to Maria @ minbos (who originally arranged the visa) and Jose’s charm resolved it all.

Then we drove 112km over some fairly bad roads – but not serious 4WD, to our camp site (S 160 58’ 49.3’’  E 0130 56’ 12.1’’). We looked at our temperature gauge once today, saw it was 380C, and decided there was no benefit in looking again!
Day 2: Given the hot day, we decided to go without our doona for the night. This was an error, the night was freezing and half way through we needed to get up and retrieve our warmth. After a very early start 05:00 alarm (did you know such a time existed???), we set off for a long day’s drive.

Avril drove today. 156 km in 10 hours. We passed through some interesting, but small mountains most of the day. Some very demanding 4WD sections, Koos (tour leader) called this the valley of 1,000 dongas. Lots of river crossings etc.
We passed many Himba villages and groups along the way. This confirmed to us that the concept of living close to nature is not for us. They scratch out a very basic existence in trying conditions; hot and desert.

We camped at S 160 41’ 08.0’’  E 0120 50’ 33.0’’. For the 1st time we set up the shower tent – successful commissioning achieved. Our evening preparations were watched by a small group of Himba children.
Day 3: The highlight of the morning was the look on the faces of the Himba kids when Ray powered up his electric tooth brush! We set off at a more reasonable 07:00.

Ray drove, the going was still trying 4WD, but not as exhausting as yesterday (according to Avril – and Koos!). One of our GPS’s keep asking if we wanted to switch to pedestrian mode. The mountain scenery was quite spectacular and we then passed into the Iona National Park and areas with numerous and large Welwitschia gardens. 
We had to register with the local police (Jose our tour interpreter took care of this) and took the opportunity to get some water from the police compound.

117 km in 8 hours. We camped at S 160 30’ 59.6’’  E 0120 26’ 23.6’’

Day 4: a rather tedious drive today, very rough roads interspersed with long sections of bad corrugations.  There was one challenging river crossing, which Avril handled with great aplomb.
In the morning we drove into one of the west African coast fogs – 67 kms from the sea. Along the way we passed a lot more Welwitschia gardens, including the largest plant we have seen. We stopped at Lake Argo (Argo is Portuguese for arch) along the way. This reminded us of an Egyptian oasis. Mind you they could learn a bit from the Egyptians on how to cultivate to the maximum extent and how to tend gardens.

182 km in 8 hours. We camped on the sea at Flamingo lodge S 150 34’ 11.1’’  E 0120 01’ 18.4’’.

We are blessed to be with a great group of people. Very welcoming and generous. In the evening there is a communal BBQ, BYO food etc. Lots of interesting conversation and humour. There are very good cooks in the team – so we have had freshly baked bread on a number of nights, freshly caught fish etc.

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