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Friday, 30 September 2011

Angola, part 3

Bit of a recap:

We are now into a fairly good routine. At the end of the day we can set up camp very quickly, in under 10 minutes if we try. As soon as we stop Ray takes down the day’s statistics then sets up the Trayon unit and Avril get the dinner prepared. If it is a 2 day stop we put on the fly, erect the shower tent and put out solar panels. Getting up is a different matter, no matter how hard we try it seems to take 1 - 1.25 hours for morning ablutions, breakfast and to get packed ready to go. We have repacked a couple of times and now seem to be approaching the optimal storage solution, given the space available.

Breakfast can be toast, porridge, muesli, fruit, rusks or what ever else is around. Lunch has always been on the move; so sandwich or cheese and biscuits or maybe a salad. Dinner is typically a BBQ and we sit as a group around the fire talking nonsense (as Koos would say) with the group. We normally have some vegetables or a salad with the meat – often cooked on the coals in Al foil.  We have also prepared curry & rice, fried rice and other delicacies! etc. On a number of occasions others in the group have backed bread on the coals – delicious.

The vehicle is holding up well. A few electrical connections have shaken loose by the constant bumps (control wire to one of the compressors, switch for the extra head lights). The major successes are the under tray table, the Mitchley fridge, the water purification system and the liquid fuel stoves (even in Angola the RSA’s cannot refill their gas bottles – there are different fittings all over Africa). The major disappointment is the Kenwood unit in the cab. It is very hard to read in the sunlight and constantly frys the iPod (which then takes 24 hours to recover and recharge). The airbag suspension fitted by Opposite Lock in Adelaide remains broken. The passenger side leaked from 1st fitting and despite a repair by OL just before shipping, it still leaks badly. I am not sure it works.

Serendipitously, it seems that a tour with Koos and Jose is a great way to ease into the trip. Koos does a fantastic job, no detail is too small and he is always available to assist. He visits all of us at the end of the days driving and prior to starting in the morning, just to check on things. Jose handles all the administration with local authorities; it is an education to see how he handles things. As it turns out, his handling of the border issues at Ruacana saved us a sum of money. We are getting to learn how to do things in a safe environment; drive on the wrong side of the road and 4WD in new terrain etc. We are also giving the vehicle a good work out whilst in the company and with the knowledge of the close team.

The local drivers here are reckless. Koos: “these chaps are absolutely fearless – they are not scared of death”. They pass at high speed on blind corners, coming to the crest of a hill etc. In a convoy this is not too bad as there is chatter between the cars (Koos has lent a radio to those without). There are a lot of wrecks from crashes along the road

We are very slowly getting used to being the object of curiosity. Where ever we stop a crowd gathers to watch us. Even when camping, a group gathers to openly stare, come close to the vehicles and look at everything. We are not yet totally relaxed with this, the major concerns being the need for privacy for ablutions and the fear of opportunistic theft.

There is a large difference between the provinces in Angola. In the south the Cunene province is very poor with little established infrastructure. Here we bush camped and it was mostly. Namib province was a little better, with towns and some decent roads. Lobito & Benguela province is the pick so far. Very clean, no rubbish in the streets and they sweep/rake the beach. The province that contains Sumbe is not up to the others. Sumbe smelt from rubbish rotting in the streets (in a number of locations) and the road out of town is really littered with rubbish for many kilometres.  

Day 17: rest day. Ray washed the car, Avril washed the clothes.

The vegetation now is more tropical, palm trees, large green trees and vines. We left the group and drove back into Soyo to have lunch with Bob (and another shower!).

It turns out that the local administrator had instructed the police to look after us the whole time we are in Soyo. So they came to the camp site and stood watch all night. In addition the local police commander paid us a visit. We also had a group of youths in close proximity to make sure we felt completely watched.

Angola is keen to attract tourists and so they are doing their best to look after us. Our impression of the Angolan Army and Police is positive. We always give them a wave and invariably they either salute or wave back.

There must be crime, however, where we camp whilst people come to watch us, there does not seem to be a “fear” of theft. We tend to leave doors etc open – a habit we will need to get out of in the future.

Day 16: Ray’s purchase of fish (sole) from a passing fisherman last night was not successful, the fish had a poor texture, though we did not get sick and that is a plus.

Boring though it is, another hard day of driving for Avril. The number of heavy road construction vehicles seems to have caused a lot of damage to the road. The Chinese construction drivers go at high speed with little consideration for other drivers. A further hazard is the dust thrown up with these vehicles. We stopped along the way to buy fresh bread – very nice.

The object of the day was the mouth of the Congo River, which we reached ~ mid day. The police along the trip had monitored our progress and reported on the next town/village. To our delight the authorities had organised a full police escort for our time in Soyo: to the river mouth, the local market and finally to get some water. We are not sure that the store holders in the (large) market wanted to shift their goods to make way for our large 4WDs, but they did any way.

The market was large and interesting. Not the hell that some other blogs had suggested.
The weather remains reasonable pleasant – high 20s to low 30s.
We left the group at the end of the day to visit our Bob Schultz, a friend since Ray’s Zambia days. Given that Bob was staying 5 star, Ray took the opportunity to grab a shower.

We are camped at  Quifuma (Kifuma) beach, some 30 km south of Soyo.
172 kms, S 060 23’ 29.0’’  E 0120 25’ 37.4’’

Day 15: There was some very light drizzle in the morning, so we packed up damp. even though Ray got bogged on the beach and needed the whole team to extract him (!) we managed to be ready to go on time at 08:00.

The great interest of the day was stopping at a mine clearance operation, run by the Angolan Army, and getting a briefing on the operation and the equipment. These blokes are truly brave.

We had lunch on the beach at N’zeto and Ray bought some grilled chicken from a local vendor to have in a sandwich.

Otherwise the road remains poor (except for 38 km of good tar). 122 km in 7 hours. Lots of dust with the Chinese construction drivers.

We are camped 30 m off the beach (in a green area!) near Macula. S 060 58’ 08.1’’  E 0120 48’ 53.3’’

Day 14: up early for a 07:00 start. Avril had a very hard day’s drive. Initially onto the tar, then around the Luanda ring road (we did not stop). Luanda was mini chaos, but not in the big league of Cairo! A few kms outside Luanda the road deteriorates badly. What was a tar road became so badly potholed that a bulldozer has ripped most of it and pushed the tar to the side of the road.

Not too much of interest along the way; still the baobabs and Euphobia Candelabra now with some woody shrubs. There are few people; only some clusters of huts from charcoal burners. At one of the bigger villages we bought freshly baked bread – a nice treat for morning tea. We also passed a mine clearing camp and the markers along the road make sure we do not stray into the bush.

The weather is really quite pleasant, at a guess mid to high 20s, with some humidity when we are close to the coast. We are camped right on the beach near Musserra, crashing waves and pure white sand.

9 hours driving for 280 kms.   S 070 34’ 35.4’’  E 0130 00’ 14.1’’

Day 13: we remain camped at Praia do Onca. A relaxing day. We drove back to the Kwanza river for a ~ 3 hour river cruise. Otherwise, just relaxing and cleaning. It rained a little last night and as we move up the coast the clear blue sky’s of the south have become progressively more cloudy. Fingers crossed the rains hold off for another 4 – 5 weeks to allow us the trip up the N1 in DRC.

Day 12: last night we dined at the captains table (thanks Isobelle). A fairly uneventful day; we drove along a series of ridge lines/hills and then down into valleys. As we are near the sea, the valleys tend to be the deltas of the rivers and hence green and very fertile. Above the valleys it is dry and almost lifeless. We commented that there even seems to be a lack of bird life along the route.

We stopped at a restaurant on the beach for a break and made the mistake of ordering some salad & chips. The salad was one very small tomato, sliced, plus 3 slices of onion plus 3 olives: A$ 3.00 and ~ 15 chips for an extra A$ 3.00. You buy a bucket of tomatoes at the side of the road for A$ 1.00, so we were very shocked at the exorbitant price, the cheek of asking so much and the lack of food quantity; it is not like the raw materials are all that costly.

Then we crossed the Kwanza river and are currently camped on a private property in a palm grove ~ 100 m from the beach – waves can still be heard. The water is now warm, but the beach very steep, so there is a large under tow.

Thanks to Louis Lombard for the opportunity to stay here.

Ray drove 274 km on good tar (you should understand that good tar still has corrugations and deadly potholes). Praia do Onca: S 090 12’ 45.9’’  E 0130 04’ 22.1’’

Day 11: we ate at a local restaurant on the beach front last night; which was really quite pricy. We reckon that the cost was on a par with Australia. Having looked at a few restaurants, it seems that the going rate is quite high. We had a restless night, the locals decided to party to dawn (literally). Whilst Avril dozed, Ray got up and was rewarded by the sight of a couple of killer wales swimming close to shore.

A relatively straight forward day. We stopped at a hectic local market to buy a few things; ~ 2 kg bananas for A$ 1.00!

In the morning we had mountains through the heat haze on the left and then wonderful beaches on the right in the afternoon.

We stopped at a bridge over the Quicombo River and watched the local women washing their clothes. There must have been dozens on them, with the cloths spread out over the surrounding ground to dry. Of keen interest was the reactions of the baby’s strapped to their mothers backs going up and down as mother bent her back over the wash boards. They must have a head ache at the end of the day.

Then onto Sumbe for a quick stop. We then went to some massive water falls (volume wise) on the Queve River.

Koos Moorcfoft had been the RSM of the RSA special forces (and was later also the Sargent Major for the RSA army!), so he briefed us on the battles fought by the FNLA and South Africans in 1975 through this area.

Tonight we camp on the beach at Sumbe. Yet again Avril has a sea facing room and can go to sleep with the sound of crashing waves. Avril drove the 268 km (including ~ 70 km round trip to the falls).  S 110 11’ 52.9’’  E 0130 50’ 04.2’’

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