Back to basics

One of our friends – hi Grant! – asked what our ‘go-to’ quick dinner is when we are setting up camp late at night. I replied that we always aim to be off the road well before dark, and if we haven’t reached our destination we just find somewhere suitable off the road and camp there. It did get me to thinking that I don’t write much about day-to-day stuff and what we eat. It is all just everyday life to us, but maybe it might be interesting.

We use a single-burner gas stove that takes disposable butane gas cartridges. Those cartridges cost less than AUD$2 at home, here we have paid up to AUD$5 for them. They usually last 2 or 3 days though and we bought enough in South Africa & Namibia to last us for this trip. We haven’t found any here in Angola, although I’ve seen the gas stoves in the local Shoprite supermarkets. I cook with a frypan, pressure cooker and use a small kettle for heating water. I love drinking black coffee and have worked out a good routine where I boil water in the evening, keep it in a thermos overnight and by the time I’m ready to drink my first (and usually only) coffee of the day, it’s the perfect temperature, and I don’t have to fuss about getting the stove out and heating up water in the morning.

I could write a whole blog post about how much I love our camping pressure cooker. Maybe I have in a previous blog, I can’t remember. We use a pressure cooker at home a lot, and prior to a previous camping trip – one of the European trips a couple of years ago I think – I got to thinking about how good it would be to take a pressure cooker with us, to save on gas and cooking times. I would have happily taken the 6L manual one that now sits on a shelf unused because we have a fancy electric one, but Greg found a Korean camping ‘rice cooker’ on Ebay. It’s a lightweight 3L manual pressure cooker and it is perfect for us. I also use it as an ordinary cooking pot occasionally, but a lot of the camp cooking I do now is done under pressure.

We have a hot meal every night. I love cooking while we’re camping, I love the challenge of making something tasty using minimal equipment, limited ingredients and in a short space of time – 30 minutes prep + cooking time. The foods that take the longest to cook are barley & potatoes- 10 minutes each. The stews I cook take about 12 minutes and barley risotto takes about 15 minutes.

Somehow everything tastes better when you’re in the middle of nowhere. As the saying goes – hunger is the best spice.

I started making a list of the meals we’ve eaten recently

Barley with tinned apple or other fruit- Greg
Muesli with home-made yoghurt – me

Usually bread, baguettes or rolls, sometimes wraps, with ham & cheese or jam
Occasionally – frying pan pizzas with wraps, Mrs Ball’s fruit chutney, cheese, pineapple, ham

Barley risotto with garlic, onions, chicken, cauliflower, carrot, broccoli
Cous cous as above
Stews – pork or chicken, lentils, potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, carrot or other veg, tomato paste
Pasta – tortellini with cream sauce – garlic, onions, bacon, cream thickened with cornflour
Pasta – dry pasta with canned tomatoes, tuna, feta
Steak, potatoes, frozen peas
Veal steak ( + deglazed pan juices with cider), potatoes
White chili – chicken, cannelini beans, onions, garlic, spices
Sausage & lentils
Pasta with sausage bolognese – take sausage meat out of skins, add onions, garlic, tinned tomatoes
Frittata with leftover cooked vegies
Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday so I made pancakes and as we’re having a ‘rest day’ today and staying here, just north of Bentiaba, for a second night, I mixed up a batch of yeasted dough and made pan-fried not-quite-naan breads

We keep small quantities of onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, apples and bananas but not much other fresh fruit or veg as they don’t travel well. I cook with dried lentils and canned beans. At home I cook with dried beans but they take too much gas to cook when camping. I have a few basics that I add to our meals – onion salt and dehydrated raw vegetable stock powder that I make at home, plus mixed herbs, mild curry powder and ‘chicken spice’ that looks like it’s mainly paprika. I bought little cardboard boxes of the last 3 at Food Lover’s in Cape Town.

And finally, moving away from food and cooking, a confession.

We packed a 24inch TV in Clancy when we shipped him and sometimes watch TV shows at night. We convert Clancy’s dining room into our bedroom, hang to TV on the mounting bracket inside the door and watch an episode of a TV series Greg has downloaded. So far we’ve watched and enjoyed all of Russian Doll, and we’ve just started on Series 3 of True Detective.

Judy cooking with the travel pressure cooker
Judys pan bread rolls


TV night – playing from our Raspberry Pi Kodi

What a true paleo lifestyle and diet looks like

That abandoned family compound we visited just north of Tchitundo-Hulo comprised 6 or 7 domed huts, all with doors facing east, made of mud or dung or maybe both. The huts where people slept – one for the head of the family, the housewife’s hut and the boys’ and girls’ huts – had floors of the same building material. The head of the family’s hut was closed off with a piece of metal held in place with rope. The rest were open. One hut had a gourd and a piece of a vehicle’s tail light inside. We didn’t look in all of them, but the others that we did look in were empty. When we stayed at the mission campground just south of Ondangwa, there was a museum which featured a similar family compound of huts with labels and short descriptions. I’ve given the same names to the huts we saw here.

The storage huts had dirt floors. There were 2 grinding stones in the yard, bowl-shaped from use(which made my baker’s heart sing, I was more excited to see those 2 stones than anything else there!). One stone also had the hand-held ‘pestle’ with it. Nearby was a fireplace enclosed by stones, and an open shelter made of sticks with leafy branches forming the roof. There was also an enclosure for livestock in the south-eastern corner of the compound – a fenced off area made with the same thorny branches that made up the outer fence. In the north-western corner near a tree there were 4 tall forked branches – a couple standing in the ground, the others leaning against the tree

Scattered near the fireplace and a couple of the huts were several battered cooking pots, around 3 or 4 litre capacity. There wasn’t much evidence of ash or coal. Most of the other debris was rubbish and dung, a lot of dung. Broken bottles, bits of plastic, fragments of cloth. I wondered if the compound had been abandoned because it just got too dirty. The dung may have been left by roaming livestock after the family moved out.

In another compound nearby, we saw tent-like structures made of pieces of fabric and plastic over domed sticks and branches

We met ‘the locals’ when we were walking near the rock. We could hear voices higher up and a couple of kids saw us and let everyone else know. 2 young men walked down the rock, greeted us and then kept on walking. They were each carrying a sharp shiny machete and wearing sandals made of tyre soles and string straps and ties. Everyone else we met was barefoot. We kept on walking along the eastern side of The Rock and eventually heard more voices and chickens at another compound, but we didn’t get close enough to meet anyone there. We turned back and headed north east, a bit away from The Rock, and met 2 more women with a few little children at the edge of their compound. Mother and daughter perhaps, both still carrying babies. The older woman pointed us back to The Rock and seemed to be asking us for something, rolling her hands around each other.

We changed our course and walked past the place where we’d first met the kids and young men. By then there was a large group, mostly women and children and one man. Everyone except the man was bare chested and wearing fabric loincloths. The women had string tied around their breasts. The man was wearing a t-shirt. They also wanted us to give them something – water? food? my headnet to keep the flies off? Dunno. I had a little tin container of mints and gave it to a young woman. This group was heading back to their compound with their water containers but kept on calling out to us as we walked back to Clancy. They dropped off their kids and containers, then followed us for a while calling out, then eventually went back home.

These people were the most primitive we’ve seen, or are ever likely to see. They are herdsmen with cattle and goats, and some families also raise chickens. They don’t grow anything, we didn’t see any evidence of crops or agriculture. They are hunter-gatherers. They don’t use coconut oil or almond flour or make bone broth or drink alkaline water. And they sure as hell don’t buy Pete Evans’ processed packaged ‘paleo’ ‘food’ from the local supermarket. Sorry, obviously I’m not a fan of either the paleo diet or Paleo Pete.

Maybe they trade some of their livestock for goods – plastic water containers, lengths of fabric. The cattle we saw in this area were the healthiest we’ve seen in Angola. It’s currently the wet season and it looks like Spring for a lot of the local vegetation – bright green leaves at the start of their growth cycle. Close to The Rock, we saw a tall tree with some kind of fruit on it, but probably inedible as there was still a lot of last year’s crop on the tree. Of course, we have zero knowledge of edible flora there, and I’m sure the locals are eating well, they look healthy, but as Greg commented – where are they getting any carbs?

The locals
Grinding stone and pestle
another grinding stone
Thorn bush animal enclosure
Abandoned village
inside a hut
Fruit on a tree?

Tchitundo-Hulo Prehistoric Rock Paintings and Petroglyphs

For a short while on Friday we thought we’d stepped several, or many, millenia back in time.

We spent a few days driving south of Namibe, going to see the Tchitundo-Hulo petroglyphs and rock paintings. It’s not easy to get information on how to find them (and anyone reading this post hoping for clarification will probably be very disappointed … sorry!) but we had some GPS coordinates and a description from an iOverlander post, so we thought we’d give it a crack.

On our second night in the Namibe desert we were treated to a spectacular silent lightning show, predominantly over the largest mountain to the east of where we were camped. We sat and watched it light up the hills and mountains far away in the east, gradually swinging around to the south and west. It felt as special to us as watching the Northern Lights in Sweden, possibly even more-so as it’s taken us a lot more effort to get here! Later in the night we got rain, but no thunderstorm. We had rain for the 4 nights we camped in the desert, and started putting out containers to collect the rain which we could then use to augment our own stored water for washing up and showers. The lids of our storage boxes make good water collectors, so they all get put outside too.

On Friday morning we set off south towards the petroglyphs, turning left at an ‘intersection’ (ie, the point where 2 single dirt tracks met) at the abandoned buildings at Capolopopo. Our Bradt Angola guidebook just said that the Tchitundo-Hulo are impossible to find without a guide and possibly a local tribesman. No idea how one would actually find a guide, but we did meet up with some local tribesmen at the rock.

So, down a single lane sand track, heeding the advice of the iOverlander post to approach the rocks from the north east, but that track seemed to be taking us away from the rocks. Back to an intersection and onto the right-hand track …. which eventually petered out.

So we channeled some Aussie adventurers – Reg and Griselda Sprigg, Jack Absolom, Len Beadell, the Leyland Brothers, Malcolm Douglas, Russel Coight are a few who come to mind – and just made our own track! If I made anyone smile with that last reference …. I’ll be here all week, folks! Sometimes we would both get out and walk for a while to find the best, most open path, at other times I would walk it and point out the way, but for most of it we drove it slowly together, figuring it out as we went along. It was a new experience for us both, even Mr Adventure hadn’t bashed out his own track before.

I know what you’re thinking – are these people completely insane, bush bashing their way through a country that is still riddled with landmines? Well, this little corner of Angola is possibly the least-populated part of the entire continent, with fewer than 10 people per square kilometre, and it wasn’t landmined as there was nothing there to defend. The local people are herdsmen and there was a lot of evidence of cattle and goats in the area, together with human footprints so we were sure we were safe to proceed.

Just to the north of the rock, which is as sacred to the Mucuisses people as Australia’s Uluru is to its traditional owners, there is an abandoned ‘village’. That’s not the right term as this collection of huts inside a thorny fence would only have been ‘home’ to one family. I’m going to call it a ‘family compound’, with apologies to anthropologists if my terminology is incorrect. Later on we met some locals when we got closer to The Rock and their compounds are closer to The Rock than the abandoned one was, but we thought it had probably been home to one of the groups we met.

We parked Clancy on the western side of the rock and walked north. There were a few petroglyphs nearby, but according to the GPS info we had, the majority were on the eastern side, so we set off walking. We found more on the north eastern side, and noticed where parts of thin top red layer of the rock had sheared off. These petroglyphs are very fragile and other people have mentioned that it’s hard to avoid walking on some of them. Most of the ones we saw were circles with crosses, concentric circles and ‘suns’ – circles with lines around the outside. We didn’t see heaps of them, which were apparently further up the rocky slope. I’d been hopeful that maybe we could walk around the whole rock but, like Uluru, its circumference is large and we couldn’t really get a good idea of how big it was or how long it would take. We did walk a few kms around it, but as the afternoon was getting on, we decided to retrace our steps and head back to Clancy.

On Friday night we camped near some big rocks, just off the main track to and from Tchitundo-Hulo. We could see it to the south of us. Lovely thunderstorm that night and we collected enough rainwater so that we just had to add a bit more for showers the next morning, and I even washed my hair!

Greg read up all the info he had about finding the elusive proper track to Tchitundo-Hulo, so on Saturday morning we drove back down the first track we’d originally thought was heading too far to the east. The whole time we were in the area, we kept on thinking we’d find the right track to the rock and wonder how on earth we’d missed it, but … well … we never did. We came to a wide dry sandy riverbed that had a concrete trough nearby, and we saw a woman and small child carrying water, running back to their home. The woman was carrying a full open 20L container on her head, the child carried a smaller container in his or her arms and I felt bad that we’d made them run and spill some of their precious water.
The riverbed had lots of branches piled along the bank nearest us, suggesting that someone had had difficulty getting through either the soft sand or maybe mud. So we turned around and headed towards another significant landmark in the area – the giant Welwitschia Mirabilis, reputed to be the largest in the world.

Sunset camped in the desert
the giant Welwitschia Mirabilis
Tall straight cacti that only grew amongst a few rocks
Standing stone circle
Our camp at sunset after leaving Tchitundo-Hulo
another Welwitschia Mirabilis


We found these bright red bugs at our first campsite in the desert
Another amazing sunset east of Namibe