Leaving Angola

We did it! 3 weeks in Angola and we didn’t get sick, injured, arrested or robbed. We really enjoyed (most of) our time there, and feel like we got to see a good cross-section of the country and managed to keep away from the capital Luanda which doesn’t seem to have anything much to recommend it. The Scottish oil worker we met at Arco lives there and he told us not to bother.

We’ve spent the last few  days without internet, so let’s have a quick catch-up.

We thought that rather than just head back over the Santa Clara border, we’d see a bit more of the country and cross over further east at Katuitwi / Katwitwi. Greg had saved a trip report of someone’s Angola tag-along tour from a couple of years ago and he gave good information about places they had camped along the way, the condition of the road south to the border and how long it took the group of 15 at each border post. The Angolan post had been recently completed when the author crossed it in 2016, and it had taken the group 8 hours to drive the last 250-ish kms on an unsealed road. So, slow going but we’ve been used to that in Angola.

Blergh, big mistake! The road must have deteriorated since 2016 and it took us a day and a half to do what the tag along group had done in 8 hours. To any overlanders reading this, Don’t Do It! Cross over at Santa Clara or Ruacana.

The author had also very helpfully mentioned a couple of quarries they had camped at along the way, and we stayed at them too, but as we realised the last section would take us more than a day, we had to find somewhere to camp about 60kms north of the border post. In this still-heavily landmined area we couldn’t risk just going off-road and finding something, and there were no convenient tracks for us to just head down, so we ended up on a narrow piece of land between 2 tracks where vehicles had driven to get from one to another. Basically, we camped on a median strip!

The border crossing at both the Angolan and Namibian posts was pretty easy, once we actually found where to go at the spiffy newish mostly unused Angolan post. There were 3 entry booths and an enormous commercial building, a bit like the one at Santa Clara,but it was all sitting empty and overgrown with weeds. No signage, so we just drove until we were stopped by a string across the road, then had to be shown where to find the single immigration desk hidden at the back of a building. It all went smoothly but we were a bit baffled that the customs lady insisted on inspecting nearly all our storage boxes. Um, we’re leaving, what could be in any of those boxes that might be of interest? Anyway, her English was good so I gave her my 2 Women’s Weekly mags. It’s such a quiet post, I thought she might need something to do to keep occupied.

The Namibian side was fine, but Greg had to show the Customs lady there how to fill in our carnet as they don’t get many of them. I noticed on the Immigration officer’s daily log that we were number 4 & 5 to pass through, at about 10.30am. And then when the policeman was checking our paperwork, Greg noticed that ours was the first vehicle for the day. For some reason, even though we had paid our road tax when we entered from South Africa and it was valid for 3 months, we had to pay it again because we were entering from Angola.

And then we were back in Namibia, driving on the left hand side of the road, on a sealed road with line markings and street signs and all that stuff were used to. It was bliss!

This is getting a bit long, so I’ll just add a few general comments about Angola – everyone we met, spoke to and even drove past seems happy and friendly. As a nation the population has a lovely disposition despite, or maybe because of, the incredible hardship of that long civil war and the ongoing poverty amongst the majority.

One of the saddest things we saw were small patches of shredded casava/manioc/yucca being dried on the margin of the main sealed road south before it became a rutted nightmare – what the South Africans call the ‘yellow lane’, the safety or breakdown lane. Better-off locals would dry it in flat baskets or on large squares of fabric within their compound. The poorest people just dried it direct on the bitumen and hope that no vehicle drives over it. When the manioc is dried, it is scraped up, pounded to flour and then mixed with water to make a grey porridgey gloopy mass that is consumed at breakfast, lunch and dinner with small amounts of spice, meat and vegetables. Maize is treated in a similar way.

We saw so many abandoned or incomplete projects, buildings, roads, bridges, multi-storey hotels. This is not a poor country, thanks to its oil, but mismanagement, waste and probably corruption is on a scale we have never seen before.

Would we recommend Angola as a travel destination? Unless you’re an experienced Overlander and have visited other African countries … no. But if you are an Overlander .. absolutely. We’ll remember those 3 weeks for the rest of our lives.

casava/manioc/yucca being dried on the margin of the road
The terrible road to the Namibian border
One of the many abandoned buildings along the road
One of the few vehicles plying this road, a 6 wheel drive truck – broken down
The eroded sandy road to the border
Filling up the tanks with water from the Kubango / Okavango River

 

Getting water from the Kubango / Okavango River
One of the abandoned businesses that failed because the road building never finished
Abandoned construction equipment including a D6 Caterpillar and a abandoned road construction camp
Shower time at the sand quarry where we camped
Charcoal burning
Every cellphone tower had a guard. They usually lived in a grass hut, next to the latest in 21st century technology.
A frog that sheltered under our steps at the quarry campsite
Camped on a median strip, the last night in Angola
Camped at Rundu, the first camping ground after 21 days

 

 

A Day of Firsts

We had a few ‘first experiences’ yesterday before our encounter with the local cops last night, which was another ‘first’ for us, well in this country anyway.

We’ve seen our fair share of police stations and other official offices in our travels. There was the ‘we got deported from Russia‘ story that we still dine out on, 6 years later. Long before that, in 2001, there was the time we were cycling in Vietnam and staying in a small town about 30kms out of Hanoi. Not at all touristy, and apparently by midnight word had got around about the 2 white people on a ze dap hai noi noi bicycle for 2 people. I still remember that phrase, although my spelling is probably incorrect. The owner of the hotel knocked on our door at midnight and told us we had to go to the police. So the 3 of us all hopped on his Honda Wave motorbike and rode in the rain to the local police station, where the cops examined our passports and visas and wrote a heap of stuff in a big book. Then the 3 of us went back to the hotel on the motorbike in the rain. No helmets of course.

Anyway, yesterday …

We stopped and bought bananas from a roadside seller. Small and tasty, according to Greg. A couple of dozen cost 50c. I also bought a bunch of aromatic herbs from a woman sitting nearby for 25c. I didn’t really know what to do with them, but she was delighted to sell them to me.

Not far up the road, 3 young men were doing some informal road repairs – filling in potholes with dirt. We’d seen this before and just driven past – in our defence, the first time we were very preoccupied with keeping all 4 tyres intact until we could get to the next town. But this time, we stopped and handed over a small amount of money to say ‘thanks’.

And then we passed a real cafe, with a verandah, chairs, tables and real tablecloths. So we turned around, stopped and had the first drinks that hadn’t come out of Clancy’s kitchen or bar since we arrived in Angola. We were the only ones there, but it was 10am so hopefully things got a bit busier later in the day. Greg had a Coke Zero, I had a very good short black coffee and the owner gave us a plate of peanuts as well. When we first arrived, he was playing music videos of Smashing Pumpkins, then switched to a telenovella soap opera, I think. They sound the same in every language.

One more thing on our Angolan wishlist was to visit a local market and we did that too. Greg stayed with the car, I wandered around a couple of rows of sellers in the used clothes / fabric / cheap Chinese crap section. I’d thought maybe I’d buy some fabric to take home, but realised that, of course, it’s all made in China and while it looks great on the women here, it will just look like cheap Chinese fabric when I take it out of context and get it home.

We keep finding these Tuk-tuk type 3 wheel motobikes on the road. There is the “keweseki” version and the “kawisiki” version
At some local markets
Kids taking their chairs home from school. We didn’t see this in southern Angola, it seems they are too poor to afford chairs to take.
Angolan coffee at the Roadside Cafe
The incredibly rare roadside cafe on a remote rural road.
Camped the previous night, which was much more successful. We camped on a small track between villages.
This was a small field opposite our campsite. There are lots of small fields like this, in what seems could be an incredibly productive agriculture area.

Late at night, a knock on the door …

This post is dedicated to our young French friend Joffrey, who explained to us what ‘gasosa’ means here. Estamos juntos – I wish I’d remembered to say that to the nice policemen last night and this morning!

The Portuguese word ‘gasosa‘ means soft drink. The Angolan meaning has been slightly twisted, and here it means paying a small bribe to a local cop. We have been stopped at a lot of local police checkpoints, up to 4 per day sometimes, but haven’t ever actually been asked for a gasosa. For the last couple of days, whenever we’re stopped and the police realise we’re touristas tourists, they wave us on.

We’re heading east to Huamba, 2nd largest city in Angola. It’s been a bit trickier finding places to camp, and iOverlander has been a bit light on with suggestions. This area has a lot more agriculture, villages and people than we’ve been used to in the south.

Last night we found a spot seemed to be okay – down a side street behind an abandoned factory in a village 30kms north of Huambo. We did the usual thing, set up camp, cooked dinner and had just decided that we’re going to head south to Namibia, not do a side trip to Cuito Cuanavale, site of the bloodiest battles of the Angolan civil war. We don’t really have time and it’s still heavily landmined. I think I heard that collective sigh of relief from our parents when they read that.

We heard voices outside the camper and after sitting for a minute or so hoping they would just go away, Greg opened the door to 3 policemen! We introduced ourselves, emphasising that we’re tourists and that we love Angola. One of the cops asked if we had any weapons (what?! us?! of course not!), then insisted on looking in our under-seat storage boxes. The commandant told us to take down our shade and to get packed up. Every time I smiled at the 3rd cop, he smiled back, so I was hopeful that we weren’t in too much trouble. No one ever asked to see our passports or any paperwork, and as we’ve mentioned before, Africans love paperwork.

So, we’re all packed up, sort of. Actually, we had just thrown everything into the camper and figured we’d sort it out later. And suddenly there’s another guy there, a civilian. Then the commandant indicated that we had to take the 4 of them with us to … somewhere. We made space for 3 along one bench and left the door open at their request. The commandant and I sat in the front with Greg and we drove back out to the main road and parked near a single-room police ‘station’. We realised that the 3 cops who had visited us had all walked down to us from their station in the dark.

We waited there for a while with the commandant, who spent most of the time on the phone. The civilian went into the office with the 2 other cops and eventually a young man came out to talk to us in English. He explained that we weren’t in trouble, but that the whole area fasenda was owned by someone and they had complained about us being on his property. He said something about the area not being safe, which Greg and I interpreted differently – I thought he meant that we were unsafe there because of I’m-not-sure-what. Greg thought he meant that it was not okay for us to camp anywhere in the area because of the owner’s feelings about the matter.

And then the commandant indicated that he, Greg and I were going to drive somewhere else, following the other 2 cops who were on a moto motorbike. I hopped in the camper with the door closed, we drove about 5kms down the road towards Huamba and parked in the grounds of a larger police station, where there were at least 6 cops sitting, standing and chatting. The commandant indicated that we should get our shade out, meaning that we could camp there for the night. Still no requests for passports or any paperwork. As soon as we got the shade up, with the commandant’s help, I got out our stash of cans of Coke Zero and Savannah cider and presented them to him and indicted they were for everyone to share. His face lit up, we thanked each other profusely, shook hands and that was that. The nice policemen enjoyed their beverages, we got set up for the night and after a while the commandant walked out of the compound, presumably to walk back to his own station.

This morning we just got packed up, got the 4 on-duty cops to stand with me by Clancy so we could get a photo and headed off on our way.

At all times, all the police we interacted with were polite and professional, and there was never any suggestion of a ‘gasosa’. We did see the irony of handing over a dozen or so cans of soft drink and alcohol, but were happy to do so, and they were happy to have them.

All smiles, we are about to leave
Camped in the Police compound

Police stop number 4 yesterday

A couple more interesting landmarks in the southern Namibe area

Welwitschia Mirabilis

It took us many hours to drive the 80 or so kms from Tchitundo-Hulo to the giant Welwitschia Mirabilis, a lot of it on a rough, rocky, bone-jarring single track. The bits that weren’t rocky were sand with ruts, so the whole drive was bumpy. As with a lot of the off-roading we do, we used 4WD for about 1% of it. It’s the ground clearance that’s essential. And time. Gotta take it slow.

We reached the Welwitschia late in the afternoon, with about 30 minutes of daylight remaining, so we camped there the night. Located in a long valley, with lots of other Welwitschias around, the main attraction was by far the biggest we have seen. These strange plants only ever grow 2 leaves, which grow longer and wider over the plant’s lifetime of hundreds or possibly thousands ot years. The leaves trail along the ground and are mainly green, some with red tinges. The ends dry up and eventually fall off.

They flower in spring and we saw dried-up old flowers on some plants. The males have stamens and the females have cones. I tried really hard to find some small, seedling-sized plants, but had no luck.

Arco

The next day, Sunday, we drove back to Namibe, stopping to see Arco – the Arches. We left our campsite near the Welwitschia and drove past a lot more of them on our way back to the highway, and then drove for just a few kms on unsealed road to get to Arco, an impressive set of sandstone arches which are located about 10 minutes’ walk from the carpark. A local man met us at our car and told us the entry price – AKZ 2000 AUD$10 per person for a ‘guided tour’. We paid and joined another group of people being led by another local man. We walked beside a lovely seasonal lake – I’ve since seen photos of the same area with no lake, so I guess it only has water in it during the rainy season. The arches were impressive – at home or in the US they would be in a National Park. We met 3 guys there – they work in the oil industry and live in the capital, Luanda. A Scotsman, an Algerian and a German … sounds like the start of a joke, doesn’t it? We had a long chat with the Scotsman and he recommended a good camping spot further north at Baia Azul Blue Bay near Benguela, & also told us that Luanda really wasn’t worth visiting. It’s expensive, crowded and just not a must-see place. Which matches up with most of the other things we’ve read and heard about Luanda, so we’re not going there.

Back in Namibe

We had thought about camping at an actual campground Villa Dorotea, just south of Namibe. We went and had a look at it and for someone who wanted to stay in a cabin by the beach it possibly would have been okay, but there was no vehicle access apart from a small carpark at the campground entrance. We parked and had a bit of a look around and realised that vehicles with camper trailers or rooftop tents were actually parked on the other side of the campground’s fence, near a very crowded tent area. To be fair, this was during Carnival – a 5-day long weekend, but we didn’t feel like staying there with lots of other people and overburdened facilities so we headed further down the coast and found our own piece of beach. So far we have spent nothing on accommodation, and in what may be construed as too much information, I haven’t seen a flushing toilet in over a week. Well, there was that one time at the Shoprite complex in Namibe but all 3 of the ladies toilets were broken, so I don’t count that.

We spent most of Monday in Namibe, getting a few things done. We were getting low on clean clothes and with limited access to water, we were happy to get it done at a commercial laundry. The woman who served us didn’t seem all that happy to see us and made a BIG deal out of counting out everything and pretending to look at her itemised list of dry cleaning charges to see how much she could get away with charging us. The boss wandered out from the back and suggested AKZ 4000, we thought AKZ 3000 AUD$15 was reasonable (and had read in iOverlander that someone else had paid that for a load of washing there) and everyone was happy. We went back in the afternoon to collect it and the woman was much happier then. And so were we, with all those clean clothes. And bed linen too! It was wonderful for all of 5 minutes before we brought in sand on our feet.

We’d been having trouble accessing the internet, despite Greg purchasing more data, so we went off in search of a Unitel shop to assist and after one false lead – from the outside the shop appeared to be what we wanted with all the right logos, but in fact was only selling phone cases and accessories – we found the right place on the same road as Greg had bought the inner tubes. Someone there helped him and we were able to catch up on some of what we’d missed and update this blog before we forgot what we’d done.

On Monday night we camped in sand dunes below a mesa north of Namibe, then on Tuesday we found a nice quiet spot between the road and the coast 5kms north of Bentiaba. Someone on iOverlander shared the spot because they had camped on the beach but we thought we’d be better behind the dunes – out of the wind, out of sight and away from fluctuations in tides. We spent 2 nights there and enjoyed it. Got out the insect/shade annex and settled in.

The stone cairn making the turn-off the the giant Welwitschia
Camped at the giant Welwitschia Mirabilis
The Arches south of Namibe
Camped at the beach west of Namibe
Sandstone formations near the Arches
A well balanced rock
Camped off the road north of Namibe
The many, many potholes in good roads throughout Angola.
Camped for 2 nights at Bentiaba near the beach
All 500w of solar panels out on a cloudy day
The Atlantic Ocean and the beach at Bentiaba

 

 

 

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

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

Lunch
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

Dinner
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?

We’re strangers here

We are loving Angola – incredible scenery, friendly happy people, but the poorest people here are so poor it’s hearbreaking.

We went past a school a few days ago on our way back from the Giant Baobab Tree to the main road. 6 classes of primary-school aged kids, tiny shed within the school grounds, each class of 20-30+ kids sitting under a different tree in the yard with teacher and blackboard at the front of the class. I guess the shed is to store the blackboards. It doesn’t rain much here, but I wonder what the classes do when it rains.

Lots of people carry water from rivers, dams or water tanks back to their village. The water containers they use are mostly open containers that look like they were originally 20L paint buckets or similar, which the women carry on their heads. Little children carry 5L containers. There is no running water, power or sanitation in villages away from towns.

Of all the ‘stuff’ we have with us, the one thing that would immediately improve their lives is our 25L water drum with its nice tap in the cap … I wish we’d brought more water drums to give away.

Lots of people ask us for money or food. I don’t give money, but do give away food and water. I’ve written about this before.  I’m suffering from a lot of 1st World Guilt at the moment – we have so much, they have so little. One young woman spotted our 25 litre water container and really, really wanted it, but settled for a bottle of cold water in exchange for letting me take her photo.

Food here is expensive compared with Sth Africa and Namibia because most of it is imported. I saw frozen chicken breasts in the Shoprite supermarket in Lubango … from Brazil.

In Lubango there’s a smaller replica of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, perched on the highest part of the city, over 2000 metres above sea level. This statue of Cristo Rei Christ the King has several bullet holes in his chest. We drove to it and were the only people there, apart from 2 local men and a group of about a dozen pre-teenage Mwila girls in traditional dress. Several girls came to either side of the car and asked for money or offered themselves to Greg. On my side, one of them spent the whole time looking at herself in the side mirror which was the only appropriate behaviour we observed there. It was pitiful.

The really sad part is that this country is the 2nd largest oil producer in Africa, so there’s a lot of wealth here, but it’s not trickling down to the ones who need it the most. In contrast, Norway’s management of it’s oil wealth has set their economy up so that everyone has a good standard of living.

We’ve driven through several police road blocks each day. Most either wave us on or stop us and ask to see Greg’s driver’s licence and maybe the car’s papers. Then there was that time just after we left the Giant Baobab Tree when we drove through a roundabout … well, not quite the wrong way, but we went down a part that was meant for vehicles turning right and we were going straight ahead. Of course there were no road markings or signs because … #africa. So, 50 metres down the road there was a police roadblock and a very cross cop stopped us, asked for papers and got out his receipt book while explaining what we’d done wrong. Greg was escorted into the police building conveniently located right beside the road block. Cop flicked through his receipt book which was full, but the message was clear. Cough up, buddy. Greg came back and we thought that 2000akz $10 might be appropriate. We didn’t want to insult him by offering too little, but how much is too much? Turns out that 2000kwz was very generous, but we’ve written it off as ‘research’, and unlike the ‘speeding’ incident in Namibia, this time we really had done the wrong thing, so a fine was in order.

 

Christo Rei above Lubango
The crumbling Labango sign above Lubango

 

Tyres

Throughout our travels, tyre problems have been an intermittent but irritating companion. Something to do with the places we go to and the ways we get there, I guess. We’ve also returned a few rental cars with their batteries in much worse condition than when we first got them, but that’s another story for another time.

In mid-2001, 6 months after we met, Greg and I took a tandem bike to Viet Nam, back in the day when there was one ATM in Hanoi and one KFC in Saigon. We planned to ride from Hanoi to Sapa, but that plan came badly undone when we wrecked the inner tubes we’d brought with us and had loads of trouble finding replacements. Despite that, we had a great trip and … well, we’re still together 18 years later, and still travelling in unorthodox ways to off-the-beaten-track places.

Then there was the time a couple of years later when we drove to Broome via the Tanami Desert with our kids, Greg’s parents and his niece. We had so much trouble with tyres on the Tanami that I bought a new set at Hall’s Creek. They were eye-wateringly expensive but worth it – it was a great trip and when I remember the trip, the last thing I think of is the cost of those tyres which ended up lasting a long time and took us on other camping trips within Australia – Simpson Desert, Innamincka, across the Nullarbor to Esperance & Israelite Bay.

And then more recently there was the Swedish rental car that got a hole in a sidewall of a tyre in Oslo and we just couldn’t find a replacement, so Avis replaced the whole car for us. And the time we ‘did’ 2 tyres within 24 hours in Namibia.

Which brings us to our latest adventure. 4 punctures and 2 blowouts. I’m not even going to add ‘so far’, because I think that’s quite enough. We’ve had to spend a couple of nights pretty much camping wherever we could find to stop because of a puncture. Always in the right rear tyre. We’re using spilt rims and the tyres themselves are all good, it’s the inner tubes that are our problem.

Yesterday was a really trying day. We ended up on the side of the road to Namibe, a sort-of resort town on the west coast, about 10 kms south of where we’d camped the previous night, with our 2nd blown inner tube of the trip and rapidly dwindling options. It happened on a stretch of road where there was barely enough space to pull off, but thank heavens it WAS the right tyre in this country where they drive on the right side of the road. Changing a tyre right beside traffic wizzing past would be deathly.

Part our emergency kit is 2 hazard triangles and I put them out about 50m on either side of Clancy, to warn oncoming traffic. Trucks were decent and slowed down & drove on the other side of the road, most cars didn’t even adjust their speed although a couple did stop and offer to help. A tow truck drove the 50kms out from Namibe to see if we needed his services but we declined with thanks. At that stage we still only had 3 wheels on Clancy, so getting him on the back of the truck would have been tricky. We think someone must have just sent him out ‘on spec’.

We do have 2 spares, but by then we were down to: 2 wrecked inner tubes, one that had been patched and 3 remaining decent tyres. So Greg hopped online and found a really good piece of advice on the Beadell Tours page which suggested using talcum powder between the inner tube and the tyre to stop friction. We have talcum powder because Greg uses it when he makes fibreglass. Definitely worth a try. So, we limped into Namibe doing 40km/hr and with me watching the Tyredog tyre pressure monitor the whole time.

Then how do find a tyre place? We drove around a few streets in the centre of town without success, then Greg had the excellent idea of asking a policeman. There were a few gathered around a modest building which turned out to be the police station. One of them in plain clothes offered to go with Greg to show him where to go, while I waited inside the station. First place had none, but recommended another place where Greg bought the shop’s entire stock of 2 inner tubes.

Greg fixing inner tubes by the side of the road. He tried using a patch from a burst tube … unsuccessfully. Note the rock in the top rhs of the pic, holding the guy rope of the shelter in place.


By this time we’d moved back to a spot just off the road where there was more room to work
Camped south of Caraculco fixing tyres

We’re now heading south-east to Virei to visit Tchitundo-Hulo – petroglyphs and rock paintings. Last night we pulled off the road about 15kms south of Namibe and drove over a sand dune to be partially protected from the impending thunderstorm which hit about 5 minutes after we stopped. Honestly, the best thing about yesterday was standing naked in the rain, washing off the grime of the day

 

Dawn – camped in the Namibe desert south of Caraculo
Judy negotiating to get our Jerry cans filled at the Puma station. Note the Armed guard carrying an AK-47. There were 2 armed guards at all the Puma stations we visited. They were friendly and polite.
Camped again in the Naimbe desert 15km south-west of Naimbe.

 

 

 

 

Angola

Oh. My. God. We’re in Angola!

It took us 4 hours to get through Immigration and Customs yesterday, I’ll write more about that when our internet access is better, but to be honest, I didn’t even think we’d have internet access here, other than in large towns.

We spent last night camped near a huge baobab tree near Xangongo, about 130kms from the border. It’s reputed to be the largest baobab in Africa. We met a young Frenchman today and spent a couple of hours chatting with him (Hi, Joffrey!) and we’re staying here again tonight because it’s a nice place and we’re all set up and comfortable. We’ve said bom dia good morning and boa tarde good afternoon to visitors and locals. The locals walk near where we’re camped to go and get water to take back to their village. The visitors, including a local policeman who was born near here. come to see the tree.

    1. More later.
    2. Russian Tank from the civil war by the side of the highway
Thorn bush fences for keeping cattle and goats in. We have seen lots of these in Angola
Greg, Joffrey and Judy at our campsite near the Giant Baobab Tree

Judy fixing our insect screen door