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Author Topic: To the Lungs of the Earth  (Read 24979 times)

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Offline Fuzzy Muzzy

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #40 on: September 02, 2019, 05:40:35 pm »
Sub.. hope the pics come through. this is one area im keen to see from a bikes perspective.
Africa trip, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania & Moz rr http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=61231.0

Offline punisher

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #41 on: September 03, 2019, 07:11:26 am »
i am seeing the pics

 :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
just wanna have fun , and ride ... and ....... ride

Offline Koet

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #42 on: September 03, 2019, 09:13:06 am »
Can also see the pics now!   :ricky:

Offline NiteOwl

Through the Caprivi
« Reply #43 on: September 03, 2019, 11:58:14 am »
Before departing, I use the opportunity to patch our threadbare helmet linings and line up the intercoms. Today’s destination is Drotsky’s Cabins along the western edge of the Okavango, an old favourite.

After another leisurely cup of coffee down the road it’s time to get moving. The bikes are fine, but my GPS fix appears to have worn out. Whilst trying to get a Garmin power cable at Riley’s Garage, the manager offers the use of his workshop and the foreman walks me to the back. There’s an industrial-size soldering iron and a thick piece of solder on the workbench. By opening the metal shield of the mini USB connector I manage to get enough space for the soldering iron and after one or two attempts I have a thin blob of solder across the last two pins. A permanent fix this time. 

Once again we hit the road rather late. Our first stop is Lake Ngami, about 120 km to the southwest.

We were last here in 2015, when we camped at the end of the track at the edge of the water. This time, there is no water and the dusty road runs all the way through.

After refuelling we follow the road along the western edge of the Okavango delta. There’s still some 300 km to go to Drotsky’s and this is a pretty boring road only livened up by the multitude of potholes that have opened up. It’s dusk by the time we reach Drotsky’s, navigate the sandy approach road and settle in at our allotted camping spot. It’s too late for a sunset cruise, but there’s a boat ride on offer for the short hop to the dining room for a buffet dinner.

A great thing about these overlanding spots is that you get to meet some interesting folks, like these Germans with their Deux Chevaux. It’s a regular two-wheel drive but they have managed to drive through most of Africa including the Sahara with it, no doubt with copious use of those sand ladders. Sticker on the rear window: This is not a car…it’s a way of life!

Although Maun is dry, up here the delta is still navigable and we use the opportunity to get taken for a short cruise by Zebra.

This place is a magnet for kingfishers and within minutes we spot a malachite, a brown-hooded, some pieds and a giant kingfisher.

Also the notoriously shy green-backed heron, some bee-eaters, a pair of fish-eagles…

All too soon our hour is up and we have to get a move on to the Mohembo border post where we get stamped out of Botswana and into Namibia. A painless process, but not costless: there’s another Road Fund to support and it’s R188 per bike. Unlike Botswana’s, which is valid for 90 days with multiple entries, Namibia’s is payable for each entry. Again a country with lots of border posts:

There’s a 20 km stint on gravel through the Bwatabwata Park before joining the B8 main road through the Caprivi Strip. Since we have to stop to sign the register at the park gate anyway, we make use of the visitor's table to have a snack.

We make a brief detour over the bridge across the Okavango river before refuelling at Hombe. Plenty of water at this end.

At the filling station a taxi driver comes over to chat. He turns out to be Angolan and is able to give some travel advice: the road from Katwitwi to Menongue is tarred, but in bad condition with no fuel en route. The better option is to ride to Oshikango, from where the road is good all the way to Lubango with lots of fuel available along the way.

We reach Rundu in time for a late lunch at Debonair’s because here, as in many other towns we rode through, the Wimpy has closed down. The road basically follows the course of the Okavango river and if you happen to have a plot along the wetlands, you’ve pretty much got it made. Unless there’s a flood.

With plots along the river being so popular, there aren’t really any camping spots but fortunately Taranaga Safari Lodge comes to the rescue. There’s a sandy tweespoor track leading to an oasis a few km off the main road. We put our feet up for a beer and savannah before cleaning up in an open air shower and turning in for the night. The cost: R150 per person.

For those locals who missed the prime plots along the river, life looks rather dry.

But, unexpectedly, we come across a few centre pivot irrigation points that must have been financed by some serious investment. The kind that is unfortunately so rare in Africa.

I had expected that we would have to cover the 500-odd km from Rundu to the Angolan border on gravel, but it turns out to be a good tar road. But again, our fuel range lets us down when we have to back-track to Nkurenkuru after the locals tell us there’s no fuel at the Katwitwi border post.

Herding goats along the road is still a dusty business.

With the lack of access to steel fencing here, natural materials get harnessed to contain domestic animals in demarcated areas.

…and sold as hardehout bundles for cooking.

It’s not long before closing time when we eventually reach the Oshikango border post. A swarm of runners close in on us, offering to arrange a speedy transit and a good rate on Angolan kwanzas. We decline rather unkindly but unnecessarily, as the rate they offer later turns out to be better than what is available at ATMs. There is little traffic, but not many signs either. Undeterred, our unwanted assistants point to a small air-conditioned cubicle along the road where a fat immigration official presides in air-conditioned comfort while we have to stand outside. It’s too late to get through Customs, but the official there is much more affable and explains the significant amount of paperwork that is required before we may set foot on our Marxist neighbour’s soil. 

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Offline Shortcut123

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #44 on: September 03, 2019, 12:19:22 pm »
Lekker Onno, ek ry saam  8)

Offline NiteOwl

Entering Angola
« Reply #45 on: September 15, 2019, 07:37:44 pm »
So we need Photostats of IDs, driver’s licences, vehicle registrations, photos of ourselves and the bikes plus a copy of the immigration stamp deposited by the sloth up the road in our passports a few minutes ago- tricky one, that. No doubt there will be a copying centre back in Oshikango doing good business from all this, and it does not take long to find one. But it is now after six, so it’s closed.

We backtrack to look for lodging, but everyone wants cash and we have spent most of ours at the last refuelling stop. After a few circuits up and down the main (only) road, we find Pisca’s Hotel. It’s only 500m from the border, with a bar as the main entrance, but behind it is a courtyard (complete with armed guard) with secure parking and a chicken coup. It’s run by a mrs Rochas -who looks seriously undernourished- but she has a soft spot for bikers (her son’s F650 is parked near the chickens), so we get a discount. And free use of her PC and printer! To top it all, she accepts credit cards.

We manage to change our credit card settings using Pisca’s wifi and draw money at the ATM nearby, so we that can (hopefully) pay for Angola’s road tax, as it is not possible to buy Kwanzas at South African Banks.

Speaking (writing?) of South Africa- we are now 2 400 km away from home. About 1 ½ times the distance from Pretoria to Cape Town.   

After breakfast we find a queue of cars outside as we head for the border again. Since we’re done with Immigration already, we ride through to Customs again, and get spotted by last night’s runners before we can park the bikes in front of a hangar nearby. (Sorry, no pics- it’s a sensitive area here)

The same customs man is on duty again, and despite the fact that all the paperwork is not quite up to scratch, he performs the necessary edits, hands me two small strips of paper with a number on each and instructs a truck driver to show me where the bank is, so we can pay our Road Tax of 6336 Kwanzas (R285) per bike.

Unfortunately, this has to be paid in the local currency.
Fortunately, I spot a credit card machine on the bank official’s desk.
Unfortunately, it’s out of order and he apologises.
Fortunately, there are lots of money-changers hanging about and he calls one over. Four hundred and forty Namibian dollars buys 13 000 sweaty Kwanzas and the use of Angola’s roads for the next 90 days, or until we exit the country. Two receipts with the magic numbers are printed out in the adjacent customs office to seal the deal and we are sent back to the customs guys manning the boom.

They apologise, but now the bikes need to be inspected to check the chassis numbers against the registration papers and we have to unpack our bags to show what we are carrying into the country, especially… money. We are carrying Euros for our end destination, and dollars for emergencies (everybody seems to like the greenback!) but they are satisfied with the explanation and there is not even a suggestion of a “gift”. The official takes a picture as we leave, promising to send it to his colleague in Luvo, where we will exit Angola.

The boom lifts and we are waved off, not sure what to expect next as we enter Angola. 


It's hard to dissociate the name of the country from the 27-year civil war in which South Africa played a significant part. How did it start and how did we get involved?

When the Carnation Revolution displaced the established order in Portugal, it spelt the end of the Portuguese colonial empire. When a date was set for Angola’s independence at 11 November 1975, it set off an intense conflict for the control of the country that was to last until the death of Jonas Savimbi in 2002.

Prior to 1975, three Angolan liberation movements had tried to wrest control of the country from their colonial masters. With the withdrawal of their common enemy, they soon turned against each other and the civil war that followed became a proxy war between the Cold War protagonists. The USSR wanted the MPLA in control in Luanda, while the USA supported the FNLA in the north and UNITA in the south of the country.

South Africa’s apartheid government wanted to prevent the establishment of communist neighbours (die Rooi Gevaar) on its northern borders, from where incursions into Namibia were conducted by the Namibian liberation movements (mainly SWAPO- die Swart Gevaar). In response, the South African Defence Force conducted increasingly aggressive cross-border raids on SWAPO bases deep into Angola and Zambia. 

By the middle of 1975, the MPLA (with Soviet support) had dished out a series of crippling defeats to both the FNLA and UNITA and it became obvious that Angola would come under communist rule by the November deadline unless something drastic happened to the balance of power. South Africa’s response, with US (CIA!) encouragement, was Operation Savannah and so the guerrilla conflict escalated into conventional warfare and Cuba entered the fray. Although SADF troops got as far north as Porto Amboim, it was too late to prevent the MPLA from being endorsed by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and early in 1976 the SADF withdrew back to their Caprivi bases.

South Africa continued to support UNITA as part of a strategy to counter SWAPO, while the MPLA tried to wrest control of the southern part of the country. The ensuing arms race cost Angola about 50% and South Africa some 16% of its GDP by the time a settlement was eventually reached in 1989 and Namibia gained independence. As a result, both Angola’s and South Africa’s economic development were severely curbed (by comparison, only 1% of South Africa’s GDP is spent on defence today- 2019).

While most of my generation were called up vir volk en vaderland in the eighties, the majority of the current economically active population of Angola were not even born at the time. We’re from different eras; Life has moved on.

Back to the present: since 2017, Angola has had a new president and, unlike his South African counterpart, he is actually making a difference. Tourism is now encouraged (South Africans don’t need a visa to enter the country anymore), the officials are courteous and helpful and in the towns and cities people are sweeping the streets. It’s a menial job, but it makes a subtle difference in one’s perception that becomes stark when you reach the Congos. Bribery and corruption are no longer tolerated and, to prove the point, ex-president Dos Santos’ son has been incarcerated for fraud related to Angola’s equivalent of our Public Investment Corporation and his daughter (Africa’s richest woman!) is in exile.

Actually, little of this matters today as we enter the country. What does matter is that the local time zone is one hour behind CAT (we’ve gained an hour) and we have to adjust driving on the right (wrong??) side of the road. And now we need money and fuel.

The queue at the filling station not surprising - fuel here is half the SA price. As we have enough (hopefully!) to get to the next town, I get Kwanzas at the local ATM while my wife is garnering a fan club. Women don’t seem to drive anything around these parts, let alone a motorbike.

Something has subtly changed on both bikes and from here onwards the fuel consumption improves towards the levels I had hoped for. We comfortably make it to Ondjiva (40 km from the border) where the queue is short and the bikes get filled almost immediately. Something typical of all Angolan filling stations: the Armed (to the teeth) Guard. It’s the result of the fact that all fuel transactions (and there are many) are cash-based. So robbery must be very tempting in a country where most citizens are quite poor and AK-47s are a dime a dozen.

Apart from the generally clean impression of Ondjiva, the multitude of motorcycles versus the paucity of motorcars is striking. The road looks newly tarred and is as smooth as you could wish for- GS country! ;-)

Just outside Ondjiva we come across the first war relics- armoured combat vehicles and personnel carriers that seem to have been immobilised by artillery. These look like a couple of Soviet BRDM-2s, stranded on either side of the road, with a BTR-152 APC between them.

A bit further on there is a war memorial paying tribute to the fallen soldiers who defended the town of Mongua nearby. An abandoned T54 tank stands sentinel nearby with a broken track, its gun barrel pointing aimlessly over the passing traffic.

We stop a few kilometres further for coffee and some of the Maria biscuits we bought when we refuelled. It’s getting hot, but there’s shade along the side of the road opposite a small village from which some curious kids emerge to check us out. We share the remainder of the biscuits with them, and they are well received- we saw lots of kids in Angola, but no fat ones.

We get overtaken by some older kids on unusually-new looking bicycles. Judging by the branding, some early indoctrination by the ruling party.

Around us we see quite a lot of water puddles where cattle drink and kids play. We are approaching a river.

One hundred kilometres from Ondjiva the EN 105 road crosses the Cunene river at Xangongo. Although the water level is low, it’s clearly a huge river, with a bridge to match.

Something else about Angola- there are lots of road markers, river identifiers and signs indicating the destination, distances and road numbers and they generally look quite new. What’s less obvious is what is not there- bullet holes. I don’t think this is accidental, but part of a strategy to cover the scars of the civil war and move on. In the towns, most buildings have been patched up as well. It makes a lot of sense.

A few minutes later we pass a freedom memorial with a quote by Fidel Castro; the paint is as faded as the message, the structure and uhuru chains are rusted, the plaster is patchy and overgrown with weeds. A footnote in history.

The scenery changes; the Mopani bushes and palm trees give way to succulents as the landscape turns more arid and the soil more sandy as we approach Cahama….

… where we refuel. This time, we’re in more of an extended village than a town and there is no Sonangol sign in sight. Instead, we find a queue of bikes lined up at a converted ISO container with a fuel pump at the one end, and a fuel tank inside. At the back, a generator running off the same fuel is powering the whole contraption. Quite a handy way of distributing fuel to rural areas. Also, as at most Angolan filling stations, there is a well with potable water. We fill up our tanks and our bottles.

Every male around here (and in the Congos, as we later noticed) has a machete that goes everywhere with him, like this guy on the right. It must be an initiation gift when they come of age. The luggage rack seems to offer a handy storage place.

Later in the afternoon, we almost miss this great fresco of Fidel Castro, Agostinho Neto and Leonid Breznev. The central characters in the MPLAs ascension to power here.

Clouds gather overhead as we approach Lubango. It looks threatening but we miss the rain.

Unfortunately we don’t miss nightfall as we enter the outskirts of Lubango, and it turns out to be quite a big town. It’s too late to look around for accommodation, so we turn to T4A. There are not many options, and only one offers camping: Casper Lodge.

« Last Edit: December 20, 2019, 12:57:19 am by NiteOwl »
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Offline katana

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #46 on: September 15, 2019, 08:41:14 pm »
You two rock!!
If you want to haul ass, you gotta mix gas.

Offline Kortbroek

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #47 on: September 15, 2019, 09:32:00 pm »
This is awesome  :thumleft:
- you reckon that thing will pop a wheelie? We're about to find out, SLAP that pig!

Offline eSKaPe

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #48 on: September 19, 2019, 04:24:29 pm »
Great story line to go with the excellent pics
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Offline DRme

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #49 on: September 19, 2019, 05:58:24 pm »
Thank you for a well written and complied Rider Report, Onno.
It is a pleasure to read and to view the photos.
Looking forward to the rest.

Offline NiteOwl

On the Angolan Highlands
« Reply #50 on: September 22, 2019, 02:03:29 pm »
Despite the “camping” label, Casper Lodge is anything but a budget establishment. The fellow at reception wears a neat suit and shows us where we can shower: in the gym. There’s also a glossy restaurant where we sit down for the cheapest meal on the menu- omelettes. There's also a swimming pool, but no sunbathers. In fact, not many patrons at all and we are the only campers.

Our “campsite” is actually part of the lawn between the chalets forming part of the real Lodge, and our toilet and kitchenette look suspiciously like servant’s quarters. But we have a corner of the garden to ourselves (not to mention the gym!) and there’s a steel frame where we string up a rope to do our laundry the next morning. According to the guards at the gate (the entire compound is walled), there is a large shop down the road. It turns out to be a Shoprite, and it’s very well stocked indeed. Unfortunately, most Angolans do not have enough disposable income to buy more than a half-filled handbasket and the country’s high inflation rate and dependence on oil are not helping. The slump in Shoprite’s latest results is not surprising. https://www.theafricareport.com/16430/shoprite-slumps-as-consumers-struggle-in-angola-and-nigeria/

To say that Angola is not exactly a tourist Mecca is an understatement. Never mind Pam Golding, even Lonely Planet hasn’t discovered the place yet:

So, most of the information about the country is buried in trip reports and programmes like Voetspore. Most South African who have visited the country have done so via Lubango, so the sights around here are rather well known. We have to wait for a light shower to subside before heading out to the northwest of the city in the early afternoon. En route, yet another uhuru statue:

The cobblestone road (“gravel”, according to T4A) rises fairly steeply past the waterfalls below the Mapunda dam from which the local N’gola beer is brewed:

Higher up, it looks like a giant child threw its toys out – rocks litter the rough landscape, puddles of water are in between.

At the top is a parking area and a lookout on the edge of the Tundavala gap- a sheer drop of nearly a kilometre down the escarpment where the clouds shroud our view of the coast.

The best way to get an impression of the sight from the lookout is with a video, but I won’t spoil it for the readers planning to visit the area  Trust me, it’s well worth a visit! There’s a track circling around the northern side of the Gap where one could set up a rather nice camp with a spectacular view.

There are some women patrolling the area in search of money from the few tourists who have come to admire the sight. Their hair coating is a lot like that of Himba women, made from a paste of animal fat and locally ground stone, but they are considerably lower is stature and the facial features are less refined. They belong to the local Mumuhuila tribe.

The Christo Rei statue is on the opposite side of the city (southeast). A narrow road follows the edge of the ridge overlooking Lubango.

We dismount for the obligatory photos. This statue is actually modelled on a similar (bigger and better) one in Lisbon. The artwork is rather basic, even if one ignores the damage to the face. There is no sacred heart either, and no lightning conductors- clearly not a concern around these parts.

View over the city:

Next up we go looking for what remains of the Dorsland Trekkers around Humpata. T4A indicates a site about a hundred metres from the main road, but there’s little more than a plaque leaning against the fence of the run-down house:

Camping is supposedly on offer nearby, at the farm of a Basie Prinsloo. It proves tricky to find among the tracks here, but when we do locate the farmhouse it turns out that it was abandoned a few months ago. There is a backpacker-like shelter about a hundred metres away with toilets, showers and a braai area. It must have been great in its heyday, but water is unlikely to ever flow through the taps again.

The Dorsland Trekker Monument, erected in 1957, is a little further on. The chains that used to surround it are gone and weeds are overgrowing the paving around it. The Trekkers were another important motivation to visit Angola, as I find the very idea that people would pull up their roots to cross a thousand kilometres of desert with ox-wagons for an unknown “promised land” fascinating. It has taken us a week to cover a similar distance on modern transport and paved roads!

My first exposure to their history was at Swartbooisdrift during our Kaokoland trip in 2011, where there is another monument commemorating their journey:

The Dorsland Trekkers crossed the Cunene river (the same river that we crossed at Xangongo the previous day) there in early 1881 with their wagons and oxen to settle in Humpata - seven years after starting their journey- right where we are now. More than half of them perished during the journey; the impoverished survivors never really integrated into their new country and had a tough time making a living on their own. In 1928 they turned back south to settle in Ovamboland (Namibia) and the last five hundred bittereinders fled the country at the outbreak of the civil war in 1975.

The present-day residents of Humpata are out in the street on their way to church. Everyone is dressed in their Sunday finery for the Easter service.

It’s disappointing to have come all this way for nothing more than a monument, but at least there's still time to look for alternative accommodation. We’re actually on the road that leads down the Leba Pass to Namibe (formerly Moçâmedes), but the coastal route is part of our return route. Right now, our next destination is Huambo (Nova Lisboa in the old days), nearly 400 km from here. It’s too late for that today; the best we can do is to stock up on some bread and look for a campsite alongside the road before nightfall. 

We manage to do sixty kilometres out of Lubango when we find an ideal spot behind a water tower. It’s the first of many bushcamps in Angola, and it’s relaxing to be able to do our own thing without any worry about the cost as we cook our supper without distraction. Properties here aren't fenced (land annexed by the Portuguese colonialists became state-owned after 1975, and although a Land Law was passed in 2004, there is no freehold), so camping is a pretty simple affair as long as you don't mind the lack of facilities. Very few people travel after dark and most vehicles (especially the motorcycles) don't have functional headlights.

At sunrise we are up. Since we are still more than 5000 ft above sea level, the air is crisp and there are no mosquitos about. We make an early start and the riding is pleasant in the cool air. We pass an FAS (Fundo de Apoio Social= Social Support Fund of Angola) primary school sponsored by the EU at Vihamba.

A class (with pupils that look rather old for primary schooling) is in progress under a tree within the compound, but outside the building. WTF?

Although the road is good, some of the bridges are temporary with steel plates rattling as the traffic passes over them. War repairs?

It’s the start of the week and we pass many village markets along the road.

Vegetables, fruit, flour, chickens, eggs… are on offer.

Bananas are a dime a dozen here- we buy some for lunch.

By the afternoon the weather is getting overcast again at our fuel stop in Caconda, but this time we don’t escape the rain. Unfortunately, it coincides with the end of the paved road and things quickly get very slippery and our good progress takes a turn for the worse as the rain buckets down. After a short wait, we decide to carry on, but slowly. Things can only improve if you move!

Half an hour later the rain subsides and shortly after that there are only puddles here and there. There are detours around new bridges under construction.

Going by the markings on the structure and fasteners, I would say that these are not Chinese- donations from the IMF or EU, perhaps?

Despite the fact that we are still on the highlands, the first sugar cane is on offer (we saw lots of it further north):

Although we are on the main road, houses are built right next to it in the villages and kids are playing in front of the structures. It’s typical for Africa, where the roads are actually a public socialising area. Needless to say, you cannot speed through here and hence a smaller bike works very well. We actually attract surprisingly little attention.

As we get closer to Huambo, road construction is further advanced and there is a tempting black ribbon running parallel with the many deviations, but nobody rides on it- so we don’t either.

A popular “scooter” used by many of the kids. Rather different to the shiny bicycles we saw near Xangongo.

It gets noticeably busier as we approach the city….

…. which we reach once again after dark with the intercom batteries flat. This time, T4A does not have any useful suggestions, so we head for the city centre to see what we can find. Our yellow spotlights turn out to be very handy to stay together through the hectic traffic.

We locate the Nova Estrela hotel near the plaza. It looks a bit run down on the outside, but is presentable enough inside and has WiFi to boot. 10 000 Kwanza (about R450) buys us a stuffy room on the ground floor with an air-conditioner but no windows where we dump our bags.

There’s courtyard at the back where the bikes are safe and a restaurant with hot trays has mixed grills and beer on offer. We are hungry! It’s popular, but not full, and one of the patrons translates for us. He was to become an important actor later in the trip ...

« Last Edit: December 27, 2019, 05:26:27 pm by NiteOwl »
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Offline Minxy

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #51 on: September 22, 2019, 07:51:03 pm »
Angola is soooo on our bucket list, would love to visit this mysterious country. Keenly following :sip:
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Offline Kaboef

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #52 on: September 22, 2019, 08:12:44 pm »
Fantastic report.
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Offline wildside

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #53 on: September 24, 2019, 05:12:26 pm »
I am really enjoying this ride report. Very interesting and useful information. Your photos are awesome and you have captured some lovely scenery. looking forward to learning more about Angola. Well done to you both.
"Heading out to where pavement turns to sand"
                                                         Neil Young

*Namibian Meander 2009 * Botswana 09 *A(nother) Sani Sunday * Saturday Ride Fever * Welcome to the Wildcoast * Riding the Rift ~ East Africa 2011 * In and out of Snow Valley * Wildsides ride to the Bash 'n back *  Bali with my Baby~2013  * Unwrapping the Cape for Christmas~2015 * Back to Bots~Kubu Island @ High Tide 2016 * A Piece of Pondoland~2018 *Squaring the Circle

Offline NiteOwl

Across the Benguela Railway Line
« Reply #54 on: September 29, 2019, 05:31:49 pm »
Huambo is the second-largest city in Angola, and owes its origin to its strategic position on the Benguela Railway, which links the Katanga copper mines in the DRC to the port of Lobito. It served as UNITA’s stronghold during the civil war when Savimbi declared it the capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Angola in counterpoint to the MPLA’s rival People’s Republic of Angola. Violent street battles took place here until 1994, when UNITA moved their headquarters to Jamba. If you look closely, there is still evidence of the past conflict on many walls.

Today, most of the obvious war damage has been repaired, excluding one important building, as we soon find out. The railway was reconstructed between 2006 and 2014 by the Chinese, at a cost of $1.83B.

A short aside: originally, our plan was to get to the Rift Valley via Angola, by following the road (?) from Luanda to Luau into the DRC on to Lubumbashi. From there, it looks feasible to reach Lake Mweru and Lake Tanganyika, but it’s virtually impossible to find any information on the road conditions, and rebels seem to be a nuisance along the way. The Benguela Railway, however, may well offer a suitable route as there should be a service road next to the railway line…all the way from Huambo to Luau and from there to Kolwezi/ Coluwezi.

We walk the short distance to the plaza with traffic whizzing around the circle, mostly carrying people to work on motorcycle taxis (without helmets).

Government buildings surround the plaza, and they are all painted in a kind of salmon-pink colour. The same paint is used throughout the country, even schools, making it easy to spot the halls of officialdom. Like the Post Office here:

In the centre of the plaza is an obelisk with a bronze statue of Angola’s bespectacled first president, known as the soldier-poet in front of it. Thus we see Agostinho Neto sitting in battle fatigues with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder and a notepad cradled on his lap.

There’s a strong military feel to the place with lots of men in uniform and there’s a compound just off the plaza with colourful walls and a sentry outside. They don’t allow photographs, so we walk further until we find a small café nearby and order two espressos from the young barista.

Back at the hotel we come across the owner of the hotel’s restaurant. When we ask about Jonas Savimbi’s house, he invites us into his car and drives us there. It’s quite a few blocks away, and we are not the only visitors. The place is riddled with bullet holes and mortars have blown out big chunks from the roof, which are dangling off the exposed rebar.

A steady throng of visitors move through the compound, and it's free (a missed business opportunity)! Inside, a band is practicing. There is no epitaph to identify the ex-owner anywhere- clearly, the MPLA don’t want to make a martyr out of the rebel leader.

Huambo was the only place where we saw beggars on the street, many walking with crutches and with missing or artificial limbs. We pass an old man shuffling along, leaning on his crutch. Probably a war veteran, but with little reward for it.

Back at the hotel we pack our bags and ask if we can leave them in the lobby- no problem. We are not done with Huambo yet, and want to see more of the city on foot. Down the road there is supposed to be a supermarket, which also has a small cafeteria serving coffee. Inside, the shelves are well stocked with wines (including the more common South Africa varietals).

Along the way, some typical street scenes. It's typical Africa … not many white faces around these parts!

One of the ubiquitous Chinese Keweseki / Kiwisiki/ Kawisiki three-wheel “bakkies” used to carry anything and everything here:

We decide to return to our hotel via the botanical garden, and pass a Roman Catholic church compound, signposted as “seminario”. It looks like it may well be an option for free accommodation in Huambo.

The entrance to the botanical garden is right next to the seminario. There’s a good cobblestone road running through it, and a phalanx of potplants fill a small nursery alongside. The garden was probably quite a sight in its heyday, but today the place is in disrepair. Grass and weeds are overgrowing the pavement, litter is strewn around and the water feature is green with algae while some women are washing laundry downstream.

From the exit, we pass a statue of Deolinda Rodriguez, known as the Mother of the Nation (Angola’s Winnie Mandela?) who founded the women’s wing of the MPLA.  She was a cousin of Agostinho Neto, was captured near Cabinda and gruesomely executed by the FNLA in 1967, aged just 28.

Back at the hotel, we change into our biking gear and meet up with our translator of last night. His name is Nelson, and he’s a Portuguese TV tech covering a host of sporting events in the country. Like us, they came from Lubango yesterday, but via the Benguela road, which is in good condition. Like us, they are also heading northwards, to Uige, but their driver insists that there is no road northwards from there to the DRC- even though our Michelin map shows one.

Nelson offers his help if we get stuck and after exchanging telephone numbers, we are off. By now we have covered 3000 km and our bikes need an oil service, so we buy oil at the Sonangol filling station nearby.

There happens to be a small open workshop for tyre repairs alongside it, and we get permission to use it. As usually happens in Africa, watching maintenance work is much more entertaining than performing it, and a small audience rapidly lines up for the show.

One of the filling station attendants brings a bucket and we set to work draining the oil and replacing the filters.

There are no clean funnels around (no idea what that might be called in Portuguese either) so our hotel receipt is converted into one.

An hour and a half later we are on our way. Shiny new electricity cables run parallel with the road.

Heavy clouds soon gather overhead- it seems to be a feature of the Angolan highlands to have overcast afternoons. We stop for a coffee break in a disused sand quarry.

More titties along the way at the hot water spring of Aguas Quentes. Very practical.

Did I mention that there are a lot of kids in Angola?

We are heading for Wacu Cungo when the sun sets. The sky is still pregnant with rainclouds, so a roof over our heads (and tent) seems like a great idea. And lo and behold, we pass a shelter next to a church just off the road. There’s no-one around, so we pitch our tent before it’s too dark. There's a warm glow in the air.

The view from our “stoep”. Not too shabby, hey?

We had hoped to reach a village, but that clearly hasn’t happened and so we haven’t stocked up on water. There are some huts across the road where we get told it’s OK to camp at the church. My request for agua elicits a nod from a young woman and I get led down a narrow path to a well that has pretty clean-looking water in it. She fills our bag and we’re in business!

We have a few small gifts for people who assist us, and we bring her a small torch with a solar cell charger- it’s useful here, and well received.

We park the bikes next to the tent and prepare our supper. It rains during the night, but everything stays dry!

« Last Edit: October 10, 2019, 07:49:25 pm by NiteOwl »
Do it before you die!
The following users thanked this post: GeelKameel, MRK Miller

Offline Rooi Wolf

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #55 on: September 30, 2019, 05:12:56 am »
Really enjoying this.  :thumleft:

Nice history lessons mixed into the whole adventure.

And beautiful pictures all along.

Offline african dust

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #56 on: September 30, 2019, 10:54:13 am »
great read, thanks for sharing.  :thumleft:

Offline captain jack

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #57 on: October 04, 2019, 09:34:38 pm »
Looking forward to next installment :sip: Once the kids are out the house, my wife and I will tackle this :thumleft:

Offline wildside

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #58 on: October 05, 2019, 02:53:35 am »
This is such an awesome RR...really enjoying it.... you have captured some great images and covered some great distances. Looking forward to seeing and learning more. Well done.
"Heading out to where pavement turns to sand"
                                                         Neil Young

*Namibian Meander 2009 * Botswana 09 *A(nother) Sani Sunday * Saturday Ride Fever * Welcome to the Wildcoast * Riding the Rift ~ East Africa 2011 * In and out of Snow Valley * Wildsides ride to the Bash 'n back *  Bali with my Baby~2013  * Unwrapping the Cape for Christmas~2015 * Back to Bots~Kubu Island @ High Tide 2016 * A Piece of Pondoland~2018 *Squaring the Circle

Offline Tom van Brits

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #59 on: October 05, 2019, 03:15:50 am »
Awesome, subscribe  :thumleft: