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Author Topic: To the Lungs of the Earth  (Read 25074 times)

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Offline MRK Miller

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #60 on: October 10, 2019, 06:25:43 am »
Love how you are doing this, the camp anywhere style. Just got my wife a little honde 250 tornado as well, and she is loving it  The little rectangular things next to the forks look like little solar panel. Are they. Cannot wait for your next part
I would rather fall a thousand times, and keep riding, than to stop riding and never fall

Online woody1

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #61 on: October 10, 2019, 07:49:00 am »
Thanks for sharing.  :ricky:


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Offline NiteOwl

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #62 on: October 10, 2019, 02:40:17 pm »
The little rectangular things next to the forks look like little solar panel. Are they.

No. Those are a special reflective tape. Black by day, white by night.

Solar is redundant with the Tornado's huge alternator ;-)
Do it before you die!
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Offline NiteOwl

Descending from the Plateau
« Reply #63 on: October 10, 2019, 06:07:16 pm »
A small crowd of schoolchildren collects next to us as we finish packing in the morning. We are not the centre of attraction, though- we have unknowingly hijacked their school!

Note the plastic chairs- a common feature in Angola; for school (and church) you have to bring your books AND a chair.

A notable change since we left Huambo is that the rivers now flow from east to west (to the coast, as you would expect), where their currents ran in the opposite direction from around Lubango. We cross the Keve river and floodplain:

We pull up next to some women selling produce along the road- it turns out to be regular maize meal. There are babies galore- Angola still has a very high fertility rate of 5.6 children per woman (from a high of 7.5 in 1975) while life expectancy increased from 43 years to 62 years over the same period. Which is why one doesnít see many grey heads.

The next moment, a bakkie pulls up and six heavily armed men jump out. What now?

Fortunately, they are just stopping for some banter on their way to the next town.

Everyone is suitably impressed by their swagger, until an approaching truck blasts his horn and slams on the brakes: one of the many kids has wandered off into the road. The truck driver narrowly misses it as the mother freezes in horror. The father emerges and scoops up the child, which is unaware of the averted danger.

There are more roadworks and a detour further on, and concrete is getting mixed for the culverts. The road is arrow-straight.

The landscape has changed since yesterday: round rocky protrusions and a few spires surround us and at the foot of one is a resort of sorts: Lupupa Lodge. The location is spectacular, but rather remote. Conferences anyone?

Closeup of the rocky dome behind the lodge:

Mrs Owl is a real coffee aficionado and left her beans and Bialetti pot behind with a heavy heart. To compensate, she has used a significant part of her duffel bag for a large stock of Nescafe cappuccino sachets and each morning, after the first hundred kmís or so, we pull off the road to stretch our legs and make coffee. Something to look forward to every day. But she has discovered that most of the ďformalĒ filling stations have an espresso machine that can brew a mean cup.

Like this one in Waku-Kungo. According to the advert, if you buy 9 coffees and the tenth one is on the house!

The same armed guards we met a short way back are deployed outside, while the dayís innings are collected. As I mentioned earlier on: all that cash must be tempting. I walk a safe distance across the road after they have roared off to shoot a video that gives a good feel of the vibe in the small towns. Quite relaxed.

And so we reach Quibala by lunchtime. This where we have come from:

This area used to be the breadbasket of Angola; it reminds me of Masvingo in Zimbabwe, which went the same way. Thereís a supermercado (supermarket) at the entrance of the town and we need food.

No vehicles are parked outside. The shelves are well stocked, but thereís only one other customer. They have a bakery, but no bread.

They also sell coffee from Gabela, a town about 75 km west of here. Angola used to be Africaís largest coffee producer but the civil war, followed by centralised planning, has put paid to that. We would have liked to visit the once-famous plantation, but 150km is too much of a detour.

We turn off the main road to look for a padaria, and manage to get some of his last rolls.

Along the way is another leftover from the war, almost overgrown by the weeds. Itís not the only one- many landmines still remain in the region, too.

We have actually passed the Brug 14 battle site that lies halfway between Waku-Kungo and Quibala without noticing, but there is no signpost-  itís probably of little importance in Angolaís long war history.

Back at the main road intersection, we cross over to the church at Quibala. The Voetspore manne raved about it, but itís underwhelming. The clock is stuck at twenty to eight. And will be for the foreseeable future.

We are let in by the caretaker, who waits at the door.

There is some fine leaded glass work inside, and the traditional crucifixion statue behind the pulpit.

Leaded glass detail (probably imported?):

A mere three kilometres on is a Franciscan church with a welcoming driveway leading to its unfinished entrance that turns out to be a lot more charming, even without a bell (or clock) in the steeple.

We park under the trees for our lunch and take a walk around the grounds afterwards. The animated priest proudly shows off the inside- itís all handmade by the monks, and though modestly finished, looks like it is actually used. No caretakers required.

At the edge the town are the remnants of a Portuguese fort. Instead of a garrison, it now sports a cellphone tower.

The elevation has slowly decreased since we left Tundavala, but after Quibala, the descent is rapid and noticeable.

So far, itís been subsistence farming all the way but then we come across this:

Clearly, someone has come up with the necessary investment for a commercial farming operation to grow some crops at scale. Tomatoes, perhaps? With the Longa river next door, water wonít be a problem.

About 90% of Angolaís oil is exported to China. In return, about a quarter of a million Chinese in Angola are beavering away rebuilding bridges, rehabilitating roads and railways and developing the ports. Itís a closed system, with Chinese financing for Chinese construction companies using Chinese labour. Housed in industrial blue compounds like this one:

The sign outside indicates that this setup is for the rehabilitation of the EN120 road we are on, all the way back to the Keve river.

With the descent towards Dondo, our progress speeds up as we drop from 5000 to 500 ft over the next 100 km and the vegetation turns tropical and lush. It also gets hot and humid.

Thereís a large bridge across the Cuanza river with a police checkpoint at the end. We stop to look for the rapids upstream, but they are not visible from the road. The police wave us on and we pass the Cambambe dam where there are camping spots for fishing along the edge of the water.

The town of Alto Dondo hugs the Cuanza river downstream of the dam.

Itís a poor neighbourhood.

There are two great sights east of here: the black rocks of Pedras Negras and, north of there, the Lucala riverís Calandula waterfalls. Thereís a good road all the way there from Dondo and, according to our ďguidesĒ in the Huambo hotel, all the way up to Uige, about 300km away in the northern corner of the country.

Our Michelin map shows a road from Uige to Mbanza Congo, from where we want to reach the DRC. T4A shows nothing, and in Huambo we were told that there is no road.

We refuel and ask around. The pump attendants confirm the ďno roadĒ statement. It would be great to visit the falls and the black rocks, but it would take two extra days if we cannot carry on to the DRC from there. Reluctantly, we turn towards the coast. We hit roadworks straight away and ride on the newly compacted foundation next to the temporary road like the local bikers. There are obstructions to block traffic, but itís much better that the dusty track alongside where big trucks are rumbling along.

Apparently we are riding through a park, and rows of baobabs line the side of the road. The vegetation is dense.

Eventually the detours end and patches of tar reappear under the sand. We take a break at another open air market. Thereís some strange white fibrous pulp for sale that we have never seen before (but we see plenty of from here onwards).

It turns out to be the fruit of all those baobab trees, from which juice is also made.

Itís time to start thinking about our next camp, so we stock up on cold beer, cider and water (yes, they have fridges out here in the sticks).

Our next campsite appears soon enough when we follow a side road and double back through a clearing. The air is humid and our clothes are soaked from the heat. We pitch the tent and peel off our smelly kit.

After another lappiestort and a cold drink or two things are looking (feeling) rather good and we even get a visitor!

(I think itís a slant-faced grasshopper- perhaps one of our entomologists can confirm?)
« Last Edit: October 12, 2019, 03:17:16 pm by NiteOwl »
Do it before you die!

Offline Kaboef

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #64 on: October 11, 2019, 05:34:10 am »
Fantastic report.   

Did you eat that boabab pulp?
And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, "O Lord, bless this thy hand grenade, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy."


Online Tom van Brits

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #65 on: October 12, 2019, 04:29:06 am »
Love this adventure, keep on sharing please  :thumleft:

Offline David.H

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #66 on: October 14, 2019, 02:35:16 pm »
I am enjoying your photos. What camera equipment did you take?

Offline roxenz

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #67 on: October 14, 2019, 07:33:37 pm »
Great adventure and a beautiful, interesting RR. Thanks for taking the trouble. Really looking forward to the rest.

I have been to Angola a few times in the last 18 months (in Saurimo at moment), and the country is really growing on me. Just have to get my Portuguese up to speed. If things work out, I'll be kinda relocating here for next 3 years or more.

What I really like: virtually no tourists. And friendly people.

Roads can be bad, a 300km stretch last week took 9 excruciating, bouncing hours in the Cruiser. Some lovely bush roads, which just cry out for dual sports riding. And motos everywhere! I've been pillion on some tracks (footpaths where Cruiser cannot go). Frigging uncomfy on the back of such a small bike.  :P;D
Ek sal laaik van n prentjie hier sit, maar is te f0kken onnosel...

Offline NiteOwl

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #68 on: October 20, 2019, 11:36:16 am »
Camera equipment

We took quite a bit of kit, as recording the experience (especially at our final destination in this case) is a major objective of these trips for me.

Most of the shots were take with a Canon G7x Mk1- fantastic little camera, easy to carry.
For the wide and tele photos I carried a Nikon D7200 in the tank bag.
My wife had a GoPro mounted on the handguard.
We both used iPhones for panoramas, street scenes and some covert pics.

...the country is really growing on me...

Ditto. The varied scenery, relaxed locals and friendly cops (yes!) were an eye-opener. We could go back in a heartbeat.
I had expected much worse road conditions, and was pleasantly surprised at the daily progress we could make.
Communication is the biggest hurdle, as almost no-one in the rural areas speaks English.
I have tried to give some pointers in this report for others who may be planning something more than the Doodsakker, which we had no desire to do.
Refer to the post at Huambo regarding the Benguela railway line- that will take one right into Moxico, where the Zambesi originates (apart from the very first bit in Zambia).
I will cover the northern coastal region in the next post, and the southern coastal route on the return leg.
Do it before you die!

Offline Poenabul

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #69 on: October 24, 2019, 04:07:01 pm »
Nice stuff
Don't judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree........

Offline NiteOwl

On to the Coast
« Reply #70 on: November 01, 2019, 12:40:32 am »
Itís sticky and there are loads of mozzies around. An hour after turning in, it starts to drizzle and reluctantly we put the outer sheet up- now the tent is like a sauna and we donít have any Doom!

We awake to the call of some Piet-my-vrou birds and I get the runaround from a few whydahs flapping nearby whilst trying to photograph them.

It hasnít rained much, but the weather is overcast. After packing up, we take a quick look further down our sideroad, and cross the railway line that runs parallel to the main road between Luanda and Dondo.

Itís the northernmost line in the country (see the Benguela Railway map) that runs (ran?) from Luanda to Malanje. The tracks are rusted and buried in the sand, the signals too. Another job for the Chinese, No doubt.

Thereís a lot of water all around- it looks like our campsite was next a wetland. And so is the road. Lots of puddles, like a mangrove. We are clearly entering the tropics.

Since this is a sort of park, with lots of greenery, there is some game around. Itís up for sale Ė our first taste of the bushmeat trade that we read about before the trip, and it does not look very savoury.

Not much is sacred when people are struggling to survive. A message that hits home when this ďninja manĒ approaches with his catch of mud turtles while we refuel.

To most conservationists, this animal trade is deplorable. Itís certainly a jarring sight, but thousands of elephants, lion, rhino, etc. were killed by the great white hunters from the late 1800ís after the invention of cordite.

While I was initially under the impression that Angolaís game got decimated by the civil war (and landmines), Iím now leaning more toward the likelihood that the business and, later, sport of hunting from a century ago had a far greater effect on the fauna of Africa. Like this:

The roads around the major cities are usually in good shape, and that holds today as well as we descend to the coast and the capital.

The baobabs give way to nabome (euphorbia conspicua) that rise above the undergrowth.

Back on the main road we now approach Luanda. Much has been said and written about the hectic traffic (due to rapid urbanisation) and the burgeoning population in and around the capital: 8 million and counting- a third of the population! To our Gauteng eyes, it still looks pretty mild.

Our map shows a ring road around the capital, and since we have no need to go into the city, thatís what we need to find. It turns out to be easy and shortly afterwards, we pass a well-known sign.

Shoprite seems to follow a standard formula for their shopping centres in Angola: they cover all the major cities (34 and counting) with the supermarket as anchor tenant, flanked by a Hungry Lion (restaurants, not real ones!), MediRite, Standard Bank and local retailers such as cellular operators. We finally buy a SIMcard at the Unitel counter. Only back home do I discover that previous president Eduardo dos Santosí daughter Isabel owns 25% of it. Darn!

The eatery does not look that appealing, but across the road thereís a cozy cafť.
In case you havenít picked it up yet, coffee bars are like a magnet for my wifeÖ. We scoot across the main road and park outside for coffee and a snack.

North of the city, we close in on the coast soon enough. The roads are good, but some of the bridges look a little dodgy. Thereís a police checkpoint, but we are waved through.

Itís time to hit the beach, so we take the turnoff to Barra do Dande. A narrow road skirts the Dande river and its adjacent marshes until we reach the village. The bridge over the river overlooks the boats in the bay and the shacks behind them.

Lots of small shops line the main road.

Racks of dried fish adorn the market displays at the edge of town.

A kilometre further, we find paradise. Or rather, the Paradiso Lodge. It takes a while to convert the Kwanza rate into the equivalent number of Euros, as the receptionist has no clue of arithmetic and is proposing a ridiculous exchange rate. But it actually turns out to be a pretty good deal. Kz 24 000 (eventually = Ä70 = R 1100) buys us not only an air-conditioned chalet on the beach, but dinner and breakfast for two as well.

With the negotiations finally completed and the money handed over, we get let through the fence onto the beach to park in front or our home for the night. Thereís no laundry room on offer, but we set about washing our dirty clothes in the shower and string a line to the nearest palm tree to hang them out.

Hundreds of crabs play peek-a-boo on the beach, disappearing in their holes whenever one gets close.

Deck chairs are lined up along the edge of the water, overlooking the bay and the boats. We seem to be the only guests.

After a swim in the surf (nice temperature here) itís time to crack open a cold drink and watch the sun set over the Atlantic. After nearly two weeks of riding we are now within 300km of the Congo river mouth - progress is good!

Do it before you die!

Offline Kaboef

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #71 on: November 01, 2019, 05:42:39 am »
Awesome. And lovely photos.
Staying tuned for the rest.
And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, "O Lord, bless this thy hand grenade, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy."


Online OomD

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #72 on: November 01, 2019, 09:53:23 am »

Awesome stuff!  :thumleft:

Offline EssBee

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #73 on: November 01, 2019, 10:58:09 am »
Just love those palms so close to the waters edge!

Offline Noneking

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #74 on: November 01, 2019, 01:27:45 pm »
Loving this adventure!
Thanks for posting!  :thumleft:
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Offline I&horse

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #75 on: November 01, 2019, 01:52:28 pm »
Silence is golden...... Duct tape is silver

Everything works with smoke, if the smoke escapes, it stops working.

Offline Bottelboer

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Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #76 on: November 01, 2019, 04:55:54 pm »

Offline Goingnowherekwickly

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #77 on: November 03, 2019, 05:38:47 pm »
Great stuff! Loving this report  ;D :thumleft:

Offline reinton

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #78 on: November 17, 2019, 07:09:17 pm »

Hi Night owl,

where's the next instalment, please.

Offline NiteOwl

Re: To the Lungs of the Earth
« Reply #79 on: November 18, 2019, 09:55:01 pm »
...next instalment...

Sorry, caught up in project work- gotta pay for these trips somehow...

Next chapter to follow shortly.

Here's a teaser ....

Do it before you die!