Monday, 4 April 2016

Angola 2 .. based on 'we are going on a bear hunt'

I have used this title for various reasons! I like the book.. I have acted it out with year 1s many a time, but I chose it because when I first met Kristina we chatted about children's books (she is also a teacher) and this book came up. With it being in my mind, every time we have been over a pot hole (and the last few weeks we have been through many), I keep saying.. We can't go over it, we can't go under it, we can't go around it.. We've got to go through it! Funny what sticks with you!

Spending time at the yacht club allowed Rob to buy the water pump he realised he needed going into M'Banza Kongo. Luckily Andrew knew somewhere and one was bought on Monday within a couple of hours! Mandy and I had sent the boys off to sort out the water pump and SIM cards whilst we had a lovely hot shower, and sorted out our lives on the wifi at Andrew and Kristina's house! We had obviously pulled the short straw! By the time the boys had got back I had managed to face time the family (first since Lagos) and order some book for Charles' Mum to bring over! We stayed at the house until around 5 when Kelse picked us up and we all went to dinner at a place called Miama Restaurant. We watched the sun go down across the sea with a beer or gin and tonic and ate some amazing food! I had squid - like I have never had it before - and it was devine. Other dishes comprised of chicken, fish and duck. 

The next day Rob attempted to fit the water pump, we managed to have a lie in and have breakfast.. Something we haven't been doing whilst getting onto the road quickly! Sadly the new water pump was faulty, there was a crack in it. Luckily where we were staying a fleet of cars belonging to a company were parked there, the drivers were very curious about what was going on, and when Rob realised he needed to get to the shop one guy who could speak English and Portuguese offered to walk with him to get it replaced! Another incidence of the friendliness of people in Angola. By the time Rob got back he was hot and just wanted to get the pump fixed. In no time it was done. We had been told to head to the fort in the middle of Luanda so at about 2pm we walked up the hill to get to the fort. Entrance was 100 Kwanzas and it was well worth it. In the middle of the fort was a museum with beautiful hand painted tiles, and then up onto the fort walls you could get a 360 degree view of Luanda. The view was  amazing but also very saddening. On one side was the Luanda that had been renovated.. Beautiful walkways, stunning glass buildings, palm trees and hotels over looking the sea.. On the other side favella type estates spreading as far as the eye could see.. Again a real contrast! It was like when we arrived in Luanda. Walking back to the car we stopped for a drink on the new harbour walk way, lots of people stopped for drinks or doing their evening exercise! We were picked up by Kelse and Andrew to go to an Etheopian restaurant. The food was amazing, large pancake/oat cake type thing (about 75cm circumference) with different sauces and meat on top.. You shared with others and ate with smaller pancakey like rolls. Hard to explain but very good! Before we ate we had discussed routes for our upcoming trip through Angola. We said our goodbyes, feeling very lucky we had met these guys!

(Route planning)

The alarm went off at 6 to head off towards the Calandula water falls. However there was a slight problem.. Over night Rob's car had leaked oil from the exhaust. He decided to head towards the supermarket and make a decision from there. Heading out from the yacht club it was apparent it was serious, we were behind them and could not see. Along the way a policeman stopped us to fine them for the smoke but luckily they told him they were headed for a machanic and after a power trip he let them go. It was decided to head to the mechanic. After waiting 3 hours for the car to be washed and for it to go on a test drive the turbo came out (Rob had already realised it was this). We realised some decisions would have to be made but decided to wait until the evening to make them. Poor Andrew and Kristina, who thought they had gotten rid of us, had Charles and myself over during the afternoon (after going to shoprite.. A South African super market.. Bovril, Mrs balls chutney.. You can buy in tesco so try it, as well as grape Fanta and some supplies for the next few days!). Mandy and Rob arrived with Andrew, later on that evening and we learnt that despite contacting every mechanic in Luanda there was no turbo around. Rob ordered one that evening but it would not be delivered until the next week... After some amazing stew, with salad (including rocket!), and a lot of wine we all found a place to sleep. It was decided that Charles and I head off alone and meet up with mandy and Rob further down the line. 

The alarm was not a welcome sound after the amount we drank the night before but by 7am we were on the road to the water falls. 3 hours down the line and the clutch decided not to work any more.. Charles got out the car, looked under It and realised the clutch slave cyindar (it activates the clutch), was now not bolted down.. In fact the bottom bolt wasn't even in. The holes had lost their thread.. He tried for an hour to make something work, including super glue, PTFE tape, and paracord. We ended up messaging Andrew (his new nickname being AK recovery), and he told us to head to the next town, Dondo, where there was mechanic. We covered the 15km with no clutch.. Got there and some very helpful Chinese men guided us to the mechanic. 7 men, one electric drill, at least serval various different bolts, 3 different worried looks from Charles.. Plus 2 beers (the mechanics beers), and it was done. It cost us a lot but it worked and meant we could get on our way! By this time we were very much off schedule and once the rain kicked in at 5pm and it got dark we realised for our safety we needed to find somewhere to camp. We found a road off the main highway and snuck into a grassy area. The rain was pouring down but we manage to make chorizo pasta, but were in bed by 8.. Asleep by half 8! 

(Attempting to fix the car without Rob.. A scary thought! After charles was so covered in oil he had to have a shower on the side of the road!)

The next morning we finally had a use for our rain macs as it was still drizzling.. By the time we were on the road the sun was burning through and after a couple of hours we got to the water falls.. Finally! We were rewarded with the most stunning sight. Even driving up you could see the mist coming off them, Charles was happy! The water falls themselves emitted such a noise, with swallows dancing in and out it was magical! We were hounded by boys trying to make a living but feigning ignorance and no Portuguese helped! We felt lucky to be there and see it! Moving on we wanted to camp next to the Pedras Negras (the black rocks), which were a sight to behold km away. Huge rocky structures (much like the ones in Burkina), jutting out the ground in front of us made them hard to miss. We climbed up to the to tourist spot and were rewarded with stunning views.. Even took a few selfies! Despite the Local policeman miming we could stay there for free, the rain had started and we decided to head to a spot Andrew had recommended. There was a steam and we needed a bath! Arriving there some local boys were bathing and washing their clothes.. After the normal heckling they came over and tried to chat, looking at our paper maps and taking photos! There were very lovely, but we were glad when they left so we could use the stream! After two long days of driving, washing clothes and ourselves was a luxury! It was different, however, washing in a fairly obvious stream.. Charles has no issue .. Myself.. I am not yet quite that bold! That evening we cooked some steak and rice and sat on the rocks watching the sunset.. Fairly romantic even for us! The rain kicked in and it was another early night! What an amazing day!

(This needs no explanation

Waking up the next morning, we got out of the tent to some awesome mist. The mountains around us were invisible.. I can only compare it to a white out in the Alps. The tent went away soaking but we knew it would be out again. We wanted to head towards the coffee farm. Hitting the dirt road we knew we had 36km before it.. By the time we had driven 26km, due to the amount of water, we could not go any further. The roads (piste?!) were slippy, full of potholes along with deep ruts either side making it dangerous. It was here were realised our limits and despite there being only about 10km left, a slippery rocky incline stopped us. We were insanely frustrated, but at the same time looking back on it I am proud we knew where our limits were. With just us two and one car it could have ended in a bad situation. Adapting to one car, after being two cars plus a machanic is a shock! Also having broken my phone the night before, we had no means of communication! We got back to the main road to Quibela but it was not much better. The pot holes were up to 75cm deep, and in places it was safer to drive around the outside. It was like this for 40km, then more sporadic for 10km with the last being amazing tar.. By this point it was 5pm and we knew we needed to stop. Simone had told us about a cattle ranch on the outskirts of Quibella where they had stayed a few days before.. Ask for Bruno they said. At the gate we asked this but the security spoke only Portuguese, having no idea what he said I replied trying to mime to speak to the chief, but also said French. Luckily a coworker of his was coming out who could speak French. I explained about our friends staying here and could we speak to Bruno. He let us in and we drove onto this cattle ranch, the grass was almost electric green (we found out later it was imported from Brazil), and the Bulls HUGE! We met Bruno, and it was lucky he was in! Normally on a Saturday night he is in the bar but his son was ill so he was at home. He greeted in fluent English (he is from Portugal), he told us to park up, and over a beer told us about himself, his work and his life. Interesting man and another example of someone who is willing to help. Charles and I keep saying if more people came to the UK overlanding we would happily put people up! If you are one of those people please get in touch! He offered us a shower, toilet, water and some advice.. Get your dinner cooked before the storm. Over the tops of the mountains we could see the Lightning. As we ate our dinner it was coming over the mountains and by the time we had showered it was over us. The sound in our tent was insane, as if someone was shooting a gun. I was slightly nervous to Charles' amusement Luckily after an hour it had passed with no casualties. 

We headed towards Sumbe, and the roads were perfect. We hit shoprite by lunchtime (never good to shop when you are hungry), and headed towards the caves by the afternoon. Andrew had given us the coordinates, luckily, otherwise we would have missed them. We drove down a rocky road to the parking lot.. Luckily a family had just come up from there and spoke amazing English. They advised us to take a guide down and organised him. Our guide was only about 8.. However he walked down the mountain as if he was going for a stroll. It is funny, sometimes it is easier to converse with a child in another language than an adult. We had given him some water and he was chatting away (not sure what he was saying) and showed us the best view points for a photo! We walked down to the valley and entered the cave. It was just amazing, it must have been 100m high, and the increasing darkness as we walked in was surreal. We were joined by 4 other lads who took great joy in making howling noises to illustrate the echo, and were even more amused when Charles got bat poo on, and thought it was hilarious him trying to make the correct gestures to ask whether it was that! We walked to the end of the caves towards the light which came from the opening above us. Watching the rain and water come through the boy skimmed stones on the lake below! Walking back up was hard but we were so glad we did it! 

Coming out of the caves w decided to head to Lobito. We had heard that Kars had malaria and Simone was staying at the Zulu Resturant there, along with Patric and Kris. We arrived at 5.30 (the time the sat nav said!) and settled in for the night. Meeting up with them again was great. Waking up the next day, Kris treated us to coffee.. The coffee we had missed from not getting to the coffee farm! We reciprocated with our Togolese coffee but it sadly did not compare! Charles stayed at camp to fix an oil leak and we all headed off to see Kars. Before we got there we changed some dollars, this time we got 390 to the $.. Bargain! We got to the clinic and he was waiting for us, inpatient to get out! The bill came (we take it for granted having the NHS at home), and we all headed out for a celebratory coffee! Cakes and pizza slices later we headed back to the beach. 

I write this now with a gin and tonic in hand and an amazing view! Another good week in Angola!