Angola – Update and Binga Bay to Flamingo Bay 26th to 29th June 2010

We took off northwards rolling between two walls of mopani bush along a dusty single lane track towards a destination unknown to any of us. The grand Angolan Adventure has begun.
 We have covered some four and a half thousand kilometres since leaving home and in Angola we have taken a route from Ruacana to Cahama, to Lubango, north-west to the coast, descending two thousand two hundred metres to Benguela and Lobito, south to Dombe Grande, Lucira and Namibe. The driving has been arduous but then we have had some small surprises of newly laid bitumen, thanks to the Chinese. Access to the coves on the coast is very rough. To travel here you have to be totally self-sufficient and have experience of remote driving, without support. Mercifully the Crowther families have been under cars and bushwhacking for generations. Water is accessed in some villages through their wells; fuel supplies outside the major towns is unreliable. Markets have been the source of bread, fruit and vegetables.



This is an unlucky country. The ravages of war have stripped the slightest prospect of improving the majority of Angolans lives. Comfort and poverty stand only steps apart. Yet, as elsewhere in Africa, we are greeted with beaming smiles as we creep, jolt and bump through the countryside. 
At checkpoints, of which there are many, entering and exiting small towns, we were stopped on occasions. As we approached the coastline the police have become more relaxed, waving us past, sporting shining aviator sunglasses.  The World Cup is blaring out of these stations through grainy television sets and battered radios. Once, when we were stopped in the interior, a glum, vacant looking Angolan with skin so black that it shades towards violet, achingly fills out names and passport details on a dirty scrap of paper. We wait in the sweating heat patiently, and the girls in the party entertain the local children with some improvised dance moves.  
The infrastructure for tourism is non-existent and since crossing the border, we have seen no foreign vehicles. Our fly-camps have been in dry riverbeds, on the edge of granite koppies and expansive beaches. We have approached locals, as a courtesy, to seek permission to camp. As we are a curiosity the herdsmen and local children will often hover some yards away, unobtrusively. We have seen next to no wildlife and birds. According to reports the Cubans, during the war, used to climb into helicopters and shoot anything that moved. The game has been decimated and is not recovering. 
As we drive south from Benguela we hit the desert; white and glimmering like a salt spill, without a blade of grass, devoid of redemption. Settlements are stuck together lackadaisically with clay and dung, hammered out of plywood and tin, swarming, stuffy and miserable. Local marketwomen set out their wares on scraps of linen: meaty bananas, hens eggs, red pili-pili, dried corn. 
So far our aquaculture specialist, Señor Stubbs, has been heading the table for fish; Charlie has been shredding his fingers on banks of giant mussels; Wendy’s cackle and energy has been keeping the local tribes alert ; Julie has willingly absorbed a needle in Lobito, administered by a student doctor; James has been master of the Dogcatcher, dismantling the carburettor on a remote beach and leading us through the routes; Winnie has been spouting forth Afrikaans jokes around the fire; Catherine has mastered the art of washing hair under a village water pump. The children have amused themselves inconspicuously and thown themselves into activities with relish. 
The trek has breached its half way point and we have been joined at Flamingo Bay, halfway between Namibe and Tombua by Mike and Sabine Bosman, Lisa, Aimee, Nicky Crowther and an old Angolan hand Gerhard Franken. Mike has flown them up to join us for a few days of fishing and bring in some welcome provisions, bubbly on ice and an enormous chocolate cake which has passed through three airport scanners and perplexed customs officials. 
We head south on the 29th of June to tackle the remote and treacherous sand beach to the Kunene mouth with some trepidation, as in the last few days two vehicles were swamped by the Atlantic: one recovered and one has joined the wrecks off the Skeleton Coast. A bedraggled couple wait at Flamingo, who have been offered seats with Mike to Cape Town tomorrow. All for now… All in good spirits and looking forward to the adventurous route to the mouth.

6 Comments

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Caroreply
June 30, 2010 at 09:06 AM

Great to get an update on the african adventure!
Hope there will be an even bigger chocolate cake, lots of bubbles and spoils for the next birthday celebration!!
Missing you madly my darling friend.
Dying to hear all about your adventures, and dying just have a good old catch up.
Travel safely and have a blast.
Lots love
me

Su Eversonreply
June 30, 2010 at 10:06 AM

Hi you guys – just great to read your story thus far, and see pics. What a great adventure !! Hope the Dog Catcher hangs in there, and just dying to see you……. take care, and enjoy every single second of this wonderful sojourn!
Lots of love, Su xxxx

Christiereply
June 30, 2010 at 11:06 AM

Great to read the update – all sounds incredible!! Can’t wait to hear about it in person!! So glad you’re all safe too. Stay in touch – enjoy those magnificent African sunsets for me! Love from sunny London xx Miss you Cath!!

Swiftyreply
June 30, 2010 at 12:06 PM

Hi Cath & Joe,
Wonderful reading your journal posts. It truley sounds like the grave and brave fronteir. Lets hope that what Angola lacks in game and birds it more than makes up in fishing. Now is there a story behind your Baia ‘Farter’ birthday shirt Joe?
Cath i missed you most on the 21st, you were significantly absent at my first birthday party in Cape Town in 4 years. One of which you joined us in Durban for, of course. But to tell you, that it was lovely to see the gang, and all those dear to me at Addis restraunt where we ate the table (very Etheopian). And Portugal did their best to intertain us with their 7 goal bonanza at the game earlier in the day. But i’m sure that kind of news will have been apparent in even as remote a place as you are. I got back from Durban last night just in time to skuttle off to the Spain v Portugal game last night (Spain won). Tash is off to NY on Friday, and then i’ve got 2 weeks to prepare for our move to the Aba end of July. Its all happening so quickley. I’ve not really even speant any time at the new studio.
I’m rambling. Just wanted to say how chuffed we all are that you’re adventuring. Thanks for the up dates.
Much love,
Swifty

Carol and Peterreply
June 30, 2010 at 02:06 PM

soooooooooooo glad to hear something. really hope things are as good as they look in the pics. make sure you have every move charted….especially the shad. we miss you kate and love you
dad

Oupareply
July 01, 2010 at 03:07 PM

Many thanks for your welcome excerpt from your diary, in your usual enigmatic and colourful prose. Loved all the pics and pleased to see that ablutionary niceties are still being maintained!
You have obviously been kept up-to -date with the elimination of most of the major European countries (other than Spain and Germany) in the World Cup, who have all departed with their tails well between their legs, and copious scrambled egg on faces!!
You may well have heard also; that England have walloped the Ozzies 3-0 at cricket, with two to play in a now-dead rubber, Murray is through to the semis against Nadal at Wimbledon (Federer knocked out) and Ian McGeecken has joined Bath as Director od Rugby.
Alles van die beste and lekke trek.
Oupa

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