Angola; it's not like they said.
This trip was going to be different.
I for one, have never updated my will before any other trip. And I wasn't alone. Out of the five of us that were going, three updated their wills and/or life insurance policies in the weeks before we left.
Where were we going?
Ok, so it may have been a bit of an over reaction, but I had a couple of concerns about this trip. Most of these concerns turned out to be baseless. Some turned out to be valid.
I'll get back to these as the trip unfolds.
For those who are unfamiliar with Angola, a short intro:
Angola was under Portuguese colonial rule since the 1500's. Around 1961 a violent uprising of the indigenous people signalled the start of a civil war that finally ended in 2002. Yes, only 5 years ago.
In 1975 when the Portuguese granted Angola independence, three new factions called the MPLA, FNLA and Unita, received military backing from Cuba (Soviet puppet) and South Africa (American puppet) respectively. All combatants planted landmines, some with maps, some without and many individual mines that did not form part of a mine field.
In 1994, during a lull in the fighting, studies were conducted on the landmine situation and estimates of between 1 and 2 million mines were mentioned. That is 1-2 mines per person in the country! Since then there has been an extensive ongoing clearing operation run by many different groups.The clearing of mines is clearly having a positive impact. In 2003 there were 270 reported new mine casualties, in 2004 191 and 2005 only 96.
Today the country is trying to stand up from the ashes. Fourty years of war leaves a lot of ashes.
So much for the history lesson, back to the trip.
The merry band of adventurers;
and finally me
Not much to say about the 3500km trip to Ruacana in Namibia except that we did manage to get some shuteye.
Against all expectation we find that Ruacana boasts a very nice new lodge with accomodating staff that are quite happy to let us leave the bus & trailer in their grounds for 2 weeks.
We load up and finally throttles get twisted and the trip starts.
First up is the border post. And for the first time (for me), at a Namibian border post, all the engine and chassis numbers are checked. Minutely and in detail. Which then also teaches Nardus that his 950's chassis number differs from his registration papers with one digit. Almost stops his trip right there. But sanity prevails and we finally mosey on over to the Angolan Customs and Immigration.
Now here's an interesting bit. You can only visit Angola by invitation. In order to get a 30 day visa you have to have a written invitation from a resident who will be responsible for you while you are there. So they are not really big on tourism.
Also stories abound about the border guards making travellers unpack all they carry down to the last tin, unless you offer a bribe. We had none of that. Although we know no Portuguese and they cannot speak English and all the forms are in Portuguese only, we had no trouble at all and found the customs and immigration people very friendly and helpful.
With high spirits we hit the road for all of about 60m before we get sidetracked for a beer break. Excellent, I like this country already.
In short thrift we are joined by the border police guy and the customs guy from the Namibian side? None of this officious officialdom shit over here. I like it.
Ruacana is a minor border post and it shows.When we hit the road again it's off into the bush on an enjoyable track. One rest stop later and we pull into Chitado. Chitado is one of those towns that were shot to shit and not yet rebuilt.
Some images of the town.
We manage to find the local pub. Check out the stock.
The first day of our trip and Fred is already missing his family.
An old timer getting comfortable. It was bloody hot, even the walls of the building was hot to the touch.
A not-so-old-timer getting comfortable. Notice the red ochre and fat mix that is rubbed into the skin. This is the Himba tribe. They are nomads that live in Northern Namibia (Kaokoland) and South Western Angola.
We socialize here for quite some time and the locals enjoy having their pictures taken. The digital camera again shows it's myriad of benefits. This woman belongs to the Herero. They share a language and distribution area with the Himba, but the two tribes do not inter-marry.
We reluctantly take our leave and the road turns into a lovely fast red strip with bouncies.
This lasts until we leave the main road and turn west. Almost immediately the twin track gets sandy and twisty and Fred gets his first opportunity to lie down with his bike. This was to turn into a common theme. A little later in the afternoon Nardus got his chance, Hennie early the next morning and myself shortly thereafter. Michnus made it to day three before he had his first lie down. All of us continued to get regular opportunities on a daily basis.
A short rest stop amongst some Baobabs.
As I mentioned, it's nice and hot and a bit of shade is welcome.
We start hitting river beds and Nardus gets some excercise.
Michnus on the throttle.
Nardus piloting his leisure liner.
We decide to make camp under a huge tree in the river bed and it's good to get the kit off. Still hot as hell though. It only cooled down just before dawn the next morning.
Sunset on day one and no body or bike is broken. Yeah baby, life is good and it's gonna get better.
Wow! Looking forward to the rest of the story. Fantastic start!
Angola!! First ever report from there on this site! Fantastic!! Thanks for the report and pics and for taking us along on your exotic destination! :thumb
when you say Angola single track, this is what i visualize.
you have any problems?
No, thankfully not.
The next day were' up and at it early. It only starts feeling like a trip to me if the day starts with me waking up on the ground somewhere next to my bike.
The day starts out with no plan to reach any place in particular. Let me explain. The route we are planning on following is the source of most of my concerns. It goes through a wilderness area where we need to be self sufficient in all respects.
Depending on terrain, we expect it to take 4 - 6 days to reach civilisation again. This presents 4 problems.
1 - Fuel. We would have to carry a full tank plus an extra 30l each. That's a shitload of weight and space. One solution would be to take a backup vehicle. None of us were keen on that idea though. It is after all a BIKE trip.
2 - Food. We would have to carry enough food for a week. This is not too difficult. Generally one can survive comfortably on a tin of canned food a day. So each rider just have to carry 6 or so tins of bully beef or chilli sardines (for the gourmets) or whatever tickles your fancy.
3 - Water. This is a bigger problem. Riding would require you to have at least 4-5 litres of water per person per day. There's just no way you can carry that on top of the fuel load. And fuel gets preference. And when you are short of water things can turn very unpleasant.
What we do is each rider carries 5l of water. That's enough for one day or maybe even two if the riding is easy. Our route will take us to the mouth of the Kunene river where we can stock up on river water. We figure we could reach the river mouth (Foz do Cunene) at the end of day two. (We were wrong of course, it took us 4 days.)
4 - Medical emergency. There is always a possibility of getting hurt on any trip. Here however, help was going to be far far away. We were able to obtain a couple of ampules of Pethadine for that crushed-pelvis-with-bones-protruding situation. We also hoped to be able to secure a satelite phone, this however didn't happen. So if you were not able to ride out, you were going to have to wait at least 5 days for someone to come get you.
I don't deal well with pain.
So that's why we aren't going anywhere in particular. With all the beer drinking yesterday we know we have no chance of reaching Foz do Cunene by nightfall. So we are just going to ride to where we get to.
The morning ride is excellent, varying from splendid sightseeing to some more challenging stuff.
We meet some locals along the way.
They have good looking cattle.
But the people are even better looking. This girl is bringing the cattle to drink.
We take a break here and try the water but our stomachs would never make it.
We have some lively discussion regarding where we are going to sleep. There is a road (I use the term loosely) heading down to the Kunene river. There is also a track leading from the river which intersects the road we are on some ways further. It would be good to sleep at the river and it wouldn't hurt filling up our water supplies.
On the other hand, the track leading from the river has this warning on it.
If we can follow this track we won't have a problem. If we can't and have to backtrack, we may run out of fuel before we get to Tombwa (civilisation).
Why do we believe that we may be able to follow this track?
Next installment will explain all.
Helluva great story! Finefine pics!
Wow! What a true adventure. :thumb
Really enjoying your story, and wonderful pics...
thats and adventure...
Fantastic story so far! :clap
"Dead End.. Landmines Further." :eek1
[edit, stupid fingers...]
Wow, a cliff hanger.
Excellent writing, thank you.
A trip into Angola, that's impressive. Nice report so far...thanks for showing us a country that we rarely see.
Did you run into Robert Young Pelton? :lol3
most excellent so far gents, keep it coming.
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