Round Africa with a Surfboard

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by garnaro, Sep 25, 2013.

  1. garnaro

    garnaro MotoBlunderer

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2010
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Somewhere in Africa
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    During the last few years, there have been murmurs of endless barreling lefthanders somewhere in Angola. Two weeks before I’d left California in September 2013, some video footage surfaced on the internet that would seem put to rest any doubt that there are world class waves to be found somewhere out there in the desert.[​IMG]
    I was dressed head to heel in the red earth of the Congo when I finally emerged at the border with Angola and before long I found smooth tarmac guiding me south.
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    I bush camped my way across the north of Angola. Costs were shocking upon entering Angola even well outside the capital city of Luanda. Food in a restaurant of any kind could generally not be had for less than $20 and even very modest accommodation was $60 at the least, both of which were far beyond my daily budget. So it was that I arrived in Luanda a few days after crossing the border still caked in my Congo mud crust and with Dyna Rae sputtering from some bad gas poured from plastic bottles. Fortunately I’d met some other riders who lived in Luanda and had been following my trip on the web. In fact, their letter of invitation was key to my getting a visa to enter Angola at all. My hosts, Hugo and Alvaro, put a gin and tonic in my hand nearly before I got of the bike upon arriving at Alvaro’s restaurant inside the Villa Aruajo Resort.
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    The food and drinks kept coming, courtesy of Alvaro, as we had endless discussions about bikes. Alvaro rides a KTM 530 and Hugo just got a Honda XR650R, both of which are much lighter and with about 20 more horsepower than my humble machine. Alvaro is a new addition to the Angolan enduro racing circuit and is currently running in third place for the year. A pang of desire hit as I ripped around the parking lot on Hugo’s barky, aluminum framed XR. It was difficult to keep the front wheel in the ground. Not that I would ever stray from my girl Dyna Rae; she is my rock – steady, reliable, and strong, but it sure is nice to look around sometimes. Alvaro put me up in a room in the air-conditioned office of the restaurant providing me a much-needed reprieve from long days on the road. I washed my clothes, swam in the pool, cleaned Dyna’s filters, and Alvaro even had a pressure washer to give her a good scrubbing. I’d gone from bush camping to luxury accommodation. ADVrider hospitality takes the cake again.
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    Difficult as it was I finally tore myself from the comfort of Alvaro’s place to head south, I was ready to find some waves again. I found some beautiful spots, but my timing was poor and there was little swell in the water.
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    It’s amazing how within a few days of riding this little machine beneath me, I’ve moved from jungle, to plains and then to desert landscapes. As the air became drier to the south, the lush vegetation melted away and was replaced by rocky outcrops and low shrubs cut by sandy arroyos. If I didn’t know any better, I could easily mistake this landscape for the north end of the Baja peninsula of Mexico.
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    Riding out to look for surf in the Angolan desert feels a bike like riding to the end of the earth. The landscape is vast and desolate and laid to waste for extraction of resources beneath the surface. Angola is rich in petroleum, iron, and diamonds and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but despite its abundant natural resources, output per capita is among the world's lowest and subsistence agriculture provides the main livelihood for 85% of the population. Growth is almost entirely driven by rising oil production. After independence from Portugal in 1975, Angola was ravaged by civil war between 1975 and 2002 and is still rebuilding infrastructure.
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    Per my usual routine, after breaking my camp and orienting myself I went for a first exploratory venture looking for surf where the landscape told me I was most likely to find it. Each point of land held enough of a wave to keep me enticed to keep moving forward and see what was breaking on the next one.
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    It reminded me of another excursion long ago. When I was five years old, my brother and I went on our first adventure. It was up a winding creek bed behind our house. The banks had been steeply incised to create an earthen corridor with tangles of roots spilling out the sides. Our parents had no idea where we were and I knew that we weren’t supposed to be wandering off down a creek, but it was just too much fun to resist. Every time we rounded a bend, I would think to be satisfied just to see what was around the next one. But then there was another one ahead. On we went for hours until our parents were in a panicked state wondering where we were and called the police, landing my brother and I had in plenty of trouble.
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    The same driving feeling of needing to see what lie just ahead on the next point or section of reef was undeniable as I motored along these tracks all day in the Angolan desert. The tracks crisscrossed in every direction and with no indication of which way to go, the best I could usually do was to try to stay close to the coast. Sometimes that worked well enough and other times it landed my in a dune field that I certainly couldn’t traverse with my bike fully loaded and would be forced to backtrack. In sand, you really have to keep moving to not get stuck. So sometimes you just keep powering ahead in the hope that the loose sand will firm up ahead soon enough. Enthusiasm to see what was around the next bend once again got me in too deep.
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    Fully loaded and running high tire pressures, I was no match for the dune field that had covered the track. It was an hour of digging in the heat to get myself unstuck. When I finally managed it I made a retreat to the nearby town for a rest and a cold drink. At a street side café a curly haired guy approached smiling and said, “Hey, you must be Gary.” Nuno has been living here away from his home of Portugal for the last eight years and is the only surfer living on this stretch of the Angolan coast. He serves as kind of a de facto host for traveling surfers. Some friends in Luanda had let him know that I was headed this way and it wasn’t hard to track me down in this tiny town. I was more than happy to have someone to show me around the surf and keep me from getting stuck in dune fields. I spent the night sleeping in a hammock on Nuno’s patio and the next morning we surfed a shoulder high lefthander peeling onto a craggy urchin-encrusted reef. I hadn’t had any surf since Point Noire and I was super stoked from my first wave. Nuno was less lucky this day: he broke his board in half and got a foot full of urchins.
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    The little bit of swell in the water died after that, but there was another swell approaching the following week. I pitched my tent out at as desolate a campsite as I ever have found and waited. There were no trees or any shade whatsoever, so I balanced my board on top of the bike and spent most of the days cowering beneath the shadow that it cast. The fishermen came and went, the wind stirred and calmed, and the tide rose and fell, while I held steady at my little dessert camp.
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    I spent couple more nights in the hammock at Nuno’s place and we surfed some micro waves at a nearby beach.


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    This is going look rad. People are going to think I'm awesome.[​IMG]

    Oops. Maybe not.[​IMG]


    Then the much-anticipated swell arrived. I loaded Dyna up with water and provisions, got some instructions for where to head from Nuno and headed off into the desert for the week in search of the endless sand bottom point breaks.
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    After a few wrong turns on the desert tracks and crossing the edges of a few

    dunes I found what I was after – craggy black headland with a head high lefthander peeling along the sand. The wave was fast and long, with the section ahead of you always seeming to stand up taller than the one and you were on. It had had you constantly looking for the highest line you could find to get a few pumps and make it to the next section. If you made all of the sections, you earned yourself some burning thigh muscles and a half-mile walk back up the point to do it again.
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    The landscape was desolate, beautiful, and brutal. Sandstone mesas capped with harder rock were flanked by dendritic badlands in the distance. Flat coastal plateaus spread forever above jutting points and crescent beaches. The wind here is always offshore, but it never stops which ultimately wears on you being exposed all day long. When the wind was at its strongest, it would blow waves of sand across the beach that that would get into absolutely everything. After ever so carefully setting wind blocks and covering my pot to keep the sand out while cooking, I’d note my failure with the extra crunch to my pasta. My solace from the wind and sun was a single overhanging rock wedged into the sand dune made of the same shell rich conglomerate as the headland that formed the point.
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    The good thing about the wind and the desert was that my broken tent was no longer an issue for insects. More woes on the gear front though as my sleep mat exploded. My board bag is now my bed. I actually kind of like it. I spent five days racing along those watery walls in the desert in utter solitude. On the last day a pod of dolphins put on one of the most spectacular acrobatic wave riding exhibitions I’ve ever seen.
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    A subsequent effort with a few guys to reach a further flung wave beyond the dunes proved challenging.


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    I motored back to civilization with my stoke reservoir refilled and once again very grateful for the kindness of folks that I’d met along the way.


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  2. MeinMotorrad

    MeinMotorrad Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2012
    Oddometer:
    4,942
    Location:
    UK for now.
    Angola looks fantastic.
  3. DustyRags

    DustyRags Idiot

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,450
    Location:
    The Beast, California
    Screw student loans, I'm going to Africa!
  4. davidbrundage

    davidbrundage Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2008
    Oddometer:
    176
    Location:
    costa mesa, ca
    Dude, this is truly a legendary ride report.
  5. HoboMoto

    HoboMoto Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2014
    Oddometer:
    17
    Really making me want to do Africa instead!
  6. sunset_ryder

    sunset_ryder aka "toots"

    Joined:
    May 26, 2011
    Oddometer:
    896
    Location:
    New Mexico
    Awesome reporting, beautiful pictures, an adventure to be sure! Keep up the good work we'll be waiting from cubicle land.:clap


    I actually find myself worrying about you. What's up with that?
  7. Hunter-Douglas

    Hunter-Douglas rube

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2013
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Truckee-Tahoe Int.
    The pad that exploded, did you say it was an exPed?

    Dude, not to go on but I bought one with about 5 other people before going out on course back in college. By day 15 of the trip all of them were down and out. Every single one. All them blew at the seam welding in between the baffles, so no way you can patch it. I switched to foam and a half pad thermarest combo. I like you're surf bag pad going, the best sleep I've gotten in the woods was a climbing crash pad.

    Sorry that happened to you. I literally haven't heard of one person I know buying one and not blowing the seams. What a POS.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  8. zwild

    zwild Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    73
    Location:
    Northville Mi
    Such a great read, thanks man.
  9. sunset_ryder

    sunset_ryder aka "toots"

    Joined:
    May 26, 2011
    Oddometer:
    896
    Location:
    New Mexico
  10. dcmspikes

    dcmspikes Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    34
    Location:
    costa mesa ca
    man, just amazing. every few days i check up to see if you've had a chance to add to your story. i am blown away right now. those pictures are amazing and I'm not even talking about the empty surf ones.

    ironically its Santana's here in SoCal. today i was thinking what it would be like if the wind were always offshore. and now i read about you dealing with that reality.
    its strange to think that not that long ago you were sitting where i am. enjoying someones else's adventure and now you are out there. congratulations, can't wait til the next report.
    stay safe
  11. Sandspit

    Sandspit Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    109
    Location:
    Fl
    amazing report, looks like you got swell right now on the SW coast of Africa. This coming Saturday should be good according to wave models. Is J-Bay on your list as a final destination? Wave models show it going off this Saturday and again next Thursday 5/22 --- 8' 14 secs.

    Any encounters with sharks yet? Where I live they are everywhere, a 12 foot tiger was caught off the beach a few miles away from my home break. It is hard not to think about them when you are surfing alone. That feeling goes away when you are in a crowd, safety in numbers or at least stats are better that you will not be the one bit. Good on you for scoring 5 days of solo sessions at a decent pt break.

    edit: Man, just as I was posting someone got bit at our local beach

    Florida Today Headline
    Shark bites woman off Melbourne Beach


    Medical helicopter requested


  12. zwild

    zwild Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    73
    Location:
    Northville Mi
    Uh huh, still the best RR EVER.
  13. Lacedaemon

    Lacedaemon Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    631
    Location:
    Maryland
    Note that the name of the 5 star report is "MetalJockey." :evil
  14. robincx

    robincx Wherever u go, there u r

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2008
    Oddometer:
    112
    Location:
    Global - WNY base
    I feel like a kook for just catching this RR, but I also feel much, much richer for having read it, post by post over the past couple hours. Adventure riding, surfing, excellent photography and brilliant writing have made your journey one of the best to date. Thank you.
  15. rpet

    rpet Awesometown

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2010
    Oddometer:
    831
    Location:
    El Lay

    He's from the Red Triangle, man.
  16. garnaro

    garnaro MotoBlunderer

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2010
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Somewhere in Africa
  17. garnaro

    garnaro MotoBlunderer

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2010
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Somewhere in Africa
    Might go BigAgnes for a replacement. Until then, I've actually gotten pretty used to the board bag..
  18. garnaro

    garnaro MotoBlunderer

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2010
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Somewhere in Africa
    thanks man, and thanks to everyone else for the kind words :thumb
    the wonder of the internet, eh?
  19. garnaro

    garnaro MotoBlunderer

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2010
    Oddometer:
    372
    Location:
    Somewhere in Africa
    Bummer on the shark attack. I haven't seen any on this trip and hope not to, but every surfer I meet from South Africa seems to have a shark story!

    Swell hit pretty good here in Namibia this weekend - rode a cranking wave that's received lots of play on youtube over the last few years..

    Should get to J-bay in the next couple of months
  20. capojoe

    capojoe n00b

    Joined:
    May 18, 2014
    Oddometer:
    2
    Location:
    South Africa
    I must have gone past you some where in Africa. I left Londeon on 15 Jan and just got to Cape Town last week. Also did the west coast of Africa, it was a blast. Hope to get some funds and repairs sorted then might do west coast. Untill then, if you make it to Durban, look me up we have great surf here ;-)
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