Spectacular coastline and beautiful highlands of Angola (May 2014)

A day after the start of the malaria treatment we said our goodbyes and thanks to Mario who had been an amazing host throughout our time in Lobito and headed off. We took the rough coastal route which was very beautiful and deserted. Our task for the day was to follow the trails of tomatoes a truck must have had lost not long before and which were dropped over the distance of many kilometers. I guess it is necessary to mention that a bucket of tomatoes would easily set u back 20US$ in Angola so we scavenged whatever we could. That night we found us a little  wild camp in between some bushes but were not meant to have a rest just yet. During dinner a large black scorpion started running around our feet. A few minutes later we heard voices and people running in the bush which was very strange so far away from any settlement. We decided to rather move on a little but did not find our way back in between the bushes so easily. So we ended up in a gigantic spider web and a yellow spider as big as my fist was staring at us right in front of the windscreen. Eventually we found our way back to the piste and drove for another half hour or so before spending the night next to the road.

Heading south along the coast the piste turned into new tarmac and the landscape became more desert like again. We found a small track leading to a spectacular beach with high cliffs rising on one side and massive waves crashing on the other. At a small gorge we set up camp and enjoyed being almost completely on our own for the coming days. We had our first bonfire in a very long time with grilled cheese and stew cooked in the dutch oven (cast iron pot). From time to time we spotted dolphins jumping in the waves and the only human visitor during our stay was a local driving another 40 series Land Cruiser along the beach.

We took some of the smaller tracks close to the sea and found a small fishing village which felt a little bit like a ghost town. An abandoned colonial building was overlooking the settlement and fishing boats were rusting away on the shore. The few locals we met were either fishermen or salt farmers. The ocean presented itself in its best turquoise. At the small coastal town Namibe we turned inland to visit Lubango and its surrounding attractions. The road led to the edge of the large plateau which runs from north to south through Angola and Namibia. The drive was spectacular and we crawled up the Serra da Leba pass which consists of tight serpentines and a dramatic inclination from almost sea level to 1845m over a distance of just 10km. We enjoyed the fantastic views over the surrounding landscapes at the top of the pass with an ice cold Angolan beer.

In Lubango we visited the Statue of Christ overlooking the town which is a smaller version of its famous counterpart in Rio de Janeiro. It has been partly restored after the civil war but still bears its marks in form of bullet holes. In the afternoon we arrived at yet another stunning landmark in form of Tundavala. Here the plateau drops down for a straight 1000m and in the past convicted criminals had to walk over the edge and plunge into their deaths. Nothing reminds of that cruel history anymore though and the area is simply beautiful. We found ourselves a small clearing in between rock boulders close to the edge and spent two days enjoying the surrounding nature. The sunsets were breathtaking and the campfires much needed since we experienced the coldest climate since Morocco.

Heading back to the coast we had the pleasure of driving the Serra da Leba pass once more, this time downhill. Of course our GoPro camera decided to fly off in one of the serpentines which made for a bit of a dodgy stop. The plan from here on was to explore Angolas part of the Namibe desert which involved a bit more careful preparation than usual. The Land Cruiser was fuelled up to the very top, we bunkered plenty of water and had a last dip in the ocean before driving south. Surrounded by the rocky desert we turned off into the dry bed of the Flamingo River. The first beautiful springboks were spotted soon and even the famous Welwitschia Mirabilis plants showed up along the way. These plants are endemic to the Namibe desert and there are specimens thought to be over 2000 years old. They consist of some tough leaves spread on the ground and grow only very slowly. At the mouth of the Flamingo River we visited the South African run Flamingo Lodge which is a rustic place on a wild coast. I tried my luck at fishing again which was unsuccessful as always and we decided to camp at the lodge and enjoyed an evening with the only other guests, some South African sport anglers. The next morning we took a little drive to a beautiful canyon near the lodge. Back on the main road we went to Tombua for the uncertain last chance of refuelling before heading deeper into the desert.

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