Savouring the delights before 'Big bad', Luanda....
24st February, 2014
We knew we had 250 kilometres to Luanda, and from the travel book’s descriptions, it promised to be a special ride.
Breakfast at the coolest, and probably only, decent coffee / café / pasteleria in town proved disappointing, as their coffee machine gave up on the customer before us! Sleeping in the dungeon, one needs the small rewards of a great cup of coffee to keep the spirits firing! Not the end of the world, will almost for me, we settled for juices and the typical Portuguese breakfast cakes.
We started the day with a an 8 kilometre ride back to see the new port construction site, which is a huge hive of activity, but we weren’t allowed into the site to see the specifics.
We were soon on our way, once again a very interesting road, both in variety of path and scenery. We had seen them in one are before, but today the terrain was just taken over by this type of cactus tree that almost looks like a candelabra tree… It started off with just patches of three or four together but soon there were almost forests of them, very special. We skirted a huge rain cloud that followed the north / south mountain range to our east.
Threatening clouds brewing and the Candelabra type trees
To our west the terrain from these ‘candelabra’ forests, palms, and quite arid semi desert conditions. Every now and then we dipped down into a lush green valley, clearly a river running in from the mountain range, providing the visible fertility. The best example of this was the Kwanza river at the entrance to the Quicama National Park, which stretches for 130 kilometres to just 80 kilometres before Luanda. Interestingly the soil colour started changing from grey / white desert sand to bright red, iron rich, and fertile looking soil, as we approached wetter Luanda.
Sadly, birds and wild life seem few and far between in Angola, I sense the warm and a hunting culture have taken their toll on the wilderness. I saw one African fish eagle, two bateleurs, a bunch of Flamingo, some open bill storks, the odd getaway bird, lots of pied crows, egrets, but not much else. It would seem like a perfect natural environment for wildlife, so maybe as tourism develops, wildlife will be imported in to complement the seemingly valuable, natural land asset.
About 50 kilometres from Luanda we stopped at the Miradoura da Lua, an extensive plateau ridge that falls steeply down to the sea, exposing a rock / sand surface that is very susceptible to wind erosion. The wind has carved this amazing lunar like landscape into the exposed embankment, and the layered earth, with its contrasting colours makes for a truly amazing spectacle of grandiose scale.
The huge sprawl of Luanda came into sight, and with it came a huge increase in road traffic, we were getting really close to our ultimate, ‘team destination’, and I could feel my heart rate step up a beat or two…. I could see the city was massive, and maybe I should be taking the travel guides warnings of very difficult, road navigation, seriously.
It was 3pm and after seeing what lay ahead and how we felt at this time of the day, I suggested to Rob we stay somewhere just outside the city, and wake up fresh and early to take on its challenge in the morning. He agreed and soon after that I saw this sign for a pension, that also had a swimming pool and restaurant…. Perfect, self-contained and some ‘luxury’ comforts, and from the sign it looked ‘our market’…
Bear in mind ‘our market’ in Angola is dungeon type, and as you can see from the sign, it didn’t stir a huge amount of inspiration! Well the road to get there was shocking: Long, sandy and we must have passed at least three massive garbage dumps right on the road next to us…. Soft sand caught us twice, both nearly fell, but we agreed we had come far enough that we were unconditionally committed to the end goal. Eventually it turned up: A brand new hotel / pension in the most unlikely location, that we found out later doesn’t even have municipal power, but its own two diesel generators, that run 24hrs a day! The pool area was inviting, the staff friendly, the place spic and span, it was just about price. Well we had to use our honeymoon suite’ bargaining strategy, and eventually had to settle for a ‘honeymoon’ suite, and Rob and I would finally get to sleep together! The price was high, but just within ‘our’ range…Happiness, because going back on that road straight away would have been soul destroying!
‘OUR’ honeymoon bed....!
We both agreed that we had a good strategy, and that this place was the ‘perfect’ place to chill out and ready ourselves for the ‘final push’ tomorrow!
We had a lovely dinner at the complex restaurant, and then straight to bed…. I sensed we had a big day ahead, and I was looking forward to the big city challenge!