Saturday, 13 August 2011

Angola - The place where I could lose myself!

Boys, carrying plastic bags filled with all kinds of groceries, hanging from their shoulders, arms and waists. Hoardes of people, customs control officers, cargo trucks, motorbikes, women with huge parcels wrapped in colorful cloth on their heads. A plethora of colorful chaos!
This is what I experienced as I crossed the border from Namibia into Angola.

In the days when I had my head burried in maps, planning my route, my eyes would always fall back onto Angola. In my mind, that has always beent he point where the adventure 'really' begins. The point where I would enter the unknown and be left to fend for myself. Real, wild, untamed Africa!!!

What I have experienced so far is worlds apart from the usual stories you'll hear about the dangers in Angola. Granted, I have never been so nervous to have a wee in the bush. Not knowing whether it might be my last. Landmines!! Probably the thing that comes to mind when you think of Angola.

I soon learned that the part of the countryI am traveling through is clear of mines. I alsoo learned that, just because you don't see people, it doesn't mean that they're not there! I am still amazed at how many people live in the bush, next to the road, some deeper in. And they are everywhere!!

My favorite time of day soon became the end of the day. As the sun heads further west and takes with it it's light, I would sit next to my tnet and listen to the boys and older men herding their cattle. Leading them home. Whistling and peculiar sounds, mixed with the calls of the cattle, sounds of birds, frogs and crickets. Then, when I have finished eating my supper and crawl into my tent...the music starts. And then the singing, and I can hear people near and far, celebrating the end of another beautiful day in Africa.

At the border I met Norbert, sent by Raymond in Lubango. He helped me through the border, with enchanging money, getting a new sim card for my phone etc.
In Ondjiva I stayed with a couple, originally from Zimbabwe, who have been here for almost 9 years. Further on, in Xangongo I stayed with a group of men in a compound called Bavaria. I arrived a stranger, but they welcomed me as family.

Then, before Humbe, my first dreaded 'customs control point'.
"If they give you any hassles, just play dumb", I had been told. These uniformed men, did not even ask to see my passport. They just smiled and wanted to take photos with me instead.

After Humbe, came a very famous stretch of road. Famous for it's ability to swallow a vehicle whole in some of it's very impressive potholes!!! This would  be the first REAL test for Luna and my gear. Would she hold up through all the shaking, ducking and diving potholes and relentless thick sand!?
82Km on the worst road I have ever cycled on. And I covered it in one day!!! Wooooohhhooooo.
And on this stretch I experienced tear jerking kindness. A taste of what lies ahead!!
About halfway through, a big Coca-Cola truck slowly rolled up towards me where I was taking a break under a tree. Two Angolan men, with beaming smiles got out of the truck. "Would you like a Coke", one of them asked? "Does Barbie have fake hair"(As Hanret would say) :)
And not only did they give me a Coke, they also gave me a block of ice and some cold water!! How awesome is that!!?? I thanked them and they moved on, leaving me in a blanket of dust...but with a big smile on my face!

Just before Cahama (from here there's a tar road), I passed two trucks with Namibian number plates. As I passed the first truck I saw two men standing next to the second, chatting. I hit the brakes and greeted them (in Afrikaans of course). And here, the start of another beautiful friendship. They stocked me up with enough canned foods to last me a week, biltong, frozen boerewors (sausage), filled up my water bottles for me AND gave me a chocolate! LoL. How lucky can a girl get? Randa and Namibian trucker guardians. :)

The rest of the trek up to Lubango was a long, hot, uphill slog. But I cycled, every single day, with a smile on my face. Angola is such a beautiful country! And the people...are so friendly and welcoming. I make a point of greeting every single person that I pass. (This becomes a little challenging as you make your way further becomes a greet a second!)
In Lubango I took a three-day break. Staying with Raymond and Heike Steiner. A Namibian couple who have also been in Angola for close to a decade.
It took me sixteen days. Sixteen days of non-stop cycling....from Windhoek to Lubango. And it was worth every drop of sweat!!! Raymond and Heike treated me to wonderful food, great company...and taking me to see some of Lubango's most amazing and beautiful sights. This is the first town I almost got stuck in! :)

From Lubango, the trek up towards Lobito delivered more seredipitous encounters. I met Hannes Botha and Nico van Vollenstee (From South Africa), who saved me from having to spend a night without a sleeping bag (Lost my sleeping bag)...and have by now become two of my closest friends here in Angola. I also met another trucker from Namibia, who supplied me with ice cold Coca-Cola on two occassions on the road. (And some cold water).

Now...the lost sleeping bag a long one. In a nutshell: I lost both my sleeping bag and spare tyre. Hannes and Nico found me next to the road on their way back to Lubango from Lobito. And they sponsored me a new sleeping bag and tyre in Lobito. Drove me to Lobito to buy the items.
My first night in Lobito, I spent with Hannes, Nico and Werner. Werner Weakley (From Namibia). Another person that will forever hold a special place in my heart! Someone that has shown me a great deal of kindness.

As I saddled up to leave Lobito, on route to first tyre gave in. Tread still good...but the tyre wall was finished. (These are the Schwalbe Smart Sam's I started with). Luckily I had a spare!!!! But....tyre 2 also gave in. And here, Werner rescued me. We couldn't find a spare tyre in Lobito. Luanda is too far away. So get this.....he had tyres couriered from WINDHOEK to the border. Where he has now picked them up and they are on route to Lobito!!

Words, can never describe just how unbelievably grateful I am to all these strangers, who have taken me under their wings. My guardians on the road....on my journey.

Sponsors are still a big problem...but what I am experiencing now I can describe by using the following analogy: 'you know that picture you get in your mind, where there's a fire, and you have people lining up, passing buckets of water to save what is theirs'? Well that is how I feel. Africa is lining up...and the people of Africa is passing me on, one to the next. Protecting what is theirs!

And so I find myself....stuck in Lobito. For now. ;)

Hannes, Nico, Werner and I at 'Zulu'. Restaurant in Restinga, Lobito.

View from 'Zulu'.

In Lobito.

There are hoardes of motorbikes in Angola!

Lobito Harbour.

Donations or country sponsorships can be done through Paypal – visit the SPONSOR A COUNTRY page for more details!! Otherwise, drop Jolandie or Hanret a mail.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, it would seem that Jolandie has "lost herself" somewhere in Angola. We are worried. Please let us have some updates, it's nearly 2 weeks since the last one. Jolandie, hope all is well, take care. Twenty Eight.