Monday, September 24, 2007

Angola, it's not like they said. (Ep.3)


Michnus and myself have no idea what's happened behind us. All we know is it can't be good.

When we ride in remote areas such as this, we always try to be at least three riders. This allows one to stay with an injured rider while the third goes for help. Behind us are three riders but not one of them made it out of the doodsakker. I would expect at least one to come through with an update.

With no-one forthcoming, I can only think of two explanations.

I was in front and I don't have the GPS. Maybe the route veered away from the beach through an unseen gap in the dune. I very seriously doubt it though. I've been hugging that dune like I hugged Leonie Van Der Walt when she pulled me into her ample bosom the first time at a school dance. If there was a gap, I would have seen it. The other reason could be that someone is dead. I cannot think of any other reason that all three bikes will stay away.

We cannot go back. We had hoped that we could all leave Foz do Cunene with a full tank of fuel. This did not happen. Except for one bike, everybody had already started using their last tank in the desert. Fuel moved from being the main priority to being the only priority. On this, both Michnus and myself agree. There's no way we are going to be riding in any direction, but to Tombua.

We can make camp here and wait until tomorrow, but what if they still don't turn up? Then we've wasted a day and we're still in the same position. And it's not like we're overstocked on food either.

Michnus says he still saw Fred's headlight behind him not too far back. Maybe one or two kilometres. So we decide to walk back.

The walking turns out to be little different from the riding. It's more slogging than walking. Every step sinks in. In the beginning we still take a picture or two when we come across something interesting.

This one is my favourite:
Jackall spoor.

After about an hour's walk I climb onto the dune to see if I can get a better view. Surprisingly it's easier to walk on the dune. So we move upstairs.

We also get to see what the interior looks like. Damn!

And we walk and we walk.

Two and a half hours walking brings us upon this scene.

We learn of what happened. At this stage we don't know his ankle is broken. Fred isn't willing to take off his boot for fear of not being able to get it back on. Good call. We are over here:

It's not like we can summon an ambulance. He's gonna need that boot to get out of here.

The twenty minutes or so it took to get Fred and his bike recovered from the sea, had shut the door on the doodsakker. So they decided to ram the bikes as far up the dune as they can and wait out the tide. It would have been plain stupid to try and send one rider through to us.

We are very lucky that the sea is relatively calm. The waves make us nervous but it does not reach the bikes.

I had always reasoned that, worst case scenario, we can always drag the bikes up the dune. Being here it's clear that that was never gonna happen.

Fred's bike amazes everyone. The only damage from the cartwheel is a bent handlebar, a throttle that is now manual and some broken indicators. By the time Fred was sorted, the bike had been lying in the waves for probably 15 minutes. Yet it fired into life like nothing untoward had happened. Score! Two problems solved; we do not need to recover a broken bike and Fred has transport.

It's too bad that it had to be Fred. It could have been any of us. Every day so far he had to work three times as hard as the rest of us. Every day so far he had an off. Twice he got hurt. The ankle that now broke is the same one that took the punishment two days before (remember the helmet wedge pic?). Every night he would be pleased at how he exceeded his own abilities that day.

He has a lot to digest whilst lying against this dune. Taking a tumble like that messes with your head quite a bit. By this afternoon when the tide goes out again, he needs to be ready to get back on the bike and once again attack the sand monster. This time with one leg he can't use, bent handlebars and a sticky throttle.

I really feel for him, I feel even worse for not being able to offer any help. He is on his own in this.

We agree that they will try to ride out on the afternoons low tide. If it comes too late they'll catch the next morning's. Me and Michnus should return to our bikes and wait.

We rest for an hour or so and then start the walk back. As we leave we see a grey mass come in from the south. It's a cold wind racing over the Benguela current.

Neither Michnus nor myself can be called fitness freaks. This time it takes longer than two and a half hours. We are so knackered that we stop to rest three times with our bikes already in view. They are filthy dirty. There will have to be a total strip down.

This foul wind is icy cold and we pitch tents to get out of it.

The poor bastards against the dune don't have that luxury.

Beach holiday my ass.

Late that afternoon we hear the bikes over the wind. They made it. While we pull our tents down Nardus is doing his 'Tough Biker' impression.

While the rest of us kick the shit out of my bike, Hennie and Fred gets going. While he can, he must ride. They'll wait for us where the route veers back into the interior.
When we finally get going the riding is suddenly easy. We still ride the wet stuff but there is grip in most places and we can get the speed up nicely. There's also a wide beach to run to when the waves come in.

As the afternoon slows into a sunset, one after the other the bikes start hitting reserve. We are still carrying about 7 litres in containers. Everybody knows how far his bike can go on reserve and we only stop for fuel when empty is imminent. We start sharing out the fuel at about a litre a time. We know we might not make it but now we are close enough to Tombua to walk out in one or two days max. It may be unpleasant, but it is do-able.

Along the beach the scenery is spectacular. It is really enjoyable riding. In our country all beach riding is banned. We are getting our fill now.

At the final wreck Hennie and Fred is waiting.

When we get there, the day is gone.

It is here that we turn inland. With the wind, camping doesn't look like such a peachy idea. We decide to keep going.

As Fred tries to clear the shelf dropping onto the beach he goes down. He goes down on the sore leg. I feel it. This would not to be the last time. If you cannot use your leg to steady the bike, then that's the side you will fall onto more often.

It gets dark. My bike has no lights and neither does Hennie's. We are riding in the desert again on a reasonable track with the odd sandy stretch. It's not that pleasant without lights. But it is possible for us to get to Tombua tonight still. It's been three days since we've seen a beer.

We suddenly hit a tall dune and Fred just plain flies up it. Both me and Hennie have to take more than one run at it. Looks like Fred wants to get to Tombua without any fannying about.

I find that riding sand blind is actually easier as I do not see the sandy bits coming. I only feel it and respond. Who would've guessed.

In the mean time, our reserve fuel is no more. The next bike that runs out, runs out. It's just incredible that we can cut it this close after 6 days of riding over all kinds of terrain.

Five guys caress their throttles in the most sensitive manner. We roll into Tombua on fumes and milliliters. We pull straight into the filling station. Relief! Shit, we made it. We're back in civilization. People all over!

We are filthy and fucking tired. Tombua is a fishing port. I know that there is no accommodation, not even a camp site. But once again the good people of Angola humble us. We ask a car at the fuel station where we could sleep. He takes us to a mate of his called Ze. Ze speaks English, he has a factory that we can sleep at. He directs us first to a restaurant, promising to fetch us when we are finished eating.

We chuck down beers like oysters. We eat food prepared by someone. Meat. Man, it's difficult to describe what one feels. When Ze fetches us and takes us to his factory grounds, I feel like I have a father again, looking out for me. Showering will have to wait till the next day when the factory generator is started. We pitch our tents and pass out.

The next morning we have a look at Fred's ankle. It's an unpretty thing that balloons out both sides, but he is able to wriggle his toes and to move his foot up and down ever so slightly.
So our combined 'expert' opinion is that it's only the ligaments that went. It may be a bad sprain but a sprain none the less. And if it's a sprain there's no purpose in seeking medical help, they'll just tape it up and that we can do ourselves.

Our accommodation in Ze's factory.

We also do a post mortem on the ride and hindsight shows us where we went wrong. The reason the riding was so much easier in the afternoon, is that we started riding on the ebb. In other words it was not yet low tide, this gives us a better quality of sand to ride and gives us extra time. It took us three hours to do the run against the dune. We started just after low tide and we were racing the incoming tide, which just squeezed the breath out of us.

What we should have done is to schedule the whole trip around this section so that we could utilize Spring Low Tide. If we then departed on the ebb, it would have been a lot safer, time wise. As it happened, we were there 2 or 3 days after Neap Tide. We couldn't leave earlier as it was still dark. Even before we left that morning, we were already doomed. Our planning let us down.

We get to rinse the bikes with fresh water. And they need it badly. This is the back side of the 950's radiator.

Hennie and myself construct a jumper cable that plugs into his power outlet. My bike gets it connected and carried externally so we don't have to take the seat off every time we need to use it. It doesn't work, as it overheats, but we learn a very important thing. The starter goes 'tchigdrrrrrrrrrrrrrr'. That's the sound of a flat battery. So it's not the starter, solenoid, relay, ignition, or any of a myriad other possibilities. All the other options have now been eliminated. I feel massively better. It's not the bike. It's the battery. And so I learn that a battery can have the headlights shining strongly, yet still be unservicable and short out once a bigger load is put on it.

Ze takes me to an outdoor market and there between the bras, panties, pots and pangas we find three motorcycle batteries. Two tiny 2.5As and one, still not that big, 6A one. My bike needs an 8A battery but this will have to do. I fill it and put it in my bag to charge up properly. I'll fit it in Namibe, the next town.

Some local biker brothers.

Tombua is the first sizable town we get to and we learn a couple of things.

We learn that people are happy to go out of their way to help. Ze had taken a good portion out of his evening to take us around, he had let us sleep in his factory, he let us wash our bikes, he arranged for hot showers, he took Nardus around to change Dollars to Kwanza, he took me around to find a battery. This is a man with a factory to run and a family etc. We owe him. He intends to start a tourism business soon. Tombua is ripe for it.

We learn that if you want to run a business, you must generate your own power. The Municipal power is on for perhaps 3 or 4 hours during the day, on a good day. This turned out to be so, not only in Tombua, but throughout the country.

On the issue of changing money; in Angola it is illegal to import Kwanza. In other words you are not allowed to obtain their currency outside the country and bring it with you through the border. Consequently you have to obtain your Kwanza once you are in the country. The problem is that their banking system is not linked to any foreign banks. So even though the bigger towns may have ATMs, we will not be able to draw money from them. The solution is to carry your whole budget in US Dollars, it is accepted most places and the conversion rate is easy to calculate; 10 Kwanza to the Rand and 7 Rand to the Dollar.

We also learn that the people here are of a different calibre than back home. The town centre consists mostly of abandoned buildings and potholes. There is no lighting as there is no electricity. When we were at the restaurant the previous night, our bikes was parked in the dark outside, with all our gear on, surrounded by twenty or so youngsters. When we mentioned our concern for theft, it provoked surprised laughter. Nothing was touched, we still got up now and again to have a look, but here we were the freaks for being so suspicious.

We leave Tombua and head to Namibe on a tarred road.

Normally I detest tar when on the 640, but it is novel and I enjoy sitting back and just letting the bike get on with it. Angolans drive on the 'wrong' side of the road however, so every time I see a vehicle approach my stomach gives a slight turn.

Namibe turns out to be a major town. As we pull in, we stop to get something to eat and we have the most fantastic pastries. We notice a lot of Portuguese come in and drink what looks like cappucino and whisky as a combination. We also have guys pose next to our bikes for photo's. they appear to be well-off and drive new 4x4s and wear Ferrari branded clothing. This is clearly a more affluent town and it shows. The roads are better, we see a traffic cop and the place has many bars, pubs and discos.

We head to the beach front to find accommodation and we find a restaurant where we grind to a halt.

The service is excellent and having the prettiest waitresses in town doesn't hurt either.

The beach.

We spend the whole day on this veranda spending a large part of our budget. Money well spent I say.

We are entertained by this guy doing all sorts of tricks at breakneck speed.

My favourite is when he comes past with his legs over the handlebars, his hands behind his head as if he's sitting on a sofa, keeping the throttle open with his calf. We stop taking pictures though because we can just see that this lot is going to end badly if we keep on encouraging him.

We just loved the local bicycle gang. All with impressive skills.

That is another thing we notice. It looks like children here have the time and space to play. We see unsupervised groups of 8yr olds swimming at the beach and playing games. Where I stay that would be out of the question.

We find camping for R50 a person ($7). We are the only people there.

Fred's ankle appears to be worse than the previous day and he is clearly in a lot of pain. As soon as we've eaten, he heads off to take a lie down.

We have high expectations from Namibe. It's Africa, it's Portuguese, it's by the seaside, and we know there will be many clubs and young people partying. And the locals we have seen so far are sensational. What we forget is that we are not that young anymore. A long story short - we wander the streets looking for a good time from 19:00 to 23:00 by which time we are so tired we go to bed. The night life in Namibe starts at midnight. I kid you not. At midnight people only start going out. Then they party untill 6 or 7 in the morning.

So, to my utter embarrassment, we fade and have nothing to show of Namibe.

I apologise.

The one thing I love about these trips is that you learn new stuff all the time. Yesterday I learned that battery acid stains my pants white when rinsed with water, and black when rinsed with Angolan beer. This kind of stuff can come in handy some day.

So the new battery is fitted, the starter swings over and an angel choir breaks out in song. My inner thighs says a quiet thank you, they haven't been looking forward to this mornings kicking session. To atone for my sinful thoughts towards the bike, I wash the air filter and coat it with some very expensive synthetic oil. Nothing like starting the day with the smell of petrol on your hands.

Fred's day starts with a trip around town looking for a pair of crutches. If he stops hobbling around on that foot, maybe the 'sprain' will be less painfull. Again there is a local that goes out of his way to take them around to the hospital and Fred returns with a very expensive pair of WWII steel crutches. Apparently the hospital was a less than pleasant experience and he tells us of several malaria cases being brought in while they were there and of one that was tied to a bed etc.

There's another thing I forgot to mention, the restaurant that we were at, had a guard standing around outside. When it became dark he appeared with an AK47 over his shoulder. So did the caretaker at the camp grounds. Also, when we were roaming the town, every so often we would find someone stationed on a corner with a chair and an assault rifle. Whether it was police or some civil guarding system I don't know. It appears they take safety and security seriously here. For us however it is strange to see, in our country it is only government forces that are allowed to possess fully automatic rifles. And AK47's are only ever seen in the hands of criminals. We felt very safe though.

After breakfast we reluctantly take our leave from Namibe, none more so than Nardus. Just like Monte Negro, he campaigns valiantly to stay another day.

Once again we have good tarrred road under our wheels and we watch the scenery change from yellow desert to scraggy brush to proper bushveld with Baobabs etc. In Namibe it was cold, but as the scenery changes so too does the temperature and we are forced to stop and get rid of some clothing.

Our plan for the day is to reach Lubango and sleep in the bush somewhere on the other side of it. As we start the bikes mine is dead. Dead.
The new battery is of as much use as a rock. Son of a bitch! Now it could be the bike again. Maybe the alternator charges the batteries to a frazzle. This one only lasted a couple of hundred km's. It's very possible because over the past 12 mnths I fitted 3 new batteries to this piece of shit bike.

This time kicking is futile. It's hot. Hennie takes a meditative approach to the kicking.

Finally we decide to run-start seeing as there is a tarred surface. The compression is too much to run it in 1st or 2nd and the wheel just locks up. In 3rd the engine turns over too slowly to get the thing to run.

The trick is to get a good run (with your mates pushing), then hook it into second (with your mates still pushing), then drop the clutch in 2nd whilst still holding the decompression lever in (with your mates giving their all), let it turn over a couple of times like that (with your mates hating your guts but still pushing), and then drop the decompression lever whilst jumping on the pegs to get traction. Surprisingly tricky to get your left hand to follow the sequence.

That's the way to go if you want to piss your mates off. Have them push your bike around, in the sun, with you on the seat, and periodically fuck up the sequence between the in gear/out of gear, clutch and decomp, with the lovely expectation that this may be the situation for the rest of the trip.

We get the bike started though, but it is clearly not a happy chappie. It is not keen to start, not keen to idle and only seem to be OK when given a handfull.

At least we are going to Lubango. It's the second largest city in Angola. Mechanics and bike batteries ought to abound.

Next to the road we notice that the locals are wearing a different traditional dress than before. The woman are still going topless but generally have small breasts which are tied down with cloth or string. I really should do a little research beforehand, the experience is always enhanced by knowing the local customs and colour.

Between us and Lubango stands an escarpment rising 2km from the plains. Up it winds Leba pass. It's fantastic. Go see it.

We did not get good pictures as we were there in the heat if the day but here are some.

When we get to Lubango we head straight to Cristo Rei. I think it translates to 'Christ the Redeemer'. It is a copy of the statue on Corcovado Mountain in Rio De Janeiro. I'm told it's one of three, the other being in Lisbon. This one is also situated on a mountain overlooking the city.

It is however unique, it is the only one to be riddled with bullet holes. Using Jesus for target practice... only in Africa.

On top of the same hill there are still some remnants of the city's defences. We used to call this a Stalin Organ (like the musical instrument, not the penis).

Down below we can see the city sprawling and it is fascinating to hear it grumble. It's like a living animal.

I hate cities. To me they are just large containers for the desperate. Out in the rural areas one can be poor, but still live with integrity and self respect. I normally avoid cities like the plague when on a bike trip. Today I need what it offers though and so we descend.

Like so much else on this trip, Lubango turns out to be a surprise highlight.

We intended to stop for fuel, a battery and some fresh vegetables and be on our way. In the heat and slow riding my bike starts acting up big time however. I have to rev the thing above 4000 in order to keep it going. When it stalls it takes a many attempts at run-starting to get it going.

Where we were of the opinion that it's not too difficult to ride on the 'wrong' side of the road, we now find it very confusing. With heavy traffic, one-ways and roundabouts things look a lot different. Also, most of the crossings do not have stop signs, some have signs that indicate whether you are on the bigger or smaller of the intersecting roads.

We don't find a battery and I'm getting increasingly steamed up. In the afternoon the bike becomes so bad that Hennie has to pull me with a tow rope up and down a sidestreet. This is very funny (hopefully someday) because before we came on this trip, everyone was concerned about Hennie's bike, which was well used already. His response was that he was still going to be towing a KTM out of Angola. Imagine my pleasure at being towed by Hennie's bike in Angola.

While all this is going on Nardus gets on with socializing.

When the bike finally starts I just want to get out of the city. Luckily my mates have cooler heads and they decide to find a place to sleep so that my bike can be dealt with properly the next day.

We book in at Casper Lodge to camp. Not the most atmospheric place.

When the rest go out to hit the town, I just go to bed, this bike is burning my ring.

The next morning we start with repairs. Fred is still riding with a bent handlebar and a manual throttle. This gets sorted out with some teamwork.

I wonder why the throttle was sticking?

I start stripping the bike with the intention of getting the carb out and re-setting the float level and cleaning jets out.

As soon as the tank is off though, I find the problem. It's that choke elbow again. This time I cable tie it in place and I set the adjuster on the choke as loose as it will go. Why the hell the adjuster is located under the tank, I don't know. So I start another day with petrol hands but a light heart because the bike is back to normal, idling away and pulling strongly from closed throttle like it should.

Amazing what a little bit of attention can do to a bike.

Hennie and myself goes off to find a multimeter so that we can trace the battery problem. This turns out to be one hell of a job involving all kinds, including using an incorrectly calibrated multimeter and getting lost around town with a helmetless mechanic perched on top of my luggage behind me and finally tracking down a working multimeter at a backyard mechanic's place in a shanty town. All this being made excruciatingly difficult by not being able to speak portuguese.

But to my utter and uninhibited joy, we can finally rule out the bike as the problem. The alternator pushes a beautiful clean 13.4V. Even now I feel the joy of that moment. And again I have to apologize to the bike.

Next stop, to find a battery. This turns out to be a problem. We decide that I will wait with the bike and Hennie will scour town for the necessary. As I wait I learn new things again. That in the middle of the city, the old and new continue to live side by side.

I learn again that Angolan people are different than where I come from. My bike is left unattended with all my gear in a busy street and no-one touches it.
Several people approach me and offer their help, giving me directions and phone numbers of people they think may be able to assist (still with the language problem).

As I wait a Varaderro pulls up. It turns out to be Jose. Jose turns out to be able to speak reasonable English! Jose is the president of the local bike club!! What? Angola! A bike club?!!
One would think that this is as good as it gets. But it gets better. They have a clubhouse with bar and accommodation!!!

We go to their spot and have a cold beer foisted upon us. Here's what to look for.

Yes, the club is called the Falcons.

The other 3 have been patiently waiting at a bar on the road out of town for about 4 hours already. When we sms them about the biker bar they arrive within what felt like seconds. It's like coming home. Within minutes our plans to leave town as soon as a battery is found, is scuppered. We want to stay.

Jose takes me to various places to look for a battery. There is no shop that sells big bike batteries so we do the rounds to the local quad riders (apparently quite active over there) to see if any one has a spare battery. They don't but I do break one of my personal rules - never to ride on the back of a bike (it's a long story). And I break it in style, being paraded around Lubango without a helmet looking like Tom Cruise's floozy. This is Jose.

In the end Jose cuts open his battery holder to take the oversize battery he once personally fetched from Namibia, and I get the Vara's battery. It's a huge frikken thing and won't fit under my seat so we modify some cables and it gets carried in the saddle bag. Instead of 8A it is 20A. If this thing doesn't make this motor spin like a sewing machine nothing will.

Jose impressed me no end. One hell of a nice guy. I owe him. He tells us of his history. He never fled the country in 1976 when Portugal withdrew. Some bad things happened to the whites that stayed then. He stayed and later served in the army and is now a Major.

This gets us to the final one of my concerns. Like I said, the war finally came to an end only 5 years ago. Even though our country withdrew in 1989, we do not know what kind of residual feelings there are towards South Africans. Keep in mind that we invaded them, and spent 13 years operating on their turf, fighting a variety of factions, the most relevant of which the current ruling party. The government.

Four of the five of us had done military service in Angola at some or other stage. Now we are here to holiday. It may be a problem for some.

That does not include Jose though. He sees us as bikers, friends. He clearly has put some work into putting things in perspective.

I don't really know how to explain all this and I don't even know if it should be dwelt on here. I will say only this.

Jose was wounded by a battalion I served in.

He showed me the Imperial Hotel in town.

Those holes was made by our planes.

We do a lot of talking that afternoon. We learn a lot of things we didn't know. The main thing I learn is that there are several emotions that have not yet been named. I'll leave it at that.

The bar is open to the public but the under cover parking right in front is reserved for bikes only.

By the way, Jose now imports trucks. You pay per meter deck space. So this is how you save on shipping costs.

They are very proud of this '69 Honda. At night it's lights are switched on.

We spend the entire afternoon seated and quaffing 'Ngola's.

Beers and entertainment, this guy can make that saw sing. Anything.

On the left, playing the saw is another Jose. Let's call him Jo. He fought alongside Jose for most of the war. They are inseparable. Jo is a helluva lekker ou. He makes a point of enjoying every moment to the full. Focussed on having a good time. My kinda guy.

He is one hell of a singer too. Think Axl Rose crossed with Louis Armstrong.

This afternoon was just getting surreal man.

Fred's ankle getting some medical attention. Vinegar to get the swelling down. Just for the record - not very effective.

The bar also has a braai area and a resident cook. We feel like some chicken and it is duly delivered.

They are left to wander around the dinner tables until later in the afternoon when they are knocked out with a kierie in amongst the guests. Another first for me. Having your dish killed in between the tables at a restaurant.

One of our waitresses and a niece of Jose's.

Another of Jose's nieces.

And our chicken dinner.

The later it gets, the better it gets, the Falcons is not only a bike club but also a band.

At some stage a drunk Hennie gets onto the stage with his Dakar (after having fallen over in the parking lot) and proceed to ramp off it, which he does successfully, but fails to hit the brakes and hits a wall instead. Funny as all hell, they must've heard us laugh up at Cristo Rei.

It was a hell of a night.

Later on things became a bit strange.

We sleep right there amongst the tables after everyone had gone.

Lubango. Who would have thought.

Angola, it's not like they said.

Ok, I can't let this shit go.

Allow me to introduce the band.

On drums - Jo, took eleven bullets in the leg, some of them tracers, twelve years now and the leg still weeps puss every so often.

On vocals and lead guitar, José, shot by my people.

On backup guitar - (can't recall his name), spent three days in an upside down, shot out tank with the bodies of seven of his crew and his leg broken in seven places.

These are the people we were supposed to kill.

What a fucking waste it would have been.

How wrong it would have been.

The next morning the last chicken, that successfully evaded the executioner the previous day, gets turned into marinaded-chicken-in-a-bag. I take a picture of where Hennie hit the wall the previous night.

Jo also takes us to see Tundavala.

It's a lookout point where the escarpment towers 2km above the plains. Looks like this.

Apparently Unita threw a lot of people off the cliffs here.

On the way we also pass the Tundavala dam. It's water is used to make N'gola beer. Read the label.

On the way to the dam we also pass the N'gola brewery. So it must be true.

We say goodbye to our hosts, or rather friends, and hit the main road out of town.

We stop at the black market first. It is a sprawling open air market with one short street absolutely clogged with taxis and people. The rest of the market consists of narrow corridors that only allows foot traffic. It is huge, so much so that I could not get any idea of it's size. It must be a couple of hectares at least. It is called the black market because the goods that are sold here come in from Namibia overland and no import duties are paid. You can find anything here. I mean it, anything.

Things are nicely organized too, all mattresses and beds are grouped together, all TV's Hifi and electronic goods in one place etc.

In this mauling soup of humanity I wait with the bikes. And all I get is friendly curiosity of where we are going, how long we've travelled, how much the bikes cost and so on.
Unlike South Africa, here, the races were never legislated apart. The difference is marked.

We road we take is tarred. But as the populated areas thin out, so does the road. It becomes potholed to an extent that we wish for no road. It would have been easier to ride. I have heard many people complain about how bad it is, and now I understand why.

The thing that boggles the mind is that this is the main road to Namibia. All overland freight must pass this way. We watched some trucks bumping and grinding their way in and out of these potholes and I can assure you that one trip only will necessitate repairs at the other end. No wonder that most imports come by way of sea transport.

It was our intention to leave this road as early as possible and veer South at Chibia, but we had no idea how difficult the terrain would be. The odds were in favour of difficult, and it would have been unfair to Fred to go into two days of sand and rock again, when on this road he could at least keep the rubber side down. Bouncing through this Swiss Cheese of tar and gravel, I'm sure Fred's ass got a pounding, he doesn't have the luxury of standing on the pegs like the rest of us.

Where we cross rivers, it's wash day like everyday.

We take a break under a most impressive tree.

It is here that we learn that the empty beer bottles must be returned. Note the absence of empties lying around. We are not allowed to leave with our bottles. Friendly folk once again. This country is just different man.

The shirt that Nardus is wearing has the Angolan flag on it. It's very popular here.

Close to sunset we reach Cahama and pull up to the nearest bar.

I don't think that Coke is gonna fit in that body.

Local dance team practicing. Work now, fame later.

We have such a good time that we only leave when it's dark already. Cahama is where we leave the main road and we get into some spirited gravel road shenanigens. Michnus manages to do a 180 in a sandy turn without falling. We pull up under some Baobabs and start a fire. Marinaded chicken awaits.

Dawn, and what a dawn. Damn it's good to be alive.

Our camping spot turns out to be quite scenic, although my matress gets punctured.

Day 7 since Fred fractured his ankle. It is also our final day, tonight we sleep in Namibia. Fred must be looking forward to getting the hell off that bike and putting his feet up.

We get going again and it's going to be good, only gravel today. It doesn't feel like the end of the trip though, we haven't had enough yet. Premature.

The first village we get to is Otjindjao. It turns out to be a lekker spot. We find the local shop. This is the display window.

If it's displayed here, you can buy it inside. If it's not displayed here, you need to leave town and hope the next town stocks it.

The locals have a dress sense that never disappoints. Remember Miami Vice, Don Johnson and those colourful suits?

Fred, ever the gentleman.

Around back we see an opportunity for breakfast.

And so it is. Goat meat for breakfast being prepared.

Regardless of my reservations regarding goat meat, it turns out to be quite palatable. Marinade chicken last night, meat this morning, we're living the high life.

There isn't a wall anywhere that isn't pocked with bullet holes.

The special guests even get chairs.

You'll never find Michnus not smiling. It makes him a lot of friends.

The shop keeper.

A lot of the vehicles, cars included, have the owners name on them. This bike belongs to Mr Kalukiti.

Check out the pump and panga.

You will not find a single male here that does not carry a panga.

This is what a panga does when mixed with too much beer.

This chap took some convincing before he would let me take a picture. He's got that Yul Brynner - Westworld thing going.

Even down to the glowing eyes.

How is it that a face can tell you so much?

Not quite a microwave oven.

When we leave Otjindjao we are very strong. They sell a good quality beer there. Hennie very correctly points out that there is a landing strip at Otjindjao, so being airlifted is possible. That gives us license to ride like we need to.

And this is what the road looks like, perfect for some serious steeking.

With all humility I have to say, I'm fcking quick when I'm drunk. Some unholy racing ensues.

We race like crazy untill the beer wears off and Hennie drops back. Shortly thereafter I hit a donga so hard it kills the motor. It's that piece of shit Mikuni BT40 they fit to these bikes, it should be used in scooters, not racing bikes. Anyway, it brings me to a halt and Hennie and I wait for the rest to arrive.

As we left the shop at Otjindjao I bought three bottles of McKenzie Blended Whiskey. It looked odd because it is bottled in beer bottles, and it uses the word 'blended'. So I figured it's something like Klippies & Coke, a whiskey mix. While we wait we take these out. By the time Hennie is swallowing down his third mouthfull he realises there's no mix. It's just whiskey. He does well and keeps it down.

The rest we mix with warm water though.

Me, I drink beer. When there is no beer, I drink water. On the odd celebratory occasion I'll drink Stroh Rum. But for the rest I cannot differentiate between whiskey, brandy or any hard liquer for that matter. It all tastes like crap to me.

Hence the face.

Effective stuff though, mediocre jokes turn into roaring hilarities.

Those first three mouthfulls catches up to Hennie and he tries to walk it off.

When we pull away there the octane is back and we give it horns. The road turns into twin track though and takes a lot of speed off. It crosses over rocky hills and through dense trees, some rocky riverbeds and some nice deep red sand. Good stuff. Good riding. Finally we reach another village. We pull straight in to where the bar is and order some Black Labels. We must be close to Namibia again.

To the surprise of the locals Hennie goes straight to bed.

Supremely comfortable these Angolan mattresses.

Again the locals turn out to be the participatory type.

Always ready to have some fun.

Just as we stopped at the Village Michnus pulled in also. He must've been flogging that Dakar (his wife's bike). The other two take a long time before they arrive.

Nardus waited for Fred on top of a hill while having a cigarette. When the cigarette was finished and Fred had not yet arrived, he turned back to look for him. The last day and Fred was still not finished with his grass roots inspection of Angola.

That pic is not the whole story though, Fred was joking around. I have to give it to him. He never bitched or moaned, he always had another joke. The only way we knew how much pain he was in at any time was to watch the colour of his face.

This pic tells more of the story. The reason Nardus's bike is lying down with the ignition on is that when he arrived on the scene, Fred was lying where that red arrow is. Nardus got another scare. Fred flew in between these two trees without touching them.

That's the thing with sand. When I came past here I was doing around a 100 km/h, at that speed the sand is a hard surface. Even the animal tracks in the sand could be felt on the handle bars. Fred, worried about his leg was going much slower, thereby increasing the difficulty level many fold.

Between here and the village where we were waiting Fred took another tumble. Luckily (?) it is Fred's' other leg that takes the punishment today. He did a good job of it. The leg is blue from top to bottom, only interrupted by a red and bloody knee.

When they arrive Nardus's dust cloud draws admirers.

We have another enjoyable stay and are entertained by the locals.

Like I said, Michnus makes friends everywhere.

This is our second village stop for the day but we need to make the border before closing time, and we still have to make a social stop in Chitado. So we bid them goodbye and hit the road again.

On the way to Chitado I try to catch Hennie and Nardus and get 40km of swallowing dust for my trouble.

At Chitado we pull up to the same place we did the first day of the trip. Fred - fat foot and ciggies. More or less sums up his trip.

This lady reminds me of Christina Ricci for some reason.

Our last picture of the lovely women of Angola.

The friendly KTM engineers put a big hole in the side of the tank to direct the radiator heat onto your inner thigh. Thank you. I just love riding with my legs wide open like an invitation to all passersby.

One of the local variety bikes. Them Chinese, you just have to smile.

We reluctantly take our leave of Chitado. Borders don't wait.

The last couple of km's on Angolan soil. Across the dam lies Namibia. It is over. It is done. It was good.

Angola, it's not like they said.

We had certain expectations when we planned this trip. The trip unfolded completely different though.

What we learned while doing our homework beforehand, just wasn't the case when we lived it.

They said that the border guards would be corrupt and that if they are not bribed, the crossing could take several hours.
We found the border guards to be wonderfully friendly and accomodating. Even though they spoke no English. Where I normally like to put a bit of distance between myself and the border post as soon as I'm cleared, here we spent time drinking beer with the Border Control people.

They said that Yelow Fever inoculation certificates would be checked. All of us had them, but two had been issued too recently to be effective.
We found that no-one even asked for it.

They said that the Police in every town will hassle us.
They said you need to have an explanation of your intent and an itinerary written in Portuguese to show the authorities in every town.
They said you needed many copies of passports and vehicle documentation to hand out.
Around this same time a well known adventurer, Kingsley Holgate, did much of our route. According to a magazine article they were arrested three times in Angolan towns.
We found none of that. In most towns we never interacted with the Police. Where we did it was more like striking up a friendship than anything official. We found them all to be very pleasant people.

Even our own expectations were totally wrong.
On my map, Monte Negro is not indicated. Yet we found a village with the bestest people ever.
We believed the Himba to be a reserved people who would find touching invasive. No such thing. They enjoyed the novelty no end. They are friendly, fun, and just people like you and me.
We expected to find a country still filled with ex combatants not yet integrated into society. The ones we found were people of the highest caliber, mature, responsible and people I now count as friends.
I saw Lubango as a city to be avoided, yet found diamonds there.
We certainly never expected to find a biker club.

In the end, every one of us felt the same way, we came to experience wild Africa, and what we found was people. Every one a pleasure to meet, every one welcoming us with open arms, every one with a smile, all willing to go out of their way to make our lives easier.

For us this trip was about the people.

Angola, expect the unexpected.

This Ride Report was originally posted on the Wild Dog Forum by Metaljockey. Ride Report here.



Unknown said...

Oh my word, what an amazing trip! As Africans we rush to travel overseas - London, Paris, Rome and yet right here in our own back yard we have something far more precious than that. Thanks so much for sharing. I absolutetly loved the photos, the humor, the emotions, all of it. Awesome!

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful journey. As Africans we tend to rush to the seemingly "better" destinations in London, Paris and New York. Yet right here in our own backyards we can experience live changing emotional and beautiful worlds such as this. The photos were amazing, the stories, the people, the emotions and the humor all came through in your blog. I was especially moved by your observation that the locals who became your friends were the very people you were expected to kill during the Angolan war... Awesome!

Anonymous said...

Great trip! I look forward to do something like this in the future.

By the way: "Cristo Rei" means "King Christ".

Greetings from Brazil!