It’s been so long since my last blog that catching up is going to be a challenge. The best approach, I reckon, is to just pick up where I left off. My memories are getting a bit hazy, but thank goodness for pictures and my trusty Google Calendar. Without these two things, I would never remember where I’ve been and when!
In July, we headed out on the company boat of our friends, Mr. & Mrs. G. We knew fishing was going to be unproductive, so we planned to cruise along Mussulo Beach, nibble on some lunch, and take in the sights along the shore.
There are some very nice houses along Mussulo. According to the boat captain, most are owned by prominent generals and other government officials. Many of them look like small hotels, complete with dozens of tables and loungers set up on the shore. Most appeared empty except for occasional workers making repairs and wandering ladies selling various wares..
This lone potential customer is getting the hard sell from some ladies selling fabrics and dresses.
These young ladies were selling bread and eggs along the beach.
From our previous trips out, we have learned that proper boating etiquette has not yet made it to Luanda. More than once on this trip, we were almost run over by a fellow boater determined to have the right of way. Yikes!
If they weren’t zooming towards us, they were zooming around us. This is up close and personal, folks.
After cruising around for awhile, we spied a shanty town precariously perched on the side of a cliff. From a distance, the colorful window coverings captured the imagination.
As we approached, however, the reality was a bit less charming. I wondered why the windows on these buildings were so tiny, when they could have a very nice view of the water. But of course, I was looking at things from a first-world perspective.
You see, there was no glass in these windows.
The small size was to protect against rain and a persistent sea breeze – and for structural integrity, I imagine.
Navigating through this maze of buildings would be hard for us from the flatlands, but these residents seemed to make their way without a problem. Technically, these houses were oceanfront property, but one hard rain was liable to wash them right into the water!
As I’ve said before, there is always something interesting to look at while out and about. Case in point, the words on the boat below translate to “Mana does not want problems with your husband.” There is definitely a story there!
Looking for the beauty in a place like this can be a challenge at times, but as long as you view Luanda through the eyes of a photographer, it rarely disappoints.
The wonders of this country never cease to amaze me. This past weekend, we went out boating with our friends Mr. & Mrs. G and saw another fascinating sight just north of Luanda called Shipwreck Beach. The term “Skeleton Coast” is a familiar one to many of us, but for me, I did not know exactly what it meant until I moved to Africa. On our recent trip to Namibia, we skirted the southern end of this famous stretch of coastline, but were not far enough north to see any of the hundreds of shipwrecks scattered along the shore. The wrecks in Namibia were caused by submerged rocks and the legendary fog that routinely blankets the Namibian coast. In Luanda’s smaller-scale version, the wrecks were caused by man, rather than by Mother Nature.
Shipwreck Beach is an area of impressive cliffs, golden sand, and dozens of huge, rusty, abandoned ships. There are several theories as to how they came to be marooned here. Some say they rusted away from their moorings in Luanda Bay and drifted to the beach. Others say they were deliberately sunk by the departing Portuguese troops as they were forced out of the city – a sort of “up yours” after a bad break-up.
Shipwreck Beach can be reached by car, but the beach area is not entirely safe, so it is best seen by boat. Since I had never seen it before, Mr. & Mrs. G offered to take us there after we tried our luck at whale-watching and fishing first. After an hour or so of cruising and a lovely lunch, we had encountered neither fish nor whales, but we did come upon a large pod of dolphins.
Honestly, in a contest between fishing and dolphin-watching, Flipper is the clear winner every time. What could be more fun that watching those friendly, intelligent mammals frolic in the wake of the boat?
And when one particularly frisky guy decides to jump up and splash us – not once but twice – all cares of the day just vanish away.
After playing with the dolphins for awhile, we headed towards the coast, and a huge cliff complete with a red and white lighthouse came into view.
When the seas are high, the waves crashing along this cliff are quite impressive, according to Mr. & Mrs. G. I was just as happy to have calm seas, however, as big waves can also mean feeling a little green-around-the gills.
As we sailed along this impressive cliff, the rock color changed from buff to a chalky white, and it bore a remarkable resemblance to the White Cliffs of Dover.
Soon, a few shipwrecks appeared in the distance.
The ghostly, abandoned ships looked like the perfect backdrop for the next post-apocolyptic blockbuster. One can only imagine Mad Max racing along the beach as hordes of bad guys pile out of these rusting hulks to join the chase.
What tales these ships could tell, about the men who sailed them and how they came to be forever stranded on the beach. For now, they serve as a reminder of the wastefulness of war and the scars men leave on our beautiful planet.
Once we were past Shipwreck Beach, we entered Luanda Harbor, with plenty of huge ships of its own. Luanda Harbor is one of the few places in the world where a small boat like ours can get up close and personal with huge container ships, and no one seems to notice or care.
Near the marina, there is a sailing school that operates on the weekends. It is always great fun to see the local youth learning to sail, and a nice way to conclude our day out.
From rusty shipwrecks to tankers to tiny sailboats, there is always something to see in these waters!
This past weekend, we spent one night in Cabo. No, not Cabo San Lucas, but rather Cabo Ledo – which is about as close to Cabo San Lucas as we are going to find in Angola. Cabo Ledo boasts a lovely crescent-shaped stretch of beach, and is one of the best excursions from Luanda. It can take two to three hours to get there, depending on very unpredictable traffic. You never know what diversions will be encountered on the way, and whether or not your driver will know where he is going. More on that later…
Saturday morning about nine o’clock, our personal driver picked us up. I will call him Mr. Mellow, as he drives about as fast as an eighty-year-old woman, and never seems the least bit ruffled by anything. Just outside of town, we encountered the usual bottle-neck of street sellers, and I had a chance to snap a few photos with my phone – very cautiously, of course. In Luanda, displaying a phone is discouraged due to the risk of someone smashing your window to steal it, especially when stuck in heavy traffic. Risk aside, there is always so much going on along the road, that I really wanted to capture all of this chaos and commerce! It is truly unbelievable what people are selling: hangers, home-made yogurt, brooms, portuguese/english dictionaries, and a few porno videos thrown in for good measure.
Mr. Mellow drove his usual easy-going pace and we reached the resort in about three hours. Hubby was a little anxious to get there, but I was happy looking out the window along the way. Just part of the fun for me.
Our resort, called Carpe Diem (love the name!) is made up of about fifteen small cabins, an open-air restaurant and a row of palapas on the beautiful beach.
We enjoyed walking along the beach and just relaxing for the day. Colorful wooden fishing boats dotted the sea in front of us. From one side of the resort, we watched a few groups haul these large boats onto shore with their catch for the day.
Evening brought a beautiful sunset followed by a delicious dinner, with very attentive service by the manager of the resort, name Mr. Dias.
All during dinner, there were music videos playing on a large screen. We noshed to Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Celine Dion, and others – all American and British artists. The Portuguese crowd seemed to know all of the songs, and sang along with gusto. This always amazes me! We have heard American Top 40 tunes in virtually every country we have visited, even in places where very few people speak English!
After dinner, a few Spanish and Portuguese dance tunes worked their way into the mix. This made for free entertainment, as some very energetic couples soon got up to dance. Later (after more alcohol was consumed) a few of them wound up in the pool – involuntarily and with clothes on, of course. For hours, we just drank in this surreal scene. Such a strange life we are leading – sitting at a beach restaurant in West Africa, watching a Portuguese crowd gyrate to American music! The world is indeed a very small place.
It was a great night and way too much delicious Portuguese wine was consumed, thanks to an excellent recommendation by Mr. Dias. The next morning, we were awoken by a flock of Weaver Birds, building their nests in the trees by our cabin. It was a clear, cool morning so we enjoyed our last few peaceful hours by the beach, before it was time to head back into the maelstrom of Luanda.
Unfortunately, Mr. Mellow does not work on Sundays, so we had to arrange a car through Tango Delta for the ride back to Luanda. About ten forty-five, the driver called to say he had arrived (in very limited English). After searching for him for several minutes, Hubby gave him a call. Uh-oh. Apparently, wherever the driver had “arrived” was nowhere near us. Unable to decipher what the driver was saying, Hubby handed the phone to the parking lot attendant, who took a full ten minutes to direct the driver to our resort. An hour and a half and several phone calls later, the driver finally showed up. I didn’t mind the wait so much, but the two hour, white-knuckle drive back was another story!
At first, the driver was very distracted, weaving all over the road and looking at me in the rear view mirror. Keep your eyes on the road, buddy! Maybe I have gotten used to Mr. Mellow, but it also seemed like we were driving entirely too fast. I’m not sure how I will readjust to Texas highway speeds on my next visit home! At seventy miles per hour, I had a death grip on the door and could not look out of the front window. Of course, the fact that we criss-crossed the center line repeatedly did not help me to relax! After about an hour, the driver began to shake his head and rub his eyes in an effort to stay awake. Aargh! Where is Mr. Mellow when you need him! I will never complain about his granny driving again. Okay, I know never to say never, but this time I really mean it!
Once our hearts stopped pounding from the drive back, we realized what a nice twenty four hours it had been. We will definitely return, but next time we will offer to pay Mr. Mellow extra to drive us both ways. After getting Tango Delta’d like we did, it is worth whatever he asks. And who knows, maybe a Celine Dion CD would sweeten the deal for him…