Ph. Madalena Calixto @ Centro Horto-Botânico de N’Dalatando
7 months and 7 days (yes, I’m counting). Most people say you shouldn’t stay in Angola for more than 3 months straight – 4 tops! Well, I’m nearly doubling that line and I can’t say it’s been easy. I am a bit of a drama queen at times, I am aware of that, but this isn’t the case. To live here you need a certain support system. A nice paycheck is good but for most people it won’t probably be enough. Because without that support system – people, hobbies, logistics – you end up felling trapped most of the time. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, they say. I agree, but I feel much weaker now than I was 6 months ago. Maybe it’s homesickness… Maybe I’m just tired. Perhaps I didn’t get very luck, perhaps I wasn’t very wise, perhaps I was reckless and dumb by trusting complete strangers. Those are all facts I’ve learned to accept and I’ve bang my head against the wall enough times to punish myself. So, as I feel my strength is failing me, and a few vacation days nearby my loved ones approach, I can’t wait to leave Luanda behind my back.
Ph. Carlos (Flamingo Lodge) @ Namibe Desert (with the big Welwitschia with someting like 3.000 years or so…)
I never really fancied Luanda… And over the past weeks I was able to get some perspective and reach this certainty: Luanda is not for me. It’s dirty, dangerous, difficult and expensive. The best of Angola is out of Luanda’s city borders.
Ph. Madalena Calixto @ Miradouro da Boca do Humpata
I’ve been travelling the country for work over the past weeks and I’ve been loving it (that’s one of the reasons why I haven’t posted anything in ages – there’s barely any internet connection out there). It has been tough but also an incredible adventure. Many wonderful places, plenty of stories, great people and an obscene amount of pictures. Truth be told, this is what I was promised, this was the plan, this is what brought me here, this is what I’ve been waiting for ever since I landed back in January. I’m now glad I did come, because despite all the bad things, I was lucky to witness and experience all this and I feel now it was worth the wait. I can attest with absolute certainty that Angola is a country of many many wonders (here are the official 7, but believe me – there are plenty more).
Ph. Madalena Calixto @ Fenda da Tundavala
To do your best at something you’ve got to believe it, and even though I never really doubted Angola’s potential as soon as I started gathering information, to see things live and be part of something is rather different than seeing them on paper or on screen. Yes, it’s real, it’s beautiful, it’s overwhelming. It’s Africa and it’s great, so I am proudly spreading the word. Come to Angola and let yourself discover it!
Ph. Madalena Calixto @ Serra da Leba
Unfortunately, the one thing I can’t show you are those postcard-type pictures I am dying to publish but I can’t yet. As I said before, these have been sponsored trips, so my employer owns the rights to the pictures. However, I do promise that, as soon as they’re launched I’ll let you know. :) A warning though: none of the pictures do justice to the real thing. You’d really have to see for yourself.
Ph. Abegar Tavares @ Quedas de Kalandula
I can show you some of these ‘me’ pictures in loco, though, and also let you know which have been my favorite places. I know it’s not much, but it’s what I have to offer now. I’ve been having an amazing time, and I was also lucky enough to find an amazing travel partner with whom I’ve been learning a lot and having loads of fun. Thank you, Madalena, for your help, support and for everything. It’s really been a pleasure sharing this journey with you.
Ph. Igino (our driver in Lunda Sul) @ Quedas do Rio Tchihumbwé
And now I leave you with my favorites so far. I could also tell you all the missteps (some have scared me death) along the way but that’s part of its charm. One thing is for sure (and it’s something that always happens with me) – if there’s a chance it will go wrong, it definitely will. Fortunately, things always seem to get worse before they get better. Yet, when that better comes it’s totally worth it all.
My Top 10 (+1):
#1 – Restinga (Lobito, Benguela) – If I were to live somewhere here in Angola (like build a life and all that), it would be here. It’s peaceful, safe, by the beach, the houses are beautiful, you’re 20 minutes away from the big city and the Airport – you can definitely have better life quality here than anywhere else. My second choice would be Lubango.
#2 – Rio Longa Lodge (Cuanza Sul) – This is one of those hidden paradises one can barely believe to exist. After a joyful 20 min. boat ride, we arrive at a little island in the middle of the river overlooking the beach. The cabins are eco-friendly and suddenly it seems like you’ve just escaped the real world. It’s really amazing beyond words. Plus, behind the island there’s a hill you can go up to and watch the breathtaking view. I dare you.
#3 – Fenda da Tundavala (Lubango) – Imagine a mountain broken in half 1000 meters deep… Scary, right? A bit (ok – a lot), but the landscape is wonderful. The silence is overwhelming and the sunset just magical.
#4 - Pedras Negras de Pungo Andongo (Malanje) – Massive rocks in something that looks a lot like a rough (and bigger) version of Stonehenge. This is a cult place, or wasn’t it where Angola’s beloved Queen Jinga performed her sacrifices and orgies. I am dying to see them from the sky – that should be fantastic… Gotta to find a way to make that happen. There are also other beautiful giant rocks (some people climb, I heard) in Cuanza Sul – Serra do Engelo, nearby Conda (Gabela).
#5 – Quedas de Kalandula (Kalandula, Malanje) – Second biggest falls in Africa. You know when you get somewhere and you just gasp at the beauty in front of you? Well, that’s what happened to me. To see them from the top wasn’t enough so we went to the base, too (where I slipped and fell and injured one foot and bruised my butt, but it was worth it anyway). It’s scary as shit, but breathtakingly beautiful.
#6 – Quedas do Rio Tchihumbwé (Dala, Lunda Sul) – These are smaller but equally beautiful. Some kids slide over the rocks just for fun. I believe their wish to live is rather small so I wouldn’t recommend it. If I lived nearby I’d come here all the time to just sit by the water and read. Oh, it’s also nice to walk your way back through the river, over the stones.
#7 – Serra da Leba (Lubango) – This is the road that connects Lubango to Namibe. Over a dramatic hill, the road takes the shape of a snake and descends into the beginning of the desert. There’s a sightseeing point overlooking it (Miradouro da Boca do Humpata) and the landscape is absolutely stunning.
#8 – Road to Uíge (Luanda – Uíge) – There’s isn’t much to see or do in Uíge (known as the former coffee capital of Angola) but the road to there, though dangerous (narrow and crooked), offers a landscape continuously wonderful (like you can’t stop taking pictures and they never seem to be enough).
#9 – Flamingo Lodge (Namibe) – In the middle of the desert right by the sea. We got lost and stuck on our way there but it all turned out fine. The desert is something quite whimsical and frighting at the same time. The lodge is a little paradise ran by a very friendly staff, where you can sleep to the sound of the waves and take your time to fish, dive or surf. They also prepare great expeditions. This time of the year is freezing cold but it’s still totally worth the visit. Oh, on your way, don’t forget to check the big Welwitschia (allegedly the 2nd biggest in the world).
#10 – Centro Horto-Botânico de N’Dalatando (N’Dalatando, Cuanza Norte) – Lizards, butterflies, snakes (they say – fortunately we didn’t cross any)… they are all inhabitants of this great wild massive garden with tall bamboo trees and a cute Chinese bridge over a timid river. Very nice for a quiet walk into mother nature.
#11 – The Beaches (there are 1650 km of coast – take your pick) – There are beaches for every taste. And as far as I know, very nice waves for surf fans (at Cabo Ledo, Sumbe, Namibe, etc). For bad swimmers / water pussies like me, the blue and peaceful warm waters, with sparkling fish and soft sands of Baía Azul (Benguela) make it perfect.
Ph. Madalena Calixto @ Rio Longa, Cuanza Sul
Let’s see what the rest of the journey will bring us. We still have a few more provinces to go.
And if you got interested let me know. ;)
Speak to you soon!