Vamos a praia!

If ever, on a Friday night in Africa, you are thinking about whether to take the suddenly-available project vehicle and leave your house without running water or electricity, for the 3-day weekend, and you go to a cafe because you can’t stand to watch the friend of the brother of the landlord not fix the electricity as the sun is setting, and there you meet a Spanish friend who is in the country for 3 months and her Spanish friend who has been in the country for 3 weeks, and you tell them you’re not sure where to go and they tell you some friends in another city are going to a beautiful beach with amazing fish and corrals and other things, and this beach is just outside the city that is 5 hours due west, and you should all go together and camp for the weekend… just keep in mind that things may not go exactly as planned.

For example, when said Spanish people tell you they’ve been somewhere before and know exactly where it is, don’t be surprised if they later tell you, when you are looking for that place (perhaps a place to camp when it is already after dark), that of course they are not seguro, nada esta seguro. And if they take you to a garbage dump by the seaside and tell you that it is a beach and that you’re going to camp there… but I am getting ahead of myself.

First we drove for a few hours in the rain, with our bags imperfectly covered in the back of the pickup, and passed a car on its side with someone trying to climb out. I thought it was children playing on an abandoned car, but we turned around to check and it was the immediate aftermath of a rolled car. There was a man sitting on the side of the road with his ear partially detached, a woman trying to pull another woman out of a window, and another man still in the car. Lots of other cars stopped, they got the woman and the man out of the car and they were fine, although the driver may have been drunk (at noon). Someone took them off to the next town that had a doctor. We got back on our way. We drove for a few more hours, met the Spanish and French friends in Benguela, spent some time trying to find groceries, and by 4pm were ready to head to the beach, hoping to get in at least an hour swimming before dark at 6. Then we had to stop to get gas.  Angola is a petroleum huge producer. Gas is about 40 US cents per liter. This is what a gas station looks like.

Then we were given wrong directions and drove a good way on the road back to Huambo. Then we turned around, and met the Spanish/French, who were at the roadside drinking beer. Without asking us or even saying what they were doing, they dismantled our rain cover and took our bags into their car. (This should have been a sign.) Then we stopped to by charcoal. Then one of the Spanish/French drivers lost his car keys. This is what the locals thought of the situation:

Then we continued driving on gravel roads until about 6pm. Then the French decided to stop for another beer at the road side. We asked if we were almost to the beach. They laughed. This was a sign. Words were exchanged in multiple languages. It turned out that it was maybe 3 more hours to the beautiful beach. We had been in the car for 11 hours. We agreed to go to a nearby beach that was just an hour away, on some roads that would probably have been terrifying if we could have seen more than the area in the headlights. Instead they were just unpleasant. We arrived at the beach. I went for a walk and then drank the French peoples’ beer and we ate barbecued meat and I felt like I was finally having the African adventure that everyone talks and writes about. When I went to go to bed, I discovered that the blanket I’d taken out of the closet to sleep on for 2 nights (no sleeping bag) had previously been used to wrap around animals on their way to the slaughterhouse. Or something that made it smell equally revolting. African adventure seemed suddenly less appealing. I did not sleep much.  But when I woke up, the world looked like this:

So that was okay. The French/Spanish packed up to drive as far south as they could before turning around to drive back home again.

But they didn’t get very far, to our amusement.

I went swimming and was stung by something in the water, and ended up looking like this (a day later, after the swelling went down):

After maximum sun, we decided to head to another beach that was closer to Benguela, which would give us a shorter drive home the next day. Much driving later, we ended up at garbage beach. I offered to sleep in the car. I have issues with garbage. We drove some more and found a tiny, lovely beach. We waited until the enamorados left and pitched our tents on the strip of dry sand, where the rising tide would not reach us.

Right. At 2:39am, we frantically packed our things and relocated to higher ground. Somehow we found a flat spot with a beautiful view and the sound of waves far below. We pitched the dry tent and guy who wasn’t at all seguro slept no ar livre. I was jealous, until we were awakened again (at a thoroughly civilized hour) by rain. By then we were experts at repacking and got everything into the truck and covered with the tarp before the heavy rain started. And then we drove home for only 6 hours, where we had running water for a cold shower, and electricity and internet for a little while. And cortisone cream. God bless cortisone cream.

Published in: on November 5, 2009 at 8:43 PM  Leave a Comment  

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