17 August 2008

August Weekend #2: Huambo (The Journey)

Our first chance for a weekend roadtrip came with an offer to visit Angola’s second-largest city, Huambo. In theory it is a 6 hour drive into the interior and involves a decent elevation change. In reality our fearless leader “forgot” that there were two routes to reach Huambo from Benguela, and we chose the path less traveled. That normally wouldn’t be a problem, except that the reason it was less traveled is that the road is potholed so badly (or simply not paved) that we averaged about 20km per hour and the journey ended up taking 10 hours instead of 6. The scenery was gorgeous though, passing through baobab forests, mountains, and hot springs before continuing the bumpy journey at night (with varying musical accompaniment ranging from Rhiannon to the Backstreet Boys). A particular highlight was a stop at sunset where some of our traveling companions enjoyed a brief kizumba dance break in the middle of the road.

Kizumba Dance Break:

Still Some Work Left on the Regional Highway System:

Sunset on the return to Benguela:

Volcanic Remnants:

As a fan of roadtrips in the states the following 3 things stood out the most:

1. There are no animals and hence no roadkill. Apparently all the animals (even the small ones) were killed and eaten during the war. I hear there's a repopulation effort going on in some areas, but since the war only ended in 2002, populations haven’t had time to recover yet.

2. There are no roadside services. If you run out of gas or need a place to sleep, you are out of luck. The few towns you pass through are just not set up to accommodate leisure road traffic. The only food we found were some roadside vendors – our favoriate vendor turned out to be the lady selling chicken pieces on the bone for 50 kwanzas each (about 80 cents).

Angola Fast Food:

3. Most of the towns we passed through consisted of mud-brick buildings with thatched roofs that did not have electricity. Plenty of families were eating dinner by candlelight, as we did on Saturday night once we got to Huambo.

Rural Villages Along the Way:

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