Thursday, March 08, 2012
Part Two: The Journey Continues.
After the greenery and various vegetation encountered coming down the Serra de Leba, Baobabs and lush green trees slowly gave way to scrubby brush and drier plains filled with huge boulders and rounded rock formations, which brought back treasured memories of Joshua Tree National Park with two of my favorite people in the world. Huge boulders soon turned to flat dry, sandy earth, barren and open spaces filled with small smooth rocks as far as the eye could see. After a while, hills began to rise from the ground again, with grass and short trees and shrubs. Then came the turnoff. Leaving the paved road. At a small post stuck in the ground approximately 2 feet high, we left the road and headed into the hills. Can you hear U2's “Where the Streets Have No Name”? Here began the now-familiar bouncing and bumping and jostling around that comes with driving in Angola. As we bumped and bounced and jostled along, we spotted some baboons darting across the path and up over the hillside. Eventually we came to another nondescript marker – handwritten in paint on a small rock in English - “My Beach”. We veered left at this landmark and headed onward to my beach. =) Soon the green hills lost their greenery and began to take shape, forming themselves into rocky crags on either side of our path. We forged deeper into this canyon, stopping briefly for a dog and human potty break before the bushes completely disappeared. Not that such cover would have mattered so much to the dogs, but for the humans it was appreciated. Back in the vehicles for more bumping and bouncing which soon became slow creeping around and over rocks and through ever-deepening sandy washes. When the sand got to be too much, it was time for a short stop to let some air out of the tires. Fifteen minutes later, with the tire pressure decreased, we piled back in the truck and slowly eased our way out of the sand. Over more rocks, winding our way through the canyon, expecting at any moment that the next turn would bring a glimpse of the ocean. Then... “Houston, we have a problem.” We reached a standstill as we came upon car number one in our two-car caravan halted at the base of a steep incline. Here the “path” (if one can actually call it a path) diverged. The left was a continuation of the grade we had been traveling – fairly flat (for the most part) but it was apparent that rains had washed through this riverbed of sorts and carried with them such debris and rocks that it made this path thoroughly impassible. Straight ahead what appeared to be a fairly new path forged onwards and UPWARDS. Up and over – circumnavigating the washed out section of trail. This path, which we suddenly knew was our sole option, was rocky, steep, narrow, and did I mention that it edged along one side of the steep embankment, leaving the driver's side of the vehicle skirting along the edge, looking down over the loose, rocky side? We had come so far, and at this point we were 3 km from that ocean view. “Two roads diverged in a canyon, and I, I took the one less traveled-by.” Of course, we went forward. We sent scouts ahead on foot to check things out and ensure that it would indeed be navigable and would lead us back to the main trail. Brent and Helena (and dogs) went first in their Land Cruiser Discovery. Now it was our turn - Sam and I, Peter and Shelley – with Peter driving their much bigger Ford and hauling a trailer. You should note that our vehicle was considerably bigger and bulkier, which presented a much bigger challenge especially in initially mounting the steep incline and in staying on the narrow path. Sam and Shelley got out to direct us on foot around the rocks and keep us from getting too close to the edge, while I moved into the passenger seat next to Peter who gripped the wheel and set his face to the challenge ahead. The going was S-L-O-W. Painstakingly slow; picking our way around rocks, skirting the edge...and then there is that moment – the moment when you reach the top of the roller coaster the nose of your car is pointed upwards and all you can see is the hood and sky. And you know that DOWN is coming next. You can't see it, but you know it's there. And so you move forward and yes, the road is still there, and you're headed downhill now and towards flat ground. We made it. Hair-raising as it was. Another life-adventure to add to the books.