A South African nation bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north and east, Zambia to the east and Namibia to the south. The entire west coast looks out over the South Atlantic Ocean. It looks like it borders Botswana too.
But it doesn’t.
This is more like it.
Just south of the capital Luanda there is an enchanting peninsula called Mussuto – it’s only about 20 miles from tip to tail and you’d miss it from higher up. A quick investigation reveals some normal people doing normal things. They just happen to be doing them surrounded by sea. There’s a small harbour and beaches which are pretty yet functional, some areas a bit litter-strewn but all evidence of lives being lived, rather than a well-oiled tourist infrastructure. Naturally I’m contradictarily drawn to it.
I wander inland and come across one of the most surprising images I have come across or maybe will come across.
It looks like Reading.
It’s a Photo Sphere so one can zoom in no further than it permits, but stretching off into the middle-distance is a wide avenue traversed by identical rows of pastel-coloured buildings. I felt like I was in a Suede album cover. Then I turned 90-degrees to my right and was presented with exactly the same view. Now I felt like I was in a JG Ballard novel (which is one of my favourite places to be). Turning the full 360 I realised the view was nearly identical on all sides. And I felt like I was in The Prisoner.
It is the municipality of Belas, a fairly modern development and of course there’s no reason at all why an African province can’t have identical Soviet-style apartment buildings, and on closer inspection the unkempt grass lawns clue us in to the fact we’re not in Germany any more. Or Kew. Perhaps it’s something about the quality of the sunlight on the paintwork of the buildings and the way they disappear off that makes it feel so magical. I urge you to seek out this image. Or go there.
Further south into the desert interior we go and come across a stunning alien landscape (this is not intended to insult, I was born in Preston). It is named Mira Douro da Lua – Viewpoint of the Moon, according to Google Earth, and it could be volcanic, but I don’t know. We’re looking from a clifftop over sandy red and purple rock deposits, canyons and thin craters that appear to have been belched up by the earth. It almost looks alive. And if it is alive it is definitely related to the pit of Sarlac. Seriously it looks like fuckin’ Mordor like after it burned.
(Did it burn? I got bored of those films).
Now, I don’t want to worry anyone but near the National Assembly building someone has left a small plastic wheelbarrow behind a parked Toyota and could cause a nasty scratch if the owner doesn’t notice when backing out. Spread the word.
Downtown Luanda provides a variable and interesting landscape. A harmony of lifestyles. Glance one way and you’re in a fairly modern business district. Glance the other way and you’re where you end up when you’ve been kidnapped.
The distance between Zango and Zango IV is 4 miles. I cannot find Zango II or Zango III. WAIT! I zoomed in further and found Zango III. This leaves the tantalizingly missing Zango II. And the title – ‘The Lost Township of Zango II’ sounds exactly like a JG Ballard short story. It is one I shall write in tribute.
In Lubango there’s a café where the chair backs are styled on guitars. Like you’re sitting on a guitar. In the city centre more of the cultural blends – turn one way and you have a Western European city, turn the other and you’re in an Alfonso Cuaron film.
At the Capela da Nossa there’s another awe-inspiring view – and I mean that – even via Google Earth. A pretty white church with a terracotta roof overlooking a simply stunning valley, and there just happens to be a massive city in the background and FUCK there are a lot of people in the world.
It will never be my goal to be capital-centric in this no-travelogue, but as vast as Angola is, the country outside of Luanda is not well represented by Street View or Photo Spheres, which is fair enough. It just doesn’t allow me to say much than the north, middle and east of the country is very green and the south and more notably the south west becomes very desert-y as we head down to Namibia.
Speaking of Namibia, and ‘tis a country where my heart lies for reasons I’ll go into when we get to N, in some months’ time. Until then there’s a wonderful Photo Sphere of the Namibia/Angola border, on the Kunene River. It’s taken from within a lovely tent and looks out on the river in all its splendour. The kaleidoscope of colours of the plants and flowers along river bank is wild and vivid and for a moment there is nowhere else in the world I’d rather be. And for many more moments after that.