To most 4×4 enthusiasts the mention of Angola would bring an image of a war torn, wasted country to mind. Others would remember the ill-fated ‘doodsakker’ excursion that received wide media coverage. Fisherman will elaborate enthusiastically about the abundance of fish and the great time they had in the south-western part of Angola. There is however a wonderland of amazing scenery and wonderful people to be discovered in Angola should you venture out off the ‘beaten track’. The Angolans have worked miracles in cleaning up the remains of war and they are rebuilding the country at an extraordinary rate. With newly defined and rebuilt routes and roads the country opens up for the traveller to experience scenes that you would have expected to find only in far-off destinations.
A photographer’s dream with ever changing landscapes.The colourful, friendly and vibrant inhabitants of Angola in their rural settlements and local markets are an experience to behold. Being so privileged to share my enthusiasm about Angola, I marvel at the remarks that I would hear from time to time as participants would pass comment casually over the 2 way radios in convoy, or in the evenings around the camp fire.
We visited the recovering coffee producing areas (Angola were producing over 200 000 tonnes of coffee beans and employed a quarter million farmers on 2500 coffee farms before 1975- in that regard it has been compared to Columbia). Over there the rainforest is cut down, leaving only a secondary forest and below these trees are the coffee plantations. Even the old buildings on the estates remind one of scenes of Columbia.
The dense Congo basin forest up north offers amazing, overwhelming evergreen forests with exceptional birdlife. Angola boasts a total of over 900 bird species of which the more exciting, rarer and endemic birds being found in the forests and escarpments. At the Tunda-vala, a breathtaking gorge cut out of the escarpment close to Lubango, the escarpment drops almost vertically down a 1000 METERS to bottom out on the plains below; this is home to the Angola Cave Chat. The vegetation on top reminded one of South Africa’s, Kaapse Hoop with the same type of vegetation and similar weird shaped rocks strewn around. Lubango also boasts a statue of Christ, a site normally associated with cities like Rio de Janeiro and Lisbon.
The colossal blocks of stone rising out of the surrounding savannah in the central part of Angola (Pedras Negras – Black Rocks), is truly a remarkable sight to experience. Geologically the rocks are a mystery with the hard sedimentary conglomerates totally out of character with the surrounding area. The rocks cover an area of approximately 12 km x 6 km and reminded one of Ayers Rock – one of the Australia’s best known landmarks.
Kalandula falls ranked as the second biggest falls in Africa by volume, at 400M wide with a 105 meter drop are spectacular. Second only to the Victoria Falls this is a true wonder of the world!
Travelling through areas in the southern and western parts, one would initially compare the Baobab trees to these found in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Seychelles and central Africa but soon realise that Angola comes out tops with massive Baobab ‘forests’ over a large area below ‘the great escarpment’ parallel to the Angolan coast. The transformation in scenery descending down from the central highlands to the low lying areas is an amazing experience of, rapid changing forest merging to a Namibian type of Damaraland landscape. Further south is truly Namib scenery that reminds one of the Namibian deserts near Swakopmund and Walvis Bay or even to the ‘Sperrgebiet’ close to Luderitz. The area also hosts a large coverage of Welwitchia plants – something generally associated only with the Namibia.
Entering the coastal town of Lobito, one would easily mistakenly think of being far off somewhere in one of the Arabic Countries. The scenery is created by an abundance of clay brick houses that merge with the same coloured soil from which they are made, therefore everything is more or less yellow with specs of grey giving the impression of being in Morocco or another country to the north. The Canyon close to Flamingo Lodge bears similarity to the Ancient City in Jordan. Lucira and the area along the Carujamba valley with red-hued petrified dunes reminded one of Al Aun in the UAE. Travelling through the forest area above Calulo brought memories of the Ngoro Crater and the massive colourful blocks and blocks of newly build high-rise residential flats in Luanda create a very similar scene to the memories of Astana in Kazakhstan
Angola – truly a diverse country!
During the last 6 months putting the Patrol through almost every imaginable 4×4 ‘challenge’ imaginable, ranging from extreme dune driving in the Namib, rocky mountain passes in Namibia and Angola, tar and dirt roads varying from perfect to ‘very bad’ and even ‘extreme mud’ up close to the DRC border in Angola. In total we clocked just short of 40000 km’s. I grew to appreciate the abilities and ‘character’ of the Patrol. The converted and faithful Patrol owners would say ‘Patrol is king’. This is not only sentiment as there is a lot of features that would support this claim.
Apart from the enormous levels of comfort offered in the cabin, its brute power and the ability to accelerate make it the ideal vehicle not for the challenges offered by the diverse off-road conditions, not only out on the off the neaten tracks but also for caravanning and trailer towing. The Patrol is fitted with a fixed front axle that, in my opinion, guarantees a relatively constant ground clearance while the body of the vehicle is comfortably suspended on uneven terrain.
This, together with the correct approach, break over, and departure angles ensures that one can tackle challenging obstacles with great confidence. Initially the ‘standard’ suspension struggled with the task (and load), but after fitting aftermarket EFS suspension the Patrol lived up to the challenge of the uneven surfaces and tough off-road conditions, without sacrificing the comfortable ride. The Patrol’s suspension is now phenomenal, capable of smoothing out uneven terrain by rapidly flexing to the contours of the road while keeping the chassis surprisingly level.