Friday, November 7, 2008

Week 14: The Baobab Tree Flowers

Nov 1 - 7, 08

What a wonderful way to start a weekend – waking up on a beach & going for an early morning swim! The water temperature is so much warmer than just a month ago, although it is a bit “refreshing” when you first go in; it is very pleasant to swim in. The waves are fun & there were a heap of fish literally jumping out of the sea.

After our swim we went for a walk along the beach & right under the cliffs I found some fossils! Very cool! I am sure they are ammonites. I found both a big one (about 6 cm) and a small one (about 2.5 cm). It makes up for our inability to find sharks tooth fossils at shipwreck beach.

We returned to the campsite to make breakfast – eggs & vege burgers – with Bill as chief cook of course! We are borrowing school camping equipment to cook with – buying our own set is on our increasingly large shopping list for the UK at xmastime.

After breakfast the sun started to get very hot, so we went for another swim, took the tent down ready to go home, & then went back swimming again. Bill had another (unsuccessful) go at trying to surf, but this time he foolishly forgot to wear a t-shirt so by the time he gave up, he’d given himself quite a bad rash from the top of the surfboard. A rash shirt for him is another item on our list!

The bus to pick us up arrived about an hour late – about mid-day. By then the beach was already starting to get quite crowded & it was getting very hot. We were more than ready to get out of the sun & the heat & return to Luanda.

The rest of Saturday went by quietly & on Sunday we went into the City to have pizza lunch down on the Marginal after a drink at the rooftop bar of Bahia (we decided we weren’t keen on another banana pizza, which is why we went next door to eat). Very mellow! We also had Monday off school as it was the day of the dead & although we probably should have done more school work, we both had another relaxing & mostly lazy day. I finally got the blog I’ve been meaning to start up & running – initially with just the first few of these weekly missiles. But it means that I have everything all in one place & easily accessible for anyone who is curious about our lives here. It is tricky to embed photos the way I can in this document, so instead I have slideshows running along the side. You can click on them to see the slideshow as bigger pictures, hosted on a different site.

The week at school went by quickly as always – Saturday is International day, so everyone is getting ready for that. It is a PTA event, so fortunately, not a lot of extra work for us, although I had to help out the Kiwi contingent as it is only teachers.

What has been a fascinating thing this week is that the baobab tree has started to flower. They have the most unlikely flower buds – they look like long green fruit hanging down out of the branches. The buds start off small (the size of a small kiwifruit) & get larger and rounder each day. Eventually they get to about the size of a baseball, - still hanging down from the tree on a stalk about 30 – 40 cm long – and then they are ready to open.

The baobab flower buds only open at dusk – so just on sunset, you can see the biggest of these buds starting to split open at the bottom. The flower inside is pure white, so you can see the white contrasting with the green bud. The whole process of the bud slowly splitting open to reveal the flower inside takes around an hour – by which time it is pitch black. The white flowers stand out clearly in the darkness, & then the bats come – it is a bat pollinated flower. The flowers only last one night – by morning they are looking brown & worse for wear. So far I haven’t detected a scent, but the conditions haven’t exactly been ideal – so far all the flowers have been high up in the tree & the only slightly lower one that has flowered so far did so on a night with a strong wind – not ideal for taking photos as it swung around in the wind, with the light getting poorer & poorer by the minute. I haven’t managed to really catch a good photo of the flower “popping out” yet – because as the bud splits open, once it gets to a certain point, it peels back suddenly as the flower falls out of it. It is just amazing to watch the process & the baobab tree has become a gathering point at dusk for those of us (new teachers – the others have done the same thing in previous years) trying to get a good photo.


Unknown said...

Hello, I have been reading your blog with great interest as I am considering moving to Angola in the next year. I am trying to gather information on living and working there - especially in the area of education as I am a primary school teacher from australia. I was just wondering if I could contact you directly to find out some more information. Thanks. Carmie.

Sue said...

Hi Carmie,
Sure, I'd be happy to answer your questions. If you give me an email address, I'll write to you.


Unknown said...

Hi - thanks for the response - you can email me at

Anonymous said...

I work with baobab trees and I am interested in knowing where did you take the picture of the baobabs you have in the photos...I did not know there were baobabs in Angola! Can you send me an email?

Thank you so much!

Sue said...

This part of Angola is FULL of baobab trees, you can't go anywhere in towns or the country without seeing them. The photos were taken of a tree in the garden (the flowers only come out just as it starts to get dark).

bathmate said...

Thank you for your fantastic posting