Sunday, February 22, 2009

Week 26: Fossils & an Impressive War Memorial

Feb 09 – 15, 2009



For those of you who think we never teach a five day week, you’ll be pleased to know that this was actually a full working week. In fact, we even worked Friday evening as well as chaperones for the school dance. I must say, it did feel like a long week!

We had our usual “catch up” day on Saturday, doing shopping etc with the plan being to spend Sunday retracing our steps from two weeks earlier to revisit the fossil cliff at Barra do Dande and then chill at the resort afterwards. Saturday evening we went around to Julie’s apartment to see “Slumdog Millionaire” (courtesy of the Thai pirate DVD industry).

We went by 4 wheel drive & left quite early Sunday morning. We had a good run through the city & out the north coast. When we took the turn off for Barra do Dande, we were rather surprised to find ourselves on the new sealed road for the entire time – in just two weeks, the road has essentially been finished!

We still needed the 4 wheel drive to get up to the top of the cliff for the fossil beach – by this time it was becoming scorching hot. We weren’t the only ones at the beach – there were some sea anglers under the cliffs to the right.

It was nice to explore along the bottom of the cliff by ourselves, looking out for fossils along the way. The place is just covered in them. We were able to go right around as the tide was quite far out. Bill was convinced he saw a turtle’s head a couple of times, but I was never looking in the right direction at the right time!

We found more clam fossils (the most common type of fossil there), a few more ammonite fossils – but in huge boulders, & what looks to me like fish vertebrae & bones.

It was while we were here that Bill started to have trouble with his new zoom lens – unbelievably it is playing up to the extent that it is almost unusable! It will still be under warranty in the summer when we get back to Manchester, but once again we are having to share my 300 mm zoom lens! This just makes me more determined to buy a new camera over the summer – both our cameras are about 4 years old & it would be devastating if one of them broke with months & months to wait till we get back to Europe again. Sharing a lens is one thing – sharing a camera wouldn’t be a happy picture!

By the time we were ready for lunch it was way too hot to sit in the sun so we found some shade under the cliffs at the other end of the beach. We sat & ate our buns & watched the birds fly down from the cliffs to go fishing in the ocean in front of us. We even spotted a common whimbrel looking for crabs in the rocks right in front of us. It flew past & when I looked at my photos I found one with the whimbrel flying over the sea, and right behind it I had caught one of the jumping fish that you see all along this coast. Not a great pic of the fish, but I was still chuffed with it.

After lunch we climbed back to the waiting car & then went to the resort on the other side of the fishing village & river. We were able to find ourselves a jango with table & chairs next to the beach. We had a couple of cold drinks, I went for a quick dip in the sea (which just shows how hot it was) & we sat in the shade & read our books. The sea was a little bit seaweedy, but the beach itself is clean with lots of shade. People were having their lunch outside under their jangos (which is probably just as well, as the restaurant is small). It is a great beach for kids – unlike Cabo Lebo, where the waves are just too big & strong.

There were grey herons flying past, & I took a few snaps, but Bill hardly picked his camera up (he was reading a very good book he couldn’t put down).

We left for home about 2pm & asked our driver if we could stop at the war memorial we’d spotted on the drive down. It was the memorial that had been pointed out to us during our history lesson at the Bende River bridge. From the road you can only just see a statue with a flag above the trees, but we thought it might be interesting to have a quick look.

The driver had never been to the memorial before, but it was easy for us to work out how to get to it, as it is right on top of the only hill in the area (it is where the Cubans had their guns positioned). There is a restaurant on the grounds of the memorial, but it wasn’t open. The guard was happy to let us in to look at the memorial (although he did seem a bit surprised – most people must combine their visit with a meal). I have to be honest, we weren’t expecting anything special – we thought it would just be a statue on a plinth & that would be about that, but we were totally impressed by the entire memorial. As soon as we got out of the car, we could look north and see all the way to the Bende River as clear as anything. (Actually, when I checked on Google Earth, I found it was only about 260 m as the crow flies (or the missile shoots)! What a strategic spot! No wonder this part of the war was won here.

The actual memorial consisted of a dedication plaque from President Santos on Nov 9, 2004 - just before Independence Day on Nov 11, which is about when this battle was fought.

The memorial inscription is written on a huge stone map of Angola: Monument to the Battle of Kifangondo, 1975 (this is the name of this particular area).

The actual memorial is a 3-D representation of the symbol in the Angolan flag. It has two semi-circular marble walls with the base for the statues in the middle, where the machete crosses the “cogged wheel” The star should have had an eternal light (but it was out). The “machete” is a pond, with some fountains at the back.

On the inside curved walls are 6 big bronze murals which apparently tell the story of the battle. Unfortunately, there are no explanations, so you need to already know the story (which we don’t) to be able to follow it fully. It clearly shows a big battle, prisoners being taken & people dying & the victory in the 4th panel. The fifth panel is a city street scene – people holding placards saying “death to the mercenaries”. The last mural looks like a war crimes trial, with a woman sitting at the front underneath the judges while a lawyer points at a person in the audience, who has a leg up on a chair.

Its hard to make more sense of it all – we think the man in glasses – in the main statue and in the first mural is the first president of Angola – Agostinho Neto. I was able to find out that the other man in the big statue is David Moisés “Ndozi” – one of the commanders of the nationalist forces at the site. He is possibly also shown in the other murals, but it is hard to tell. The murals and the statues themselves are amazing works of art – they are very realistic & the artist (Rui de Matos) is very talented. (I read somewhere that he himself is an army general!).

Our driver got out & had a good look around himself, but we were virtually the only ones there apart from several couples cuddling under the trees in the grounds (it is obviously the place to bring your girlfriend). We couldn’t get over the fact that no one seemed to know anything about the place, yet alone recommending the visit. We thought it was really special.

After leaving the memorial, we had a good trip home (especially considering it was a Sunday afternoon) – once the new roads are finished, it will make trips north so much faster & easier.

Week 27: Illness Strikes

Feb 16 – 22, 2009

I’m putting this week as a tagalong after last week as it was so uneventful. It was another full week of school, with things gearing up to the fast approaching end of term & all the extra assessments that seems to bring.

The week was busy with the usual workload, but it took on a much more negative feeling as our health started to pack up. Bill got a series of nasty cold sores (which the medicine kept from getting truly horrible, but couldn’t stop from spreading), and then on Friday night scared both of us by cutting his thumb so badly that we thought he might lose the top. He refused to go to the doctor for stitches so we had to just make do with bandages & crossed fingers. We went into the city for pizza lunch on Sunday, but I started to feel quite ill on the way in & within 4 hours was well & truly miserable with a nasty cold or flu. Not a wonderful week for either of us!

1 comment:

Herby said...

Thanks for the informations in your blog, I will come back