5. the feeling of riding to war

Rio Longa

The beginning of the drive was amazing, the feeling of riding to war, not knowing where or what to expect and the strange scenery all added to the feeling of surrealism. The road north is a single semi-tarred affair with trucks cannibalized where they have broken down. Out side of Caba Ledo is a huge base of special ops soldiers that have red berets with a baltjie of a leopard’s face. They looked exceptionally tough and mean; a mixture of blacks and coloreds but not a white face to be seen.  Then there was another African market with plenty of dried fish and meat hanging in the hot sun; the smell of a fishing village’s market is unique in this world, thank goodness. Past the village the semi- desert vegetation is as strange as it is beautiful. The tallest cacti I have ever seen before or since grow along this coastal belt, interspersed with huge baobab trees. An almost alien landscape. The grass is sparse and in between is the sand I remembered well from my Border trips. So on we drove, at the time we did not know it, but we were to travel about 200km north towards Luanda, the capital. At one point we came to a bridge that had been blown up and the road was rebuilt into the then dry gully. That road would not survive the first rains. The first white people we saw were the road builders that seemed to be Portuguese descendents, right then my plan for escape and evasion, if necessary.  A deaf-mute porra road workman should do nicely! It got dark very quickly and we didn’t see any other traffic, again for obvious reasons. Not much movement after dark in operational areas.

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