We left Moçâmedes later than we expected.
Pointed to the south, we cross the inhospitable landscape, in a race against the declining sun. Imminent, the sunset gilded and beautified that great, unattractive nothingness.
When the star finally says goodbye, we climb the first of the hills on which the houses of Curoca fit.
Namesake of another Angolan municipality located on the border with Namíbia, this town adapted its name from the ephemeral river that passes through there, shortly before entering the Atlantic.
Even humble and somewhat uncharacteristic, Curoca hides its charms. We would have to return there.
Aware of how much was left to reach our final destination, we crossed the village. We continue down EN100, at the speed possible.
The temporary ground was so rough that Alexandre Rico, the guide who led us, preferred to take sandy escapes, parallel to the road.
Arrival at Gilberto Passos Orca Camp
Native to the province, son of an Angolan father and mother from Namíbia, Alexandre knew the terrain.
Despite the darkness and, at a certain point, a certain lack of definition of the path generated by the movement of the sand, 150km and more than three hours later, we arrived at the Orca camp and its famous Cave.
There we are welcomed by Mr. Gilberto Passos and his wife Isabel. Courteous, accept apologies due for delay. Then, they begin an explanatory journey.
Camp Orca is located at the northern end of immense Iona, the largest national park in Angola. Angolan, born in mix, Gilberto was the exclusive concessionaire and administrator for 15 years.
His administration lasted as long as it lasted. From 1975 onwards, the spread and worsening of the Angolan Civil War dictated the systematic capture of animals in the park, as a means of feeding troops and poaching to generate income.
The war dragged on until 2002. Even after its end, the extermination of fauna continued. It was only in 2010 that financial and operational partnerships began to be established with European Union institutions and others, in the hope that the park would recover its previous animal wealth.
In the meantime, Gilberto preserved the right to explore the Orca camp, still arranged around a hill formed by countless ocher and rounded rocks.
A few, located in front of those arriving and more emblematic, form the Grotto, the lithic and reputed hostel where we would spend the night.
Gilberto and Isabel show us different rooms, which they give us to choose from.
Afterwards, they lead the entourage to the dining room. While we inspect several photographs of meetings with personalities visiting the Grotto, the hosts finish a surprising meal.
We were well into the interior of inhospitable Namibe.
However, supported by a few employees, the couple treated us to a cataplana worthy of the best seafood restaurants, followed by delicious sweet pears.
Warm and lively night in Volta da Fogueira
At the beginning of winter in the Southern Hemisphere and Cacimbo, it is cold in the desert. Gilberto and Isabel invite us to continue the conversation next to a large fire that they light nearby.
Gilberto tells us episodes and adventures from his long life in Angola.
His career as a musician and how it allowed him to socialize with other renowned musicians and entertain and encourage the Angolan military, in different places in Angola and during the Colonial War.
Play us and sing some hits by Zeca Afonso, from Catherine Evans, Duo Ouro Negro and others.
After the journey from distant Moçâmedes, lulled by its melodies, we soon gave in to sleep.
We fell asleep without making up our minds about what was more special, that place alone, or the honor of discovering it that way.
Whatever the case, we tried to wake up before dawn.
Aurora from the Top of Mount Karst from “The Grotto”
At that time, a few employees were already working on a water pump. They show us the best way to climb to the top of the karst mountain in which the Cave was located.
We chased away a few surprised Hyraxes.
From the top, we can see, at 360º, Namibe as far as the eye can see.
Soon, we appreciate the emerging sun gilding it and its lines of acacias.
In the distance, three or four donkeys roamed the vastness in search of water.
We extend contemplation as far as we can.
When we return to the ground, on the opposite side of the climb, we find ourselves facing a kind of camp museum parking lot.
Four old trucks were lined up there, often used during the years that Gilberto was responsible for the Iona PN.
Buoyed by the expected conviviality and a lively debate about the best sequence for the itinerary we were going to follow, breakfast keeps us there until the estimated time.
We said goodbye, grateful for everything, to Gilberto and Isabel.
In search of the Curoca River and the Pediva Hot Springs
We reverse onto the EN100. For a short time. Moments later, Alexandre turns east. We entered a sandy and, by comparison, tight canyon.
This gorge takes us to a distinct stretch of the Curoca river, one of its few sections that, supplied by springs, maintained its flow.
Hot waters gushed out from there.
The small river oasis flanked by palm trees became known as Termas de Pediva. Its waters, both thermal and conventional, support an ecosystem that was once prolific.
As part of the international recovery effort, the authorities installed a ranger station on the PN Iona in the immediate vicinity.
There are two rangers on duty, in matching uniforms, who register our visit and passage.
From Pediva, we started our return, along a path, in a different part where we crossed paths with cows, donkeys, a few zebras and gazelles that were plowing through a rare undulating hay, left by recent rains.
Two annoying punctures slow us down again.
Even so, around four in the afternoon, we are back in Curoca.
Some wind ventilates the town.
It refreshes the Angolans who inhabit it, simple people, used to jeeps appearing and roaming among their houses, in search of information, supplies or, as it also ended up happening to us, one jeep to another.
The Uncommunal Hills and the Oasis of Curoca
We converge on one of the geological attractions that made the town famous, the Curoca Hills or, as they are also called, Vale do Espírito.
They are, in practice, a colossal alignment of canyons.
De canyons multicolored from which peculiar formations stand out, full of fossils that the retreat of the oceans left there.
A treasure that residents of Curoca are trying to appreciate.
We come across a trio of girls carrying piles of branches on their heads, sources of fire, heating and cooked food that replace more modern and easier ones.
We crossed the entire town.
We are astonished to see how the riverbed turns it into an oasis, broken up into small gardens and plantations that supply Moçâmedes and even, further south, Tongwa, the old colonial Porto Alexandre.
On a tertiary, sandy and narrow path, a herd of cows blocks our path.
With this additional time lost, when we arrive at Arcos, the formation is already in shadow.
Of the lagoon, too used for countless irrigations, there is no sign.
Still beaten by the sun, dozens of young people are playing a dusty soccer game at the base of opposite cliffs.
We return to Moçâmedes.
We recovered the tires and tiredness.
The following morning, we would resume our journey through Namibe, re-entering the Iona National Park through the north entrance that gives access to its immense dune area.
HOW TO GO
1 - Book your travel program for Namibe and other parts of Angola at Cosmos Angola – Travel and Tourism: phone/whats App +244 921 596 131