Saturday, August 21, 2010

16 - Sunset Boulevarding

Namibe's waterfront church and government building
Horace Five King's hour has inflated into two. We drive down the coast a short distance, past the little church atop its low bluff, to a swimming haunt where the Atlantic sparkles azure against the stark brown barrenness. Now Mr. Five Kings wants to buy a fish for his boss while I want to hurry on back to visit the reputedly breathtaking Tunda-Vala volcanic fissures on the other side of Lubango. Just before the church, we drive down the shore where he purchases an enormous specimen for $30, stuffs it in the boot. And we're off! For 10 minutes. Mr. Five Kings has forgotten a huge cooking pot in his house, so back we go again.
Mountain view south of Namibe

By the time we've returned to Lubango, he wants to deliver his catch to his boss first before it goes rotten. It's getting late, the sun's going down and it's time for me to assume a leadership role. No way, says I, I've paid $250 for the day and I'm gonna make my day. We drive on down an increasingly rutted track until we hit some rocks that our 4X4 does not take kindly to. Out we get to cover the rest by foot. HFK says he needs to take a right royal shit, and disappears among huge boulders, perched precariously every which way on top of each other as if by some titan's hand. I forge on ahead, leaving him to his business.

It must be at least a couple of miles among the boulders and then across an open mesa. The sun's rays are getting lower and lower. And then, there it is, awe-inspiring, the Tunda-Vala volcanic fissure, a narrow crevasse plunging like a dagger's jagged slash into the craggy escarpment, glowing like a bloody wound in the klieg lights of the setting sun. Some 3,500 feet below, a green carpet of trees unfurls to row after row of mountains disappearing into the golden-red haze.
Tunda-Vala volcanic fissure
Here, not so long ago, criminals and rebels were blindfolded and shot on the very brink or told to walk over. My vertigo pushes me back from the edge. HFK comes puffing up, complaining that his thighs are chafed by such hard walking. Shall I blindfold him?
From the top of Tunda-Vala

It is now virtually dark. We make our way back; a couple of couples are making out in the bushes. At last we reach the car. What’s that smell? The stench inside is strong, gamey, nay verily putrid indeed. Perhaps Mr. Five Kings had a point. We should have delivered the fish first after all.
Sunset over Tunda-Vala

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