How can we possibly describe the whirlwind that is the Lubango shopping experience? While transiting from store to store, you are constantly treated to the vibrancy of Lubango. From the vivid colors of the people’s clothing, to the Portuguese being shouted across busy streets, to the chaotic flow of the traffic.
The shopping process itself is not straightforward, although the friendly locals are always willing to lend a hand or give a useful tip. We were pleasantly surprised to find plaster and ethanol available from certain hardware stores, but then went on quite a wild goose chase for acetone (a key ingredient for our field consolidant mixture). After scouring various suppliers and running down many leads with no luck, we eventually emerged victorious from…a beauty supply store!! We may have decimated their inventory, but we emerged with many tiny bottles of nail polish remover. With everything packed in the Land Cruiser, and after a quick stop to pick up sandwiches, we set off for Bentiaba.
Our journey to Bentiaba was initiated with a spectacular drive from Lubango to the edge of the plateau, before dropping into a meandering series of hairpin turns descending from the plateau, Serra da Leba. What a spectacular vista. After the initial decent, Baobab trees could be seen clustered together, some still bearing fruit, reminding us “we are definitely in Africa”. Continuing down, you are driving through a surreal landscape of beautiful eroded granite giving way to the gently rolling coastal desert.
At the end of our previous field season, we had left much of our field gear with Alvarito Baptista in the coastal town of Moçâmedes which was our next stop, late in the afternoon. Alvarito and his father are both excellent naturalists. Not long ago Alvarito photographed a leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) on a beach in southern Angolan. Leopard seals are Antarctic animals with very few records in southern Africa. No records of their occurrence in Angola are recorded in the literature, including the recent compendium, Biodiversity of Angola. Thus, Alvarito may have recorded its first occurrence in Angola and its northernmost occurrence in Africa.
A quick inventory of the supplies verified we had everything we needed for the field. So after loading the car, we set off for our final stop of the day; our base camp at Bentiaba. When we arrived, late in the evening, dinner was ready and the tents were set! All thanks to one of our long-time outfitters that has supported our stays at Bentiaba since 2006. A delicious meal of bitoque (Portuguese-style steak with egg) rejuvenated our energy after a long day. Tomorrow, the field! Tomorrow…the fossils!