shipwreck beach

Saturday morning we joined a group from the embassy for a field trip to one of the few  nearby destinations. We are discouraged from traveling too far outside of the city on our own and forbidden to do so into the countryside.  I wish we’d known of these restrictions before coming here, since one of the greatest things about being in the foreign service is having the opportunity to explore the city and country in which one is living.

Shipwreck beach is just over 20 miles from the city but with Luanda’s infamously choked traffic, it took us over 2 hours each way. Snakes joked that if we were stationed in Brussels, we’d be arriving in Paris soon. This reminded me of when we were studying at FSI and one of our instructors always referred to Luanda as “the Paris of Africa”. Hmmm, granted I’ve only been to Paris once and I have always taken pride in my active and generous imagination but, honestly, I’m not seeing it.

We threw together a small picnic and set off around 8am. We didn’t bring the dogs, though we should have. There were only a handful of other people wandering the rusty barge boneyard. When boats in the Luanda harbor are no longer seaworthy, this is where they once retired. It was stunning in that depressing “ruin-porn” kind of post-apocalyptic way. Massive barges, freighters and fishing boats rusted out, capsized and drifting ashore.

We didn’t spend as much time as I’d have liked at this incredibly photogenic spot. It’d be great to return much earlier to avoid traffic and take advantage of the early morning light. The bushbaby enjoyed the fresh air, open vistas from her papa’s shoulders and her first toe-dip in the Atlantic.

That night, tucked safely into our clean and comfy beds, my mind was cycling through images from the day, trying to wrap my head around all I’d seen. Sometimes it’s just too much to process. It’s overwhelming and exhausting. I always feel guilty for not doing more, having been simply born into the privilege and responsibility of being an American, the dizzying advantage of a birthright which so many have forgotten or never realize to begin with.

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20 thoughts on “shipwreck beach

  1. Hate to think about the environmental effects of those ships… but they are beautiful pics. There is a port (Chittagong) in Bangladesh where they tear down ships, supposed to be awesome (on my to do list). The Bushbaby sure is growing… and such a cutie! Loved that she enjoyed her first toe dip 🙂 xo

  2. Glad you got an outing! What a strange place to see – can’t imagine what the whole effect would be to see so many ghost ships. Did anyone know the stories behind the ships?

  3. thanks all for your sweet words regarding The Bushbabe. She is a sweetie pie.
    Also, thanks for that link, natalie. It’s oddly validating. Sometimes I feel like such a drip because I am having such a miserable time here- but when I read stuff like that, I think maybe I’m not such an unadaptable clod after all. It really IS hard.
    NBN- It was very surreal. And as far as the stories go, I wish it was more interesting than- “they just dumped them there because they had no other use for them.” But, that’s the story.

    1. That story stinks. I would be sorely tempted to start making ones up and just creating stories behind the various ship carcasses. I also read the BBC link – WOW, I didn’t realize how horribly bad prices were there. I am always amazed at how expensive it is here in Mozambique — really $4.00 for a papaya that grows locally? $4.00 for one liter of shelf milk? — don’t even ask the price for fresh. But Luanda prices truly take it. It is sad that Africa, and your niche specifically, are so expensive to live in. And yes, your post is HARD, you have every right to acknowledge the struggle of posting there. I think you are doing a fabulous job, though, and in the end it is temporary. Hang in there! This too shall pass.

  4. As a fan of ruin-porn (I wanted to do a whole photographic series on collapsed farmhouses in Fredericksburg) I loved these pictures. What a fascinating place. Glad to see you guys are able to get out and do something interesting!

  5. As I sit here finishing the BRU and wondering why your posts aren’t showing up in my reader, I’m in awe of your photos. The colors of these ruined ships are beautiful … and if I weren’t so darn exhausted, I’d make a slapstick comment comparing these shipwrecks to the latest wrecked cruise ship in Italy … despite it being in poor taste. Of course, to know me is to know that I AM that person who will make a comment like that … though I digress.

  6. “one of our instructors always referred to Luanda as “the Paris of Africa”. Hmmm, granted I’ve only been to Paris once and I have always taken pride in my active and generous imagination but, honestly, I’m not seeing it.”

    I’ve got to say you DO have a generous and charitable imagination, but Luanda as the Paris of Africa?! Ummmmmm. . . Riiiiiiiiight.

    Love the pics, though.

  7. I am somewhat surprised that no one is living aboard any of those vessels. Bushbaby is unbelievably cute. Love the hat. I have always known I am one of the lucky bastards (thanks dad), but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded .

  8. I stumbled upon your blog when a friend mentioned she was moving to Angola in September 2012 (I am South African from Joburg) and I thought I would do some research for her. I just wanted to say I LOVED reading your blog!! I read it all the way through and just loved the honesty, humor and your positive attitude! I think this will be perfect for my very adventurous friend to consider before she makes her grand entrance to Africa!
    Take care and KEEP WRITING!
    Janine

  9. Stumbled upon your blog looking for current photos of Huambo. Love these photos of the wrecked ships. I was in Angola a few times back in 2004 (and can relate to the terrible high prices; at that time it was US$ 35 for a crummy club sandwich at the Hotel Tropico). Best wishes raising your daughter in Angola; the plus side of a hardship posting is that the expats really form a strong and supportive community (fingers-crossed that’s what you’ve found in Luanda).

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