The road from Cacuso deteriorates quickly, with frequent potholes forcing our driver to slalom te road. The landscape is flat, and it is hard to believe we are on our way to the rock formations of Pungo Andongo, until we see a group of rocks on our left. We stop for the views, and to our surprise, the driver does not turn, but continues further southwest. It is only when we reach the village of M'Banza N'Dongo that we see a second, bigger area of rock formations and yes, this is where we turn. A short drive takes us around and inside the area of Pungo Andongo. To our surprise, we find a small settlement, a well protected place between the rocks rising high on all sides. We take a dirt track which leads us further into the rocks, until we reach the end. To our surprise, we find a staircase on the rocks, and we climb until we reach the top of the rock.
Before our eyes, we now see the landscape from above, and get a better idea of it. Every rock has a different shape, many are rounded at the top, and it is not difficult to imagine seeing animals in them. These rocks have legendary and mythical significance for locals, for whom this was the capital of the Kingdom of Ndongo. One of the legends is that queen Nzinga was inadvertently seen here by soldiers while she was taking a bath, and while she fled, she left footprints on the rocks. The place obviously has strategic importance, and the Portuguese built a military fort here back in the 17th century, which became so notorious that even in Portugal children were threatened that they would be sent to Pungo Andongo if they didn't behave. But for us, this is just an area of natural beauty.
We wonder if it would be possible to hike here: there are trails at the bottom of the valley between the rock formations, and further into the valley, we can still see plantations. Unfortunately, we do not have time for further exploration. While on the track back to the settlement, we ask the driver to stop, and walk the straight track, lined by bushes, with a big rock formation at the end. A little later, we again get out, and walk another trail with views of the most spectacular formations, some looking like thick needles sticking into the sky. Where Pungo Andongo looks like a mountainous rock area when you are inside, seeing the 200 metres high rocks rise from an otherwise flat landscape is a geological puzzle. It is easy to understand why these would have acquired legendary status for the Ndongo people.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Pungo Andongo (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Pungo Andongo.
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