The first part of our journey progresses smoothly. Malawi’s roads appear to be in relatively good condition. I mentioned that to Guy Harvey upon arrival in Lilongwe, but he just grinned. “Just wait until you get to Mozambique,” he said.
But the roads on the other side of the border are just as smooth. “This stretch was built in 2005,” says Alex. We cruise along at a steady 70 km per hour and I am starting to suspect Guy may have exaggerated
Then we hit Changara.
The asphalt ahead looks as if it’s been hit by a cluster bomb. Some of the craters are deep enough to bathe a small child in, and Alex must slow the truck to a crawl. Bouncing violently in our seats he navigates around the potholes, sometimes driving around them and sometimes going straight through.
“If I approach a hole from the wrong angle I could tip the truck,” he explains. At times, the best option is driving next to the pavement.
I ask Alex about the red-and-white tapes tied between poles at regular intervals alongside the road. “Landmines,” he explains. A decade after the end of Mozambique’s civil war, many areas remain infested with unexploded ammunition.
When I relief myself along the roadside, I prudently aim for the pavement rather than into the bush.
We are overtaken by a Toyota Landcruiser and a bicycle. But with 20 tons of precious tobacco in tow, we must continue our slow-motion slalom. The speedometer never exceeds 10 km per hour.
Two children are “fixing” the road by throwing sand in the potholes. Alex hands them some money, but then grumbles that they should be in school.
After three-and-and-half hours, we hit Guro and the road starts improving.