I have two rules for Africa. 1. Don’t cross borders at the end of the day, cross a border early in the day, many less hassles. 2. Don’t drive at night in Africa.
So today I broke both rules.
I left my wild camp near Rio Nahamacambe and got going about 8am. The N7 the day before was mostly pot-hole free, but it got worse as it progressed. I had one obstacle ahead. iOverlander said there was a checkpoint 50km ahead that checked your road tax. So I got every bit of paperwork out in preparation for that. However when I got there, no-one was there. It was a Saturday morning. About 100m further on was another checkpoint, this time military, but they were not interested in me.
I was going to stop in Tete, at the Shoprite supermarket. I drove past a Shoprite that was closed on the outskirts of Tete, and about 500m on I got stopped at another police checkpoint. This policeman told me I couldn’t go that way because the bridge had been cut across the Zambesi. So I turned around and took the highway out of town which crosses the Zambesi on a new bridge. I thought I would backtrack into Tete from the other side of the river. However that’s when I found the collapsed bridge. The northern part of Tete was not accessible from the N7.
So Shoprite was out of the question. So I continued on about 70km from the Malawi border. At around 4pm I was seriously looking for places to camp. iOverlander showed nothing. It was just too populated, there was village after village. I looked at google maps. It showed a hotel at Zobue the border town on the Mozambique side. Sure I thought I could park in their car park and stay there. Not surprisingly I arrived in Zobue with a main street choked with trucks, and no hotel in sight. So I am at the border post getting overwhelmed with fixers, money changers and people selling reflectors required in Malawi. I had no choice I had to cross the border at dusk. I knew the border post was open until 9m. So I get through the Mozambique side pretty easy, and shake off the fixers. Its a 4km drive through no-mans land until the Malawi side.
I arrive at the Malawi post. Of course, as is true of most African land borders there are dozens of trucks packed everywhere. I park up the end and I am surrounded by maybe 8 people, fixers, sim sellers and money changers. The money changer I wanted so I got rid of all my Mozambique currency for Malawi Kwacha. I didn’t want a sim seller, because I am much better of getting a sim from a seller in a town who can activate the sim and load it up for me. Also I didn’t want a fixer, but they are much harder to shake. It turned out I had to present to a medical tent to show my vaccine passport (that no-one ever scanned, faking one would be easy). I filled in another form, showed my passport. Then I drove to the immigration building (fixers in tow), where despite having an e-visa, I filled in another form. Then with fixers in tow, I went to the area to get a TIP (Temporary Import Permit). I got the permit noted that my name was spelt wrong (doesn’t matter they said) paid for it in USD and most of my Malawi Kwacha, that I had got from the money exchanger. After all this its 7pm at night. I now have to find an insurance broker to give me road insurance. I visit the insurance office – closed. Someone says they will ring them, and a few minutes later a helpful english speaking man gets me to hand over $A50 for 30 days road insurance. This takes half an hour or so. I ask him if he knows of anywhere to stay, and he says he is going home, and I can follow him and he will show me a hotel down the road. So its nearly 8pm dark and in Africa and I am driving down the road, not sure I am following the right car. He leads me to a Hotel, and I am very grateful.
I ask the hotel if I can park in the carpark overnight. Sure they say $A30 to stay in the car park $A40 to sleep in a room. I am convinced and pay for a room. I am asleep fairly soon, after breaking all my African rules, its been a long tiring day.