26 hours of road tripping

I have missed travelling so much! With my husbands work pressure and due to political unrest in the central region of Mozambique, we have been restricted to Mafambisse and Beira! So when we made  our first trip up to Malawi over the weekend, I felt like I was a bird being let out of a cage!

Suddenly that excitement of exploring somewhere ‘new’ came flooding back. That feeling when you haven’t seen a good friend for a very long time and on seeing them again, you realise just how much you have missed them! Travel for the Ashtons is back! And a big adventure too.  My family, the 5 remaining guinea pigs, pet tortoise and 4 dogs will be moving to Malawi in 3 weeks time.

We will be camping in our own house for a few months while we wait for our furniture to arrive. And that will only happen once my husband’s work permit has been approved. So this last weekend we decided to make the epic 12 hour journey north and take up our camping gear to our new pozzie. The next and final trip up to Malawi will leave no space for anything, as our vehicle will be packed to the hilt with kids and animals!

Of course, for our trip back to Mozambique, we decided to take the road less traveled.

Good morning Mozambique

Good Morning Mozambique! This is our usual pee break spot for the kids! 1 hour into the trip, 11 more to go!

Vanduzi crops

The beautiful Mozambican back drop of the Vanduzi Estate where vegetables are grown and exported to South Africa and Europe.

We reached the city of Tete around midday. I’ve always been curious about Tete, mostly because some folk call it the arm pit of Africa! It’s a hot, dry city which has recently taken off because of 2 massive coal mines. It’s been the ‘gold rush’ for Mozambique, with thousands of people flocking to the dust bowl in hope of finding employment or making millions! In the summer months, temperatures rise into their 50’s (Celsius) and in mid Winter, you can still fry an egg on your car bonnet, it’s that hot! I was quite pleased to have a peak at the city while throttling passed with the air conditioner pumping full blast!

Welcome to the city of Tete!

Welcome to the city of Tete!

Bike ride in Tete          Zambezi River through Tete

While meandering up the hills towards the Malawi border, WHAM BAM, the highlight of my trip almost smacked me in the eyes, literally! We spotted what I am assuming to be boys from the Nyau tribe running down the road in their full kit with panga knives and sticks. I believe this culture is common in Malawi, but can also be found in Mozambique, close to the Malawian border. Naturally, I whipped the window down and began clicking away furiously as we drove past them, smiling and waving in a friendly typical touristy type way! And shit balls, but I can confidently warn you to keep your head inside the car! They were shouting and swinging their panga knives and sticks in a way that would have made me hot trot it out of there into the thick bush had I been on foot! I have since googled them and suspect they were performing an initiation ritual where they are made to live in their ancestral grave yard for a while and make contact with the spirits of the dead. Then they come out dressed in their costumes that have been handed down the family generations and perform a ceremonial dance. They are meant to be feared and intimidating. And I commend those boys, because they were bloody frightening! I look forward to learning more about this fascinating culture and of course sharing it with you when I get some hard facts!

Nyau tribe

Malawi 1 182_edited-1   Malawi 1 184_edited-1

By the end of our trip, the kids were raging lunatics with a lot of pent up energy. The only way we could help them release it was by pumping up the tunes as we zig-zagged down the steep terrain into the Shire Valley. We finally got there at 7 pm and were ready for a celebratory ice cold beer! And this is what we will be calling home in the near future πŸ™‚

Malawi 1 320

Shire River fishermen

Home sweet home_edited-1      Baobab silouette

 Monday morning came very quickly and it was already time to head back to Mozambique. We were toying with the idea of going back the same tarred, fairly pot hole free way, but where is the adventure in that? So we took the less travelled route instead, via what was possibly the quietest, smallest border post in all of Africa! The Vila Nova de Fronteira border consists of an abandoned train station and a single boom that people walked around or under as they please.  In fact we had to go under the boom over to Mozambique to go and find the customs official.

     Southern tip of Malawi_edited-2     Quiet Mozambican border

Abandoned train station

Our son exploring the border post while his dad went in search of the customs official.

After a few minutes wait, he appeared with a large, shabby book and took us to one of the rooms in the deserted train station. He asked us to take a seat on the two rickety chairs available and engaged in a bit of light banter before stamping our passports. In no time, he had lifted the boom and we set off down a long and dusty road that sometimes looked like a bicycle track. 100 kilometers later and a few hours on, we reached the Zambezi river.

National Mozambican road ii

Donna Anna Bridge

Dona Ana Bridge, Mutarara (The longest railway bridge in Africa)

From there we took a left down another little national road for another 160 km or so. And in the middle of that stretch, we crossed the beautiful Shire      river on a manually operated ferry that winds it’s way around a mountain and an abandoned Portuguese cattle estate. We drove for what seemed an eternity! But we eventually reached the Caia bridge that crosses the Zambezi river. It was plain sailing from here!

National Mozambican road

Road to Chipanga. WARNING: We were told by the locals that if you use this road during the rainy season, you don’t come out!

Malawi 1 509    Ferry crossing

Reaching the tar road came just as I was about to make a home-made kidney belt! The smooth tar road was bliss after hundreds of kilometers of bumpy terrain. We approached the mysterious Gorongosa mountain range and marveled at how quiet the roads were. It was only the following day, once home and safe, that we heard the news that the military supplies column was attacked on the same day on this very road! And there we were having pee breaks and taking photos of the mountain with not a worry in the world!

Smoked goats meat

Padkos/Road snacks: Extra large kebabs of smoked goats meat

Gorongosa Mountain range

Gorongosa Mountain range

After a very exciting road trip, I am pumped to explore new parts of this beautiful continent! In the next few weeks we have the monumental task of packing up our house. Then it’s back on the road and up to Malawi for a new chapter in our lives and for the Africa Far and Wide blog.

“Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think you’ve lost time. There is no short-cutting to life. It took each and every situation you have ever encountered to bring you to the now. And now is the right time.”

– Asha Tyson

28 replies »

  1. What a lovely experience. I would love to read more about your adventures. I was born at Malamula Mission Hospital near Tsyolo and my sister in Blantyre. We lived on Namingomba Tea Estate where my dad was the engineer. Are u moving to Nchalo Sugar? We stayed there with George and Jean O’Reilly 16 years ago and the foito u posted of the house looks a lot like theirs!! Safe travels!! Kind regards Lynne (McGillivray) Hulett

    • Such a small world Lynne as my folks (Dawn and Austin Houghton) also worked for Namingomba, although not on the main estate but on Lujenda next door to Mafisi and close to Small Holdings!!

  2. Excellent photo-essay. You have produced another fascinating window into another part of the world.
    I am in the process of composing a creative improvisational expression post for my new blog ( Implied Spaces). I will be incorporating a link to this post into the composition when it is finished.
    Thanks again for continuing to support my photo blog. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Alessandro πŸ™‚ I’ve been a bit quiet in the last few months, but am rearing to go again with all these new places to go, people to meet, stories to hear and experiences to have! Malawi here we come!

  3. I love it when people say nice things about Malawi! Lol! Great pictures and can’t wait to experience my home country through your lens and words. Move now!!!! πŸ™‚

    • Thank you πŸ™‚ We cant wait to get there! My husband lived in Kusungu for a couple years before we were married. I visited him once or twice and fell in love with Malawi way back then! When we were on a frantic African job search not so long ago, I was always gunning for Malawi. And we got it! Exciting times ahead πŸ™‚

    • Wow kasungu?! Thats my mums home village. I also went to high school there at kamuzu academy. Small world! Wishing you a safe journey!

  4. Thanks for the remarkable road trip. I’ve ben jumping back and forth between your words and pictures – and Google maps. Absolutely fascinating, but would raise a lot of fear anxiety if I were there. M

    • Thank you πŸ™‚ These times here in central Mozambique are concerning. Although the unrest is only in a couple targeted areas, we’re keeping our guards up. Generally, we are feeling safe.

  5. Those very roads and border crossing are familiar to me from years spent in northern Mozambique. You capture them so well. And the area you are moving to in Malawi is stunning, so I’m truly looking forward to upcoming posts!

    • Thank you so much. We’ll be moving to the Nchalo sugar estate which I’m sure you’re familiar with. Hope you enjoy the up and coming posts πŸ™‚

  6. So wonderful to read this and see your pictures – we lived in Malawi from 1970 to 1987 and some of my most treasured memories are from there. It holds a very special place in my heart!! You too will discover, I am sure, why they call it the “warm heart of Africa” and I look forward to reading all about in your blog, which is such a joy and pleasure to read.

    • Thank you so much Mary πŸ™‚ It’s been wonderful hearing from so many people how Malawi holds a special place in their heart! I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll be saying the same thing soon too!

    • You will I am sure – the only other place that ever came close to it was Ixopo and surrounds!! We lived on a tea/tobacco estate near Thyolo. Where about are you going to be based? Thanks again for your blog – it really is wonderful x

    • Thank you Bart πŸ™‚ I remember when I lived overseas, Africa became so sweet. Once it’s in your blood, it stays πŸ™‚ Yet I still miss a good old English pub pint and proper shinding!