I’ll spare you all the frustrating details, but we lost a day acquiring a rental vehicle in Zimbabwe due to car renters later changing their minds on our agreed-upon-price after we shook hands on deals. We finally started our journey on Thursday morning, first crossing the border from Zimbabwe to Mozambique, after dutifully filling out forms and paying required fees. The paved road was good at first, but eventually it turned for the worse. Periodic patches of crater-sized pot holes plagued us. And just as we were tempted to think our fortunes had changed after a good stretch, WAM! Another bone-jarring moonscape that was hard on both man and machine.
Then it turned dark, and we noticed that our headlights were dim, making it even more difficult to foresee those pothole patches. Then it started raining. Inadequate windshield wipers coupled with no lines on dark roads made for a tense ride through the night.
Because our progress was slow, by the time we made it to the border of Mozambique and Malawi, the border was closed. Our hotel options were the Hotel from Hell and the Hotel from Purgatory. In the end, our team of four ended up in the Hotel from Hell, because there were no rooms left at the Hotel from Purgatory. We soon understood why.
The best thing that could be said about the Hotel from Hell is that it was dry, as it shielded us from the night’s rain. It was, however, too dry, as the toilet in the hotel’s common filthy bathroom didn’t flush, and the bucket that was supposed to contain water for manually flushing the toilet was empty. The hotel’s common “shower stall,” dirty and dilapidated, obviously hadn’t been used in years. Our beds smelled like truck drivers who hadn’t showered (imagine that!) and the pillows were rock hard. It was a negative-five-star hotel. When we paid the manager upon checking out the next morning ($30 for three rooms), I expected that he would be holding a pitchfork.
In retrospect, I wish I had chronicled all of this in photos for you, but I was never in a photo-taking mode.
At the Mozambique/Malawi border crossing, we paid to insure our vehicle for the third time of our journey. And we somehow escaped attempted shakedowns by two border officers, one who noticed that we hadn’t properly stopped where the word “Stop” was painted on the pavement and covered with mud, and the other who wanted to tax us for driving a nine-seat van (we are driving a five-seat mini van).
Finally, a few hours later in the early Friday afternoon, we rejoiced to arrive at what seemed like the Hotel from Heaven at our destination of Blantyre, Malawi. We were just in time to head out of town to the remote village of Chidothe, where the second day of my three-day crusade was already in progress. But that is a story for my next blog… David