Monday, August 23, 2010

Where the road ends ...

With the fresh light of day, we packed up our tents and had a quick breakfast to fill our bellies. The road ahead of us lay heavy on our minds. We had already seen many rough patches of road, so  wondered how bad this new stretch of road would actually be. Little prickles of uncertainty scratched at my brain, but with another new traveler joining us to help with the driving, it seemed that the destination was onward and upward.  We had no way to reach our fallen comrade Brett, so turned to the bumpy road ahead of us and focused on getting back to him however it took.
We had already seen a fair share of potholes on our journeys through Mozambique, but now they got wider, deeper and more frequent as our little Kombi chugged along the highway. The suggestion to stop for gas had been pushed at us heavily before we had left. Stories of buses and transport trucks getting stuck on the road, falling off the road or simply running out of gas along the road  were numerous. We had listened to the stories with growing trepidation and as we saw the petrol station grow in our sites, we paid heed and pulled off to fill our tank. We had even prepared by bringing a jerry can as well. It was filled to the brim and we prayed that it would be enough to see us through to the other side. The horror stories had suggested it was a must. I for one did not want to be left stranded to the elements in the middle of nowhere. Looking at a map, it appeared that no towns or villages would meet us till we reached the end of Highway 1. By all accounts, it sounded like it would be a tight squeeze to make it that far. There were no other roads to take though.
We pulled away from the gas station with  a full tank hoping we were ready to conquer the divide. The road continued to degenerate. Soon we found ourselves swerving all over the road to avoid the ever-growing potholes. Whole sections of pavement slid deep into gullies. Our speed dropped, as we feared the unknown gaps in the road ahead. At points we crawled to a slither to bump into and through more manageable obstructions. Conversation become sparse and was relegated to sightings and suggestions of how to manoeuvre the road. Windows were cracked enough to dispel the heavy breath in the van.  Dust filled our lungs instead.
Just when we thought that the road could get no worse, we eased to a stop. We had just finagled a particularly nasty stretch that saw us careening from one side of the road to the other and scraping our exhaust pipe in the process of avoiding especially deep drops in the roadway. Now as we surveyed the road ahead of us, we began to realize why the warnings had come so thick and fast. A mere metre in front of the van the road ceased to exist. The asphalt road stopped. The path that lay in front of us was two rivets in the mud. No concrete could be seen as far as our eyes could stretch. This was the main highway. The only highway leading from the capital to Beira, the second largest city in Mozambique. We would have to descend into this trench, if we were to get to the other side. I was speechless. There was no other way, but forward. If we met another vehicle on this road, we would be in a bad way. I tried not to let my mind dwell on this fact, as we slowly inched Arnie into the tire tracks that would take us out of this country. If we made it out the other end.

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