Lilongwe, Malawi to Tete, Mozambique.
Early up this morning for shower, breakfast and 7am departure for Mozambique border. We’re told that border crossing might be easy or it might be a bureaucratic nightmare taking several hours. As mentioned earlier, borders on Africa can be quite an adventure. We’ll see.
Still spitting down rain but it eases off a bit as the journey progresses. Its an uneventful trip until we get near the border. The scenery was pretty much what we’ve become accustomed to with lots of lush greenery and sight of the sometimes distant, sometimes near, hills and mountains of the Rift Valley. There are the usual small and large villages spread along the road and people working in the fields. It seems, from observation, quite poor but people still wave, smile and look cheerful.
Some scenes on the road (Click image to enlarge)
We are getting near the Mozambique border when the truck stops and pulls over. We wonder whats going on. Jemma, the tour leader, comes up and tells us that the police have pulled us over. They say that we should have a list of all the passengers on the front window and wants a fine of US$1,000. Of course, there is no such offence. Its an attempt to solicit a bribe by corrupt policemen. Often and Jemma calmly keep their cool and call the police’s bluff. They show willingness to go to the police barracks to sort this out. If course, the coppers don’t want this and eventually back down. We drive off.
A few minutes later we get to the border. It looks like the usual chaos and bedlam we have witnessed before but now we know that there’s a system there. We first get our exit cards from Malawi immigration. They’re really small bits of photocopied paper and we fill in name, date of birth, passport details, travel details etc. We hand these in with our passport to immigration who stamp our passports with an exit stamp and we motor off to the Mozambique section.
This border is by far the most chaotic and incompetent I have ever seen and I’ve travelled through quite a few borders in my day. Nobody seemed to know what they or their colleagues were doing. Also, the officials are very rude. We are there for three and a half hours before we are able to pull off. Sighs of relief.
The toilets at the border post are the worst I’ve seen so far in Africa; and that’s saying something. Mind you, they’re not as bad as some of the ones I saw in Central Asia. Think rotten piece of wood on the ground with a crumbly hole in over a deep pit. Think of the worst smell you ever smelt. Double it. Double it again and then add some more for luck. That’s what it’s like when you have a blocked nose. I once shone my torch down one of them. It took six months of therapy to help me overcome the trauma. The one here isn’t that bad but was so bad it’s unusable. Time to practice the art of clenching again.
Mozambique seems different to Malawi although the border is a colonists construct and did not exist before colonisation. It’s officially the Republic of Mozambque (Portuguese: Moçambique or República de Mozambique) is a country located in Southeast Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Eswatini (Swaziland) and South Africa to the southwest.
The sovereign state is separated from the Comoros, Mayotte and Madagascar by the Mozambique Channel to the east. The capital and largest city of Mozambique is Maputo (formerly known as “Lourenço Marques” from 1876 to 1976).
We immediately notice the difference between the two. The landscape is more rugged with less farming visible and the villages look very poor. We pass by herds of cattle, the lifeblood of many arrival peoples, tended by young boys who look desperately poor but delighted to see us.
Boys herding cattle (Click on image to enlarge)
We cross the mighty Zambesi River and continue along until we pull into our campsite.