The Road to Malawi (Jan 16th - 18th by Paul)The morning of our departure was quite lazy with an extended snorkel off the reef, which was great and there was quite a bit to see. We packed up and head off. The plan was to head back to Macomia where we could get phone reception and we planned to contact James and Gen to see if they had found out any more about the ferry. The plan was if the ferry was going to head north to Tanzania, if it wasn't turn south and make a plan to go into Malawi. When we got into town we called James and Gen, the phone reception wasn't great but I could make out that they had just been pulled over by the police and were getting a speeding ticket, I quickly asked about the ferry but couldn't really hear the response as the phone kept breaking up. They said they would text and let us know. We sat down for a drink and the text came in saying that the ferry wasn't running and it would be another 5 to 7 days before it would start and then they weren't sure if it would continue to run because of the water in the river was too high. So with our visa's running out we had to go with plan B, head south. We didn't actually have enough fuel left to make the next town with a fuel station, as we had only planned for the northern journey, but we didn't want to head north to the next town to get fuel as that would add about another 150km to the trip. So we had to organise a jerry can of fuel off the black market sellers in the town. With a lot of jostling and eventually getting a jerry can that was actually full to be siphoned into Kal, paid the inflated prices and we headed off.As we drove south everyone was reading the guide books to try and find the best route to take. We thought about heading back to Pemba for a night or whether to keep going. We had received a text from James and Gen that they were going to head back to Nampula and put their car on a train to Cuamba. This confused us slightly as looking at the map it was about 300km between the 2 towns and from the map it looked like a fairly main road. It wasn't long until we worked out why they wanted to do this, as the guide book says: "you'd be ill advised to try this road during the rainy season, unless you happen to own an amphibious assault vehicle" (Bradt guide, Mozambique 2007). The penny dropped, it was the rainy season, and it was quickly decided that we would also head to Nampula and try to get Kal on the train. We had read the train would leave early the next morning.This meant we had quite a drive; we had probably left our departure too late. The roads had been quite good and were making good time. I was very conscious of the distance we had to cover and the amount of day time that was left. I didn't really like driving at night, particularly because one headlight wasn't working, unless on high beam. The rain started and was bucketing down, I was perhaps driving too fast, 100km/hr, but the roads had been very good. Out of no-where came a big patch of potholes that couldn't been seen because of the heavy rain, Kal hit them and shook and shuddered and suddenly we were swerving across the other side of the road, I corrected but was very conscious of over correcting at that speed in the wet, but we swerved to the other side, all I could hear was Susan in the back: "faaaaaRRKKKK!!!!". As we seemed destined to take out a road side stall, and head down the embankment, I finally got us back under control, slowed down and breathed a sigh of relief. I had given everyone and especially myself a very big scare! I honestly thought we were going to roll. Luckily there were no other cars or pedestrians at that spot. Everyone was alright and tried to make me feel ok but my heart was racing all the same. As the rain eased we stopped for a break and realised that there was no point in rushing on these roads and if we have to travel in dark we would or else just pull up and camp. We continued on, at a slightly slower pace, and about an hour out of Nampula got a message that the train could not take us, and we would either have to wait for 3 days (which wasn't really an option as we didn't have that long left on our visa's) or take on the bad roads. We decided that with the 2 cars in convoy we would have a go at the roads and see how we would go, so we pushed on in the fading light. As we came into Nampula we needed to stock up on some food, so headed for the Shoprite, the girls were like kids in a candy store, this was the best stocked supermarket we had seen for weeks. We loaded up on food and drinks and everything else we needed and then headed for the campsite that James and Gen were staying at, they had text through the GPS co-ordinates. We arrived there at about 9 o'clock, tired and hungry. We talked about the roads and the owner of the camp ground said that they weren't too bad, well at least he had said that to James and Gen before heading to bed early because he had malaria, hopefully he wasn't delirious! We decided to give the road a go, with 2 vehicles we felt that we could help each other out if we got stuck; it was going to be an early morning, as the rains seemed to be coming later in the afternoon, so hopefully we would avoid them. We headed off at 6, the road didn't seem too bad, it was gravel and quite potholed and corrugated, so the going was quite slow but so far had been a lot better than expected. It obviously hadn't rained there for a couple of days and the road was very dusty, as we were following Kal was soon covered in dust, inside and out. We took it easy stopping for breaks and the scenery was great so some photos as well. The rains eventually came, which meant the end of the dust, but still the roads were ok, still lots of potholes. The windscreen wipers suddenly would only work on the fastest setting, and the washers weren't working either. Also, when the wipers were switched off the just stopped at that spot and did not return to their correct place. It was a bit of a pain because there were times when it was just light rain and because of all the muddy potholes, mud would splash up onto the windscreen but unless the rain got heavier you couldn't clear it away. Something had obviously come loose but that would have to wait until another day to be fixed.We eventually made it Cuamba at about 3 in the afternoon, 9 hours driving for just over 300 km's. We would have beaten the train by 2 hours so were quite happy how the drive went and thought the roads were a lot better than expected. My GPS was showing a campsite about another 50km's up the road closer to the boarder so we figured we might as well head for that as there was still plenty of daylight left. We re-fuelled, found some ice, for the drinks (from a shipping container that was used as the town's freezer) and headed on. The road was supposed to get better from here according to the books, but they actually got worse, more rain and the road had even more and deeper pot holes and the going was very slow. We were closing in on the "campsite" on the GPS, but I was getting nervous, what happens if it's not there, we can't keep going, we've been on the road for more that 10 hours. As it turned out the campsite DIDN'T exist, there was just a small village, we asked a couple of locals, who didn't speak much English, if there was somewhere to camp and they just laughed. Eventually someone said that we should go to the next town where we should be able to stay. It was only another 8km's so we headed that way keeping our fingers tightly crossed!We eventually found the next village, Mississi, and pulled in and started asking around if there was somewhere that we could camp for the night. Dave's Portugese by this stage had come along very well and he did most of the talking. He found out that the only person in the village that could speak English was one of the school teachers but he wasn't around at the moment. In terms of camping for the night we should go to the police station and ask there, so we wondered over to the "station", and by then quite a crowd had gathered to check out what was going on with the 2 four wheel drives and six white folk. The police station was just a reed shelter, and there was no-one there, so we just hung around while someone went to find the policeman. Eventually he came over, very casually, and we began the process of asking permission to camp. By then another of the school teachers came over, he wasn't hard to mistake, his small spectacles and mannerisms were very much like an old school teacher. They understood what we wanted but there was a certain process in getting permission. James, who was an old hat at asking these types of things, said that we should just wait and as it would take awhile to sort out. From what we could gather, permission had to be granted from the chief once the policeman had said it was all ok. They wanted to see our passports, so we gave them copies, and they took those and wrote out all the details, for what purpose I have no idea. After about an hour and a large crowd, permission was granted and we could stay. The policeman rode off on his bike an returned about 15 minutes later in his uniform and was now looking very official, I'm sure the uniform only comes out for special occasions such as this! (check out the photo album) The policeman and the other elders were trying to get the kids to leave us, so we could set-up and a stick was even hurled in their direction. We had been the centre of attention for over an hour now and I'm sure there's not a lot happening in a village like this one. Everyone was very friendly and helpful and we would even have a night watchman to make sure we were ok through the night, the policeman no less! We all felt like a beer, after the long day on the road, but didn't really want to get them out while there were still so many locals around, James said, it's nearly dark, that's when they will all leave and he was right. It was then time to have a drink and think about dinner. We had been conscious of keeping the doors locked while there were so many people around. I had given my keys to someone to get something out of the car and didn't have them, everyone checked their pockets, nothing, checked the doors, all locked. The keys were in there somewhere. The spare keys were also locked inside the car. Before we could settle down for a drink we first had to break in. We have a box on the roof with all the vehicles spares, and we had thrown in a couple of wire coat hangers, just in case we needed wire for a job like this. Dave clambered up there and handed me a coat hanger. Before we had left Cape Town, we had spent some time with Mike at Just Done It in Hout Bay and one of the things he showed us was how to break in, he made it look quite simple, but how would we go… Un-twisting the wire, straightening it out a bit with a hook on the end, slipped it past the rubber seal on the door and with a a bit jiggling, I managed to hook the lock and up it came. It was quite scary how easy it had been, a break in less than 5 minutes. We found the keys and grabbed the cold beers.A few local's helped build a fire, in the police station, and the policeman even removed some of the structure to help build it. Boerie rolls for dinner and then to bed. We knew that in the morning there would lots of people around so thought we would hit the road early again.The morning was a quick cup of coffee, pack up and back on the road. The driving conditions were much the same as the previous afternoon, but we eventually made it to the border. The border crossing went very smoothly and we were able to exchange our remaining MTN's for Malawi Kwacha (MK) for a good rate. We were in Malawi, after a solid 2 and half days drive! We decided to head to Cape MacClear near Monkey Bay on the lake because it wasn't too much further. As soon as we drove out of the Malawi border the road was tarmac and in very good condition, luxury after the last couple of days driving. The road winded down a mountain and we had our first glimpse of the lake. We stopped in Mangochi for some lunch and to go the ATM, and said we would meet James and Gen at Cape MacClear. At the ATM we could only get 20,000 MK at a time (about 70 pounds), but the biggest note they have is a 500, so out comes a great big wad of cash. We had to get a couple of wads because we had read that there weren't any ATM's at Monkey Bay.As we found a restaurant we noticed that there were a lot of people by the side of the road, beating drums and singing, the policeman there waved us through. As we were waiting for lunch we learnt that the President was coming through town as he had been visiting a hospital in Monkey Bay. As we ate the entourage sped past. We finished eating and headed to Cape MacClear, we all thought it would be quite developed and seemed like quite a touristy place, but when we took the turn off towards the Cape, just outside Monkey Bay, we were again on a dodgy, very pot holed gravel road. I think we all just felt like getting somewhere and relaxing for awhile. We arrived in Cape MacClear after passing over some small mountain passes, parts of which were tarmac due to the steepness. As we approached the village there were people wanting to give us directions and help us, but we just didn't feel like being hassled so drove past them, it felt like they would want something in return. This felt the same everywhere in the village but we checked out a number of spots and settled on Fat Monkey's which was right on the beach of the lake, perfect. There was an overland truck there but we found a nice shady spot to set-up camp.After a few long days it felt good to be in Malawi and able to relax for awhile. Looking back on Mozambique it was a wonderful place. Great beaches, picturesque landscapes, awesome fresh food (prawns, crayfish, crabs, mangos, pineapples, tomatoes, cashew and peanuts), and really friendly people everywhere we went. We never felt unsafe and some of the places were very quiet and peaceful with few tourists (once we got away from the southern Christmas crowds). A great country to have spent almost a month exploring and we hoped that Malawi and the rest of Africa would be more of the same.