Saturday, April 6th was a day of anticipation. It was then that we would pull out of Nampula to begin our furlough travels. We’d planned to drive to South Africa. While the trip usually takes 2.5 – 3 days, we were going to push and try to make it in two so we could have 2 full days of visiting with friends before flying out of Johannesburg on the 10th.
Everything went well the first day. We drove about 13 hours. We got up the next morning at 2am and were on the road by 2:55am. We knew there’d been some unrest in a town 150 kilometers to the south but nothing more was in the news so we thought everything was okay. At our first fuel stop Dan was informed a bus had been attacked that night before. We continued on with some caution but once we reached that town, Maxungue, the military stopped our truck and said the road was closed. It was 5:20am. Dan asked if they would start escorting vehicles through the area. They said, “yes at around 9am.” We asked about how long of a distance the disturbance was and we were told 25 kilometers. We talked and decided it would be safer (and also probably a better use of time) to backtrack and drive through Zimbabwe. (It was a good thing that we did not try to wait it out in Mozambique as it seems the unrest continued. Whether the escort got cars through or they are still waiting we don’t know).
Anyway we began texting and talking with friends who had crossed through Zimbabwe to South Africa to get our bearings. We were a bit uncertain on some things. Zimbabwe requires you have a fire extinguisher in your car as well as reflective tape to indicate you’re pulling a trailer. We didn’t have either of these and since it was Sunday all stores would be closed with no chance to purchase anything. We also didn’t have any US dollars on us (which is the currency used in Zimbabwe) and again, due to it being a Sunday we knew we couldn’t exchange anything except with men outside the border (which is fine except the exchange rate usually isn’t as favorable). Frustration mounted as we watched while the money exchangers slipped the equivalent of $60.00 into their pockets, denied they had done so and leaving us no recourse except to swallow the loss. Once in Zimbabwe we were immediately stopped at a police checkpoint and of course they promptly asked to see our extinguisher and pointed out we hadn’t the appropriate tape. We explained the scenario (that we hadn’t planned on coming through Zimbabwe but had to due to unrest on the roads in Mozambique, and couldn’t purchase anything because the stores were closed). We said we’d pay the fine ($20 each for a total of $40) however we only had a $100 bill and did they have change (they didn’t). After a bit they let us go without paying the fine and we hoped no one else would ask along the way. Finally, we reached town and went to an ATM to withdraw more money. Dan discovered he no longer had either one of our ministry debit cards (we had just used them before crossing the border and now they were gone). We assume they lifted out of his pocket at the boarder and we now had no way to access any ministry funds. To manage to get through Zimbabwe with sufficient funds we tried to use our personal ATM card only to have it blocked by our bank. We had no other recourse and so with little money we started out. It must be said that during the drive through Zimbabwe we saw some of the most beautiful terrain we have ever seen. For 5 hours we said, “Look at that…” or “Wow look over there…” We also had some funny exchanges with “toll booth” workers and police. Once at the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa we quickly found out that it was mad house. It took 3 hours just on the South African side. The kids did very well despite wanting to eat dinner. Once through the border we were able use our credit card to buy fuel and food at the gas station. Let me tell you, at 11:00PM gas station food is really tasty. Now the task was to find lodging for the evening. Driving to town we noticed the signs posted, “WARNING DO NOT STOP. HIGH CRIME AREA.” Once in that town we quickly found out that all lodging was full. We were exhausted however and needed to rest so Dan begged a guard at one of the lodgings to allow us to park there and sleep in the car. Thankfully he agreed and we arranged the 7 of us as comfortably as possible. Robin then sent an email from our phone to Randy, her father, to see if he could get our personal ATM card unblocked so we could have cash. We slept until 4:30 when the guard woke us to leave. We check emails and saw a fantastic email from Randy that said the ATM card was now un-blocked! That was great as we had little cash and the toll road is cash only no credit cards! Again during this part of the drive we saw some very beautiful terrain.
We made it to Nelspruit around lunch time. Not the calm trip we’d hoped for but we rejoice in the blessings along the way: for safety, beautiful scenery, and no police fines.