Report: Moamba - Magude - Chokwe - Maxixe back Rd

mozman created the topic: Report: Moamba - Magude - Chokwe - Maxixe back Rd

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Huge thanks to Alistair Clacherty for taking the trouble to write this comprehensive Trip Report:

Road report: Moamba-Magude-Chokwe-Chibuto-Panda-Homoine

We travel regularly to the Inhambane area and always use the Moamba-Sabie-Magude ‘shortcut’ to avoid Maputo. This time, as I was aiming for Maxixe, I decided to try all the way on dirt (I really don’t like driving on the N1.) Here is a report on road conditions as at 10/11 May 2014.

Moamba to Magude (100 km) has suffered this rainy season. Last year one could cruise most of it at 80 km/h without much trouble, obviously watching out for bends and other hazards. (BTW, I always go via Sabie, i.e. the ‘inland’ route). I would say this route has gone down in quality by 10-15% since 2013. Oddly enough the first half (50 km) is the hard (gravel) section, while the second half is mostly sandy, and thus easier and softer on the vehicle. For the first time in 6 uses of that road the possibility of cutting a tyre came to mind on that first section. The rain has presumably exposed more rocks than I am used to. But overall it is still good and I will continue using it.

Magude to Chokwe (73 km) was very good. Lots of it is in floodplain terrain and the road has been built on a raised platform in many sections. It has obviously been restored and evidence of new concrete culverts and low-level bridges was everywhere, including a concrete mixer next to the road, and fresh roadworks. It has recently been graded. I had to stop myself from cruising at 100 km/h.

Chokwe to Chibuto (67 km) was not good. The first 15 km has been worked on and was good, but the shock was the next lot of very potholed tar road. The road was also washed away in places (go too close to the edge and one would tumble off it, with more of the collapsing road following you, perhaps 3 metres down in places). A couple of sections are impassable, with short diversions. One section of diversion was a two-tyre track through the grass. I knew that as long as I could keep the telephone lines and poles in view I wouldn’t get lost. And in that way I regained the tar road a kilometre or so further on.

The diversion for the main bridge wash-away takes one on temporary tracks through long sections of villages on what is actually quite a good and gentle surface, but very slow because of being in villages, not sign-posted and requiring local knowledge. I found that playing taxi is not only helpful to people, and makes the journey interesting, but provides a free and mostly accurate travel service. When this long diversion regains the original tar road it is back to serious pot-holes. The final 15 km before Chibuto was good, I think because it rises above the flood plain area. I would not go this route in the rainy season unless one gets news of all bridges being in good order.

I arrived in Chibuto as night was falling and needed to find somewhere to camp, so I missed the connection to Panda. My route the next morning thus took me unexpectedly to the N1 on a road that was perfect. When I reached the N1 I resigned myself to following the usual route to Maxixe from there on. However, a few hundred metres further on I found a turn-off onto a sand road back up to Manjacaze, and took it. The 40 km link from Chibuto to Manjacaze turned into a 110 km round trip via a short stretch of the N1. The road back up to Manjacaze was a deep sand type of typical rural Mozambique road. Not a rock in sight, but not a smooth surface either, which meant for more careful driving. Deep sand can be very dangerous at speed.

Manjacaze to Panda (131 km) was … interesting and beautiful. It certainly needed local consultations to find the way; many people in the Chibuto-Manjacaze area were very vague about the existence of Panda, which is actually a sizable town with its own District Superintendent and a memorial to the fallen (or more likely, the victorious). That lack of local knowledge of Panda had me worried. What I realised is that Panda is too far away for people around Chibuto to be familiar with its existence. It helped asking for Manjacaze as a closer target to aim for. Nevertheless, I managed to get there without a single diversion.

I have learned from my travels around southern and East Africa not to give the name of the place I want but to look enquiringly with suitable vocal inflections indicating a question and pointing up the road. If that delivers the place name I want, I know I’m good to go. Or else I deliberately point the wrong way and give the name I want. If that brings up an emphatic negative, that’s also good. If there seems to be doubt, I ask two different people. I have also called together two such helpful, but contradictory, direction-givers to hold a conference and achieve consensus that way. I like that kind of travelling. On this trip, having a smattering of Zulu and Swahili helped, as did encountering people with some real Zulu, English and Afrikaans (pretty fluent, he was, too). Mostly people are very helpful and have a good laugh with me about our mixed up languages.

The road from Manjacaze to Panda (131 km) is a long and mostly narrow, sandy track, often only one car’s width, sometimes with low vegetation in the middle. Being sandy but not deep sand it can actually be driven quite fast, up to 70 km/h, but it also has enough serious surprises to warrant caution. Some of it is a harder, more gravelly surface. None of it is relaxed cruising, and cannot be regarded as a quick short-cut alternative to the N1.

Panda to Homoine (approx 50 km): This is, or was, a very good road that can mostly be cruised at around 90 km/h. However, it has become damaged in enough places to make 90 a bit tense, and one can’t relax. There are some big holes and gullies, some caused by running water that has cut small dongas across the road, some as much as 2 metres in from the edge, and almost invisible until close because they are still narrow. There was one such that cut the entire width of the road and was wide enough from front to back that if hit at speed might remove the front wheels. Yet apart from these hazards, the majority of the road surface was actually good, and I was able to get up to speed for fairly long stretches.

My second day (Chibuto to Homoine) was not a quick and easy route, but recommended if you aren’t in a hurry. It is beautiful and crosses a lot of wetland areas. On my return next week I will go via the N1 and take the Magude-Moamba shortcut, but having said that, I calculated that I had maintained a 67 km/h average from Chibuto to Homoine, which was faster than I thought possible. What a Hilux!

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