This was coconut country, and it was pretty. On either side of the road, tall slender trees launched into the sky and exploded into bursts of bright green foliage. Dry and crunchy palm fronds were littered all along the ground, dessicating in the midday sun.
Farmers hacked and chopped the coconut bunches with machetes on small wooden benches and tossed the coconuts into big piles. As we drove, the shadows of palm trees criss-crossed the highway under a beaming blue sky, flickering into the car.
The first time we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn was in Namibia three weeks earlier, at a rusty car graveyard called Leonardville; the second time we were on this highway in Mozambique’s Inhambane province.
A big maroon sign announced the tropic – we overshot it, slammed the brakes on, and reversed back up the highway for a photo. The locals watched us setting up our tripod and posing, curious, machetes in hand. Further down the road, we took a dirt road turnoff to the town of Inhambane.
As we ate pizzas at a riverside cafe, and made our usual decision that we keep driving (instead of calling it an early day), pushing our luck to see how close to driving at dark we could get. Deep down we were all pretty weary from life on the road. We’d done adventures, done relaxation, but at this point we just wanted to sleep in, wear clean washed clothes, have a shower and a shave, and get off the Chakalaka diet. Home was looking like a good option.
Immediately, we ran directly into a massive roadwork project; probably a hundred kilometres of them. The first section was still newly excavated, and was just a dirt road being levelled by earthmoving machinery. The highway was raised, whilst the temporary roads to either side ran down beside like gutters big enough for a car to travel alongside.
This meant that traffic was diverted either side of the highway, single file, and moved slowly. Frustrated, we drove up the bank and onto the construction site, picking up speed and making much better progress. All the other four wheel drives were taking this option.
Eventually, roadworkers ordered us off the road, so we drove back down the bank, an angle of about 45 degrees on loose gravel (Hammond’s offroad treat for the day), and carried on.