Sharks are scary, sure, and in places where so many of them dwell, you might expect them to be the scariest part of your trip.
But in Mozambique — the African country with an AK47 on its flag — sharks play third fiddle on the horror rankings.
After all, the shark is only responding to a natural instinct to eat, kill to eat, kill to survive. Sure, the Mozambique Channel’s healthy populations of Tiger, Mako, Great White, Zambezi and Hammerhead, to name but a few, strike legit fear into the heart of any paddler out, but they don’t do so as much as the prospect of U-turning the car carelessly.
Mozambique is one of the most heavily landmined countries in the world — with over two million unmapped according to the lower estimates by the UN. Here, an ill-considered U-turn using the verge or exploring a new trail to the check the surf is a bit like playing Russian roulette. Yet amazingly, to me at least, the millions of mines hidden just off the road were still not as scary as the prospect of driving along it.
Not speaking and not looking seemed the easiest way to endure car journeys along the main road. As trucks coming the other way did crazy turns in front of us at speed; as trucks overtaking trucks somehow squeeezed through the gap between the throngs of children holding hands on one side of the road and our car on the other; as we swerved to miss cars reversing towards us on our side with no lights on in the dark; as decrepit bicycles swerved in and out from undergrowth by the side of the road as if they were actually trying to throw themselves under our wheels; as school kids selling plastic bags of cashews were caught by one of their comrades by the scruff of the neck and yanked out of the path of oncoming traffic avoiding certain death by nanoseconds.
And then, of course, there’s the endless game of chicken with overtaking oncoming vehicles, the perpetual who’s-going-to-buckle-first near-head-on collision scenario that repeats itself on every bend on every km of road for thousand of km’s, charred skeletons of chassis by the wayside bearing testament to those who held their line too long.