I entered Zimbabwe in early afternoon. Malawi, where I had been early in the morning, seemed so far away now. I drove on through unremarkable countryside until Eastern Mashonaland, an area dotted with weathered mountainscapes rising curiously up over the dry flat land. More people lived here than in Mozambique. They lived in what appeared to be slightly better conditions than in Mozambique, although many were quite poor. Unlike Malawi, I saw few bicycles in Zimbabwe, a sign that most locals had little discretionary income to buy such expensive items. The Zimbabweans, however, had a better transit system than Mozambicans. Far more trucks operated in this area transporting locals who hailed them using arm flourishes akin to hitchhiking.
I drove on until I reached Mutoko, a large town an hour inside the border. I stopped at a filling station with my tank nearly empty. No diesel. My heart sank. What would I do if I ran out of fuel? This was Zimbabwe after all, a place that faced chronic shortages in virtually all commodities, including fuel, until it replaced the hyperinflationary Zimbabwean dollar with the U.S. dollar as is legal currency a few years ago. I went to another station across the street and fueled up. Saved, I thought. God is my buddy. Although it was a risk driving alone through this part of the world running on faith that I would pass without incident, it isn’t a cliché to say that God was my co-pilot on this trip. He assured me in so many ways that I had nothing to fear and that He would keep me safe, including the moment when I was driving on the highway and suddenly confronted a semi-truck hurtling headlong towards me in my own lane. The driver was trying to pass another truck and ran me off the road. If not for God’s urging me to pull over and my quick response, I might have died, as so many people have on Africa’s highways. I recalled an incident just a month before in which a missionary serving in Zambia died in Zimbabwe when his bus was hit head on by a truck. Can I say I’m lucky to be alive? No, not really. I know God willed it. If He had wanted to call me home at that instance, He would have.
I checked my tire pressure in Mutoko. Very low. All the tires had lost one quarter pressure, an unsurprising fact given that I had run my tires over 1,500 kilometers of broken, pothole-marked roads and harsh terrain. While the man at the tyre (tire) shop filled them with air I surveyed the town. Across the street was a market and bus station filled with loitering people. On either side of the tyre shop were other auto repair shops with car parts, burned-out chasses, and tires strewn in front. I saw the remains of an overturned car beside the road. Mutoko was not a pretty town but definitely a fascinating glimpse into Zimbabwean culture. I stopped by a small market to buy a cold drink and chose a non-carbonated faux orange drink from the nearly empty refrigerator. The store owner said it cost 50 cents and asked if I would like to buy some chips to round the purchase up to one dollar. I agreed even though I was not hungry for a salty snack. Business was apparently slow, and she needed the money more than I needed food.
I drove on from Mutoko to Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, content that I had enough fuel and tire pressure to return to civilization. The journey ended quietly, and I pulled into town at dusk. I was concerned about arriving after dark in Harare, a large city I did not know with its fair share of crime. I also vaguely knew the general direction to my hotel but not the exact location. Once again, God delivered me right to my destination, and I pulled in at nightfall. I am thankful my buddy kept me safe.