What most people do not know is that there are 2 roads from Nkayi to Lupane, the main (shorter)road with the broken bridge, and another which runs parallel to it about 12 km north of it. This alternate route adds about 15 km to the journey, but is in much better condition than the main road. As it runs along the Shangani river, is also more populated, with villages and homesteads along its whole length. All two wheel drive vehicles now use this road as it is passable at all times (a few occasionally flooded rivers aside).
The details which follow will guide you along this road:
In Kwekwe town, traveling south, turn right to Nkayi just before the second traffic circle (it is signposted). Fuel is available at the Puma fuel station on the left as Lupane does not always have fuel. The first 6 km or so is badly broken up tar to the Green Mountain lodge, after which it improves.
You come to a crossroads about 15 km from Kwekwe (GPS S18o55’31.5” E029o42’57.2”) , turn left to Nkayi. There are no signs.
The narrow tar after the crossroads is in good condition and potholes are mostly filled.
After about 40 km of narrow tar, the road turns to corrugated gravel for about 30 km before becoming wide tar from Silobela to Nkayi.
At the Nkayi crossroads, turn right into Nkayi and follow the signs to the hospital. It will take you left past the airstrip, continue past the hospital through the business centre. About 15 km from Nkayi, at GPS S18o55’39.2” E028o46’58.2” you will come to a crossroads to Dakamela. Continue straight on through the crossroads.
Follow this road for about 110 km and eventually it will bring you back onto the main Lupane-Nkayi road at a T junction about 20 km from Lupane at Cross Feya General Dealer (GPS S18o55’21.8” E027o54’24.8”). Turn right to go to Lupane.
Lupane Total fuel station has been refurbished and is operational, but they do not take cards. If they have no fuel, you may be able to buy from CMED depot.
Both roads are recognized by my 2013 Garmin Nuvi map software, so once you are on the right road, it will continue to follow it.
Lupane - Kwekwe
If you are coming from Lupane towards Nkayi, watch for the blue store on the left called Cross Feya General Dealer, approx. 20 km from Lupane and turn left immediately after it(GPS S18o55’21.8” E027o54’24.8”).
There is a sign to St Paul’s Mission at the turn off, but it is hidden by a bush which has grown over it. I will cut it down when I go through there next week.
This alternative road is about 15-20 km longer, but is in better condition than the main route, less punishing on vehicles, less isolated and one does not have to cross the river bed at the broken bridge.
Cell phone coverage:
There is Econet coverage at Kwekwe, Nkayi and Lupane, but you will lose it once you are more than 5 km from any of these centers. There is no coverage along the road itself.
Time & distance:
Kwekwe to Nkayi is approx. 100 km and will take around 1.5 hours. Nkayi to Lupane is approx. 120 km and will take at least 2 hours minimum.
Work on 4 hours for the whole 220 km trip.
There have been reasonable rains in the area so the road may have deteriorated somewhat since I was last there.
I will post an update after my visit next week.