Carolyn and I were raised through the dissident 1960s and 70s. We are proudly ‘inquisitive’ to the point of being ‘difficult.’
We had contradictory advice from a variety of sources about this road. But one key piece of advice: Talk to the locals and use them as the most up to date source of local information. Talk to people! We did and it was always fun! We should have talked and hung out with the locals even more.
All the local information said the Petauke Road was do-able. It was surely the most interesting stretch of road we traveled in Zambia.
Villages were rural and apparently saw many more aid workers than tourists. Some villages had soccer fields where we left new soccer balls and drove away (we saw local kids playing with soccer sized wads of plastic wrapped with strips of inner tube).
Our advice: ask several locals about the road, arrive at the Petauke road-head early in the morning, dry season only, don’t go barreling across any concrete bridges, have GPS and a satellite phone, and be OK with spending the night if night falls or you break down. Be comfortable with being stranded in the bush of Africa. Or, take the Chipata Road where there will be traffic.