06 August 2008

Long Journey to Tana

So about 3 months have elapsed since I have been at site and it is time that I head back to the capital to have a Peace Corps training. I happened to be out in a small village for about a week and needed to leave a couple days earlier then the rest of the team, so a friend was found for me who was going the same direction as I and we walked the 8 km together to the main town in the region.

There I met Charles and Honore, who were staying in another tiny village close by. Honore shuttled our bags with his motorcycle and Charles and I got our bikes out of the mayor’s office and proceeded to ride the 11 km back to my town of residence. Oh, did I mention that it was raining constantly the whole day? The rode was slimy red mud and we had a great time getting caked in it, though our bikes weren’t so enthusiastic. It was a MudFest - the mud is clay and cakes everything so you can imagine how we looked...

When we got back to town, we showered (I mean poured water on ourselves from buckets, of course), and I had some friends help me clean my bike, then we proceeded to celebrate with THB, the national beer in Madagascar, since I was leaving the next day by car and we were drawing to the end of the WWF interns stay in Madagascar. This was the first time that I had gotten drunk in Madagascar, indeed the first time I had gotten drunk in 3 years. We chatted about development theory, peak oil, Christmas plans, etc. until late. The next day, I woke up with a fantastic hangover and at 8:00 a.m. Honore was at my door telling me that the road was too muddy for even a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get through so if I was to get to the town where I could catch a taxi-brousse to the capital, in time to make it to training, then I would have to bike it. That town is 68 km. away over a horrendous road. So I threw some stuff in my panniers, strapped a backpack to my rack, had a coffee with Charles and set off at about 9:00 a.m.

Now, had I been prepared, I would have only had to ride halfway (given, it was the much tougher half) and then been able to catch a ride the second half. Instead, I had miss judged my money situation, because I had not been able to get to the bank (in the town I was riding to) and was waiting on a courier to bring me cash. It was supposed to be in the car that couldn’t make it to me, so I set out with 1000 ariary in my pocket, which is less than a dollar and not enough for a meal, let alone a ride on a taxi. So I had to ride the whole way. 68 muddy, muddy, muddy kilometers. I was dead tired after 40 km., parched, and fuelless. I suffered through the next 8, walking my bike where I didn’t have the strength to ride, and finally came to a small village where a woman was willing to sell me some fried manioc balls, and a little further on, some bananas. Down to 200 ariary, a third of a liter of water, and 20 km. to go. 6.5 hours after setting out, I made it to Farafangana. Before, this ride sounded like a fun recreational activity to do on a whim; now I dread ever having to do it again (which is certain to happen).

The fun just doesn’t stop. I arrived to find that the person who was supposed to have my money was out of town until the next day and I had no food and nowhere to stay. Wondering if I could get accommodations on a tab, I made it to the bank 10 minutes before they closed and was able to withdraw money.

The next day I had a meeting, got another friend to help me clean my bike again, and the day after left for a 16 hour taxi-brousse ride. This time my luck faired better and I got to ride shotgun, instead of crowded in the back with 15 others. And the driver even had an auxiliary cable so I plugged in my iPod and we listened to Manu Chou, the Beatles, and Coldplay. They love the Beatles. I arrived safely in Tana at 2:30 in the morning and got to see all my friends for the first time in months.

I wonder how it will be in the wet season?