Friday, May 22, 2015

The Long Ride



            Having made a brousse reservation for today to Fara, I made my way into town at nine o’clock.  As I made my walk up into town I was happy in knowing that I was going to have the front seat; the most coveted seat on my brousse route since it is the only comfortable seat on this long and bumpy ride.  As I made my way up I ran into a few people that told me that no brousse had arrived the day before, but still I walked into town.  Arriving there I found out that they were right and was told by the man that ran the ‘brousse station’ that a cameon was on its way and would be there at noon.  Hearing this I decided to get some breakfast, my daily compuse, and then return home to
wait.   I returned to where the cameon was supposed to be at noon, but it had still not arrived.  Not wanting to miss it, I decided to wait around in town.  I was finally told that when the brousse arrived they would come by my house to pick me up. 
The taxi brousse finally came by my house at two o’clock and having taken my seat and in the front we began what would be a 24 hour journey to cover the 70 km to Farafangana, my banking town.  Cameon, what can be compared to a fruit truck in the States, are usually the preferred way of traveling this route due to horrendous disrepair of the road; although they are slower than the 4X4 trucks they have a higher clearance making them able to traverse some the worst spots without hitting bottom.  This still does not prevent them from getting stuck in the many mud slops along the way.  On this trip we would get stuck in three of these spots in the first half of the trip; by far the worst part of the route.  Once stuck a bunch of guys would jump out of the back, as if we had a traveling road crew, and dig out the mud from around the tires, move rocks into bad spots, and/or pour the shells from the rice mill onto the mud.  In the worst of situations everyone in the back has to also get out and walk a bit until the vehicle has cleared the bad spots.  The driver was driving slow today and the day was quickly slipping away and it looked as if we might not even make it to Mahatsinjo, the half way town, before sunset.  This turned out to be the case, as we did not arrive in Mahatsinjo until 8 o’clock at night.  By this point I was unbearably hungry, but I was afraid that this town not having electricity would be all shut down by this time.  Driving into town we stopped at the first hotely, but it was closed up tight.  As we looked around, the town was pitch black without a person or animal stirring; it looked like a ghost town in this state.  The first hotely being closed, we drove to the only other one in hope of getting some food.  Luckily it was open and we all filed in and ordered the only thing they had, pork and sauce served with rice.  After eating, we all went back out and stood around waiting for the driver to also finish eating, then climbed back into the cameon.  But instead of getting in the cameon himself, the driver turned and started a walk through town.  So we sat and waited.  When he finally returned he said that we were going to sleep there and continue in the morning.  This is not what I was hoping to hear and as far as I knew there was no where to sleep in this town.  It tuned out I was right about that and the driver told me I could sleep in the cab of the truck.  The cab was made up of a 3’ bench seat in which I had been sitting on and the driver’s seat, with a sizeable gap in between them.  So laying upon the bench and resting feet on the driver’s seat I was surprised that it was actually relatively comfortable.  The rest of the passengers, I only imagine, spread themselves out on the wood benches and rice bags in the back of the truck to sleep and the driver laid out on the ground by the diver door of the cameon.  Lying in the cab I had a clear view of the night sky through the windshield, and what a view it was.  The night sky is amazingly beautiful here in Madagascar.  There is little to no light pollution so you can see every star and planet with amazing visibility.  Looking out into the sky it was hard, impossible at times, to make out the different constellations.  I stared up into the abyss of space till I finally fell asleep. 
I woke up, for some unknown reason, at 4 o’clock in the morning and be unable to go back to sleep I continued my vigil of star gazing.  The night sky at this time in the morning is the most beautiful I think I have ever seen and it was made even more beautiful by what was about to begin.  Soon after I woke up I saw a shooting star fly across the sky!  Soon after that another one, and then another, and another!  I had awoken to a meteor shower and it was becoming bigger, more intense, and brighter by the minute!!!  I laid there in amazement, just watching as it seemed the night sky was dancing before me.  And then, just as quickly as it had started, it died away, but not before giving one last finale.  The last of these meteors was so close and so bright that I could easily see the different colors within its tail.  It was awe inspiring and, after thinking about it a little later, a bit frightening. 
Around 8 o’clock we finally began to make signs of continuing our journey.  We soon got underway with the sun in our eyes and I knew it would not be long for us to arrive at our destination.  The second half of the trip is markedly better than the first and I knew we would make better time.  This we did with out any problems until just outside of Fara; 12 km to be exact.  Here, the brake line broke and we were forced to stop so that it could be fixed.  This the driver and his helper did themselves.  These two, in any brousse, are remarkable handymen and can rig anything to work for at least a little bit longer.  Matter of fact, one would be hard pressed to find any brousse in this country that is fully functional and does not breakdown occasionally.  I have also never seen a brousse that has ever started without having to pop the clutch to get it going.  Needless to say I was stuck again.  So I sat and talked with a friend that had also been a passenger.  The two of us passed the time away in this manner until a truck passed and said they had room for one more.  I was the fist to be offered the spot and I jumped to the invitation; being a vazaha does have its perks at times.  Climbing into the back seat, in which there were already four people, we made the remaining 12 km in no time and arrived in Fara at 1 o’clock.  
















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