The Long Walk Home

            Yesterday evening a Malagasy nature group out of the Highlands came to Vondrozo.  They were kids and young adults, ages 15 – 25, from Fianar and Ansirabe, that were participating in a summer camp that lead them here to see the Corridor and then down to Toliara region.  When they arrived at the Lycee, we cleared out a few of the classrooms for them to sleep in and left them to prepare the rest of their ‘camp.’  This morning I was awakened by camp chants and as I made my way outside I saw that they were all in a circle chanting, listening to speeches from the camp heads about the day, and receiving backpacks as gifts.  After all of their camp stuff was done and they had
said their thank you to the Proviseur, the camp heads came over to my house to give me (and Greg who was not their) their group hat and a backpack as a gift.  This is when I found out that they were leaving this morning to take a hike in the rainforest on the Corridor before making their way South. 
            Realizing that my toe had healed enough to walk on, and not wanting to pass up a free ride to the Corridor, I called up Greg to let him know about the hike.  Once Greg arrived at the Lycee we found out that they were going out to the Corridor, but then afterwards were going to continue on and were not going to be coming back to Vondrozo.  This would put us hiking 15 km out in the rainforest and then tuning around and hiking that, plus the 10 km they said the drive would be, to get back to Vondrozo.  Fearing for our safety, the camp heads began to become weary of taking us.  At this moment, just by happen chance, one of our friends and members of a nature group here in Vondrozo walked up.  We convinced him to tag along with us and this eased the minds of the camp heads.  So I threw on my hiking shoes, grabbed my pack which had my already filled three liter camelpack, and threw in a few snacks.  While I was doing this, Greg ran down the road and bought a few mofo balls, since neither of us had eaten breakfast yet.  This was a very thrown together expedition for us, since it was last minute. 
            Climbing in to the back of a cargo truck, what serves as a taxi brusse in these parts, and made our way into town.  Fortunately for us we stopped in town, since none of the group had eaten breakfast either and wanted to grab some quick food.  The three of us took this opportunity to run down to a little hotely and grab a bite to eat.  Then we climbed back into the truck and made the hour and a half trek out to the Corridor.  During this trip everyone in the group sang the entire time.  Not knowing any of the songs, Greg and I just sat, listened, and marveled that they could sing for that long.  Upon arriving at the Corridor we realized that it was actually 15 km and not the 10 km we had previous thought it would be.  But no matter, we unloaded from the back of the truck to begin our walk.  The truck, upon us unloading, drove off down the road and we began to walk down the road as well, enjoying the scenery.  3 km into the hike, still being on the road, we found out that the group was not actually going to hike into the forest itself, but was going to continue the rest of the hike on the road till they meet back up with the truck.  Deciding to save ourselves the extra mileage, just after midday, we turned back to make the 18 km hike back home. 
            The first few kilometers were still in the rainforest, which provided us with both shade and amazing scenery.  I will no doubt make another trek back out to the rainforest, to walk in it, but will find a much shorter route to it.  Upon exiting the forest, we found ourselves on a ledge over looking the rolling hills of grassland as far as the eye could see.  This is where the torturous part of our journey began.   We entered out into the grasslands, into the tropical midday sun on the hottest part of the day, to complete the longest leg of our travel.  Our walk lead us down a red dirt road over hill after hill, sometimes diverting cross-country on small footpaths, with only sparse trees here and there to hide us from the sun.  After a while my toe, which I thought had healed enough for the walk, began an awkward pierce of painful numbness, but after my nerves realized they were not going to make me stop, finally gave in and left me alone.  Our walk took us all of about four hours to complete, stopping only twice; once for our friend to buy some tea at a roadside stand and for us to eat the mofo balls we had brought, and once to rest in the shade of a tree for a short time.  Upon arriving back in town we made a stop in one of the local hotelys to rest and buy a large bottle of Coke and Pineapple Fanta to share amongst us.  We sat at a table in the corner in a solemn quietness staring out into the street, commenting only seldom on the kids playing foosball outside.  Once we had finished the two bottles of soda and the sun had gone down enough for us to want to venture back out into it, we made our way back to Greg’s house for him to grab some more money, and then made our way to the other hotely for dinner.  I then sauntered home to lie around out of the sun and recover.  

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