The Hardest ride in Madagascar!!!

            I have, since finding out that I was going to be living in Vondrozo, wanted to bike the 44 miles from Vondrozo (where I live) to Farafangana (my banking town).  Today, wanting to save money and get in some miles on my bike, I finally decided to do it.  Having packed my saddlebags the night before I had planned on leaving at 5 am, but upon waking up and finding that it was raining outside I had to wait and debate if I really wanted to make the trip by bike at all.  I knew the road would be a mess after a rain like that and it would make an already hard ride even harder.  I knew that the worst part of the ride was the first part, with its steep and rocky climbs and downhills and its
many potholes that would now be filled with water.  After that I knew it was open road, comparatively, across rolling hills, but with no cover from the sun.  I decided that with the cloud cover this part should not be too much of a problem since the clouds had made the air cool and were giving an ever so often mist. 
When it finally stopped pouring at 9 am I decided to brave it a make the trip.  I had ridden the first few miles of the ride a few times before, never after a rain though, and knew the easier paths to take through the rocky road.  Once past this I made my way winding in and around puddles and up and down the hills.  Everything was going great and I was making ok time till I came to a ‘puddle’ towards the end of the ‘hard part.’  There being no way around it I decided to run through towards the edge where I thought it would be shallowest.  This was not the case.  Entering in I quickly began to sink till my bike came to a complete stop and I was forced to put down my foot, sinking into the mud underneath up to my knees.  I then sludged through the mud to the other side and looked down with dismay at both my mud covered/filled shoes and bike.  The mud had covered both my brakes and my derailers.  Cyclists know this is detrimental; the mud would cause them all to stop working correctly or at all.  So using my water bottle and the muddy water from a nearby puddle, I washed off what mud I could and continued on my way.  I was unfortunately unable to get all of it off.  This coupled with the mud that was constantly being thrown on to my bike eventually would settle and dry; partially locking up my front derailer and leaving me with only my middle gears, the lower of these being also sketchy due to the mud.  I struggled on till I arrived at the midway town, and last town I would go through till I reached Fara.  Here I stopped for some food at the local hotely; needing some carbs after an already toiling ride. 
Stepping out of the hotely I knew the hardest part of the ride was over and it would only be rolling hills the rest of the way.  By this point the clouds had parted and the sun had come out, leaving me to complete the ride on the open road with little to no shade for comfort.  So I applied sunscreen, jumped on my bike, and headed out on what I thought would be an easy completion of my ride.  This was only partly true.  Although the sun had come out the day had fortunately still remained to be fairly cool.  The rolling hills, on the other hand, that from the back of a moving truck had looked fairly small were now looking much larger and longer.  This coupled with only having the full use of less than a third of my gears made these hills arduous at best; exhausting even.  So much so, that when I finally came across a tree on the side of the road, I struggled off my bike and, in the shade of the tree, laid down in the roadside ditch.  After a much needed rest, I hopped on my bike and strove on.  In the end I had ridden 44 miles, climbed 2705 feet, and still beat the brusse that left before me. 

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