It has been almost a month since I last wrote to you from France, a month filled with a lot of Madagascar, a lot of motorcycles and a great deal of heat. The period can be divided into four parts. First the journey to Toliara, including a night in Paris, a night in Antananarivo, two nights in Antsirabe and being sick on the road to Toliara. The second part consisted mainly of repairing motorbike(s), sweating, not being sick anymore and having mango breaks. The third part, lasting only for four days (compared to the previous, lasting for almost two weeks) consisted of the motorbike-trip, from Toliara, up the coast to Marondava, and from there to Antsirabe. The last part is now, leaving Jeremy in the highlands, and returning to Toliara to celebrate Christmas with the whole family.
Arriving in Madagascar was, as usual, very nice. I have been in love with this Island for quite some time, and even though I may forget why from time to time, I am always reminded when I get back. The people are so nice, everything so uncomplicated and then it’s Africa, or at least something quite similar to it. In Antsirabe I have lots of friends, having lived there for five years, so whenever I am there, I always have plenty to do. I had to show Jeremy around a bit, and met up with Toky, my best friend up there, who makes his living as a musician (you can see that on the picture). The drive from Antsirabe to Tloiara (800 km) was not to enjoyable for me, because I had fever and felt very bad, but Jeremy did the driving, and we arrived safely.
In Toliara (town on the west-coast) the plan was to open the engine of my bike, replace the broken parts (I brought new parts from France), and then head out on a trip. We managed quite nicely, I would say, in opening the engine, and getting all in place again. For me it was the first time to open an engine, but Jeremy had done it before, and was thus the “first mechanic”, and I was the assistant. When the engine was reassembled, with new piston rings, a new cam-shaft and a new distribution chain, we tried to start the bike, but there was no way. It took us several days, and the help of a mechanic, to find the problem, which was a little missing thing that blocks the automatic decompression from turning with the camshaft. This was of course discovered on a Saturday evening, and there was need for a special machine to pull the automatic decompression off the camshaft, so the bike was not ready before Monday in the evening.
We left early on Tuesday, and headed towards Morondava, first along the coast, with plenty of sand, and later a bit inland. To reach Manja was not a problem, even though the road was muddy in some parts. This area of Madagascar is very remote, and there are few roads, few cars, and the roads are in partly very bad conditions. The second day we actually wanted to do a count of cars (or any other motorized vehicles) and ox-carts, to see what there would be most of, but we got out of count with the ox-carts. With the cars it was much easier. For 200 kilometers of gravel-road we neither met nor overtook nor even saw anything with an engine, except for our own bikes. This was understandable though, regarding that the road was very bad, even for the cross-bikes, and we also took a wrong turn, which cost us some hours of extra sweat. Crossing big riverbeds in 35 degrees and sun is only partly fun, especially if you get stuck, stall, and your bike does not want to start, like it happened to Jeremy. I have never seen him as tired as he was after that river crossing, and I think it will take some time before he agrees on another trip into deep sand.
We did not sleep in Morondava that night, but went out of town after a cold drink, to spend the night in the famous baobab-alee, 18 kilometers from Morondava. It was a beautiful evening, and the people were very nice, when we decided to camp 50 meters from their houses. Madagascar can be so incredibly beautiful, and then it can be so damaged too.
Between Morondava and Antsirabe, there is a good tarmac-road. There is also the option of taking a very bad gravel (or stone) road, which was our initial plan, but when we had the option, the heat and the exhaustion made us choose the more boring tarmac. On Friday we hit Antsirabe for a second time. My parents, and my little sister arrived in Madagascar on Saturday, but their luggage did not, so they waited until Monday with coming to Antsirabe, so we waited to. An accident with Wombosi gave us another day delay, but on Wednesday we finally headed southwards again with the whole family. Jeremy was sent his own ways, so Mparany took the one bike, and Alma, my little sister came with us bikers too, so that the rest could fit in the “little” Renault Laguna. Wombosi had to stay behind because of the damage from the accident.
Now we are set to do nothing for some days. Markus and Jacob, my nephews will get some attention, and then it is Christmas.
For those of you who don’t know Madagascar too well, I can tell you this much. Being south of the equator, we have summer here now, meaning that it is very hot. Toliara is one of the hottest and driest places on the island with approximately 11 days with rain a year, so even though the hot season is rainy season, Toliara stays hot and dry most of the time. My sister and Mparany, her husband, have built a house on a big plot here, so our main activity whenever we get here is to plant trees, cut of branches and take care of the garden.
I’ll be back in Norway on the fourth of January, and wish you all a happy Christmas and a blessed new year.
|Jeremy before his haircut|
|"Satroka ny papa" (the hat of the pope), between Antsirabe and Toliara|
|Mparany, Sophie and Jeremy|
|Bikes and Baobabs|
|Jeremy is crossing a river...|
|...before taking a mud-bath|
|Baobabs close to Morondava|
|What a place to camp|
|The destroyed mountains above Miandrivazo|