There is a lot to catch up on after just a week without internet, so here we go
With all the zebu drama, I hadn't noticed how many people had gathered on the beach for the boat to the mainland. They quickly climbed aboard and I squeezed in between a granddad and a 10 year old. In total there were 20 people and about 10 kids ont he boat plus a lot of luggage and of course, Suzi the motorbike.
It looked something like this
yes, the eight year old is fast asleep against the bike.
It was a relatively short journey, around 40 mins to the mainland and we soon found ourselves surfing in on the waves, landing on a sandy beach
children were passed off the boat first and it was all hands to help out
this was the sleepy head and her baby brother
Bags were passed off next, and then they all heaved the boat up the beach. Except there wasn't much movement. It wouldn't budge and the waves were breaking over the stern, swamping the boat. a shout went out, now I'm not much of a Malagasy speaker, but even I could tell that the yell was "Get the bike off or we lose the boat" - I'm sure there are shadows of Jonah in this somewhere.
I couldn't protest, they undid the ropes, grabbed Suzi and hauled her overboard in almost waist deep water.
I admit I panicked a bit, but there was nothing I could do, but the guys did well and hauled her quickly up the shore.
This woman in the foreground was more concerned with her charcoal brazier. They pulled and hauled Suzi up the beach.
and then everyone helped to get the boat up high beyond the reach of the waves
I stayed to make sure all was well and to pay my fare.
I looked around, I had absolutely no idea where I was, I'd been landed ont he coastline of Eastern Madagascar somewhere north of Soaneirana ivongo (bit of a mouthful that one). It was just a beach, no jetty or anything, they had been unable to show me on my map where I was - it was too small to be graced with a name.
So I took off, heading south, heading inland a bit to find a track. The track soon petered out into water
which I managed to cross, the next part had a thoughtful bridge of sorts, for pedestrians and bikes
In this part of the world, this is major infrastructure.
But then things went downhill when I had to follow this stream
Unbelievably, I came across another bike with a couple of local blokes wearing some sort of hunting gear.
They could only reply yes to everything I asked them. So I continued south with the sea on my left, until suddenly I came out onto the local equivalent of the M5, complete with a lorry blocking the way
That sandy track may not look much but it was the best chance of a main road I had seen for almost a couple of hours.
I reached a river, with a vehicle barge
I took a pirogue with the welcome sight at the other end of Madame and the lunch table
I selected the veggie options - the meal is called compose, and you choose what you want. My eal looked something like this
Madame was able to confirm that I was ont he correct road and shortly after I saw this welcome sight
For the uninitiated, that is a Malagasy kilometre post, set at intervals on major routes (it may take a slight stretch of the imagination to see this as being a major route)
Even better, the S/Ivongo 8 potentially means I am just 8 kms from the town with the very long name and where rumours have it, there is tarmac.
I was thrilled, but then it doesn't take much to please me
and so I promptly fell over
I've mastered the picking up with your back tot he bike, so not such a problem this time.
and I was a bit more careful with the next section
a note to self to maybe not bring pillion riders this way.
hotly pursued by something that looks like it should be in a horror movie
I made it to the safety of yet another pirogue
where Suzi was loaded in some quite stagnant water, made to look prettier by some floating plants -believe me, it was stinking and I was almost knee deep in it as I helped the blokes to lift her up and into the pirogue.
at the other end we had a bit of a problem, I thought the shore looked odd, it turned out we had a longish haul to more solid ground
and then when I reached the village entrance, it was completely underwater, early rains had caused flooding
The next 20 minutes were spent trying to find a route between the thatched huts and up onto solid ground.