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Old 01-08-2014, 02:10 PM   #196
lukeman
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Nice to see you get some pictures of yourself in action. Traveling alone it can be difficult to get some action shots.
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Old 01-08-2014, 11:10 PM   #197
Tiffany OP
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Thumb Where Next?

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Originally Posted by Blader54 View Post
Tiffany,
I nominate one of the shots of you carrying your bags across the river as front page material. That's adventure, for sure! Glad you made it through! When you finish this report will you give us a teaser as to where you might go next?
Spending some time at home!
I've got a couple of tours I'm leading in 2014, including Patagonia and one in India which will be my first all-female trip - this will be on Royal Enfield 500s riding through the Himalayan Mountains in Ladakh so if you know of any adventurous women who may want to join this tour, send them my way

http://www.hctravel.co.uk/html/ladakh_ladies.html

Glad you like the pictures - that one where I'm trudging through the river I almost lost my camera as it was balanced on one of the plants with the self-timer set to go off, when it slipped and nearly ended up in the water.
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Old 01-08-2014, 11:29 PM   #198
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Eh? It Got Tough

And yet another ferry, the first of the chain-powered barges, where a wheel is turned by hand to power the boat.



As you can see my legs and boots are pretty wet from the river crossings.
Water everywhere and a deceptive looking river crossing which caught me out, I had decided I'd get through it OK, but... Suzi’s back wheel bogged down.


Having removed the bags I returned to get her through, the following are a series of four pictures over 10 seconds which show how well I achieved my objective



Or NOT!!!


That’s correct the rear wheel has actually managed to sink further into the mud. Just as I was looking around for something solid to put under the wheel, a bloke appeared and gave me a hand, lifting the back end as I throttle the bike.
Suzi’s rear wheel was suitably decorated after this episode

That smile from when I was standing on the ferry- possibly the last time I smiled the rest of the day. It had begun to rain heavily, I was soggy and hungry, desperate for a rest, but the villages I was passing through were tiny with no facilities, and I began to regret not having asked “granny” for some of those home-made doughnuts at breakfast tea break in the morning.
I stopped at a village where a guy was driving through in a 4 wheel drive, he spoke some English and was able to tell me that no one in the village sold food (this was a surprise because in the remote areas, almost everyone sells the food that they’re cooking this helps to supplement their incomes)
The “shop” had one small packet of biscuits, three bottles of beer and a packet of noodles. I snapped up the biscuits and noodles, and hesitated over the beer- knowing that I needed calories but then realising that in the conditions I’m riding, the alcohol probably wouldn't help.
I paid the shop woman to cook the noodles for me, meanwhile, having heard me asking for anything to drink that wasn’t beer, her son ran cross country to the nearest village and returned with a small bottle of coke – which was like manna for me.
I sat in their hut, out of the rain and ate the noodles, feeling sorry for myself that there was only one packet and not wanting to waste any- as she had cooked them in a swimming sea of stock, I decanted the stock into my empty coke bottle before continuing. Apparently I was still 30 kms away from any village that would sell food. In these conditions 30 kms could take me a few hours the continuous rain slowing my progress as well as the stop start of removing the luggage when the rivers were too risky.
I rode on, buying boiled maniocs at the next village and washing it down with stock swigged from the coke bottle. More endless rivers and dirt, more rain so I didn’t dare to take my camera out as the lens was getting wet each time. The sun started setting, I was looking out for a place to stay, not really wanting to get into my very soggy tent, still wet from last night, but then I reached a village where they said I was just 30 minutes from Fort Dauphin – the major town on the south coast. My spirits lifted at the thought of somewhere dry to stay and also the end of this terrible road. But it did mean riding in the dark, something I avoid doing as it’s so dangerous out here. Desire for a proper place to stay won out and I rode the final stretch at a very cautious 15 km per hour using my headlights to pick out the people, zebu and vehicles with no lights in the road as well as the large potholes and water crossings.
What a relief when I saw tarmac once more and blimey, even streetlights. I stopped at the first hotel I could find, the cheapest rooms were up three flights of stairs, by which point I was almost weeping with weariness and a sense of having survived a tough undertaking.
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Old 01-09-2014, 07:55 AM   #199
Motorrev
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What a day

Tiffany, what a day you had. I thought I had been through some bad weather late at night on dangerous roads when it was pouring rain, but my adventures were all here in north America. Way different than where you were.

Glad you made it to safety and a dry room and hot food. Your adventures continue to amaze all of us. Have a good 2014!!

Bob
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Old 01-10-2014, 03:06 AM   #200
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Talking Slogging Along

Quote:
Originally Posted by Motorrev View Post
Tiffany, what a day you had. I thought I had been through some bad weather late at night on dangerous roads when it was pouring rain, but my adventures were all here in north America. Way different than where you were.

Glad you made it to safety and a dry room and hot food. Your adventures continue to amaze all of us. Have a good 2014!!

Bob
Thanks Bob
Each time I go through bad conditions and weather I do occasionally seriously question why I'm there and what I'm doing- but usually there's no turning back and the moment passes quickly enough, as I'm easily pleased, and it only takes something small to cheer up the eternal optimist in me

Thanks for following along with me.
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Old 01-10-2014, 03:18 AM   #201
Tiffany OP
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Cool2 Fort Dauphin

WHEW
Clean up day, first task to dry my wet stuff out, I draped it over the outside stairs and landing; luckily there were no other guests on this floor so I didn’t inconvenience anyone.



Fort Dauphin, the most southerly of Madagascar’s towns and a bit cut off as the road that leads to it from Tana and which is mostly tarmac is controlled by bandits and zebu rustlers – oh yes, there’s an easier route to take than the one I was on, but it goes down through the middle of the island and I’m trying to ride around it. At times as you may have guessed from the pictures, there were a few occasions when I felt that taking the coastal road was not one of my better choices in life.
A chance to explore town, by far the biggest town I’d seen since leaving Tana a couple of weeks ago, it's a port and resort (by Madagascan standards)




The local council is apparently making a stand against corruption, their main action having been to install this box a couple of years earlier, it didn’t look very well used,

I wondered what it would be like to have something like this at the village hall where I live.

Fort Dauphin is known for its surfing and so I eagerly headed down to what is supposed to be one of the main surf spots in Madagascar- to find that there were some good breaks but… no surfers, only goats



No-one to hire or borrow a board from, so I contented myself with some bodysurfing keen to achieve the feat of having surfed in three Oceans and a Sea in four months (Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean and now the Indian)
The goats didn’t think much of my performance and started to head off


a lack of sunshine meant I didn’t stay in long.


As you may guess, I had a strong sense of achievement at having completed the long East Coast section with all its mud, sheer rock faces and extreme conditions, but the satisfaction soon gave way to some foreboding as I knew that I would be swapping the mud and rivers for the sandy tracks that cross the remote desert regions in the far south of Madagascar, this is what lies ahead

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Old 01-11-2014, 01:57 AM   #202
Tiffany OP
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Cool2 The Start of the Sand

I didn't linger long in Fort Dauphin, I had the long road west stretching away, a route that would take me through the Badlands - this is actually the only part of Madagascar that I had been warned about, for once everyone seemed to be in agreement, it's an area to be avoided. Ho Hum It's my only route out of FD because I'm definitely not going to go back up the muddy tracks again. I loaded up Suzi and headed off on a fine sunny day.
The track heading west took me through tropical plantations of strange looking plants - I think they might be Sisal.



To my relief, no sign of mud except some small patches like this one in the middle of a village where the local pigs were out and about enjoying themselves


and causing a hazard to traffic as they wallowed in the muddy road.

The soft deep sand took a while to get used to, and there was little other traffic- these guys were the only bike riders I met - they work for an NGO and were most surprised to see a woman riding a bike, AND coping better with the sand than they were!

Zebu were aplenty and mindful of the area’s reputation for zebu rustling and the gunmen who do it, I kept my eyes open. I was hopeful that the locals would not mistake me for a zebu rustler, but comforted myself with the thought that they’d realise I wouldn't be able to carry one far on my bike until I spotted this little guy and his mother

So very cute and so young that his umbilical cord was still attached to him

They trotted off

The zebu are a bit of a liability on the road, often they are just roaming free and have no road sense.
I might not have seen many people on this trail, but I did see quite a few animals, including this fellow

A tortoise which was a bit camera shy
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Old 01-13-2014, 06:14 AM   #203
Tiffany OP
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Cool2 The South

While having a sandwich break in the shade of some trees I noticed these funny looking leaves
on closer inspection turned out to be some sort of insects – David Attenborough eat your heart out
The The sun started setting and another tortoise appeared, with striking geometric patterns on its shell.

Again this one was a bit camera shy as well. I didn't see any people, but passed quite a few tombs - nearly all with strange images on them

Some looking like the drawings of a child. The tops decorated with zebu skulls


Having managed to cross the worst of the Badlands without any problems, I was trying to make it to the village of Beloha but the soft sand, long day of riding and my tiredness meant I was making slow progress. Looking out for a place to camp didn’t prove fruitful as I kept seeing huts off to the side of the track. Eventually I spotted a guy coming out of a small compound and asked him if I could camp there- he smiled and opened the gate. It was a bare looking place and I realised no-one else was around which felt odd, but selected a flat spot of ground and put up my tent, whilst Landry (he’d introduced himself) watched my every move with great interest.

Landry then brought over a rusty bucket of water from the well in the ground to have a wash, to be honest I felt too tired, but knowing that being clean is important to the people here, I used the water to wash the dust off. The locals strip and wash naked in the rivers but I kept shorts and bra on, as he squatted just three feet away watching as I washed.
He then disappeared into the dark and I retreated to my tent for a dinner of processed cheese and crisp sandwiches.
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Old 01-14-2014, 10:51 PM   #204
Tiffany OP
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Cool2 Desert Life

Early morning and I could see my surroundings more clearly, it actually looks more like a building site than a tropical part of Africa.
I used the rest of the water in the bucket to have a quick wash



The cactus started to appear beside the track



and my only company at this point are the birds, I came upon a treeful of yellow headed hammer birds who weave intricate nests






The only other traffic I see apart from zebu carts are trucks like this one, a "camion-brousse", or bush truck, the only form of public transport which as you can see carry everything from people to commercial goods, somehow cramming it all in and on the truck.




The heat is intense and in an attempt to keep cool, I stop regularly to wet my gloves, t-shirt and also my trousers



Some respite in a village where the weekly market was taking place, people watching at its best as I sat in the shade eating rice and beans, and to my delight found a place that had semi-cold drinks

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Old 01-15-2014, 09:05 AM   #205
_cy_
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Hi Tiffany .. nice job as always sharing your adventures. this RR has got to take the record on what seems like an endless number of water crossings!
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Old 01-20-2014, 12:15 AM   #206
Tiffany OP
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Cool2 Many Rivers to Cross

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Originally Posted by _cy_ View Post
Hi Tiffany .. nice job as always sharing your adventures. this RR has got to take the record on what seems like an endless number of water crossings!
I'd agree with you there about the endless river crossings. It can be frustrating when I'm trying to make good progress and I'm having to wait on a river bank for up to an hour for what then turns out to be a slow river ferry/barge.
It's also a real wake up call about the pitiful financial situation that Madagascar is in, they cannot afford to improve their road infrastructure, in the UK and America, we'd just have bridges over all the rivers. I think there are also a lot of rivers because it's an island - however that's me saying that as a guess at geographical stuff
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Old 01-20-2014, 01:40 AM   #207
Tiffany OP
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Cool2 Ampanihy


For some reason, I'd been feeling unwell most of the day and didn't want to push myself too hard on what is notoriously a "road" with difficult conditions. I was having regular breaks and stops when I could - parking up by the side of the road and eating mangoes- my favourite fruit and they were now in season.
This lone cyclist passed during one such break





I'd taken this picture as well to show that I was back in muddy conditions, thankfully not as wet as the east coast and also a very different colour.

The sun was getting low as I arrived into a large village, the children gathered excitedly around my bike,


once I got my camera out, others started to arrive




This was the biggest and grandest building I had seen since leaving Fort Dauphin two days earlier



A surreal sight after the bare desert I'd been riding through, and also a surprise as my Lonely Planet guidebook described this particular village as "looking like it had suffered an air raid" - that wasn't the impression I had from the village and I wondered if the guidebook author had actually been there!

An African sunset
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Old 01-20-2014, 02:05 AM   #208
Tiffany OP
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Talking Market Day

Breakfast was served up by this smiling woman



As usual, I'm not entirely sure what it is I'm eating but it tastes OK - some sort of tapioca cakes.
The road is quiet - in fact so quiet I wonder if I'm on the right track, the only other person is this guy - the way he wears his shawl is fascinating - I haven't seen people dressed like this since staying with the Shuburu tribe in northern Kenya




I catch up with this "camion brousse" which reassures me that yes, I must be on the right track.



I follow it into the village



It's market day and pretty busy as people have walked in from miles around.

Zebu carts jostle for space



People swarm all over the bus as they unload it

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Old 01-20-2014, 07:11 PM   #209
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Thanks again Tiffany for more updates of your wonderful ride! Always looking forward to it.
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Old 01-22-2014, 08:08 AM   #210
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Tremendous ride report! Thank you
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