After a short, but much needed sleep and shower in our powerless hotel room, Kim and I met up with the rest of the group. There is 7 of us in total. Two from the USA, two from the UK, one Australian, and myself…a fairly well represented group. Oh ya, and I cannot forget to mention Dave. He will be taking us on the overland tour in his kick ass Mazda called Mazdave.
The tour began at 7am and we didn’t stop driving until 7pm. It was a long day in Mazdave but it was so wonderful to see the countryside in the daylight. The roads are less than ideal. They are incredibly twisty and turny and the potholes definitely have the right away. There are red clay houses scattered throughout the fields and loads of fields carved into the hillside.
As we wind our way to higher altitudes the countryside is getting to be a lot more lush. It’s not quite what I was expecting Madagascar to look like… but now that I’m here, I don’t remember what I expected. DreamWorks may have muddled my expectations. I haven’t seen any dancing lemurs, angry fossa or animated creatures of any kind, for that matter.
We stopped in Finastrotoa for the night. Some things I’ve noticed so far…children freely play in the street with little concern from their parents. However, these children are incredibly aware of their surroundings. Whether it be a bicycle, Mazdave or a zubu cart coming down the road, these children (some as young as 3 or 4) will promptly move out of the way before the vehicle even has to think about slowing down for them. Impressive.
Each family seems to have their own supply of grain in this area of the country. Frequently I will see all stages of the harvest occurring along the road. From cultivating the fields by hand to drying the grain on sheets spread out on the ground.
There are police stops at least every 50km. I’m still unsure as to the purpose of these ‘police stops’ as the procedures are very different at every stop. Sometimes we will be waved through as the policeman sits on his chair under the shade of a tree. Other times we will be stopped and Dave will get out, hand the man some papers, show him the onboard first aid kit and fire extinguisher.
As the skies get darker it’s easy to point out the abundance of fires in and around each home. Fire is the main source of heat and energy and the constant smell of smoke fills the air. There is a steady haze around the houses.
Approaching the larger centers I could have counted on one hand the number of lights on the horizon. If it wasn’t for Dave updating us that Finastrao was near, I would have never known.