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Saturday, September 25, 2010

They call it adventure for a reason

Our visit to Tsingy was like stumbling upon the fountain of youth, or maybe mana from heaven, well you get the point. It's amazing what a great guide, a warm shower, decent meal, and a bottle of South African wine can do for the soul.

The loyal steed arrived on time after our hike and the truck seemed to be running pretty well--it actually cranked with the key. We loaded our things in the truck and took refuge under the trees while we waited for the ferry to carry us back across the river.

While we waited it was proposed that I take a picture with the sweet "baby" zebu tied near one of the trees. I figured why not and moseyed on over to have my pic made with the noble beast. Not five feet from the creature it took off in a full charge ready to plow my vazaha rear-end to the ground. I escaped shaken as Rija ran over (still playing with his new phone) and quickly informed me the adolescent zebu were dangerous and to stay away. As this idiocracy unfolded I couldn't help but notice small children running all around the Zebu and smacking them with sticks. C'est la vie.

As luck would have it our car only broke down one time on our way back to Belo. Some bad clutch work resulted in another stall and we once again hopped out to successfully push the truck to jump-start (Mental note: 7th breakdown, 3 days). We made it to Belo at a reasonable hour only to find that the showers were still cold and it still required using the bucket. At that point our expectations were so low we didn't really care. We were more focused on the one benefit this place had to offer--zebu filet!

The following morning we walked around the village market while we waited on Rija and our driver to finalize travel plans. The market buzzed and was full of fun things that, although not new, continued to trap our westernized eyes.

Back in the truck and after additional overnight repairs we were happily off to our final destination with this crew. Just one more night and we would be back in Tana with Mamy and a solid working truck! We worked our way through unmarked sandy back roads leading out of Belo and finally arrived back at the river where a large dual-pontoon ferry awaited. Steve and I watched in amazement as the boat "skippers?" hand-cranked two engines and then with bare hands fed on the propeller drive belt to the running engine. That's right, no transmission on this thing, just forward! A half hour later we arrived at the other side of the river and found our jaws dropping even further as our large (vehicle carrying barge) tied up next to another floating barge where men slapped down sewn logs to bridge the gaps and prepared for the truck to make its way to land--WOW! Somehow our vehicle did not become another statistic and managed to climb its way over the two pontoon boats and up the dirt cliff.

Next stop, Baobab Avenue! One of the must-see sights for Baobab lovers this small stretch of road is lined by trees over a 1000 years old and regal looking by anyone's standards. In addition to the avenue we also saw the "lovers" baobab which was a truly magnificent specimen. Unfortunately it appeared that our friend Guy had made his mark there earlier. Pretty sorry, Guy, pretty sorry.

Thank goodness Steve suggested we take the THB vendor up on a couple of cold bottles before we left Baobab Avenue because you won't believe what happened next. A mere 13km outside of Morondava our truck ground to an awful mechanical hault. It didn't take long for us to figure out our driver had managed to run out of fuel--YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING! We sat on the side of the road, drank our THB's and constructed a plan. "Driver" should be the last part of any title this guy holds and it was time to take matters into our own hands. We marched back to the truck while Rija was off looking for fuel. Grabbing essential items, we donned 3 small backpacks and started hiking down the road towards Morondava. Worst case, we would be there in two hours by foot. We couldn't help but notice the smirks we got while walking down the road--it's probably not everyday these folks had three random vazahas strutting down the dirt path with such determined looks. After about an hour of walking we found a small shack serving cold beer just outside of Morondava. Steve promptly delivered three cold bottles and we waited for Rija. It wasn't long before they came bumping down the road and shamefully scooped us back up for the few short kilometers to the city.

Morondava seemed teeming with life and a cool beach town. We were excited to have a night on the town and late flight before Rija killed that excitement with one brief statment--"your plane will know leave at 9:40am, we will pick you up at 7:00am." There was nothing we complain about with regard to the flight change; however, I made a very strong point to Rija--make sure you bring a different car!

We enjoyed our afternoon on the beach, walked around a bit, were appalled by sea-turtle shells selling for $10, and caught a fabulous sunset before getting ready to head out to dinner. After stuffing ourselves we made our way to Rasta Jean's bar where we closed out the evening with a crowd of South African sailors who were welcome company after the past week.

Bright and early we were up--no more Rija, no more whacked out driver. Here we come Mamy!

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