I have never experienced a true monsoon season. I can only imagine what it must be like in some countries where it rains virtually non-stop for half a year. How do you build a bridge over a river that’s a reasonable hundred meters wide for much of the year, but swells to more than a kilometer wide during the monsoon? How do you keep a paved road from disintegrating when the roadbed it sits on is saturated for months on end? How do you maintain the links among a seasonally nomadic population living in temporary encampments? And the dry season poses its own set of challenges.
Michel wanted to leave Manja at dawn to get in line for a ferry crossing, and we were only too happy to comply. We set off to the mellow crooning of Lionel Ritchie, Michel’s favorite singer. We passed another tour vehicle. We passed a government vehicle, and another two SUVs. Those were the only cars we saw.
We arrived at the river in a mere three hours. We could see the ferry, which could take three cars per trip, sitting empty at the other shore. One by one, the vehicles we’d passed lined up behind us. But the ferry didn’t move. Finally, a man arrived in a pirogue. The ferry’s battery was dead. They needed a car battery to start it. Michel obliged, and the man paddled the Toyota’s battery across the river to start the boat.
We made the short crossing and were last to unload. Now we faced another obstacle: an uphill climb through the bottomless sand of the monsoon floodplain, which had been baking in the sun for half a day. The other two SUVs were each being assisted by a dozen or so strong young men (for a fee, of course), but Michel waved off our would-be crew and started driving. In minutes we overtook the other vehicles, and the pushers called out something that made Michel chuckle. As the Land Cruiser scrambled over the top of the bank and onto the road, I complimented Michel on his impressive driving skills. “You know what those guys said back there when we passed them?” he asked, beaming with pride. “They said, ‘That car goes like a rhinoceros!’”This entry was posted in Madagascar, Vacation 2016: East/South Africa