Sarah Marttunen

We have finally found another opportunity to use the internet. Internet access was far more difficult to find in Madagascar than we had anticipated. We are no longer in Madagascar, we arrived this afternoon to Nairobi, Kenya! Some of you know of our kaffufles with Air Madagascar in Maroantsetra – but we will write more of that later and start where we left off at the last blog.

The day after returning to Toliara from Ifaty we went to the Taxi-Brousse station and began one of the craziest taxi rides of our lives! We got to the station at 8am and watched as they loaded our baggage onto the top of the 15passanger van we were to travel in. The baggage was piled about as high as the van itself! And of course the live turkey was put on the very top. We waited for about an hour and half as they tied everything on the van. We carefully guarded our front seats next to the driver. Finally about 9:45am (only 1hr 45min late) we left on the road for Fianarantsoa (Fianar) – only about 500kms away. It was crazy! The 15passenger fan had at least 20people in it as they add extra fold down seats that only work with the door closed and if there are extra people they sit on the floor (“No Problem!”). We drove through the village spotted country of Madagascar. The highway also acts as the main street for many of these villages, so as we drove through at 80kms an hour chickens, dogs, ducks and people ran for their lives. The breaks are used as a last resort if and only if beings do not move to the sound of the horn. We were surprised at the decency of the road given our previous experience driving to Ifaty. During the whole trip we only had to stop 5 times to go over what would be considered in Canada impassable potholed road. We stopped at about 1:30pm in a small village. It took us a few minutes but we finally figured out we were stopping for lunch (no one in the van spoke English or French). It was a pretty sketch little restaurant/decrepid building… but I just closed my eyes and ate what was in front of me. We stopped a few hours later in a larger town to drop off about 7 or 8 of the passengers. Slowly their luggage was unstrapped from the roof – we watched carefully to ensure our bags stayed up there! Interestingly when we all piled back into the van it was still full. After this our drivers spent about an hour going about town trying to recruit new passengers. Jeff and I played with some little kids at the bus stop, giving them candy and empty pop bottles. Finally we were on the road again. At this time it was starting to get dark (remember Madagascar is in Winter season now so starts getting dark at about 4pm). We watched anxiously as the sun set and the speed of the van got much slower. Once it was dark we saw many fires in the hills. Turns out this was the eve of Madagascar Day and people were celebrating with hand made sparklers and lanterns. In the villages it was complete chaos. Children were running around with burning torches throwing them onto the road in front of the van. It was quite frightening to watch the kids standing so close to the road. Suddenly, we were in Fianar. As we drove into the taxi-brousse station, taxi drivers were sticking their heads in the windows and opening the doors begging us to chose their services. When we finally got our bags of the roof of the van and found a taxi to take us to our hotel it was about 9pm. Next time I think about complainibg about how long it takes to drive to Kamloops – I will just remember this trip.

We checked into the Tsara Guest House. We were thrilled to hear it had hot water showers! We scheduled a trek to Ranomafana National park the next day and then hit the hay, completely exhausted. We woke up early the next morning and headed to Ranomafana (means “Hot Water” in Malagasy for the natural hot springs nearby). The park is about 45min outside of Fianar and is staffed primarily by people from the nearby village of the same name. We were fortunate to have a guide who spoke English. He guided us on a 4hr hike through the mountainous park. It was pooring rain at the time so we got completely soaked, but it was awesome. Ranomafana is a secondary forest that was made into a park in 1991. It is home to several Indigenous species of bamboo, hundreds of different palms, and 12 different species of lemur. We saw many very cool plants and some birds. After lunch and about 3.5hrs of trekking we finally spotted our first lemur! We were lucky to see the Golden Bamboo Lemur. He was very high in the tree, but we took pictures regardless (:

When we returned to our hotel we exhausted the hot water tank with a very long hot shower. We were so cold after our rainy hike. After this we ventured out into the city to try and find an internet cafe. Unfortunately due to the holiday, nothing was open. We had a really fun walk through the town seeing the different way that people live in this rainy cool area. We played with some children – who were more excited about the candy that we gave them than the money! Thank you Brentview baptist for the candy you sent with me – we’ve so enjoyed seeing the excitment on the kids’ faces when they recieve it. Once again we had an early dinner (with our new favourite drink: coco punch) and early to bed as we had the second leg of our taxi-brousse trip the following day.

We arrived at the taxi station at 7am (which is like a big muddy parking lot filled with hundreds of vans in various states of disrepair). We went to the booth we had booked with only to find it empty. Which was quite disconcerting. An older man grabbed my ticket and said “oh yes come come”. And I angrily replied “No! We already have booking”. So he left us and we wandered around trying to find our van. The man came back again and said “Oh, you are Sarah, you come over here”. I thought he was just trying to get us to use his company instead and he knew my name because he already saw my ticket, but we followed him anyway. Apparently we were going with a different company… we struggled with our broken French to explain we had already paid for the front seats. Once again we went through the same ordeal of loading on the bags as high as they would go. About 2hrs late we all piled into the van and started the trek. I noticed a sign that said Antananarivo 390km. I was happy because I figured since it was closer we would get there sooner. Ha! Our driver was the most cautious third world taximan I have ever met. We went about 40-60km/hour the whole trip. I was thankful for his slow driving however when we were held up due to an accident between two taxi-brousses. We finally arrived in Tana at about 10pm. We arrived at an empty station with no taxi in site. It was scary as a drunk man bothered us and no one else seemed to come to our aid. Luckily we found someone who knew someone who had a taxi. Finally we made it to our hotel where they cooked us a fantastic Malagasy stew and rice.

Well, I think this blog is long enough. We will tell more tales of Tana in the days to come.

5 Responses to “Taxi-Brousse”

  • Mom Says:

    Your description of the taxi ride was so vivid I feel like I was there with you. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

  • Dad Says:

    Amazing descriptions. I felt like I was on the adventure with you. Glad you have survived it all and that you are enjoying the next phase. I am looking forward to more installments.

  • mom M Says:

    I think you two should do the amazing race!…actually, I think you are doing it! We are praying for you each day and enjoying watching you handle all that has been thrown at you. We love you lots and lots. mom

  • Brantone Says:

    You think that’s bad?!? Let me tell you about my trip …
    Actually, never mind, it’s pretty boring in comparison … like, *really* boring.
    Glad to hear you’re still having fun despite all the obstacles. That crazy stuff makes for great stories to tell later … or to keep on a blog. Whichever.

  • Kari Says:

    You two would do well on the Amazing Race!

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