The big bus trip: An inferno of sweat, mud and rice

A story about our bus trip to see the silky sifaka

The silky sifaka is considered one of the worlds most endangered animals and endemic to Madagascar, so of course – this was something we did NOT want to miss! However, to come to the only place where this rare animal live, we had to travel a long way (estimated to about 20 h)….or actually not that long in kilometers, but the badass road (!) along with rude busdrivers and bad engines, made this to a trip which we will remember for the rest of our lives…

Day 1:
The morning before departure. The sun had just risen over the landslide ravaged hills when we got up and ate breakfast together with our fellow Malagasy researcher, Loucman . He took us to the muddy market place to a small café where they had hot fresh milk and flabby cakes made ​​of rice which we ate plenty of. Given the amount of cows that live in Madagascar one would think it should be easy to get hold of dairy products, but usually condensed milk is the only thing we managed to come by. So this was tasty!

Loucman, a researcher and our guide in this area. Really epic man

After a brief farewell we had left the village Bealanana and we went under clear skies down the dramatic highlands in a rusty landrover. The upcoming trip would take us through three towns and for the first time during our months in east Africa and Madagascar, we actually arrived before the appointed time to the first one! Awesome! Of course – this seemed very promising considering the trip awaiting us…

The town in which we started, Bealanana

Generally speaking , we always have time constraints when we travel, so many people to meet and animals to see,  we can’t afford to take resting days just cause we’re tired. Clamped together like canned sardines, we went on to the next town. We sat three people in the passenger seat up front (it’s tight..try it! =) and obviously something was wrong with the engine. It was overheated and the heat rose up, straight through the seat. In case you live in the north with cold winters – you know how it feels to put the seat heater on maximum… However, then it’s usually nice and cosy. The only small difference here, was the 30 degrees celsuis outside (instead of minus 30)! We made a few miles at a time, stopped while the driver was fixing the overheated engine, trying to cool it down. The rain season had brought the monsoon and the bus turned into sauna while taking us through the outskirts of the mangrove forest. The heat forced the garments (clothes) off one by one, until we sat only in our underwear left! Like a real sauna party!!

Photo taken from the bus over the flat landscape

When  we just had fallen asleep , we were woken up at 11 pm. Where were we..? What time is it? As usual when falling asleep on a bus (or in a car) your sense of time is gone …
Ah fine, we were not there yet (so far traveling 16 hours), the driver were just going to switch with someone in this town. Not that much of a hustle usually and we had some time to eat their only vegetarian meal: rice! But this was another three hours of waiting, sitting by the pavement…

At 4:20 in the morning the driver robustly woke us and the yelled at us, and he asked us to remove our backpacks QUICKLY (!) from the roof and jump off the bus! It did not make us happier. Wilhelm grumbled sullenly on the driver…of course, the whole delay was our fault. As usual, those stupid foreigners made everyone else waiting… a total six hour delay and he got the guts screaming at us 4 pm in the morning? For taking two min extra?! Pfffffffffffffffff(!!)…

Joel - before undressing

In drizzle and total darkness, we went out on the unfamiliar roads, no clue where we were. Without a sense of location or streetlights, the surroundings suddenly seemed hostile.To check into a hotel at this time was of course not an option. We were vulnerable and lost. After some time we found a truck covered with a tarpaulin… we carefully opened it and snuck in, to just get  an hour or two of sleep on the wooden benches…

And the hard time had not even begun.. Day 2: ..To be continued

It looked like promising weather on the road

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