July 23, 2012

A Jaunt to Antalaha [Photos]

6:00am, Leaving Maroantsetra

East of Ampokafo

Grand Canyon of Mud, Masoala

Kerry and Judacael, Making Friends

Approaching Antakotako

Near Fizono

Trail through the Rainforest, Masoala

Overlooking the Peninsular Divide, Where the rivers run East instead of West

Canoe Ride from Andranofotsy


Masoala (or, My Feet Hurt)

One Sunny Day

Approaching Manakambahiny

Friends, in Fizono

Muddy, Near Manakambahiny

Rock-climbing Cattle!

Almost home to Maroantsetra

Rainy Day Sunrise

River = Road

And I Could Walk 500 Miles! (Part III of the Adventures of Katie and Kerry)

  • Walk 70 miles to Antalaha to....(do some really important work-related activities)...
  • And then walk 70 miles home.... two days later.

The things they carried:
  • THE MAP.... which included at least two dots... one for Maroantsetra and the other for Antalaha (with much happy green space in between)... thanks Warden Dave!
  • A second, highly accurate word-of-mouth “map” including at least half of the town names along the trail (spelled at least 50% correctly)
Our two very helpful maps. On the top one, the line that we traveled 
between Maroantsetra and Antalaha is about a centimeter long.
  • Two sacs 
  • Half a sleeping bag each
  • GRE math notes
  • One rain jacket (which Katie did NOT share)
  • Two toothbrushes
  • No toothpaste
  • One water bottle and one water sac (much to the fascination of the malagasy people along the trail)
  • Not enough cliff bars
  • Not enough tootsie rolls
  • More than enough plastic planting pots (2,500 of them) 
  • Two outfits
  • One “excessive?” (in Katie’s professional opinion) pair of shorts
  • One hat and one headband
  • Sturdy footwear...aka...flip flops
The obstacles they faced:
  • Canoes that do not arrive on time, are filled far beyond even Malagasy standards of capacity, move at ludicrously-slow speeds, list dangerously from side to side, and slowly fill with water to the point where the occupants might be as well off swimming.
  • A misidentified caterpillar-pede which at first appeared harmless but then turned MALICIOUSLY attack Kerry’s foot, forcing her to leap out of her flip flop and flee shamelessly for her very being.
This ankodavitra is about a foot long...

  • Catastrophically bad bridges, though with these are heroes are quite familiar.

  • Rock-climbing cattle... which seemed less than pleased about their new evolutionary development. 
  • MUD. I don’t think we can fully express to you what the term “MUD” in Northeastern Madagascar encompasses, but just try to imagine ice-skating on a slip and slide, in ankle/ knee/ thigh-deep goopy pottery clay after the neighborhood bully finishes burying his endless collection of sharp, pointy rocks in the bottom.... and on the sides... and occasionally falling out of the trees. 

Mud can be difficult for morale.
Notice how arms are thrown out in a desperate attempt to maintain balance.

  • Bouldering across at least 30 extensive river systems where Malagasy leapt happily from rock to rock in confident, graceful strides while carrying 400 pounds... as Katie and Kerry struggled, waist deep in the current, to maintain some level of dignity until the curious on-lookers grew bored with their lack of progress and passed on their way. 

These are the favorable photos, where we are not falling in, clinging to rocks, 
or being shamefully bypassed.

  • A Malagasy truck, composed almost entirely of rust, which was SUPPOSED to carry the two weary travelers the remaining 30k of their quest and decidedly FAILED in that endeavor after being loaded with approximately 400,000 tons of rice and 25 people. Instead, the axle broke in half, forcing our heroes to leave the shattered wreckage behind, and walk the final 6k to Antalaha in the pouring rain... and of course, mud.
Yes, sadly, there goes the axle, off pops the wheel, and we are walking yet again.

The things they carried home: 
- One giant projector for Kerry’s NGO
-“Voandalana” (“gifts of the road” for various families who accommodated us en route): at least five hundred pound of carrots, onions, ginger, garlic, and mango hot sauce.
- Cheese, specifically NOT for sharing purposes.
- Chocolate, also NOT for sharing purposes.
- Banana chips, a revelation to the countryside.
- Everything they came up with, including Kerry’s “excessive” pair of shorts.
- At least five extra pounds of moldy sogginess.
- Quite a few injuries, though one less toenail.
- Continuing unchecked optimism! (which, admittedly, endured some very brief periods of muddy uncertainty).
The Obstacles they forgot to consider:
-The inevitable return trip.... the problem with walking to Antalaha is that you then have to walk back....though all the same obstacles.
- A truck, driven by the world’s most overly cautious and easily outraged driver (what is this MUD on my road??), which redefined “ludicrous speed,” covering 30k in a mere eight hours.
-Repetitive conversations which tended to go like this: 
Hey! Are you guys going to Maroantsetra?
Are you coming from Antalaha?
And you are walking?
Um... Yes. Obviously.
You are just girls?
And there are no men with you at all?
All of you are girls?
Oh. Well, can we come with you?
Um...no. We are too slow. You wouldn’t like us. 
-This terrifying, as yet inconclusively-identified creature, which crossed our path not once but TWICE:

-A wall of mud. Yes.... WALL. At least 100 meters high... We don’t want to talk about it. 

Even these photos don't quite express how steep this wall of mud was...

-The soul-crushing sound of rain on the roof at night, and the knowledge that tomorrow will, of course, be MUDDY. 
The lessons they (should have) learned: 
  • Antalaha is FAR from Maroantsetra.

  • The “road” to Antalaha is in no way a road. At certain junctures “trail” might even be a generous term.
  • The wet season, despite lower temperatures, is NOT the ideal travel season.
  • Rock-climbing cows have not yet fully evolved this talent and can, in fact, fall off mountains.
  • SNACKS are of the utmost importance for maintaining unchecked optimism. 
  • Contrary to all optimism, toughened Malagasy feet in fact take years to develop and cannot be achieved in a few barefoot hours.. to rush this development will likely result in severe pain and occasional bouts of whining.
Ahhhhhhhh! Toe amputation!!

The things they loved:
  • The generous hospitality and kindness showed to us by countless Malagasy families along the trail.... which allowed us to travel two full days without spending a single cent.
  • The endless, salty rice dishes which awaited hungry travelers in every small village.
Ambanivolo ("Countryside") Food
  • The gorgeous, ever-changing scenery and crystal-clear river systems. 
  • Trying to stay awake until 7pm every night on the trail and sometimes, unabashedly, failing to do so. 
  • The astonishing speed and questionable accuracy of trail news. It would not be an exaggeration to say that our legend proceeded us. 
  • Happily singing off-key trails songs whenever the conditions inspired it. (“And I could walk 500 miles and I could walk 500 more, just to be...”)

The delirious statements Kerry is pretending to forget:
-”In my ideal life...I would be born in Newfoundland...to an immigrant family...in a logging town...with the opportunity to be part of a southern baptist singing herd...choir.”
-”This town has really nice...stars.” (While surveying a small, unremarkable village in broad daylight).
-(20 seconds later) “I think I just inserted a vocabulary word. I was going for terraces.”
- “Fun, fun, fun. Mud is fun. This is funny. I feel nothing. I am having fuuuuuuun. I have Malagasy feet. Nothing hurts me. I love rocks. This is fuuuuuun!”

July 02, 2012

More Months in Maroantsetra [Photos]

Waiting, Near Mananara

Selling Shrimp, Maroantsetra

The moto-as-minivan technique, almost as safe as it is popular!

FJKM- Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar

Watching Independence Day performances, Maroantsetra

RN5, the only "highway" heading North...

Nosy Mangabe

Fisherman, Antongil Bay

Even an amateur adventurer knows never to leave home without snacks...

One of the ever-bustling ports of Maroantsetra

Schoolchildren, Marching with pride in the Independence parade

Looking South, Near Andranofotsy


Sunset down the Coast

WCS, Exiting the Independence Parade

Weekend Adventuring, Near Anfarankaraina

"Antimaroa tsy mandeha tsy andakana"
People of Maroantsetra will not go if not by boat