A different country? -

60.7 km en 8H28′
We are still in Madagascar but the scenery is completely different. Highway #4 is a narrow asphalt ribbon which winds over peaks and around hills. There are no villages along the road but you reach them by taking small paths. There is a succession of hills and dales as far as the eye can see. The roofs of the houses are made of small tiles or thatch and there are rare plantations with terraced fields which are as well organized as the villages.
Merina is the dominant “highlander » Malagasy ethnic group, one of the country’s 18 official ethnic tribes. Each tribe had its king and queen. Today, there are descendents of royalty but their only power is to manage situations between clans and encourage tribal traditions. Two ethnic groups are polygamous; they are located in the Deep South. Each group maintains its identity and for a long time inter-tribal marriages were unthinkable. With time, the change of customs and ease of movement, thanks to the automobile, there is now mixed blood in the tribes.
The French entered the history of Madagascar in 1885 and « the submission » of the Malagasy took place in 1895. Colonization ended in 1960. French remained the official language for speeches and in the administration, however, between 1975 and 1990, the president, Dider Ratsiraka proceeded to free the country from French influence: the French language was no longer taught in schools, cities were given Malagasy names, for example Tamatave was changed to Taomasina. Today, the French city names are still used by the people and French is again taught in school.
This April 11, 2015 a Frenchman is running east to west across the country. Like every other morning the day begins at approximately 6H30. The time it takes to say goodbye, Momo, Bob and Tahina leave us to return to Tana. We continue on our route with the truck driven by Danz and Hassina, who are also attentive to our needs. We are becoming “spoiled children”. Danz is on a diet following a physical checkup which was not good: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high triglycerides so he is taking his diet very seriously. Olivier suggested that he run every day so his training started yesterday with 5km, today with 8km and tomorrow he plans to run 10km. It is indeed serious!
The end of the stage will be rather steep; with a 300m elevation gain over 5km (I let you work out the percentage). Just after milestone 459 (from Majunga or Mahaganga), we set up camp on a vast clearing at an altitude of 1600 meters. Serge is not short of breath but his legs hurt and he heaved a great sigh of relief as he sat down to eat a portion of rice and ham before going to take a shower. Then it’s time for a nap. He doesn’t sleep, only rests before dinner at 17H00, which is not really Malagasy time. At 18H00 he is in bed because the wakeup call is set for 5H00 am. As Serge says, “I need a lot of sleep and I feel that I don’t recuperate like I did a few years ago”.
There was constant wind today, with sunshine and a few clouds. The air is dryer now. We will come to our next town in about 226 km and maybe Serge will be able to watch the PSG-Barcelona football match on April 15.
In the meantime, the route heads North West on highway #4