60 km – 8H00
This is a typical day on the road
5H20: Wakeup call
Hassina and Danz are already at work folding up camp so they can leave about the same time as Serge.
5H45: it’s time to get up and get dressed. There is hot water for breakfast, for Serge fruit juice, coffee for everybody, soft rolls, biscuits, jam.
6H10: Getting ready: A quick wash, then applying anti-chaffing cream on the feet, something Serge has done by himself for a long time.
6H30 the beacon is turned on and that signals the start. After last night’s storm everything is wet.
6H50: the truck leaves, prepared to stop every 4/5 km to refuel Serge
1st refueling = weak coffee + Madeleine
2nd/3rd/4th refueling = muesli/ crushed bananas/fruit compote + crumbled Madeleines/fig biscuits of La Trinitaine brand.
5th refueling = Chinese soup. Frequently a hat goes on and it’s time for lip balm and most important, Serge sits down for 5 to 8 minutes
6th/7th/8th/9th refueling we need to be creative! Fruit salad/a second fruit compote with crushed Madeleine/a rice cake/a bowl of rice/coffee with biscuits
10th refueling = Second Chinese soup (while sitting down) often application of sun block to the back of Serge’s legs
11th refueling = this is the last refueling and it consists only of liquid.
During this time : the team prepares and provides refueling, does shopping at the roadside, dries the tents if necessary (it was the case today because of last night’s storm), writes, listens to music, tests for network availability with the 3G key!
All day we were at altitude (between 1300 and 1600 meters) and it was spectacular! Serge loved the magnificent 360° panorama of the semi-arid scenery. For the first time he asked for his ear phones and listened to music for the last 20 km. Always alert, he kept the volume low enough to hear approaching vehicles. There is a lot less traffic on highway #4 than on highway #2. And the road is in better condition, at least on the portion we have taken so far.
However, the low, bare mountains were not always treeless. Massive deforestation over the years and which continues today is a real ecological disaster. There is even talk of looting varieties of rare woods such as rose and palissandre, which of course endangers the ecosystem. In colonial times, pine and eucalyptus, which we saw along the road as we left Tana, were imported and planted: they are not indigenous to Madagascar. Brush fires and slash and burn agriculture are also a plague that contributes to the ecological catastrophe.
The countryside we are crossing is rather verdant because we are at the end of the rainy season. As Danz says, the countryside will become yellow and red before finally turning black and red, completely burnt during the austral winter.
In the meantime, we are enjoying this sumptuous scenery, which Serge is enjoying with music. A truck driver near his stalled vehicle hails Serge and asks what he is doing here, where he is from, where he is going and if he is alone? He is rather astonished to hear Serge’s story; it is all unbelievable.
We have no problem locating a camp site since Serge gave us a 2 km “gap” in which to look for it. This evening we have a spectacular view and we take delight in our good fortune to be on the road in this country and in such good company.