Category Archives: news

Bye-bye Gascar and Serge rows on -

After the heat of Majunga, we are back in the cool of Tana for one night before flying toward other horizons. Tonight we have a stop-over in Johannesburg, in the rain. It’s cool. In 24 hours we skipped a season and the adjustment is difficult.
We leave Madagascar with a heavy heart. The unknown is ahead of us, replies to questions are slow to come, there is a lot of uncertainty and solutions need to be found. After having been spoiled by the care of Olivier, Vero and the 5 members of the Malagasy Tours team we feel almost like orphans this evening.
Tomorrow we will discover Mozambique. We are leaving countries where French is spoken and I for one do not speak a word of Portuguese.
Serge is still struggling, caught in opposing currents and winds. He is drifting with a capital “D” and lost in one night all the benefit of the previous day. This evening I feel that his resistance is weakening. You have probably seen on the photos of April 22 that Middleton is equipped with arches. René, Danz and Hassina made a screen to protect Serge from the sun. Serge told me that the canvas is difficult to install when there is wind. This evening during our 2 minute conversation he was too nauseated to talk of anything other than his drifting.

Flash back -

42 nautical miles
The last meal at Eden Rock with Hassna and Danz. Guillaumette was waiting with open arms as soon as we arrived in Majunga. This evening, once again she took the time to celebrate our meeting and Serge’s start, with a bottle of South African champagne. It was our final drink together and very pleasant. Guillaumette has pep and an energy which is catching. We are sorry not to have met our hosts, whom we saw photos this evening. To be welcomed so warmly by someone you don’t even know is very touching.
Since March 19th Danz has made a huge contribution to the « World tour of Madagascar » (he never does anything half way). He is beginning to relax and by 9 PM everyone was in bed. Hassina is ready for a new start on Saturday morning.
4H00 it’s time to rise. A quick glance at the website: good heading, I’m relieved and I leave Majunga rather reassured.
5H00: we head to the center of Majunga
5H30: We have a meeting with “First Class” transportation, we connect to website
5H50: Communication from Serge – « I rowed until 21H00 yesterday, I ate well, it’s rocky, I’m looking for ???? ». I asked him to repeat and after three tries I still don’t understand. Too bad, he will find whatever it is on his own! We agreed to talk again at 18H15 (Malagasy time which he will keep until he reaches Mozambique). In any case, he lives with the daylight, a common point with running, where he gets up at sunrise and goes to bed at sundown. While we camped we were in bed every evening at 18H30.
6 H00: Departure for Tana, which takes me farther from Serge and it was with a twinge of sorrow that I thought about a camp, about sitting down for a refueling or a sunset. René keeps his diary up to date and I wonder how he can write in a vehicle that bumps and jolts between a road under repair, pot holes and hairpin curves. It’s almost like being in an amusement park.
Hassina and Danz leave with the truck and trailer in the direction of Tana as well but in 2 stages. They will arrive in the capital tomorrow. I have trouble realizing that we are leaving now. Time never stands still and it’s a shame.

17H30: Arrival in Tana, city center, to find the same dense traffic which we had forgotten. We made only one stop, for an hour, and always with the same driver.
Momo and Bob were waiting for us. We went to Olivier and Nathalie’s Grill du Rouva, where we were again welcomed with open arms.
18H15: A quick call from Serge – All is well, slightly nauseous because of heavy seas. He is reassured because he is 30 miles from the coast but he is not very confident about his heading. I have to tell you that Serge did not watch the football game on Tuesday evening and he left Wednesday without asking about the score – in his bubble?

A fresh start on the high seas -

Since yesterday evening, Serge is in his bubble, his face is stern. Tension is mounting and for me too, like it or not, it’s inevitable.
It was not a quiet night; our intestines were upset, no doubt to rid themselves of the pressure which is more or less conscious.
There is a start from the Petite Plage by lots of dugouts with the beautiful sails of the « Magunga’s world tour ». Guillaumette and quite a few resident Vasahas were also present.

The launch of the boat took longer than planned, about 90 minutes; between the moment that Serge and I withdrew, too nervous to witness the handling of Middleton. René, Danz and Hassina were there to take care that the operation went well. The tide steadily went out and minutes seemed like hours. It took manpower to complete the launch, as you can see from the photos. Once off her trailer and in enough depth, Middleton could be equipped with her rudder. Then it took 4 big guys, including Danz and Hasina, to tow her to the north to a cove on the Petite Plage so that the sand banks would not be in Serge’s way. Middleton is easily affected by the wind, hence drifting, so we had to get it right.
To say the least, it was stressful because the weather was not in our favor. As the tide comes in, the gigantic estuary of Betsiboka can be a trap and Serge had to get away before the tide turned in the afternoon.
René and I accompanied Serge for one hour on board a small motorized dugout. We had a knot in our stomachs and dry throats. At 11H10 we turned around; “goodbye will be tough,” Serge read my thoughts. I had no response to his words, telling myself that we are often on the same wave length and in the same frame of mind.
Serge should leave daily voice messages, which I will try to put on-line right away. Don’t hesitate to log onto the audio gallery when he crosses the Mozambique Channel.
René and I will drive to Tana tomorrow. We will spend the night at Nathalie and Olivier’s. Then Friday afternoon we will fly to Johannesburg and stay for one night before taking a flight on Saturday to Nampula, Mozambique. I will try to tell you all about it but there may be a few blank spaces in the news. My apologies in advance, faithful readers.

As for me, I will not relax until Serge is far from the coast because it is always a danger for Serge and Middleton. Luckily, Guillaumette and a couple that lives at Petite Plage are there in case there is need for help in the next 48 hours, which is the time when anything can happen. The first danger comes from all the unmarked fishing boats and dugouts which navigate at night close to the coast. I know that Serge has to remain vigilant for the first two nights and I hope he will not be seasick.
Thanks for all the e-mails, which we received over the past days and to which I will not be able to respond personally. The words most of you used were “Fair winds Serge”.

Around, over and under Middleton -

Middleton was resting under a banana tree, waiting to take to the water. The day was spent:
Unpacking, sorting and repackaging
Reinforcing the tiller before tomorrow’s launch.
What has just taken three lines to write took an entire day to do: thanks go to René, Hassina and Danz for all the work done.
After his 12-day navigational experience, Serge supervised the organizing of the cabin to make for ease of use.
Guillaumette organized a delightful lunch for us. We met an experienced navigator, Jacky Cauvin (I hope I have spelled his name correctly). Guillaumette is an acupuncturist who gave Serge a few needles to help fight sea sickness. He must insert the needle on a central line between the lower lip and the chin
The temporary admission book has been stamped for export and Serge’s visa is stamped for exit.
Everything is in order for tomorrow’s start.
The next door neighbors, Marie-Christel and Denis, came to call. They brought Serge homeopathic anti- sea sickness pills and a chocolate bar…
I feel Serge’s tension mounting this evening. Yesterday, he spoke to Michel of SeaRout and Maxime from Sat Océan. All he has to do now is row in the right direction (it won’t be in a straight line) and follow the little dot that will move daily toward Mozambique.
High tide tomorrow is at 6H05. Middleton will go into the water after 7H00 and the start will be around 9H00 as the tide recedes.

It wasn’t the cock crowing -

At 5H00 the alarm went off to announce breakfast at 5H15 because Serge wanted to run from the baobab to his boat and then back to where we are staying, which is a bit further!
Danz and Hassina go along to guide Serge on this short run. When he gets back, Serge tells me that he would have like to continue because he felt so good on the road…. It’s impossible to stop the man!
After his shower, we leave together for Majunga to take care of various items which this evening I find too boring to list. We are knocked out by the heat. Is it a change of rhythm that upsets our thermostats?

Back around 12H30, we lunch, then Serge leaves, always accompanied by Dan and Hassina, for the Malagasy Maritime Authority to have his Temporary Admission book stamped. Serge’s departure for Mozambique has been confirmed for Wednesday, April 22 so I have to organize René’s and my departure for Maputo, then Namula. I ask myself if it is preferable to wait here a few days, in case Serge comes back to the coast, for whatever reason, or to go immediately to Mozambique, where there is so much to do to prepare Serge’s arrival.
Tomorrow, all our attention will be directed toward “Sir Middleton” whom we did not see today. Serge contacted the team of routers and spent quite a bit of time going over paper maps but also the maritime charts on the Internet. He appears to calmly soak up all the information. Thanks to René for the beautiful photos of the dugouts, which give a good idea of what the “Majunga world Tour” is all about. Each dugout has a sail from a country, region or province partner and schools study the history of each of the countries. Again, it was Delphine who had the brilliant idea. It has become an unmissable event in Majunga over the Easter weekend.

Majunga and its baobab -

34.8km in 4H15.
What if the world tour were to end at Majunga’s baobab….
Once again we will drop our bags a bit longer than usual in this gorgeous spot, which is new to us. Delphine Andriantsitohaina, back in Tana, organized the warm and enthusiastic welcome that greeted us. Delphine is the organizer of a nautical event, “Majunga has its world tour” and she asked her friend, Guillaumette, who has been living in Majunga for 25 year, to coordinate Serge’s arrival in her city.
At kilometer 27, young athletes and football players of Majunga gathered around Serge to run with him across the city. Serge was in the lead and kept a fast pace, almost overwhelmed by the crowd around him. Serge is a solitary runner. Accustomed to the peaceful bush, he now found himself on the outskirts of a chaotic city of bush-taxis, carts drawn by Zebus, motorcycle taxis, rickshaws and all of a sudden some 30 runners around him. Return to civilization was made in 7 kilometers and at the end we saw the ocean. The estuary of Betsiboka is majestic, if not to say grandiose.
Guillaumette called the press, the director of the tourist office, and the president responsible for sports in the city. There were musicians and dancers under the patronage of « Majunga has its world tour ». On the traffic circle with the baobab there is a beautiful world globe for the regatta of dugouts. The analogy could not have been more fitting!
In a festive atmosphere, Serge and the runners circled the baobab 7 times, a lucky number. It was my opportunity to make a wish, which I did, as the runners went round and round in rhythm, smiling and singing. Serge forgot to switch off his beacon due to the cheerful atmosphere. Tired as he was, he remained available when the press and the kids had questions.
We left the center of the city at 10H30 to go to La Petite Plage, where we will stay until Serge leaves. Delphine offered us the use of her vacation house, a small paradise which overlooks the ocean, looking west toward Mozambique….We look often at that far horizon which we will soon reach, Serge rowing and René and I by plane.
In the meantime, we are not going to be bored. Monday will be a city day to take care of administrative matters concerning Serge and his boat, shopping for all the things he will need to take with him, recharging the 3G key, which will enable me to update the website and on Tuesday work on the travel site. Tuesday, René and Serge will prepare Middleton to go into the water. The departure is scheduled for Wednesday, providing there is at least a 5 day window of good weather. Danz and Hassina will stay with us until we leave, to watch over us as they have with such care since we left Tana.
Serge had hoped to see the Barcelona-PS match but he just told me that it won’t be a reasonable thing to do if he is to leave Wednesday morning. The future will tell us if desire or reason wins!
Sincere thanks to Delphine, our « phantom » hostess, whom we have not had the pleasure of meeting, her friend, Guillaumette, and the whole team for « Majunga has its world tour.” You can learn about them on the following link. It’s a fine initiative which saw the light of day several years ago. Thanks for this welcome, as spontaneous and warm hearted as it will be unforgettable!

Majunga on the horizon -

61.3km en 8H17′
Tomorrow we will reach the terminus of this terrestrial, Malagasy epic.
Serge arrived at Sainte Marie on 20 March, a holiday in Madagascar to commemorate the martyrs of the revolution against colonization.
He started running on 1 April. It was not an April fools and he was full of self-doubt. 9 April we reached the capital, Tananarive and were welcomed like kings by the entire Malagasy Tours team. Serge had run 443.4 km.
Tomorrow, Sunday, before noon we will be in Majunga and this evening Serge will have totaled 995.6 kilometers.
We will remember the heat, little rain, with the exception of one storm and a half day of rain. We camped 10 times. Serge drank about 12 liters of water per day on stages of some 60 kilometers. He used 1 pair of Pro Touch P1.0 running shoes. He did an average of 55.31 km per day over the 18 last days of the course. He was relatively at ease on all these stages, with the exception of 4 and 5 when he increased the distance and had to change rhythm, as well as on 16 April when he suffered slight heat exhaustion. The time run and the distance had the regularity of a metronome. He left every morning between 5 am and 6:30 am. We discovered varied scenery and I think we have not seen all the diversity this surprising island has to offer. There are such animal and vegetal diversity and we have only seen a small portion. We end this crossing with a desire to return.
Serge has not yet pressed the button “sea mode”. If all goes well, he should be at the helm of his Middleton on Wednesday, 22 April. We have encouraging news from Xavier and Maxime of Sat Ocean, as well as Michel, who called today. The Mozambique Channel seems to be calm right now.

A false start and only … -

61.2km en 8H21
at 5H37 it is still night and we drop Serge at the milestone before we realize that it isn’t the right one: it is 1 km too soon. It is worth mentioning that the sun is barely coming up and the semi-darkness makes it hard to see things. Serge turns off his beacon and mumbles……1km further at milestone 156 from Majunga it’s the right start, the beacon is turned on again. The orange on the horizon is splendid and promises a beautiful day.
For the first 15 kilometers, the asphalt has been dug up and cause instability. When the nuts behind the wheel drive at breakneck speed, the dust, gravel and stones hurled at his legs makes Serge furious. Luckily, there is asphalt again at the 23rd km, at the soup stop when there is also a change of clothes because they are soaking wet. As you know, Serge fears chaffing so he changes 3 times a day, except for his socks. This morning we found banana fritters, cooked under our eyes, pure delight! Serge does not turn up his nose when we offer him one at his refueling.

Once again the road is full of life, with
More villages
More pedestrians who are ambling to market
More children going to school
More children who are not going to school
More schools
More churches
A greater variety of trees: Teak, Singapore Almonds, bananas eucalyptus, varieties unknown to us and always mangos and jujubes
More life
The variety of flora is very nice, compared to the two previous days where everything seemed flat: small, flat hills, little contrast. Color has returned with life, to our great pleasure and once again we are surprised to see the change of scenery in just a few kilometers. I think we would not have noticed if we had been driving quickly several hundred kilometers per day.
Serge suffered less from the heat today, however, he felt tired due to a bad night in Ambondromany, which never seemed to quiet down. I slept in “a hen coop, next to a kennel, near a garage and a night club”. Those were our words this morning and while the image was very funny it did describe what our night was like.
Hassina ran 5 km but at km4 his calf hurt and he finished walking. Danz continues to do 5km per day. René darkened the pages of a notebook…. This evening it’s « magnificent Friday » and we did not forget to celebrate the end of the week at our camp site, in the shade of mangos, even if the weekend will be just the same as the past week.
Between two refueling, we had the pleasure of listening to a Malagasy singer by the name of Mafonja. It was a song which I dedicate to my nephew and godson, Benjamin on his birthday.

Too Hot -

61.2km en 8H20′
Last night we were completely cut off, there was no network from the 3 Internet service providers in Madagascar. We are cut off and the scenery has closed us in. We are surrounded by magnificent mango trees which provide shade while we wait for Serge every 4/5 kilometers. There is a succession of villages, small rivers and bridges. After 5 kilometers Serge is already dripping. We were expecting a dry heat and it is not the case. According to Danz, yesterday’s rain and the heat from the ground are responsible for the humidity. Nothing dries, Serge wrings out his T-shirt because he fears chaffing and he applies anti-chaffing cream every 5 km.
There is something new. From the start Serge has been running without his heart rate monitor. The GPS watch is there only to give his mileage and he never looks at the stopwatch by the way. It shows only the day’s mileage and there is no pressure on his time. A few days ago he thought it was 14H45 but it was only 14H15….This detachment is beneficial and it’s surely responsible for Serge’s serenity on the road. Yesterday, for the first time, after taking his shower and lying down for a rest, out of curiosity he took a reading of his heart beat: 44 hbm.
Another fact, Serge would rather be hot on the road than at the camp site. Yesterday there was not a breath of air and you got wet just standing still. Serge prefers to move in the heat than to rest in the shade at the camp. This morning he decided to leave at 6H00. This evening he is not sure about it because he had a hot flush at the 35th km and another at the 45th. He asked me to look at the site to see the temperature indicated by the beacon and I have to admit my surprise to see 34°C/34°C. I found it hard to believe. It is 18H30 and I’m dripping on the keyboard of the computer, as if I had just come out of a shower, and it is already dark. 34°C, hard to believe and too hot to work, too hot to do anything, even sleep.
See you tomorrow

Rain and the bridge -

63.5km en 8H16′
We have been on the road for 15 days and there has been no rain during running time. One night there was a storm but the sun was shining the next morning, however, this morning the sky is overcast. The scenery is all flat due to the grayness. And to think that it’s a beautiful, sunny day in Paris (dixit Zette).
The start was at 5H00 AM, not only because it was cooler at that hour but also because a bridge will be closed to traffic between 6H00 and 18H00, with 2 slots of one hour when vehicles can cross, between 10/11h and 14/15h. We should be able to cross with the truck between 10H and 11H.
In any case, we are not hampered by the heat and it’s nice after the furnace of yesterday. Serge still has a fine stride and seems to be at ease, even if last night was rather uncomfortable: too hot in the tent, then gusts of wind and finally the rain. This cocktail did not make for a peaceful night. Serge always needs to eliminate the heat he accumulates during the day and last night it wasn’t possible. It reminded us of Senegal, where Serge wet a bath towel ever few hours all night long…
Yesterday we were contacted by Delphine, a friend of Fifou (from Sainte Marie, he ensured the exit by plane) Delphine organizes dugout canoe regattas, these took place on Easter weekend. Our paths crossed when she was going back to Tana. With the help of her friends, she is going to organize a fine welcome for Serge in Majunga, which has the 2nd most important harbor in the country. Guillaumette, her friend, has lived in Majunga for 25 years and her husband is an ocean navigator. They are expecting us which is heartwarming.
The mood of our troops is a bit soft : an early rise at 4H15 for us but even earlier for Danz and Hassina, the stress of crossing the bridge, however, we were privileged to have been warned by Danz and Hassina’s friends yesterday. There was no sign or information about the hazard of a closed bridge for ten hours a day!
I met the head of the construction site who explained that this single-lane bridge was built in 1927 and since then no maintenance has been performed. Overweight trucks had damaged the structure. The repair work is divided between France and Madagascar and financed by the world fund of ??? I don’t know what. The 276 meter span is over the Betsiboka River, the estuary of which is at Majunga. The color of the water does not invite one to bathe or to wash one’s laundry but its width and the amount of water that passes are impressive. Such a force of nature makes us feel very small. The rain stopped shortly before Maevatanana (literal translation: beautiful city) and this strategic place allows us to do some quick shopping because Serge does not stop. We had just the time to tell him that he should take the left fork, to buy some mineral water and chocolate, which Serge has requested for the past three days (with the heat it has to be eaten immediately), some gasoline for the generator, bread for everyone’s pleasure, especially Danz who eats 2 or 3. Danz bought us menakely, sort of donuts, which are excellent except for our diet and of course the mofogasy (sweet rice cakes with or without coconut) which we have taken to eating almost daily but with moderation because they are fried in oil. Serge, who has no weight problem eats them too, but my visual scale tells me that he has not lost weight.
This afternoon we are at an altitude of 200 meters. From behind the clouds the sun is hot, which is hard to explain. In any case, you are sticky even if you don’t move and Serge is ringing wet even when it isn’t raining. He changes clothes at km 48, after the bridge, and rinses off with a bit of fresh water because he has chaffing between the thighs which is rather painful. The camp is set up a bit further than Serge planned but good spots are few and we always do what we can to find the best spot in relation to the mileage our runner wants to clock. Having to run an extra 2km did not affect him, which is a good thing.
Today, except at Maetavanana where the network pulsed, there was no network, even for our cell phones! René could not speak with his wife, Michelle, with whom he talks every day. I did not see anything of the city because I was on the computer answering e-mails or updating the website. Hassina had a headache today and Danz, wearing his earphones, walked 5 km in the rain. I had a good laugh at camp when I saw Serge lying outside, practically naked and with his sun glasses: “Moogli superstar waiting for his mother wolf” the title of a remake? Maybe I’m the only one to laugh at this. Who knows?