Eleven months of traveling in 2008/2009, roughly around the Indian Ocean, taking in South Africa, Madagascar, Reunion, Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, and India. I cycled about 7000km on this trip, and aditionally hitch-hiked, sailed, and traveled by car, train and container freighter.
The day started without a proper breakfast, I only managed to find some fried dough balls. That basically meant that I won’t be able to cycle as much. And indeed, somewhere between Arivonimamo and Imerintsiatosika I was done for the day and hopped on a bus to Tana.
Back in the capital I looked for a new hotel and then got ready to party. There was a get-together of some Couchsurfers, some locals but mostly foreigners.
I spent the day yesterday in Tana, to get sober and to have another look at the city.
Today, then, I left the city towards Toamasina. But before returning to the coast, the next stop was Andasibe, starting point for excursions into the Andasibe National Park. I spotted a lemur on the road to the village — promising!
In Andasibe, the only(?) hotel was fully booked. However, I was lucky and met an Austrian guy in ‘the lobby’ and he agreed to share his room with me. There is also a Dutch guy staying here and the three of us will share a (compulsory, again) guide tonight and tomorrow to show us around the national park and hopefully find some rare reptiles and lemurs.
So I left Andasibe today and continued downhill towards the coast and the well-known town of Ampasimanolotra. The ride was quick and uneventful, except for that bad accident I saw. Well, fortunately, I didn’t see it happen.
A taxi-brousse, these minivans that are filled to the brim with people, had crashed into an oncoming truck just a short while before I cycled past. The entire front row of seats was crushed and I don’t think anyone sitting there could have survived. I couldn’t help and didn’t linger, but I made a vow not to use that kind of transport ever again.
And another uneventful day. Like yesterday, the weather was rainy and I didn’t take any photos.
I’m staying with Heinz again, but he has a visitor again, another friend from Germany. The guy is not overly likable and so life is not as relaxed there as it was before. Anyway, I’ll be gone soon, my boat leaves on Wednesday.
I don’t think I will do anything spectacular until then, just hang out in Toamasina.
I’m back on Réunion. The 1.5 days at sea weren’t so good. I got seasick and had also contracted a stomach bug on my last day on Madagascar. Bad combination.
Anyway, I’m happy to have solid ground under my feet and am staying in a hostel in Saint-Leu on the west coast. I cycled past my first night’s accommodation. Nils is long gone, back in Germany, but my bike boxes were still there! (Though no-one else, so I left them there for the time being.)
Doing the tour of La Réunion, what a great day. And a half.
Yesterday I left Saint-Leu on the west coast of Réunion, intending to cycle the ~210km around the island on that day. Not a problem in theory, but if you have to stop every now and then to admire the beauty of the countryside, then this quickly becomes difficult.
The western coast of the island are inhabited in large parts by the French expat community (they are not strictly expats since Réunion is an integral part of France, and as such of the European Union, by the way). This part of the island is busy and rich. The east coast is poorer and inhabited mostly by those immigrants of non-European descent. There are no indigenous people here, as the island was uninhabited before settlers came in from all corners of the Indian Ocean after it’s ‘discovery’ (by Europeans) in the 16th century.
Anyway, the cycling went smoothly in counter-clockwise direction until I came to the lava fields of the Piton de la Fournaise, the 2621m active volcano at the southern end of the island. The latest eruption had been in 2007 but there were more than 100 recorded eruptions since the 16th century. The road crosses the caldera (and has to be rebuilt regularly) and of course I spent some time there (along with numerous other tourists) gawking at and walking across the encrusted but still hot lava.
I was travelling light, basically with just some water and my credit card, so when night fell I started to look for a place to sleep. However, this being off season, the few hotels I found were closed. I arrived in the town of Saint-André. I stopped at a police station and asked there whether they knew an open place, but the outcome was meagre. Eventually they even refused to let me sleep in one of their cells because they were “dirty and smelly”.
I ended up behind a pillar of a house in the city centre but a couple of stray dogs prevented me from relaxing. So I cycled on and through the night. with first light I arrived in Saint-Denis, Réunion’s capital at the northern tip of the island. Of course everything was closed and my only option for breakfast was to wait – or move on. I hopped on a bus because the stretch of road between Saint-Denis and Le Port further to the west is off limits for cyclists (in hindsight I should have cycled there anyway…).
I had breakfast in Saint-Paul or Saint-Gilles-les-Baines (can’t remember) and arrived back in my hostel in Saint-Leu after 25 hours.
The day before yesterday I moved to couchsurfers in, or I should say near, Saint-Paul, closer to Saint-Denis (and the airport). They were fun and friendly people, computer nerds and musicians. They helped me recover my bike boxes from Nils’ old house, where I stayed the night when I first arrived from Johannesburg two months ago. Nils had long left, but the original owners had kindly kept the boxes. They weren’t at home, though, whenever I tried, so I eventually sneaked into their yard to get the boxes.
My new hosts also took me to to a lovely spot called Trois-Bassins (I think) named after the three cascading waterfalls and accompanying lakes.
The morning was a bit hectic as the bus was late, so my hosts generously drove me over to the airport. I left Réunion without having been up the volcanoes.
Amazingly, Lance and Kerry picked me up at the airport again in Johannesburg. Lance had successfully finished his AmsterCow ride. We spent a fun afternoon shooting their airgun and paintball gun, and watching the sun set.
The past days I stayed in Perth. At first I couchsurfed in some suburb with a couple of guys in a shared house. The time there was good. I did get my introduction to climbing there. I then moved to Donald’s place, in a suburb called Midland. I stocked up on food and drink for the ride to Adelaide, and on this fine morning I finally left the city behind.
I went due east on the Great Eastern Highway, then in York turned south towards Beverly. The ride was easy and the road pretty flat’ish. I’m a bit scared of the sun, though, and of the distance between here and Adelaide (almost 2800km).
My original plan was to go east from Beverly over minor tracks. However, yesterday I had found a wallet with bank cards at the side of the road, and later at night a cell phone. Beverly had no open police station – however, Brookton, a bit to the south, does. So after a visit to the Beverley Aeronautical Museum I first continued south on the Great Southern Highway, then turned into Brookton, where I dropped off phone and wallet. I can, if no-one else claims it within a year or so and if I’m still in Australia, call myself happy owner of a new cell phone. Yay.
From Brookton I went east, to Corrigin. I’m still (and will be for a while) in what is probably considered densely populated station country. The land left and right of the road is often fenced in and used for agriculture or grazing.