I left Toamasina to the north in the afternoon. The idea was to travel along Madagascar’s northeastern coastline as far up as Antsiranana. I was aware that the Masoala peninsula would pose a problem as there are no roads through or around it, but for some reason I was sure I’d find some paths or tracks to travel on.
Anyway, that’s a couple hundred kilometers ahead. Today’s ride was pretty easy. The road was mostly flat and in good condition.
Shortly after leaving the city a guy caught up with me and we started chatting. He was a pupil in Toamasina and lived in a village 20km up north. He taught me that ‘yes’ means ‘eny’ and ‘no’ means ‘tsy’ in Malagassy. ‘To know’ is ‘mahalala’.
One of the rivers had no bridge. Only a few modules of a washed-away pontoon bridge were hanging off the banks. Instead, for pedestrians, a swimming ‘bridge’ had been built from branches, boards, and other floating material. Cars were, apparently, transported across the stream on makeshift rafts. The banks of the river were shoal and muddy, and getting the cars onto and off of the rafts was an endeavor only few dared to try. Everyone else just unloaded their fright, be it passengers or cargo. Goods were carried across the river over the foot bridge by the many porters and loaded onto another vehicle on the other side.
The very second I arrived I was surrounded by people offering to help me cross, the bike was taken out of my hands, and before I really knew what was happening a guy was pushing it over the wobbly and narrow bridge. On the other side, happy to have crossed so quickly and still a bit overwhelmed, I paid him what he demanded without even trying to haggle. Of course it was a major rip-off.
I cycled on. It took me a while to find a place to sleep. Only after nightfall did I hang my hammock in a big tree a few kilometers from the village of Mahambo.