These are some pictures and a story from my trip, not to, but towards Bekopaka in western madagascar.
My departure town was morondava, on the west-coast of madagascar. From there I rode 110km north to the city of Tsymafana (not hot) wich was indeed very hot as the rest of coastal madagascar. There I had to put the bike on a boat to cross the river Tsiribihina wich takes aprox 40minutes, and enter the town of Belo sur Tsiribihina. I came to Belo at about 1400 hours, and spent some time trying to get a new bulb for my headlight, as the one I had was broken due to all the shaking on the bad strech of road between Miandrivazo and Malaimbandy. As I had expected, there was no bulb to be found in Belo.
Bekopaka is another 100km north, but because of the rain, the roads are terrible, and all the public transport had stopped running for the season. This ment that I would be riding the entire strech of 200km from Belo to Bekopaka and back with the chance of not seeing any other vehicles, and thus no chance of getting a lift if my bike broke down.
I decided to spend the rest of the day checking out the road, and then decide if I should go or not afterwards. The road seemed ok, there was places with lots of water, but not too bad.Water up to 60cm dept.
So I decided to start early the next morning.
I got up at six, had breakfast, and was on the road by seven o`clock. There had been some rain during the night, but the road was not any worse than the day before. The first 40km went ok, riding at about 50-70km/h with no problems. But it got worse, a lot worse. And some places I had to walk besides the bike to move forward at all. The road was covered with real sticky mud, and my calculations about what time I would reach Bekopaka had to be recalculated a number of times.
A lot of riding in second gear, using the clutch a lot, and even some in first, though it`s not very pleasant with a four-stroke single...
Even though it was close at times, I managed to stay on my wheels trough all the water-holes, and all the mud. So far.
the sky is the limit
Having not seen one single vehicle since I left Belo, and carrying only three litres of water, I felt quite small in this remote wildernes. For me, that is what it was at least. I passed through several small villages, but people put there wasn`t used to seeing white people, at least not without a guide. At several ocasions they were runnging and screaming of, maybe, fear, when they saw me. It`s a strange feeling, but as I said, I felt quite small. It would be a long walk if the bike broke down. Great roads, great view
After some 20 more km of slow riding, I was really not sure if I was going to make it to Bekopaka, and was thinking of going back to Belo before I got any further away from civilization. But theres a difference between thinking and doing. So I kept on for some more km. Not until I met the first motorised vehicle did my trip come to a halt. To malagasy people on a yamaha200ccm came riding the other way. We passed each other weawing, and then we both turned our heads, and dicided it would be polite to stop and say hello. After all, this was not exactly the highway. They looked a bit surprised to see a single vazaha (foreigner) out here, and asked if I was riding along with someone. No, I`m alone.
They carried no luggage except a shotgun over the shoulder of the passanger. The area is said to host a group of zebu-thieves, and the gun was for protection in case of an engine brakedown. It didn`t make me feel any bigger out there. They also said the road was fine here!, but it would get worse closer to bekopaka, and there was some serious problems ahead. They had had to get their bike across a river with no bridge using a zebu-cart, and it had not been easy due to the heavy weight of the bike. And it was a 200ccm, my bike is a 650, and a lot bigger, and heavier. I decided that this was the end of my journey, and asked if it was ok if I rode with them back to Belo. I was a bit concerned about the fact that they were two adult men on the bike. Malagasy people tend to be a bit smaller than europeans, but nevertheless, the road had been terrible. It would show that I had no reason to worry. Whilst I was kicking the air like a pannicing swimmer, this guys feet harldy left the pegs. I was amazed. There was some parts were the passenger had to walk, but hes riding skills were great. So I assume he was used to riding terrain like this.
As I said, I had managed to stay on my wheels until now. But my good luck wouldnt last. I slipped in the mud, choking the engine, but got back on my feet within seconds, and the engine started, no problem. That was the first time. The second time I slipped in some water, and tipped the bike over again, choking the engine. This time it wouldnt start again, and this was what I had been fearing since I left the safety of Belo. My companions looked at me with a look wich could only mean: what is this guy doing out here on his own. And I felt about the same. And I felt a bit stupid since I had laid the bike down two times within just a few minutes.
Anyway, the bike wouldt start, and all the gasoline was pouring out of the carborator. I`m no mechanic, and I was not sure what to do. The two malagasy men had stopped of course. They had agreed to ride together back to Belo. And even though the passanger with the shotgun didn`t look to happy, the rider was very helpful. But after looking at the bike for a few minutes, he couldnt figure out what was the problem. I started to get really worried, it was still 40km to Belo, and the sun was really really hot. The sweat was pouring all over my body, and all I had was 3 litres of water. It didn`t calm me down when my helpers asked if I carried a lock, and the guy with the shotgun looked at their bike and explained that it could only carry two people. In wich I was not included.
Since I didn`t carry a lock, the desicion was made to have another look at the bike, and luckily it turned out to be just the floater in the carborator wich was stuck. The problem was fixed by tapping on it with a piece of metal. And to my relief, the engine started without any gasoline leaking.
We were on the road again, and I was feeling quite ambivalent. Happy because the bike was running, and I didn`t have to walk, but also feeling fragile aware of the fact that I`m sometimes very small in a big world. Thats what I felt then and there. When I got back to Belo, and what for me, was safety, it didn`t feel all that bad. It had been an adventerous ride.
The first of several I hope.
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