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* delivering fresh cream to Vangaindrano

August 4, 2015

At one point fairly early in our time working in Madagascar I was asked whether I could bring a few things along with me on a trip to Vangaindrano, where we were doing some training. It turned out to be fresh cream, amongst several other things, for a Norwegian (NMS) single mademoiselle missionary living/working there who was having her 50th birthday, which is evidently a big deal for Norwegians. Packing the cream in the middle of my duffle bag and hoping for the best, I headed out to the airport where I got on one of Air Madagascar’s twin engine Twin Otters, the most amazing of planes equally at hoTwin Otterme in the snowy icelands of northern Canada and the dusty plains of Africa. After stops in Mananjary and Manakara on the east coast of Madagascar, I got off on a grass airstrip outside the town of Farafangana. So far so good. Hopping a cab into town, I had them take me to the taxi-brousse (“brush taxi” as in bus) station. As luck would have it, there was a white Super Goulet (about a 20 passenger bus that at times could hold as many as 50 or more) loading up. After not waiting very long, it was time to leave. Great! And the bus wasn’t even that full! I congratulated myself (a bit too early as it turned out) on the wisdom of flying down in about a half day vs. the 2 day drive it was.

However, as the bus began to move, it was clear that all was not well. Seated over the back aTaxi-brousse-1xle, I ended up with a ring side seat on the most awful of grinding noises below me, what turned out to be the shredding of the differential. Assuming we would stop for repairs, I watched in surprise as we headed out of town, south on the 75km drive to Vangaindrano. While we started out at a reasonable 30 mph or so, over time the noise grew louder and the speed slower, with hills especially problematic. Till finally, still 10km or so from Vangaindrano, we literally ground to a halt just part way up a pretty good sized hill. So now what to do?

There quite a few of us men on this bus, so the first attempt was to see if we could push it up the hill. Before then I’d only had a very few experiences trying to push a bus, and never up a hill. Let’s just say this idea didn’t work very well. Now what? A Land Rover came by about this point, headed the same direction. For reasons I’ll never understand, they agreed to pull us into town. Keep in mind Land Rovers of that era were really not very impressive vehicles, made out of aluminum. Someone found a rope, which, after breaking several times, was doubled up enough times so it didn’t. And then the slow ride up the hill–for the bus. We all walked behind which was a good idea as well before the top of the hill the Land Rover was wheezing, with smoke coming out of places it shouldn’t. So our pull into town ended up just being a pull up the one hill, with the Land Rover left wounded. So we parted ways, but the driver was still happy, telling us all to get back into the bus as it was now all downhill to Vangaindrano. So we did and the driver put the gear in neutral and we were off, increasing speed till we were careening around corners in our top-heavy busy as the driver didn’t want to use his brakes so he could coast as far as possible on the flat lands leading into town. More thrilling than a roller coaster ride, even I was soon screaming as we went around curves with increasing speed.

And then we were on the flatlands that lead into town from the north, all of us guessing how far this thing would roll. As it turned out, not far enough. However, a kind man helped me with my duffle bag, carrying it all the way into town for me. Where I delivered the fresh cream, which amazingly, now some 8+ hours later, was still cool.Norwegian cake

The mademoiselle made a surprising number of Norwegian cakes with the cream and a few other things I’d brought for her party the next day.

I was invited


they were wonderful.

From → Madagascar

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