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* camping out in a hurricane? not recommended (part I)

January 8, 2016

My junior year of high school in Madagascar we drove up about 2 hours Cyclone Bejisanorth of Fort Dauphin to do the annual camping weekend at one of the most beautiful coves in the world–Manafiafy. It was hot and muggy, which was common that time of year. And, while I can now see the current (as in right now!) wind conditions in Madagascar from here in the US, back in those days the weather service wasn’t up to this level of prediction. What little we did hear about the weather came over the local radio.

So when the wind suddenly picked up in the middle of our first night of

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beautiful cove where we camped

 

camping out, we didn’t think much of it. Then it started to rain, which was a bit problematic, as we didn’t have enough tents for everyone (our assumption was that if we were camping, then it was not going to rain). So I moved my sleeping bag to under the tailgate of one of the pickups we’d driven up in. This was fine until the wind increased and the rain started to move in a sideways direction at which point I abandoned this attempt.

By the time we realized we had a bit of a storm on our hands, the wind had mfiafy palm trees n cycloneincreased greatly. As we began to shuttle folks from the cove to an old Missions guest house several kilometers away (in just one VW bus as we didn’t want folks riding in the back of the open bed pickups we had by this point), the wind went from a lot to a really blowing hard. Before long it

 

had blown down the tents where folks were staying till they could be shuttled away from our camp site. The one tent, which, wet as it was by this point, must have weighed 100 pounds or more ended up halfway up a tree, held up just by the force of the wind. It took a whole bunch of us pu
lling on it before we could get it collapsed down on the ground. And by this time the rain was coming sideways with such force that it hurt when it hit you.

Mean time the shuttling of people kept going on, till everyone finally was in the old mission house. After we got there, we had several gusts which were strong enough so you could feel the whole house sway and shudder a bit.

big wavesThe next morning several of us walked down to the beach, hanging on to palm trees to keep from being blown over as we watched waves going sideways to the beach, something I’d never seen the ocean do.

And then the person who had done the shuttling of folks woke up, asking where he was and how he’d gotten there? He had taken a muscle relaxant the night before for a bad back and did not remember anything that had happened (knowing this, we did have someone ride with him back and forth on the shuttle runs).

After breakfast the wind had died down to almost nothing, so we headed back to the camping site, only to find the road we’d used the night before

blocked by the steeple of the local church, with a giant several hundred kilo bell right in the middle of the road. As we worked to create a detour we asked the Malagasy who came to help when this had happened? “Oh,” they said, “not very long
after the last vehicle went by last night.” That would have been our last shuttle run, as we had the only vehicles in town.

Getting back to the camp site, we loaded up our collapsed tents and tent downwet camping gear, managed to get the pickup going that wouldn’t start the night before by pushing it and then headed back home to Fort Dauphin, thinking we had quite the story to tell.

We had no idea.

(see part II)

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