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* camping in a hurricane (part II) – the long trip home

January 11, 2016

Having picked up our very wet camping gear, the 30 or so of us piled in the two open-bed Cyclone Deborah2pickups and VW van, thankful that the wind was gone, as was the rain. And we headed home, thinking we had quite the story to tell! What little we knew at that point!

As we drove south it was clear that a storm of some strength had passed through the area as water covered the road in several places. And as we got furthwater on the roader along, there were more and more trees down, some of them in the road. In at least one spot we drove around the trees and
then sideways down a hill, with several hanging on to the side of the VW van to ensure it wouldn’t tip over. Having pulled smaller branches off the road, we finally got to a spot where there were several hundred meters of fallen trees of some size. Much more than we could handle. By this time we were within about 15 km of Fort Dauphin, so

pushingeveryone but the drivers of the vehicles and their spouses started walking. By this time I think I was a bit numb as, in spite of the reality that the number of fallen trees kept increasing the closer to town we got, I kept hillside drive2wondering why no one from our school had driven out on the road to pick us up (though how I thought they knew to do this, I’m not sure). I remember walking around, up and over and under trees. As we walked by many houses which had been blown over, the Malagasy who hillside drivewatched us walk on by greeted us as if nothing had happened.
At the base of Bezavona, the hill just on the edge of town we were finally back on blacktop for the last several km. And, as there were fewer trees growing along the road, there were fewer fallen ones in the road.

And then we came around the corner where the road suddenly ran along the ocean for the last km into town and I realized that rather than facingtree covered road the brunt of this cyclone, it had actually just skirted us! The first thing I noticed
was the metal telephone poles, bent sideways to the ground. And then, looking towards town, it was quickly apparent that there was much damage to Fort Dauphin, with many roofs clearly missing. Still hoping that the Trano Vato (the boarding home most of the kids at our school livtrano simbaed in) was not too damaged, we saw how wrong we were in this hope as we walked up the stairs to the yard in front of it. And there, in front of us was half of what we knew as the Big Tree on the ground, having snapped off half-way up
its 30 or so meters. And the Trano Vato? It looked like a bomb had gone off. Not only was most of the roof missing, but quite a few of the pillars that had held up the roof over the porch were destroyed as well.

Saying goodbye to my classmates, my brother and I waltelephone poleked to our house, only to find the second story of it mostly gone. Partly due to the ferocious winds, partly due to a whole lot of termite damage that hadn’t helped. At all. We found our folks in the midst of beginning the clean up. One of the unusual things we found in doing this was a piece of the stained glass window from the Catholic cathedral some 1 km. away in the window sill of a window on the opposite side of the house from the cathedral. Also, some time during the night the walls at one of the corners of our living room of our wooden house (brought prefab from Norway on a sailing ship some 100 years earlier) had “breathed out” at the corner, trapping one of the curtains between the two walls. But without a roof over our heads, we ended up having to move out for several months while our house was rebuilt.

The next morning I rode bike out to where the vehicles and drivers were still stuck. On the ride out the Malagasy along the road helpfully told me the road north was blocked by fallen trees. Smiling at them, I answered, “I know.” And kept riding, in the end carrying my bike over sections where there was no way around the trees in the road. By this time our 3 cars were some 10 km. closer to town due to a bus which had overtaken them, with sevtrano vatoeral of the passengers having cleared great stretches of road with just a couple of axes.

Greeting the folks there, I gave them an update of things in town (a great big mess, but thankfully only one injury–tip of a finger cut off by a slamming door in the height of the storm). I also told them there had been a Coup d’Etat of the government, with much uncertainty due to this as well. And then I told them they needed to walk the several km. to where the road had been cleared from the other side and one of our other vehicles awaited them.

Riding back to town, all of the Malagasy along the road confirmed with me that the road north was in fact blocked.

“I know,” I smiled back at them, thinking more than one of them must have said (or at least thought), <<Adala ny vazaha!>> (“these white folks are crazy!”

Thinking of the implications of having tried to camp out in a hurricane, I could only agree with them by this point in time!

[the pictures in this blog were taken by Jonathan Barker]


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