Madagascar - The Recce

The end of my first day of riding and as usual I had been somewhat optimistic on how long it would take me getting ready before setting off in the morning and how far I would get that first night. I ended up in a rainstorm desperately seeking shelter from someone...anyone. This kind couple invited me into their house and then insisted I had their bed while they slept on the couch. I tried to argue them out of it, but they were absolutely insistent. Such kindness to strangers is always heartwarming.
[​IMG] They run this small shop and have very little money. Their house has no running water, they cook on a small burner using charcoal, this is the kitchen
[​IMG]
and the toilet was in next door's back yard where I had to run the gauntlet of the chickens in their coop.
[​IMG]

I was luckier the next day, [​IMG] as the sun set I had made it to a town that actually had hotels and so I splashed out on one that had running water and a bedroom of my own, plus a shared terrace where I could access the WiFi and send emails, my office on the road.
[​IMG]

I'm riding the Yamaha XT to double check some of my routes.
[​IMG]
Really enjoying riding and just being back in Madagascar.
The school run over here is a bit different with the kids crammed into a rickshaw, pulled by a bloke on foot with their bags hanging off the back.

[​IMG] These are the rich kids whose parents can afford to send them off like this. 
The majority of kids will be on foot, often walking several miles or more in each direction, like these girls that I met while having a siesta that afternoon in a wooded area just off the road. They came and crowded around me as I sat on the ground
[​IMG] 
They then went over to have a closer look at the bike[​IMG]

we chatted for a while before they continued down the track laughing about the crazy British woman they had just met. (or at least I think that's what they were saying) French is the main language after Malagasy.
[​IMG]

The lunch stop cafe had the following menu
[​IMG] The most expensive dish costing £1, I had my usual veggie option, which was rice and veggies, the whole way through the meal I could feel eyes on me, it was a chicken sat just outside the door - right next to a main road.
[​IMG] she was waiting her chance to come in and peck the crumbs up off the floor.

A final burst of riding and I got to a hotel where they insisted I park the bike in the sitting room
[​IMG]
I had a good room at the front of the building, which was fine until an Army troop ran past singing at the tops of their voices at 6.00am.
[​IMG] 

Some of the towns and villages make me feel like I've gone back 150 years in time
[​IMG]
lots of carts pulled by zebu (cattle) and even by hand, with wooden wheels!
Also a lot of work being done manually, with no mechanised help - just take a look at these guys sawing planks from a tree trunk.
[​IMG]
I made sure the guys got copies of this picture.

Petrol costs $4 a gallon or even more - this is in a country where 90% of the population lives on less than $2 a day.
[​IMG]

The work in the field looks back breaking
[​IMG]

The roads are of varied condition, this was a pretty good one
[​IMG]
and hmm, this one not so good in my opinion but it was a lot of fun to ride. And if anyone asks the dreaded helmet question...sigh, :snore would someone please explain so that I don't have to repeat myself yet again.
[​IMG]

Up early and a lot of miles to cover, the sun doesn't hang around and it pretty quickly gets hot
[​IMG] 

the camera is hanging off the branch of a tree as I rode past on self-timer, obviously if I had realised this guy was going to appear I would have asked him to take the photo for me which would have saved a lot of time.
Out onto tarmac roads and the weekly zebu (cattle) market had taken place, I passed many herds being driven along the road to their destination, apparently they sometimes walk for weeks to reach a particular village. 
[​IMG] 
I ride carefully around them - their horns are pretty long (and sharp) and they sometimes suddenly turn their heads - wham I'd be down like a ton of bricks if their horns hit me. Luckily they are generally pretty placid.
Into the rainforest for a change of scenery
[​IMG] and yes, more zebu here as well. Fun to be amongst the trees, crossing rivers
[​IMG] 

and of course the best part of the day, a nice cup of tea at the end of the riding- complete with howling indri providing background sound (they're a type of lemur, they feature more fully later in the RR).
[​IMG]