The adventures of an overnight taxi brousse ride
Our last few days in Ranomafana went very well. We travelled to the Vohiparara circuit with
another frog group doing taxonomy work. The night was filled with mating frenzies of Guibemantis liber, Blommersia blommersae, Aglyptodactylus madagascariensis and many new species of tree frogs! The leeches were relentless as always.
We were scheduled to leave ValBio on the morning of the 19th with our photographer friends from Antoetra. Their vehicle arrived at the station, and they jumped out to meet us with some perplexed looks. Evidently the driver had decided our gear could not go on top of the car and also couldn’t block the back window. We relentlessly tried to fit all the gear in the vehicle. We stuffed as much gear as possible in the back below the window and figured we would put the rest on our laps, but then the driver said "no," that was not OK either. The driver claimed it was a police violation and despite our efforts it was a no go.
Slightly panicked because I was unsure of how we would get back to Tana for our departure the next day to Ambohintantely, we decided our only option was a taxi brousse. The morning direct from Ranomafana to Tana had already left, and it was Sunday so travelling is always difficult. We talked with the ValBio guard, and he agree to flag down a local brousse to Fianaransoa - the closest major town. After two hours one finally past and jammed ourselves into an already over filled bus. Che and I more or less had to share one seat. As we traveled the curvy road at full speed, there was no way to not squish your neighbor. I was surrounded by a few children and their mothers and some teenage boys just in front of us and a chicken or two clucked from below the seat. Two of the kids were feeling queasy with the curvy road. Luckily there were some small plastic bags on board. The mother was siting backwards behind the driver’s seat. Without a glace over her shoulder she tossed the baggy of throw up out the window and there was a loud SMACK! She had released the baggy just as a car came wising by in the other direction. The taxi brousse came to a quick halt. We were stopped for about a half an hour as the woman discussed who knows what with the driver. They made her clean the vehicle with the only thing she had which was a small sweatshirt. After a while I guess they came to some kind of consensus and we all piled back into the taxi and continued on our way to Fianar. We finally made it after bumping up and down and side to side for 3 hours.
The only taxi brousse to Tana was the overnight bus that left at 7 PM. We had some waiting to do before our second adventure. The time passed relatively quickly and soon enough we were sitting on the taxi waiting to depart. The rain had begun and it was already leaking through the sliding door, and the driver’s window was nothing more than a sheet of torn plastic. The driver duct taped the one door… hopefully just for the leaking rain and we were not depending on that duct tape to keep the door closed. Fortunately we ended up departing early because the taxi was full.
The music blared loudly and we were on our to be 12 hour ride to Tana. We tried to sleep but the pot holes and sharp turns made it nearly impossible. For some reason Taxi brousses are stopped at just about every checkpoint by the police. We would come to a screeching halt and the police would shine there lights through the rows of bodies and we would be on our way. We stopped for dinner around 9 in Ambositra and enjoy an extremely large bowl of soup. Within about 5 minutes it seemed like we were on the taxi brousse holding our breath that the car would start.
Some hours later my seat neighbor was kicked out of the taxi, and we were joined by 2 policemen was AK 47s… not exactly what I had in mind for the rest of our journey. In about an hour they left and we gained a few more passengers making it a bit crowded in our row. In Antsirabe, our taxi brousse was officially out of commission and we had to switch to a different vehicle. Luckily there was one waiting for us, making the 4 am switch quite smooth. This new taxi brousse was outfitted with much more comfortable seats so getting a little shut-eye was somewhat possible. However, this driver was a very aggressive driver whipping around every turn at at least 80 km/h if not more. Around 5, we started picking up people along the road and soon there were 6 people squeezed in our row meant for 4 people and one person sitting backwards against the front passenger seat. The last 2 hours I was squished unable to move in any direction. But by 7 we had finally reached Tana and grabbed a taxi to the hotel where we had hoped to spend the night. We had survived the taxi brousse and made it to Tana before our planned departure at 8 am for Ambohintantely… so I would call our adventure a success.
Working to save the frogs,