Outside the car window, the colorful, yet dirty streets of Morondava rushed by, just as bicycle taxis, tuc-tucs, cars, trucks, taxi-brusses, bikes and any other un-heard-of vehicles that filled up the busy, paved streets. People carrying bags and baskets on their heads walking in all directions. Some of them stopping by tiny shops selling anything you can imagine all from colorful brooms and plastic recipients to electronics. Others were drinking coffee in any of the many coffee shacks. I noticed a white man buying something from an open stool by the road and realized how little tourists there were actually around.
Morondava is the closest city to Madagascar’s most iconic site, the Baobab alley. Still, there were no tourists in sight. Other than this one man. And me. I went alone to see the sunset at the Baobabs, as my boyfriend had become sick and stayed back at the hotel to rest. I sat in probably the smallest car I had ever been if not, at least the oldest.
The gum around the doors was worn away and there were large gaps on all sides of the doors that allowed me to look straight out at the fast passing road. Actually, there was only metal all around the car, the rear mirror was missing and my driver, Marco, struggled just a little bit every time he had to change gear. Every now and then the engine stopped and usually took about three tries to get started again.
I held my breath as the police pulled us over in the roadblock. There is no way this vehicle would pass any police control in Europe. But I wasn’t in Europe. I was in Madagascar. So the driver showed the documentation as the two men exchanged a few Malagasy words and then the officer waved us ahead. Once again we were getting closer to the rough dirt road that would take us to the Baobabs, which would be the biggest test for the small vehicle to survive without the doors falling off.
Before I got time to wonder more about that, Marco honked the horn and vividly waved at two women who came running across the road towards us. “My friends!” he smiled at me. One front tooth was missing and gave a charming character to his round friendly face.
The two women leaped into the taxi as I moved over to make space. Laughing with the joy of meeting an old friend the three Malagasy’s chatted vividly between highly contagious sequences of laughter. The two women with black, perfectly braided hair like so many women in this colorful African country.
The tiny white car was now bouncing along the dirt road like it was all it had ever done in its 40+ lifetime. Now we were four in the little box and not two, but the car didn’t seem to mind the extra weight.
We flew across bumps and bounced perfectly sideways through holes that we came flying out of as if we had never entered them. The pulsating energy inside the car, the Malagasy countryside outside, colorfully dressed women and children carrying baskets on their heads, chickens running in front of us crossing the road hurriedly not to be run over by the white beast I was sitting in, children running beside the car a few meters before speed became too high to follow, laughing, screaming of joy.
We passed bicycle taxis without passengers, zebus pulling carts with men, little communities of straw huts, women cooking and children running around playing. It seemed like no one in the car but I minded the thick dust that invaded the air we were breathing.
The closer we got to our destination, the more Baobabs were around us. The sun was still high on the sky when we arrived at the parking by the iconic alleyway.
It was the fourth time in a few days that I went there, so I sat down in the tiny bar next to the stalls of souvenirs of smaller and bigger Baobabs where colorfully dressed women politely were competing for the few tourists that had arrived to photograph this iconic Malagasy site at sunset. The kids were running around, boys playing football girls playing some game with rocks thrown between four squares they had drawn in the dry dirt.
Once again, the sun beautifully set behind the Baobabs, a line of tourists standing in front of the iconic scene, ready to snap the shot of their life. Luckily for me, this magical place is still hard to reach, and not too many tourists find their way there.
As the sun disappeared behind the trees, I walked slowly back to the car soaking in the last bit of this place, most likely I won’t be back, at least not for a while. I hardly found the little car amongst all the enormous 4x4s on the parking, but there it was, curiously next to a red little car exactly the same size.
Back on the road, outside this noisy white box that somehow miraculously hadn’t fallen apart during our little journey; everything seemed so quiet and peaceful. The palm trees looked like giant octopuses whose tentacles swayed in all directions in the strong wind. The contrast against the pink sky made it look like an animated painting.
As the darkness closed up around us, the thin strip of the moon became clearer, ends pointing upwards slightly towards my right. I could imagine how the man in the moon was chilling in his “hammock” with one arm hanging out.
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