Finally, at around 3:30pm a very full, cloth canopied pick-up style truck rolled through Efotse and Fili flagged it down for us. The driver kindly stopped and a few guys got out of the cab to see if it was physically possible for us to fit, some where on this vehicle. There were 5 men in the cab, 5 men on the roof (along with 3ft stacks of roofing material), 6 people in the bed, and 2 men hanging on to the back. Already 18 people in this small pick-up, but here is the kicker, it was a seafood delivery vehicle with an enormous chest (4ft long x 4ft wide x 3ft high) full of freshly plucked sea critters. There was another similarly sized chest but it was empty and upright in the very back of the bed. The heavy wooden lid for this second chest was sitting on top of the first fish loaded chest. The full chest was wedged in between the wheel wells and on the right side of it were the six people. They each had about 1.5 square feet and their knees were somewhere up near their ears. On the other side there was only a small space directly behind the driver (Danny), where they suggested, there was space for Meghan and I. Seriously? How? Fili asked if it was ok for us and repeated that it would only be an hour ride. Honestly, I didn't think we would fit, but said I'd try. Three of the six bed passengers climbed out and a giant game of tetrus ensued. The driver moved the empty fish chest to where the other passengers had been sitting, urged us to hop on in, and then moved the chest back such that we were wedged in and the other passengers could get themselves back in. Once in, we were completely stuck. In order to get out, all the other people would have to get out and the enormous empty fish box would have to be moved. But we fit (barely) and were enroute to the beach.
The smell of years of fish transport was completely overwhelming. I was facing backwards and could see nothing. Completely cramped and not at all comfortable, but it was just an hour ride and I could survive. It was only 3:30pm and by 4:30 I could be drinking a cold beer, ordering my lobster dinner. You have no idea how amazing a cold drink and new meal are after months of warm drinks and beans and rice. Mmm.
I immediately took dramamine (gravol for my Canuck peeps) but still had a pretty rough start to the trip. For someone who gets carsick, sitting backwards in a hot truck next to a pool of smelly fish is not exactly a good idea. Plus, I had to sit really awkwardly because the heavy wooden lid for the second chest waxed and wained at every turn, each time threatening to decapitate me. After about 45 min we stopped at a village and were asked to get out. Fili warned me that this would happen, so I wasn't too worried. I took Garry with me and my purse, but my bag was tied way on top of the truck. I asked if I should take it but Danny said it was ok and they would be back in 5 minutes. I stupidly said ok. Very stupidly. The second they were pulling away, I was worried about my bag, which among other things contain my medications, computer, camera and two camera lenses. Very stupidly. I sat down and promptly got swarmed by village children. They want to watch and touch me, to converse, and of course want for me to give them gifts. They were harmless, malnourished, filthy, and adorable. A slightly odd looking woman whom I would guess was about 40 sat down near me. I smiled and said hello, as I do with anyone that approaches me. She sort of grunted and then was quite obviously making fun of me and being quite rude. Other people were just looking away or ignoring her. She started demanding something from me but I could not for the life of me understand her. That's whenshe started throwing rocks at me and continuing to demand I produce whatever it was that she wanted. She was yelling now and making flamboyant hand gestures. I was really getting a bit worried at this point and just wanted the fish truck to get back before I got stoned to death. Plus, it had been more than 30-minutes since I had, very stupidly, left my bag on the missing fish truck. After hucking a few more rocks, the woman simply up and left. Go figure. But the fish truck was nowhere to be seen. It was 5:00pm and since it is dark a little after 6pm I was starting to think that I may be stuck in this horrible village where its ok to stone Vazah and that I would never see my bag again. I got really worried when the Malagasy passengers started to question where the truck had gone and how long had it been. Thankfully, at quarter after 5, our fish truck and my bag came back and again we piled in.
I knew that Itampolo was 85km from Efotse and that where we stopped was 50km away, so we had 35km to go. Given how long the drive had already taken, I figured I'd be drinking my beer and eating my lobster before dark. What I didn't know was that the fish truck now intended to conduct business along the way. We zigzagged from every beach to inland village wherein the driver would stop, lay on the horn, and wait to see what had been caught that day or what people wanted to buy. Once it was dark, I felt like a refugee crammed into a really smelly dickie-dee ice cream truck. No one could see me, I couldn't see them, it was pitch black, men were yelling in a language I couldn't understand, and there were octipi legs dangling beside my head. The cephalopod legs have nothing to do refugees, but it added to the strange factor. By 8pm I had an intensely sore back, which hasn't been the same since I was sick in December, and was getting a bit worried that we had either been forgotten about or kidnapped. And, I started to get claustrophobic. I was so cramped and sore and still trying to hold the wooden lid back that was repeatedly trying to decapitate me, and knew that even if I really wanted to, I couldn't get out.
The next time we stopped, I yelled for the Danny to come back. Thankfully he did. I asked if we were still in fact enroute to Itampolo and if so, how long would the rest of the trip be. He assured me that we were almost there, and would arrive in 10 minutes. Ok, ok, I would survive another 10 minutes and not freak out...