Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Update and Lobster Truck Red-Eye, Part 3

I'm back in Tana. I threw a fit yesterday and tried to get an earlier flight. Unfortunately, Insurance providers don't consider mystery parasites a legitimate medical condition requiring attention. I had a wicked fever, was sweating like a psycopath, and would have killed the agent if I could have reached through the phone. Oh well, I've settled down and will make the most of my last week in Mad. I am now heading out of town and am going to see some Indri!

The following is a wee update from yesterday (when I was nearly killed), the end (finally!) of The Lobster Truck Red-Eye, and a few pics from Itampolo.

April 19, 2011. 4:46pm. Tana. Side of some road.
Nearly got killed by a semi-truck a few minutes ago. The giant truck was backing onto the main thoroughfare (as one does) and just before the impact I caught a glint of it out of the corner of my eye- it was about 1ft away and heading directly for my head. It scared me half to death. Luckily, the truck was going pretty slow when it hit our car. It smashed the passenger side-view mirror and part of a plastic panel on the back passenger side. The mirror glass went everywhere and contributed to my near heart attack. This is the second time on this trip I have nearly been decapitated, the third MVA of which I have been involved, and for the record, I've seen three dead bodies.

Lobster Truck Red-Eye
I am completely sick of this story. And really could ramble on for ages, but am going to wrap it up. Forty minutes after my near clausterphobia/potential kidnapping/forgotten refugee freak out I arrived in Itampolo! It was 9:30pm and I was stinky, starving, and exhausted but really glad to be off the fish truck.

I got the one room that was available and quickly dubbed it "The Crapper." It was directly above the restaurant/bar, almost like a loft would be, and upon entry had a horrible mold smell. Ick, but better than a fish truck, right? The room was very odd. Barely bigger than the double bed in and although a reasonable height upon entry, was only about 3ft high at the head of the bed. There was no bathroom- I'd have to go downstairs and outside for that. Oh well. The bed, btw, was the cause of the mold smell and was an ancient crumbling foam. There was plastic covering part of the 3ft ceiling and large cockroaches scurrying. No problem, its better than a fish truck. I was able to get dinner and desert- fresh squid and fresh pasta both in butter with parmesan cheese and citrus, followed by apple tart. AMAZING. After dinner I crashed, hard. But was kept up most of the night by a rather loud snorer. Still better than a fish truck.

A little after 5am, when it is getting light I started hearing some buzzing, which I am all too familiar with. I looked around and saw that there were at least 8 active hornets' nests on the walls of the tiny room. Not to long after that, I started to hear a rather unpleasant procession of, uhum, morning bathroom noises, equipped with grunting and horking. I looked out the 'window' (a small hole cut through the wall) to see that my room was in fact directly over the shared bathroom facilities. There was a group of older Frenchmen staying at the hotel who had gotten rather drunk the night before. Now these dudes were vying for the facilities and I was subject to the associated sensory overload. Good god, will it ever end?

After the hung-over French dudes left, I moved to a simple but lovely bungalow on the beach. Ah… The rest of my stay was rather uneventful. I ate. I slept. I swam. I was swarmed by adorable, filthy, malnourished children. Oh, except, a couple of things to note. First, Tay Digs may have caught my lunch. I was sitting at the restaurant, looking out at the water when an unbelievably good looking man (Tay Digs), walked up from somewhere (likely heaven) sporting a tiny pair of swim trunks, a snorkel, and an ore with 10 rather precariously balanced plump shimmering fish atop. One of those lovely, fresh out of the ocean fish, was my lunch. Drool. Second, I am almost positive that Albert Einstein is alive and running Hotel Sud Sud in southwestern Madagascar. Go figure.

Alright, Danny and the fish truck were due to arrive at 10pm on Sunday night. Horrible time to be picked up, but this was the one and only option. There was no other transportation available. None. I am nearly suicidal if I have to stay up past 8pm so there was no way I was staying up. Good thing too, because Danny arrived at 1:40am. I jolted awake and sprinted to the truck, but there was really no rush as it took until 2:30am for the truck to be organized to go. This time, there were no fish. There were, however, thousands of lobster. Thousands. The entire truck bed was crammed up to the canopy with bins on bins of lobster. There was a space about 1.5ft deep at the tail-gait of the truck in which Meghan, myself and five other adults were to sit. Oy. I ended up sitting more out of the truck than in, but held on tight and was happy to get rolling.

The good thing about taking a lobster truck at 2 o'clock in the morning is that it certainly will not conduct business at every god dammed village for 85 f&*%ing kilometers, right? WRONG. Here is how the ride proceeded:

Hang on while the truck moves forward for 5ish minutes
Nearly fall out 3ish times
Have a series of live lobsters fall on my head/neck/back
Hang on while the truck stops

At each stop we were in another village and Danny would lay on the horn. H-O-N-K. A 30 second long honk is really annoying at 3am, 4am, 5am, etc. And, at every village some one or a few people would come out of their house(s) with 1 or 2 or 20 or 30 lobster. Danny would weigh the lobsters, pay the villager for them and cram the lobster(s) into the truck. Once the truck was literally full, Malagasy full, Danny started to decapitate the lobsters and just stuff the tails underneith the passengers. It was also around this time that Meghan realized she was sitting on a duck. A live duck, of course.

I estimate that we made 30 such villages stops. At around 7am, when I had completely given up on ever getting out of the purgatory that was the Lobster Truck Red-Eye, we stopped in a village for coffee, and my favorite, bokaboka. I recall stepping over some very putrid basins of shark meat. FYI. A some what crazy but very nice Malagasy lady insisted on buying my breakfast, which was very kind. I was going to buy her breakfast but she started to scream at me. Right.

After breakfast, I got right back in and held on for yet more lobster purchasing. I finally made it to Efotse around 9am. I wanted to get right on with the next leg of my journey- the zebu car ride back to camp, but was told that all the zebu were busy in the forest, and that I'd have to wait until the afternoon. Sigh. Oh well, I hunkered right down to take a nap when low and behold, my zebu car pulled up. Alright. I suppose there were some cows on standby. Off I went in my zebu car, which rolled into camp just before noon.

Longest (and smelliest) 85km ever. I did however, take 3 plump squirmy lobsters back to camp and had perhaps the most luxurious camp dinner ever.

Alright, I am off. I think next I will write about the epic journey I've dubbed 'The Car Ride From Hell.' Veloma!

MMM. NOT beans!

Local fishermen

A pirouge at sunset, in the soft sand

Another pirogue at sunset


  1. Are you trying to see absolutely everything before you leave? Planning to return? One thing: if you are getting occasional fevers, you might have malaria. There isn't any way to know for sure until you have an actual attack. But just be aware of this. In 1987 after my first field research at Berenty, I was travelling around Madagascar and kept getting fevers that would last about a day. It wasn't until about 3 months later that I had a full blown malaria episode. Not to scare you, but I've noticed that you mention fevers every so often, but the anti-malarial meds. will keep it more or less at bay. Blood tests won't show anything until an actual attack occurs. Just a thought...

  2. Look into taking a dose of Primaquine
    (there's more info on CDC site) when you get home. Hope you get better pronto and I don't see you on a future episode of Monsters Inside Me. You must be estatic to see Ron and Kitty!


  3. Oh god, well honetly, I wouldn't be surprised to have malaria. I feel totally fine one minute and them have a raging fever, sweats/chills, the next minute. This happens every few days and is accompanied by a ridiculously sore back and and other unpleasent symptoms. Fun times! All the malaria tests I've had are negative, but I am on doxy, so we'll see what happens when I go off it... Looking forward to being home, that's for sure!

  4. Ummm, I think you have malaria. Yes, a dose of Primaquine may help as it kills the reproductive stage in the liver. That's the one I take as a preventative when I'm in Madagascar, and it has no bad side effects, but it might be a challenge to get a doctor in North American (i.e. San Diego)to prescribe it. They want to see you with the full meal deal before they prescribe. Your blood tests will come up negative until you have an actual attack. If you want to talk to me when you get back about it, I've got free gmail chat (not Skype) and I can call you on your phone from my laptop.