It Got Tough

And yet another ferry, the first of the chain-powered barges, where a wheel is turned by hand to power the boat.

As you can see my legs and boots are pretty wet from the river crossings.
Water everywhere and a deceptive looking river crossing which caught me out, I had decided I'd get through it OK, but... Suzi’s back wheel bogged down.

Having removed the bags I returned to get her through, the following are a series of four pictures over 10 seconds which show how well I achieved my objective

Or NOT!!!

That’s correct the rear wheel has actually managed to sink further into the mud. Just as I was looking around for something solid to put under the wheel, a bloke appeared and gave me a hand, lifting the back end as I throttle the bike.
Suzi’s rear wheel was suitably decorated after this episode

That smile from when I was standing on the ferry- possibly the last time I smiled the rest of the day. It had begun to rain heavily, I was soggy and hungry, desperate for a rest, but the villages I was passing through were tiny with no facilities, and I began to regret not having asked “granny” for some of those home-made doughnuts at breakfast tea break in the morning.
I stopped at a village where a guy was driving through in a 4 wheel drive, he spoke some English and was able to tell me that no one in the village sold food (this was a surprise because in the remote areas, almost everyone sells the food that they’re cooking this helps to supplement their incomes)
The “shop” had one small packet of biscuits, three bottles of beer and a packet of noodles. I snapped up the biscuits and noodles, and hesitated over the beer- knowing that I needed calories but then realising that in the conditions I’m riding, the alcohol probably wouldn't help.
I paid the shop woman to cook the noodles for me, meanwhile, having heard me asking for anything to drink that wasn’t beer, her son ran cross country to the nearest village and returned with a small bottle of coke – which was like manna for me.
I sat in their hut, out of the rain and ate the noodles, feeling sorry for myself that there was only one packet and not wanting to waste any- as she had cooked them in a swimming sea of stock, I decanted the stock into my empty coke bottle before continuing. Apparently I was still 30 kms away from any village that would sell food. In these conditions 30 kms could take me a few hours the continuous rain slowing my progress as well as the stop start of removing the luggage when the rivers were too risky.
I rode on, buying boiled maniocs at the next village and washing it down with stock swigged from the coke bottle. More endless rivers and dirt, more rain so I didn’t dare to take my camera out as the lens was getting wet each time. The sun started setting, I was looking out for a place to stay, not really wanting to get into my very soggy tent, still wet from last night, but then I reached a village where they said I was just 30 minutes from Fort Dauphin – the major town on the south coast. My spirits lifted at the thought of somewhere dry to stay and also the end of this terrible road. But it did mean riding in the dark, something I avoid doing as it’s so dangerous out here. Desire for a proper place to stay won out and I rode the final stretch at a very cautious 15 km per hour using my headlights to pick out the people, zebu and vehicles with no lights in the road as well as the large potholes and water crossings.
What a relief when I saw tarmac once more and blimey, even streetlights. I stopped at the first hotel I could find, the cheapest rooms were up three flights of stairs, by which point I was almost weeping with weariness and a sense of having survived a tough undertaking.