I had a late start from the hotel I stayed at in Antsirabe (not the AirBnB I had booked… because I never got final directions, couldn’t find it, and the host never responded to messages, etc) because of the buffet breakfast that I absolutely gorged on for as long as gastronomically possible 😁. From there the pain started. Despite the elevation profile showing an overall downhill with a couple thousand feet decent it was actually lots of hard work. The relentless winds, oppressive heat, and neverending small uphill sections destroyed any thought of an easy ride. Even if I coasted for 1 minute I’d spend 10 on the next climb.
The country side was beautiful, the people friendly or staring out of bafflement (what’s up with that white guy? Why the hell is he doing that?), and there were definitely moments that made it worthwhile. I made it to Mandoto to find that the two bungalows were closed in the low season, which left me with camping. I had figured that I’d be camping on this section, with the intention of stopping for the rain or darkness, whichever came first. The rain came first. The problem with trying to stealth camp when it’s still light is that people see you. And there are people everywhere, working fields everywhere, coming and going from the villages that are everywhere. Even following a small track off the road there were still people there working in rice patties. I found a good spot but by then it was full on torrential downpour. I was wet, the tent was wet, everything was wet. However because of the heat I felt fine, except for waking up feeling like a pruned toe.
The next day also had a good overall elevation profile that left me optimistic for an easy ride, and it did start out that way with the cool morning air and a brisk tailwind. But it was an 80 mile marathon that tested my will power in a way that only the AlaskAcross has been able to (except this time I didn’t start hallucinating). The oppressive heat continued, the winds would as almost knock me over, and the hills were endless. By now my discomfort was taking away the charm of passing through the villages. It didn’t help that all the villages are at the top of the hills, meaning that at the height of my pain I was being barraged by kids and the curious. (An obvious observation: teenagers, when in groups, are absolute little shits!) The rough roads in the last 25 miles took away any advantage to be had on the downhills. Even down to the last three miles I still had painful soul crushing climbs. Miandrivazo is a more touristy town, and since I was apparently the only tourist in town I had every schemer descending upon me to ‘offer assistance’ for a cost. Being ‘in no mood’ I passed them by to a hotel that looked promising, the Baobab, where I reenacted the death throes I’ve seen many cockroaches do.