The rubber takes us now to the deep south. Home of the proud, tall, slender Bara tribe whose origins stem from African migrations across the Mozambique Channel through the centuries.
Our travel was halted by a smarmy looking police officer a few villages out of the Isalo Region. Looking more like a gold dealer than a police-officer the purpose of his inspection was clearly apparent even to the vazahas (foreigners) nervously seated in the back. The expression on Tiana and Lova’s face said it all as Malagasy broadsides were fired back and forth. As things escalated Lova got on the phone and then attempted to pass it to the officer who relunctantly declined. Turns out he wasn’t so keen to talk to Lova’s Uncle who works as the Minister for Environment in Madagascar. We were soon waved on without any necessity for a donation to the officer’s gold repository. Funnily enough the remaining eight or so checkpoints en-route to Toliara all passed us on with a smile. A small acknowledgement perhaps that word travels quickly and threats of Ministerial conversations come with clout.
The road (loose description) from Toliara to Ifaty hasn’t seen a traffic crew since the bulldozers first carved a path through the savannah. Adding to the drama of wheelbarrow sized holes polka dotting the journey were tombstone style rocks which had been mercilessly laid down while grading the surface. The 45minutes predicted in the Bradt guide between Toliara and Ifaty must have been for those travelling by Landcruiser at 80km/h. The RAV4 scrapped and rattled its way into Ifaty on dark after a touch under 2hours of zig-zagging.
At 7am we had breakfast and the Captain sat beside his skip in the calm, reef water. At 7:45am Tiana and Lova joined us and we were ready to snag a big bite. But the Captain had spent his 45minutes thinking about last nights rum and then when we were ready to go decided it was time to pack for the trip. In 2hours the boat was packed and rum breath distilled. The shame about this was the lazy fish had gone to bed, leaving us with only the smart, crafty type who continually nibbled every part of the hook but the pointy part. Hungry from all the record breaking catches we missed the crew took pity on us and tacked for a local seaside village where we hoped they had caught less intelligent fish or had more intelligent fishermen.
Turns out they had both because there were a few hundred meters of beachfront covered in boats, a heaving throng of humanity and a fishy smell that made the Footscary market smell like the Myer perfume department.
The villagers here are far more tourist savvy which is unfortunate because their joyous pleasantries are replaced by stone hardened stares from the adults and practiced, plastic smiles from the children who chant “photo?”, “photo?”, like sparrows dancing in the sand. Of course photo is then replaced by money. It’s such a shame when simple social exchanges become a business exchange with the salesmen desperate to make a transaction.
Returning to the boat we found a picnic sheet heaving with fresh cooked fish. These were soon stripped bare and the boat sat a little lower in the water as we sailed on the Northerly back to Bamboo Club.