Taxi-Brousses: a traveler's love

Today I realized: taxi-brousses represent perfectly my relation regarding travelling. This one is quite strange. With travelling I don’t mean taking a fly ticket to some beach country and staying the whole holiday in a resort. I mean the travelling with a big backpack, trying to take the unknown paths, becoming filthy and smelly, happy when you can take a shower, feeling like a king when you eat in a restaurant, etc.

Being 16 I couldn’t wait ‘till I would do my first hitch/train/road-trip. I remember somebody asked me: “why would you travel? You already have everything here.” At that time his reasoning seemed quite strange to me. With some years and travels behind, I definitely see what he meant. Are the experiences I have while travelling, worth the missing of my friends, family and comfort?

I’m asking myself that question while being bounced from right to left under a heat of 33degrees and having barely the place to stretch my feet. This one hasn’t moved since we left Ankify, three hours ago. The taxi brousse (TB), a minivan in some state of decay is the local way of traveling. It feels like an initiation ritual to Madagascar and has a lot in common with local transport in other 3rd world countries; on the roof there’s a 2 meter high pile of rice bags, bicycles, chickens; the interior possess the magical attribute to fill itself with 4 times as many people as you thought were anatomically possible; everything can break down at any moment; air-conditioning, soft seats, etc are some mythical features, you’ve heard they exist but never saw them; the radio is blasting the same local songs all along your trip; and as last you never are quite sure If you are in the right TB, and if it’ll actually bring you to the right destination.

This last aspect is probably the worst one. Me and Jurian are now already two hours in a TB who is driving around in Ambilobe while we were thinking it would go to Ankarana. Every time I ask the driver when we would go to Ankarana he answers “now”, and continues driving around as if nothing had happened. Getting off is not an option.

After a while I stop trying to understand what is happening and accept my faith even if that means to be dropped off in some village 50 km from everything. I’m in a faraway country, not able to speak the language, with no idea where I am, and what I’m doing here. On the radio I hear the same song for the fifth time welcoming me like an old friend.  And then, the music, the ongoing landscapes with banana trees, the breeze on my sweaty skin, let me realize that particular moment. How special it is. How alive I am. How beautiful my life is.

During all my travels I had this awesome feeling in every TB-like local transport I took. Yes, definitely, taxi-brousses are the best, worst part of a trip.