The heat seems to have evaporated and been transformed into a fine cool mist. With every step that I ascend into the mountain, so does the intense heat slowly ease. Burning thighs, dry, parched throat and sweat pouring from me, I fight my way up the path scar in the blood red earth, towards the cloud line hanging like a fringe over the mountain peaks. A cool breeze is now rolling down the valley, a soft velvet mountain breathes tickling my skin and southing my sun parched face, a relief after 3 weeks of southern hell.
Dragging myself over the crest of the mountain, the central area of Madagascar unfolds below me. A green fleece of rice paddies nestling layered like material ocross every valley, water cascading and trickling in the ravines, as it soothingly murmurs rolling down into the heaving swirling river below.
The villages have now changed into high clusters of double storied clay houses, unique architecture which just blends in with the massive granite boulders which seem to have seemed dropped into the earth, oozing waves of red soil into the rice paddies. Smoke slowly spirals out of the homes and hangs heavily in the cool air of the valley signs of life ahead. The fields are awash with colour of the villagers hard at work, getting the soil prepared as the rainy season sets in.
Down the valley I head, with new energy as the cool air seems to have revitalised my strength. But a new obstacle has emerged, swap areas and rivers. The past few weeks have been difficult, but the terrain has been passable. No detours have been needed, as every river bed has been dry. It’s not long and I hit the first waist deep river, strong flowing from the rain, swirling and muddy, you can’t see a thing. In I go, cold and soothing, but slippery and dangerous – what lurks beneath, water scorpions, leeches and the rest.
The rain has started again, with this a wind bringing in the chill factor which begins to bite. Its only midday, my heart sinks as I look down the valley through the sheeting monsoon rain at the road ahead, just a swirling mass of muddy liquid with the odd tuft of green to aim at, the villagers are all making for the higher ground and out of the fields, but I have no option but to fight on down the swamp plain to the town 25km ahead.