I have never seen roads as challenging as I’ve seen in southern Madagascar. I remember travelling from Fort Dauphine to the start of the run at Cap St. Marie. The main road was asphalt for 20km, then it turned into 50 -50 pot holes and asphalt and finally it degraded into a sand track with massive water catchment areas in it which acted as the cattle’s drinking holes and bathing areas for locals to escape the heat of the day. I remember doing the same one day, trying to escape the heat by sitting in a massive water pot hole in the road. Our vehicles would have to drive through water half way up the door all along the main south route.
As the terrain steepened, the red Madagascar mud started to appear, and with this the roads deteriorate further. Just a little rain and this mud turns into sticky slush, nothing can pass, the whole area grinds to a halt, except for the Malagasy mud truckers, the drivers of these 4 x 4 Mercedes trucks, massive winches on the front and extra suspension clearance. Keeping the southern economy ticking over, trucking out timber, charcoal and produce as well as getting into the mountain areas and run the very lucrative shipments of rum out into the big cities. These guys have done more damage to the rural roads than any erosion or cyclone as the grind and winch their way slipping and sliding on the trucks belly up and down these muddy forest tracks in all kinds of conditions. I have never seen a vehicle been driven over rock a metre high, but they do some how. In other places the roads have been gouged out up to 2 meters deep into the mud, making them impassable for any other type of vehicle.
I sat in the forest and watched in utter amazement at how these skilled drivers manoeuvre their trucks slowly over terrain that I have problems walking across. But what a scar of irreparable devastation they leave behind.