The charioteers

It’s really hard to believe that an economy can still be driven by oxcart in this day and age. But on top of that, some of them even have still had wooden wheels. The central North West of Madagascar is reliant on this mode of transport in large areas. Daily dozens of these carts move every single item needed to keep hundreds of little villages going on a daily basis. From early morning until late at night the string of these little carts looking like hermit crabs scurry up and down these scars in the red earth of Madagascar.

Drawn by 2 Zebu, these carts have no limitations, areas that I struggle up over rocks and up ravines, there are the tell tale signs of the “Zebu du Chariot” have been here, I still cant believe it, I sat and wanted to witness it with my own eyes.

All night I had heard the thud of wood on Zebu hide and “thwack” as it hits rib bone in the valley, labouring and snorting their way up in the darkness, fully laden with goods. As the sun poured down the hills and into my tent I awoke to scenery from 200 years ago. A string of carts unravelling as they are driven up the mountain toiling in the morning sun as.

The drivers were no longer in the carts, but walking behind, as the terrain was too steep and dangerous, deep eroded rock ravines with steep cliff sides. The charioteers were now up to 5m behind their carts, steering them by remote ropes. Each rope threaded through a hole cut between both the Zebus nostrils’ and back to the driver.

This was one of the cruellest sights I have seen, these poor beasts put through absolute agony by the ropes tearing into their nostrils’ as their heads are pulled back, the only way to escape this is to some how drag that cart up the mountain side. Foaming at the mouth, thick strands of saliva hanging from their mouths the groan and snort jets of blood from their nose as they twist and throw their heads around in excruciating pain.

Their hooves tearing at the rock sliding back the cart slips. The rope pulled taught, their heads ripped back, again they lunge forward and the car is dragged up another rock. The rocks are so big that the wheel does not even touch the ground; the cart is just being dragged up by brute force, bit by bit they edge up, hour after hour dragging these hundreds of kgs of dead weight over rocks, it’s madness, but on they go.

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