As one slowly grinds up the red baked earth track from the southern plateau, the spiny vegetation changes to savannah land, the only difference is that the area is devoid of any trees. Charcoal has got the better of them. Mountains slowly appear to rise out of the ground in shuddering spurts as one clime up into the hills. The villages are becoming less and less, as well as the odd abandoned settlements begin to appear, unable to sustain themselves on this desolate plain they have given up packed their meagre belonging onto the Zebu cart and moved into the bigger towns.
Betroka is the town marking the beginning of this area, a ramshackle throw back of once a vibrant town, dusty eroded roads, brick homes precariously hanging onto their support pillars like drunks eyeing out their next step. Chickens scurry around as little whirlwinds spew dust and paper like confetti over the street seller’s stalls. A weary calm hangs over it. The street is lined with people just staring into the haze, sitting out the heat.
Stories are a plenty about the next 200km, they tumble trough the streets as do the dry leaves in the wind, Walking down the road as an outsider one feels the air of uncertainty and the murmurs from the folk as you pass, you feel they are trying to guess your fate that lies ahead, you feel like a gunfighter that has just arrived in town. This is the frontier town. A few days prior to us arriving, the zone had claimed another victim who was driving trough, ambushed in a road block and shot.
After an afternoon of questioning and fact finding we formulated our strategy for the next few days and the crossing of the 150km to Ihosy.
It was to be a 3 in the morning start and I will go it alone, sticking to the village paths and out of sight of the main busy areas, the crew would push on in one go and wait for me.