Monday, Nov. 17
Ifaty, Madagascar

Add these to the list of transport I’ve taken during the last five months: camion and pirogue.

Camion to Ifaty.

Camion to Ifaty.

Even though Ifaty, a beach town on the southeastern coast of Madagascar, is crawling with tourists, I was the only white face that climbed into the camion two afternoons ago. I’m not entirely sure what “camion” translates into in English, but at any rate it was a large truck, clearly not created to haul people, though it had been transformed to do so. The heavy, slow vehicle was the only transport other than tourists’ 4x4s that could arrive in Ifaty without getting stuck in the thick sand.

I had trouble communicating with my fellow passengers because most spoke no French, only Malagasy, so I debarked when I thought I had arrived. Turns out I was nearly a mile from the hotel strip, and a local offered — well, urged me to buy — a pirogue ride to my hotel.

Continuing to Ifaty via pirogue.

Continuing to Ifaty via pirogue.

I generally avoid boat transport — I figure if my bush taxi breaks down, I’m stuck on the side of the road, but if my boat breaks down, well, you know — but I needed someone to show me the way. Plus, the price he suggested, less than three bucks, was so good I didn’t bother negotiating.

The Indian ocean was perfectly blue, clear enough to see to the bottom in shallow parts. My backpack was tucked in securely, so I leaned back on the wooden structure, the full sail behind me, and watched Ifaty come into view. My arrival at the hotel, via the sea, would have been a grand entrance had anyone I knew witnessed it.

The place was beautiful but overrun by tourists, mostly old French ones, the men with young Malagasy women on their arms. I expected the resort to be separated a bit from the town, but the locals lived in the sand amongst the hotels, most in houses made of sticks and thatch, making their living braiding¬† “vazaha” (white person) hair, pawning souvenirs and, as I eluded to earlier, selling themselves. Sex tourism seems to bring a lot of money to Madagascar.

Ifaty beach at sunset.

Ifaty beach at sunset.

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