Saturday, Nov. 8
Antsirabe, Madagascar

Pull-carts are one of the main forms of transportation in Antsirabe, the first town south of Madagascar’s capital.

But the pousse-pousses, as they’re called in French, are not pulled by a horse, a donkey or even a zebu, the Malagasy equivalent of cattle. These carts move through the streets solely on manpower.

It struck me as a scene out of a fantasy film, men running barefoot around town, pulling carts behind them, some men overtaking others just like cars in traffic. I couldn’t imagine what kind of crazy shape one would have to be in to pull that kind of weight, to do an animal’s work all day to make a living. Installing a system like that in a U.S. city would be a sure-fire way to combat obesity, I thought.

Pousse-pousse-ing it to our hotel.

Pousse-pousse-ing it to our hotel.

I watched the form of the runner who pulled me and my bags from the bus station to my hotel, working hard alongside two other pousse-pousse guys who pulled my new French friends, Anna and Alexa, women who I met during the bush taxi ride. It didn’t feel right, being pulled around town by a local. If a runner could move both me and my bags to my hotel, I could surely walk there with my bag on my back.

But the pull-carts aren’t a luxury just for tourists. That’s how many locals get around, particularly if they have luggage to move, or chickens or even a lounge chair. This is the livelihood of many Malagasy men, and if I want to support the locals, I best take a pousse-pousse.