Last night we were told that our bus for Tamatave would be leaving at 6:30 – breakfast would be at 6:00, and we were to have our luggage ready at that time.
Trying to some precious sleep, I fell sound asleep only to be awakened by a local rooster crowing at 3:00 – the sun was not even close to being up, so it must have been one confused rooster. Of course, other roosters, not wanting to be outdone, soon joined him – so much for a decent night’s rest! I read for a while and finally got up around 5:00 to shower and get ready and provide a fellow traveler with a wake-up call.
At breakfast we met some more of our travelers – our tiny group of five had grown to twelve! We made hasty introductions as we ate our breakfast, and before we knew it, the vans had arrived. It was a bit chaotic as we loaded up the various vehicles, and as we started on our way, we turned off on another road which said, “Chez Jeanne”. I was confused – we had stayed at a guesthouse , Chez Jeanne. Were we going in circles? No, as it turned out, this was an annex to our own guest house, and we were there to pick up more Mercy Ships volunteers. We now numbered fifteen!
The fun began as we unloaded our vehicles and then had to reload the luggage onto the bus that would take us to Tamatave. After a few adjustments, we finally set off on our way. The traffic getting out of Tana was bumper to bumper in spots, and how anyone manages to drive with no lane markings, bicycles, dogs, pedestrians is a mystery to me.
Finally we got out of Tana, and the breeze was a bit cooler, and we were able to see more off the countryside. There were the proverbial rice fields and fishermen of all ages. We were also able to see more of the traveller’s palms which are featured on the Madagascar flag. Additionally, we saw more of the pousse-pousse cabs than we had seen in our brief stay in Tana.
This all might have been a great tour except that our bus ride took eight hours, and the initial thrill of it all began to fade around hour four. Most of us tried to sleep intermittently and work out the inevitable kinks that were forming along the way.
We finally arrived in Tamatave and at the Mercy Ships, where for some unknown reason, we had to wait almost half an hour before anyone came to greet us – another lesson in patience it seemed. After our initial meeting with one of the officers on board, we went to our cabins. I thought that I might have time to rest, but my cabin phone rang as soon as I walked in, and it was one of the anesthesia staff asking if I could work first thing in the morning! I was given a whirlwind tour of the ORs – since I had been here before things were rather abbreviated. It seems like I am going to hit the ground running . . .