All of the WP6 in-depth sites are purposively selected based on a set of criteria, such as their distance from the protected areas (new and existing), deforestation history and history of intervention in the form of conservation and development projects. What this has meant is that most of our sites, in fact all of our sites to some degree, are very difficult to access — primarily because there are no motor-able roads to these sites. Of course not all sites are equally inaccessible — some are a bit more so than others. If I have to rank them in terms of their inaccessibility, then strangely one of the hardest site to work —
Ampahitra — ranks as relatively easy-to-access site. We could travel by vehicle to the centre of the fokontany, and tracks leading to the villages were also relatively good.
Mapping our 5-day struggle to get to the study site.
The most difficult sites in terms of access would certainly be
Sahavazina fokontany ( Antenina commune) and Amporoforo commune ? both in the north-east of CAZ (see map above). On this blog entry, I present a photo story of our recent trip to Sahavazina fokontany.
Not long into the trip, our vehicle had a problem. Good thing was that we were still close enough to Tana to call a mechanic to come with the parts to fix it.
The breakdown did mean that we spent most of the day waiting for the mechanic to come with the parts and fix the vehicle, so we had to spend that night in Moramanga instead of Tamatave as planned.
The next day we arrived early in Tamatave and had a good rest. We prepared ourselves for the field proper and started early the day after (day 3).
Not long into the dirt road, our vehicle got stuck in the muddy track. We had expected it in the rainy season, but not so soon. In this instance the team pulled together to get the vehicle out of the mud, and we continued.
We couldn’t continue for long unfortunately. Only 10-15 minutes from the first incident, our vehicle got stuck in a worse place. It just couldn’t move this time.
However, we did get to watch a football match between the local teams of teenagers while we waited for some local adults to come help us get the vehicle out of the muddy pit. Chelsea seems to be very popular in this part of the world as almost every player was wearing Chelsea jersey.
It didn’t take long for a group of kind rural Malagasy men to come and literally lift our vehicle out of the muddy pit. However, we decided not to continue further with the vehicle. This meant finding porters to carry our stuffs.
Of course finding porters at reasonable rate in the middle of the road wasn’t easy. They knew we were in trouble and we needed them more than they needed our money. The haggling was intense and after more than an hour, we finally came to an agreement. It was another 30 minutes before we were ready to continue.
We finally started our walk towards Miarinarivo with 10 porters carrying our stuffs, a couple more than we had expected but that was part of the game having to find porters in the middle of the road.
It didn’t take long to realise that we had made the right call in sending our vehicle back and continuing on foot.
On the way we had to cross a river on these bamboo rafts, and when they were even a bit overloaded, you would be standing (or sitting) on flooded raft.
This was certainly a busy river crossing as there were lots of people travelling in either direction - to or away from Miarinarivo.
The cattle had to walk and swim across the river while their handlers chose the dry-ish option.
The raftman seemed quite pleased at seeing himself on my phone screen, of course he had no idea that I was taking a selfie at the same time :).
After about three hours’ walk, we were approaching Miarinarivo.
The muddy track to Miarinarivo passes along several hilltops.
After a night’s rest in Miarinarivo, our team was planning to walk to Antenina commune centre the next day. We couldn’t find the required number of porters within our budget however, so only Alex and I decided to travel the next day (day 4) to Antenina with two porters. We planned to send porters from the village for Nilsen & Tata, our remaining team members, and to carry rest of our stuffs the next day. While those left in Miarinarivo were still waiting to move towards Antenina the day after (day 5), Alex & I started towards our destination - Sahavazina fokontany.
After such a hard work (and walk) to reach our study site, it felt great to see such a beautiful landscape - made it feel all worth the trouble.
The landscape is beautiful but that also means getting around is rather tough, especially when the villages are on the other side of high hills.