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July 30, 2003

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Less than 20% of Madagascar's roads are paved; the rest are dirt tracks. The road from Toliara to Ranohira, running from the southwest coast thru the center of Madagascar, is supposed to be the country's best. We saw that this means asphalt lies between the potholes. To make matters worse, our vehicle was falling apart. It cost us $20 to hire a minivan for the five hour journey. The sliding door almost slid off its hinges. The driver stopped to talk with everyone along the road and he also picked up a lot of hitch hikers. Twenty kilometers before we reached our destination he pulled over and sent us on our way with another taxi. This taxi decided not to complete the journey either, asking us to switch cars yet again to a relative's vehicle that also happened to be going our way.
The most popular form of Madagascar transport is the "taxi-brousse" or bush taxi. This term covers any transport form that is not a bus or mini-bus. If you can't fit in the back, ride on top.
For short distance treks around town, the "pousse-pousse" provides an alternative to walking. Although "pousse-pousse" means "push-push," these carts are really "pull-pull" carts, a legacy left by chinese workers brought over to build railroads and internal infastructure. The pousse-pousse pullers must pay a daily fee to the cart owners, so they literally mob pedestrians for business. If you aren't in a cart, at least one pousse-pousse driver will trail you around town. The fare, about 15 cents per kilometer, doubles in the rain.