Bridge? What Bridge?
At 6:15 one morning last week, I awoke to a loud noise like five tons of loose rock being dumped racously from a large truck made of bass drums. The house quaked slightly. Despite all this, and the fact that dump trucks made of bassdrums are either rare or completely improbable, I quickly decided on that unlikely answer to my what was that(?). I went back to sleep.
Roughly two hours later, I stumbled downstairs to purchase my usual: a yogurt and a smal pack of tiny sweet oyster crackers.
"Have you seen the bridge?," asked my yogurt-peddling landlord like a Malagasy Led Zeppelin impersonator. I hadn't, but his following phrase, "it's fallen," piqued my interest. I wandered up the street with yogurt in tow.
The Bridge is a beast of concrete and steel that spans about 80 meters of river. Installed by the French at the tailend of their colonial rule, this structure has been supporting a range of travellers, from the likes of ducks up to huge gas tankers, on their cross-river voyages for over fourty years. The bridge sits at the very northern end of the still terrible road from the provincial capitol of Tamatave, some 450 kilometers to the south.
A crowd of people stood and stared. I crested a small hill and couldn't believe what I was seeing: half of the bridge was no more - sunken like a Titanic in the river, a twisted wreck. I ate some yogurt, contemplating what this meant for myself and my Malagasy friends. As for me, carless and having no real economic ties to this particular structure, my life will not change so much. No more easy jogs to the beach. My Italian friend, Bruno, a tour operator, stood beside his little moto with an ironic smile on his face, sucking on a nervous cigarette. Bruno and his business partner had just this year opened a new tourist office on the OTHER side of the bridge, where most of the nice hotels are. But, he, like most of the townspeople, lived on THIS side. We talked. I ate some more yogurt. Was anybody hurt?
Actually, no. It's a curious story. A man on a bicycle made his way across the bridge alone and made it almost across, when one of the bridge's heavy concrete supports just... gave way, crumpling half the bridge. He slid back down the new 45 degree angle and plunged into the water, scrambled then bikeless to safety. It was in deed the man on the bicycle that broke the camel's back cliche played out in startling reality. Bruno shook his head. A new daily commute by canoe for Bruno, and everybody else. I finished my yogurt giggling. Oh, Madagascar!
We shall see how long this repair takes. COLAS, the company with the contract to pave the road from Tamatave, is about 35 bridges to the south. Most of them need replacement.
In other news, I spent a week on the beautiful island of Nosy Managabe for work. I helped to map tourist trails, went whale watching. A beautiful series of weeks, with good friends, good work.
In Tana now for a conference. Miss you, fair reader.