The eighth continent

I feel out of practice with travel, my mind seems a little fuzzy, a little slow. The lessons from past travel experiences buzzing somewhere in the background…”Look at the man next to you how he’s edging himself towards you. Look how the man across the aisle nods towards him. Look at your seating position, you’re boxed in. You feel asleep for a moment, did he put something in your drink…” But the voices are incoherent and they lag further and further behind as I travel from place to place, struggling to keep up with the minibus driving a 100km/hr down a clay road; more of a sculptor’s creation than an engineers’.

But there were problems from the beginning…

The machine refuses to spit out my boarding pass and baggage tickets. “You must have made a mistake”, the assistant comes over helpfully. He enters the same information, same problems. “Where you going?” “Madagascar”. A befuddled look creeps onto his face as he tries to work out where in the world that is (somehow I expected more from someone working at the airport). “Oh, Africa” he says at last. “Yeah, that’s why. Go see the counter”. Hmm…a little ominous, but okay. Fortunately I pass through no problems.

I have little more than 20 minutes to make my connection. I run with my bags flailing painfully at my sides, aggravating an already aggravated hip. I get to international security. “Fuck! I already start trying to recollect the phone number of the insurance company for missed flights/connections”. But little more than 10 minutes later and I’m through! Despite all the camera gear, batteries, and solar panels there are no red flags. Thank Canadian customs! I run off a little too eagerly and someone from the security desk shouts. “Hey mister”… I turn around, a slight dread forming in the pit of my stomach. “Your hat”. I smile and feeling a little like Indiana Jones I grab my hat and run to the boarding gate, arriving at the final call. All aboard, I settle into my seat. I watch the little plane with its dashed trail inching along the map to Paris, sit back and tilt the hat forward to sleep.

We arrive into Madagascar at 12:00am. The air is cooler than to be expected of an equatorial island. A barrage of taxi drivers assuage me as I exit the gate. I cut my way through all of them and pick one of the less persistent ones, offering nothing but a cursory nod as though I knew the fellow all along and he’d been waiting for me. I get in and the cheap, decent hotels all being full I arrive at a scuzzy one. About twice the going rate of the others. I collect myself, go through my bags taking out everything that I’ll need in the next couple of days. Putting stuff away in the drawers I’m struck: to the left a bible, to the right a pack of condoms…maybe I’ll sleep on the floor.

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