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Blog from MBP Volunteer, Steph


Cramming 35 people (albeit including children) in a van meant for 15 people, getting sick, having a chicken pop out from under the seat between your feet- Anyone that has traveled in Madagascar, I mean genuinely traveled (no renting a car business) knows the wonderful, horrible, one of a kind experience on a taxi-brousse. A taxi-brousse is a large van with four rows of seats that are meant to fit three people but most of the time they squeeze in four, but sometimes even five! Personal space is non-existent. Each brousse has its own rear-view mirror decoration that bobbles in front of the window, I’ve seen Chinese lanterns, koala bears, santa claus dolls, anything you can imagine! The people of Madagascar rely on these “mini-buses” to get to the market, go home to see their family, etc.; they go all around the country with no exact schedule. All you have to do is stand on the side of the road and wait for one to pass, wave it down, and make sure they’re going where you wanna go.

I was in the front seat, next to the driver, happily listening to one of my favorite songs and enjoying watching the beautiful day outside. It was like a gun went off inside the guys stomach, he threw up all over me and the driver. Sasa (a MBP reforestation volunteer) started shouting, “Steph, Steph, what’s that white stuff in your hair??” I knew there was nothing I could really do at that point. So, I just laughed at how ridiculous the situation was. The driver stopped to clean himself off, and the man sitting next to me helped me get the excess chunks out of my hair. Apparently Sasa said all the Malagasy people sitting around the poor man were swatting him in the head for vomiting everywhere.

My first trip to Fianar however, was not so funny. I got sick that time. Four of us volunteers decided to go, we waited down by the road at 5:30 am. At 6:30, a nice, luxury style brousse went flying by in the other direction. It slammed on the breaks, turned around, and the driver asked where we wanted to go. We said Fianar, and he told us to hop in. “What luck!” we thought, “how nice of him” we thought. It. Was. The. Worst. Ride. Of. My. Life. He turned up the Malagasy music as loud as possible, I could feel the bass vibrating through my stomach. He flew around the many turns before Ranomafana National Park. He jammed the breaks on and off. My seat wasn’t securely screwed in the bottom, so I kept getting thrown into the seat in front of me. The lady in front of us was throwing up out the window on our left incessantly. I tried not to look, I tried to think about other things, I tried to hold it in, but couldn’t take it anymore, luckily I was prepared with a bag though. We finally made it to Fianar, and I was just grateful we didn’t die.

On my most recent ride, I was sitting in the front row and I kept feeling something bump against my ankle. I thought maybe it was just the person behind me trying to stretch their legs a bit. Then I felt the feathers and all of a sudden, a chicken popped out between my feet. I said “Aza fady!” (excuse me) and Theoluc, one of the simus guides, picked him up and gave him back to the owner sitting behind us. It was a funny surprise.

Cramming forty people and their chickens in one brousse is pretty standard. One time I even saw saw two pigs strapped to the top once. It’s definitely an entertaining experience to say the least. If you want the true Mada experience, you have to ride at least one taxi-brousse!


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