Okay, so when will this ever end or maybe, how will this end?
The road to Manja takes anywhere from 7 to 10 hours depending on, well, the road and a small ferry crossing across the Mangoky river. We were expecting much worse but the Chinese have come in and “fixed” some of the bad parts (we were told there are precious stones in the area, hmmm and surprise surprise!) so there was a few times where you could actually travel at about 40-50 km/hr. There were many treacherous parts where the rocks were huge and scattered for kms, there were deep water filled creeks to cross and some heavy sand in areas but overall, not bad. There is one river crossing and it is a crossing we will soon not forget. As you approach the river the white sand gets deep, very deep towards the river’s edge so you keep the wheel hubs locked, stay in 4 low 4×4 and give her shit so you don’t get stuck and end up paying 25 people $250 to get you out. Joyce got out of the vehicle before I attempted the ferry loading. First, she was afraid she would go down with the truck, and second, we needed to have this on video to show how adept I am navigating the most challenging situations presented to me or, totally blowing it! LOL! It was a blast and I probably gave the truck a little too much oomph as I became slightly airborne after hitting the ramps a little too fast.
I was quite proud of myself. I can’t say I’ve met many people who have done this and I didn’t go flying off of the other side of the barge so, success.
The barge is moved completely by manpower. There were several men in the river, ropes in hand who pulled the barge to the other side where we made a smooth exit onto dry land.
We continued on for another 80 kms negotiating the ever changing road conditions through bush, mud, shallow creeks and rocks until we finally arrived in Manja, our pit top for the evening before continuing on to Belo-sur-Mer in the morning.
Manja is a small dusty town with one hotel and a new hotel annex where we stayed for the night. It was very basic accommodation. We had skinny barbecue chicken with pomme frites and a few cold beers before calling it an evening.
After a fitful nights sleep we proceeded onward for the 5 hour, 90 km journey to Belo-sur-Mer.
The timing of our arrival was important because the lodge is surrounded by tidal flats so the only times you can access the lodge is during low tide. The sand was quite deep as we neared the lodge so our anxiety level rose but we made it without incident.