With Love From Madagascar

With Love From Madagascar

By Alpkit>

Last year we supported The Shipwrecked Rambler, Klara Harden on a solo trip through Iceland from which she produced the film Made in Iceland. This year she has another film in the making, but first she must complete the cycle journey through Madagascar whilst visiting a number of charity and conservation organisations along the way.

Klara Harden (24), cinematographer and photographer from Austria and Karsten Pruehl (28), filmmaker from Berlin, Germany are now in Madagascar in order to make an adventure documentary that is both an exciting beautifully shot story and a pleading for protecting the nature. In their film "WITH LOVE FROM MADAGASCAR" they will cycle through the island for two months and visit national parks, several conservation and charity programs, interview scientists and experts about the environmental issues of the island. Harden and Pruehl call their film an eco-adventure documentary in which both try to find out if there is still a way to save the island, or if it will end in the year 2050 having lost all of its natural source and social substance as some scientists foresee.

One of the most unique places on earth is definitely the great island of Madagascar. By a size not really bigger than France Madagascar inhabits 5% of all species in the world. Unfortunately over 90% of its original rainforest has been destroyed into an unrecoverable state hand in hand with the extinction of most wonderful and unique creatures. But what has been left is worth to be discovered and even more worth to be protected.

Klara Harden and Karsten Prühl start their tour and making of the film around Madagascar with mixed experiences. Here's a short excerptfrom Karsten's logbook as they set off.

Before I started this journey, I've been overwhelmed by my self-made idea of Madagascar appearing to be a cradle of life. Life. What is life at all if not some kind of idea, a magnitude, that builds shapes and forms with matter flowing through it like water through a river that manages to keep its form, although constantly moving...

Funny: we had a coffee in Café la Gare - the guarded place for white and rich people in central Tana - only because they have internet for free. Suddenly we got to know scientific journalist Franziska Badenschier. Surprisingly she already knew our project and she recognised us after a second of melting the ice. She is focussed on the island's environmental circumstances, writes an interesting and detailed blog diary about her travels in Madagascar and - best - was willing to give us an interview about her work, life and opinion on environmental issues. She was also great in giving us hints and valuable information. Chances opened up, and she led us to an analytic talk with her colleague and friend Uwe Birkel from Tana's university. Uwe teaches Malagassy students to communicate tourism at the university in Tana. For us, he opened the doors for a refreshing insight into the upcoming generation of Madagascar's international future. His actual group of students talk excellent German and are very ambitious in their field. Neither Klara nor me expected such great contacts, information, friends and experiences. A very very good start...

After arriving in the small stinky little town of Ranomafana at the RN2, we were hungry like hell. A chinese restaurant was supposed to feed us. First, I thought the meal to be well done and ordered another plate full of pork. While writing about that pork my stomach feels provoked. After an hour and back in our dusty bungalow I noticed a change. After two hours, I turned upside down. Probably, it was a mixture between some kind of sunstroke and poisoned food. Nevertheless, Klara did a great job in caring for me, but couldn't prevent me from spreading my internal organs into the awkward garden of our housekeeper. How much did I sleep? I don't remember. Most relaxation came from these feel-free seconds after the. I think you got the point.

Elliptic story telling… I wait for a café. In front of me lies Madagascar, the sea, a small Monkey Island coral bay, coco nut trees, white beach with gentle grey stones on which dark blue mudskippers make their day. Cycads smatter their incisive songs, attendes by the humming of the waves and the seagull background singers. A coffee brown attractive young woman with charming smile brings me a coffee rarefied on a mirror of mild Nosy Be rum and sugar. Its dawn. The sky… you know the picture.

A group of weird French tourists in a hotel called "Nirvana" in Ambila-Levahitsu turned out to be a group of courageous French doctors. They spend the two months of their official vacation in a zone that got hit hard by a cyclone. Instead of hanging up and drinking coco cocktails, they treat around 100 people a day in a broken hospital. Their project "Sahambala" founded by Pierre Fournier is run without any political ambition.

Desinfection with that antiseptic creme from Pierre had a promising effect. Then plaster on it. After some hours, we've had left no thought on that little circumstance. Instead, we met two thought-provoking German men. One was a travelling carpenter who lived in Madagascar for some years, and one a breakaway - a sixty-year-old man who looked and lived like Herman Toothroot with an extraordinary life story and a long indri-fur-like beard.

Following the advice of both German friends, we met sixty-year-old Valer. He is a creole and the owner of a wooden beach house in which we stayed for just around eight euros a night. He cooked perfect meals as much as we could eat. Having some time off was good for repairing the broken tyre of Klara's bike and clear the chain and wheels of the sand. We gained strength for our four-day nonstop ride to Manumpana - the last stop before Maronsetra. That certain wound has been forgotten already. The treatment should have been much more regulary. The possibilities were there, thanks to the doctors. We didn't know what sorrowful times would come...

Easy road, easy going. Rolling the tropics. 80 kilometres a day was the goal. After around 40 km, Klara's knee started to hurt. It got worse within that day, and we had several stops and arguments about the necessary distance between our bikes until we finally made it to Fenenerive because we had to. We stayed in an efficiently run road movie motel ("Hotel Croix") and had food in a dirty, shabby Chinese joke of a restaurant, where we met a strange dark skin chinese-like man.

The next day became the hardest day yet. Twenty kilometres through sand and wetlands. We could only push or pull the bike constantly for hours. A stop at high noon to cook some noodles and a short siesta on banana leaves gave us the strength for the final phase. Klara's knee was crushed, her ankles were bleeding and the wound she got from the mussels days ago started to burn and glow red. Yet we had to continue before dusk.

The next day started in hope and ended up in uncommon darkness. The main road became a sand beach. The nation's main road: Just sand. What the… The sunset approached us while we ran out of water. Deciding to camp in a hidden place seemed to be the only option. Just when we started to set up the tent, a 19-year-old boy appeared out of nowhere. He warned us about bandits around and lead us through the bumpy area. It turned out that he had just come from school, where he had been learning some French and English. There, in the darkness, the most wonderful magic moment happened. Thousands and more fireflies rushed through the bushes like bright road signs. I've never seen something like that before and probably never will. After setting over a river with the last ferry of the day made possible by that boy, we made it to some shabby bungalows, thanked the boy as good as we could and fell asleep.

In the blink of an eye, while I write these lines, she sleeps in the nice, clean and secure bungalow of the wonderful hotel La Crique. Luck and, unfortunately, are twin sisters. At least we are not in that stinky - by spiders and centipedes encountered - chicken coop of Ranomafana where I had my sunstroke ten days ago. The great and caring manager of "La Crique" organises some penicillin. Both last endless dodgy two days must have weakened Klaras' immune system too much. I hope she'll recover…

Writing this logbook turns out to be more difficult and exhausting as expected. First, you need the internet. Can't get it everywhere. Second, you need time. But we have lots of stuff to do, go to, organise, images reviewing, video checking, copying. Third, you need muse. And a bit of silence. Since so many things happen and are willing to be discovered, the muse becomes a rare source.

It was very scary. Klara was fevering. She couldn't move; her legs hurt and were burning. The manager of the place we have been was a big help. He got us penicillin. It helped to recover the wound, but also emerged some depression and digestion problems. We were stuck in paradise. Sick and afraid. But in all evil, the seed of good finds a hideout to raise.

It got even worse. The phone and internet connection of all islands of Saint Marie broke down. Because of that, it was impossible to get money from the banks. Next, the shipping company changed plans. That led us to not be able to get to Masoala National park. Ile Saint Marie became our dead end for the first half of our journey. Something good in something bad: The manager of Hotel La Crique gave us a very sophisticated interview about ecotourism and the way Madagascar works.

We hopped on our bikes and had the most beautiful road views ever. Except for some hills that nearly killed untrained Johannes, most of the time it was rolling down the highlands. Beauty all around. It was captivating. Every good inhabits something bad. The bad thing that we experienced was that we didn't make it to our shelter of choice. Instead, right after dark - taxi brousses are the natural enemies of bikers especially at night - we made it into a stinky little village where a Monsieur Joseph offered us his only little rathole for an unfair price.

About the project

The entire project was financed by crowdfunding. Over 160 people supported the project and thanks to sponsors as WIFI Steiermarkand a film funding of the cultural department of Styria CineArt the project was made possible.
Additionally solar panels from the Berlin based company Changers will get them some extra energy. Klara's father Gerhard Harden and Gianfranco Vallese built a dynamo on one of the bikes connected to a 3,8kg lead-acid battery that will give them the possibility to even charge a small notebook and - most importantly - camera batteries. Triple2 from Germany supplied them with sportive clothes for their bike rides and thanks to Alpkit they have great outdoor equipment such as sleeping bags, outdoor crockery and really really good dry bags that help to protect the technical equipment from humidity.

Read the full version of Karsten's loogbook entry along with more great images on With Love from Madagascar.

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