Bryan Adams and the open road
When I was growing up, my family used to take summer road trips in a giant motorhome borrowed from my grandfather. During these family vacations, my brother and I fought about many things, one of which was who got to sit up front with Daad. And in those days, my family owned only one cassette tape – Bryan Adams’ So Far So Good, which looped endlessly year after year as we drove from Edmonton to Vancouver to Montreal.
So, roadtrips, for me, are about watching the world from the front seat of a van while listening to such musical masterpieces as Cuts Like a Knife.
Surprisingly, road travel in Madagascar has been much the same. My brother isn’t here but there are no shortage of people to fight with over the front seat.
There are no bus companies in Madagascar and all travel is done by bush taxi, converted minivans that are stuffed with at least three times as many people as they are designed to hold. The most comfortable seat is the front seat. Although distances are short, travel times are long. It is not unusual, for example, for a 300 kilometer journey to take over 24 hours. As such , passengers will fight hard to secure even a small advantage in the seating arrangement. The front seat has an actual seat cushion (rather than an overturned box), ample legroom, and a head rest. Although there are no real schedules and bush taxis only leave when they are full, passengers often try to reserve the front seat weeks in advance. And competing bush taxi companies try to lure passengers to their vans by offering the front seat, sometimes promising it to several different people and rescinding the promise to all but one at the last minute.
Last week, I scored a major win and landed the front seat for an eight-hour journey. Shortly after we pulled out of the bush taxi station, the driver began blaring a Bryan Adams CD. I felt like I was 12 years old again.