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195 2012 Madaga sCar In October 2012, one of Herbert‘s cherished dreams finally comes true: as part of a testing tour with the brand new BMW R 1200 GS he and his team travel across the magic island for four weeks. Much on Madagascar is unique. Since the country se- parated from the original continent Gondwana some 180 million years ago, it lies in absolute isolation off the eastern coast of Africa. A botanical and wildlife miracle, nowhere else on this earth (other than Australia) is there so much endemic life. The last forests are inhabited by mini chameleons, lemurs (prosimians), giant snakes and poisonous frogs. „Mora, Mora (more haste, less speed)!‘ is the guiding principle of the Madagascans. The 22 mil- lion inhabitants are made up of 18 different tribes. This results in an amazing variety of cultures and traditions. What may seem strange to Europeans is deeply rooted in Madagascan beliefs, for example the cult of the dead, where dead persons are unburied and washed to celebrate lavish feasts. And like the people, the scenery is unique. A range of mountains spreading from north to south divides the 1580 kilomter long island into two climatic halves. The vanilla coast in the northeast is regularly afflicted by tropical hurricanes. This is where vanilla, cloves and pepper grow. Rain forests overgrow the slopes. The wide coastal plains in the west lie amidst dry savannah. The absolute highlight is the famous Baobab avenue at Morondava. The wonderworld of the Tsin- gys can be found in the hot north - densely arranged limestone needles eroded to bizarre stone forests. Elaborate terraces with rice paddies, coffee, tea and cocoa plantations and colorful markets with Zebu cattle round off the picture. The neighboring island Nosy Bé is a small tropi- cal paradise. White dream beaches with palm trees and corral riffs stretch across the horizon. Ylang-Ylang exudes its heady fragrance. Holy crocodiles inhabit the volcanic craters. Wherever the four Vazahas (Malagasy for white people) and their motorbikes appear, they are thronged by inquisitive crowds. The reaction to what must appear like an invasion of aliens, ranges from amazement to pure terror. The routes are more than adventurous: asphalt with potholes, deep enough to swallow an entire front wheel, trails of red laterite, deep sand and dusty washboard. In Antalahe, where all roads end, the bikes are loaded onto a vanilla boat. It is the only way to reach the south unless you want to travel back for 1500 kilometers. The 26-hour stormy crossing along the pirate route begins, including sea-sickness and a hard sleep on sacks full of cocoanuts and charcoal.

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