BAREFOOT HOOPS

There are some things that will forever remain a mystery of the universe. Like how Tony Abbott ever become Prime Minister of Australia or George W. Bush serving two administrations. These events can be brought down to human error (or a lack of fight from the people for the people since voting is just a stage show to bring in the puppets).

But one of life’s greatest mysteries that boggle my mind is how is it that out of all the toes on the human foot, we’ll systematically stub the smallest? I mean, the big toe is a big toe, hence the scientific name behind it. The pinkie, smallest of the toe family, should never be the one to get stubbed. Physically, it just doesn’t make sense. It’s right at the end of the foot and is shorter than the rest of its team yet it seems to take multiple hits for the group.

So when I walked along the beach of Andavadoaka, a remote, beach-side fishing village, and smashed my left pinkie toe into the sand-covered rock, I sucked in all available oxygen in my vicinity to not scream out as some locals were watching.

Like it wasn’t enough that on the approach to the beach I had slipped on the deck of San Miguel and, to catch my fall, I managed to sprain my pinkie on my right hand.

Now, I was diagonally pinkie challenged.

P1090081 P1090085I limped past wooden huts with flimsy fences built straight into the sand, admiring the graffiti art of an artist named Cortez who is a resident of Reunion Island. He comes by every few months to paint a new mural on a building. He also buys the old sails off the fishermen. He paints on the old sails and with the money he makes selling them, buys the fishermen new sails.

We passed the two schools where the kids had just finished their day of studies and ran up to greet the white man that had come to visit them, yelling out ‘Salama’ and giggling and hiding from Francois and myself.

But it was when we came across the basketball court that I could go no further. I stopped, stood and watched as kids of all ages gathered by the court, ready to play in flip-flops or barefoot a game which I love. But I haven’t hit the courts for almost two years.

“You want to go play hoops?” Francois asked, sensing that I indeed, wanted to go play hoops.

“Yes,” I replied wishfully.

“I’ll see you at the bar then, when you’re done.”

P1090092I walked over to the court and said, “Bonjour.”

There was a bit of an awkward silence. I didn’t speak French and no one spoke English. I watched the first game, learning tell-tale moves of the players. I was allowed to join a team that gave me a look of, ‘Why are we stuck with this fool?’

I felt like Woody Harelson in White Men Can’t Jump when he firsts hustles Wesley Snipes’s character. Except I was hitting the court barefoot.

 

I knew I would pay for it the following day. I always returned a broken man from the courts. Especially barefoot.

Especially with a smashed pinkie toe.

The first time the ball was passed to me the crowd laughed and hooted like I was the biggest joke around. And perhaps I was. I wondered if these kids had ever seen a white man play ball. I was no NBA draft contender, but I was never picked last for any basketball team once my abilities were known.

And after I ran an offensive that lead to a basket the laughing was substituted for jaws dropping in awe and respect. I held our team in for three games before my feet begged me to stop. My lungs were supporting my feets decision and I thanked the kids as I tried my best not to limp off towards the beach-side bar.

I had landed quite badly after a lay-up.

The next day the San Miguel crew returned to the village and split up. Manu went to do his laundry, Francois hiked 18 K’s to see some Baobab trees while I hung around the Coco Beach Hotel listening to Madison’s explanation of the Blue Ventures project in the village.P1090151

Blue Ventures is a UK-based not-for-profit organisation that has some projects running around the world. The ‘volunteers’ that pay 5,000 Euros for the six week program in Madagascar help collect scientific data of the marine life, teach the locals not to over fish, allowing the fish and octopus to grow to their full size before harvesting them.

They also run a sea cucumber farm that fetches quite the penny in the Asian market. They supply employment opportunities for the locals and teach English at the school on Saturdays while during the week they’ll do morning dives (those that aren’t certified can get certified through the program).

It’s a great program and the village has benefited immensely from it. Francois and I had lunch at the hotel (there weren’t many options for places to eat in the village) and had a beer at the bar on the beach as we waited for Lisa and Bill, a husband and wife team that are contracted for a year with Blue Ventures.

They had been invited to see the boat as they were thinking of joining San Miguel from Namibia as their contract ended in May.

By the time evening hit, Manu and I raised the storm anchor, made dinner and sailed through the night as we headed south to the last major city on Madagascar – Tulear where we were too spend 3-4 days stocking up on supplies, saying ‘Au revoir’ to Manu and meeting and collecting an Aussie girl and her Spanish partner for the crossing of the Mozambique Channel to South Africa.

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Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Madagascar, Sailing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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