When Life Kicks Sand In Your Face


by | Jul 17, 2016

July 16 – 18, 2016

…go swimming and rinse it off. Feeling the need to escape the buzz of Diego, I cycled up to the quaint beach town of Ramena. It lies 19k to the east on a peninsula jutting out into clear, emerald water. My plan was to follow some “secondary roads” around the peninsula before settling in at a bungalow for the night. Thus far the secondary roads have been some of the highlights. Bust.

Leaving the broken pavement, I turned onto the secondary road. It was sand. All sand. I assumed (hoped) it would change. Two km in…still sand. It was only 10 km across the peninsula and I foolishly thought that if I kept going, it would change. That thought was based on nothing more than hope. Foolish. Some parts would tilt down hill slightly and I would try to pedal and surf my 80lb bike through the sand before washing out the front wheel and nearly crashing. Shake the sand out of my shoes. Start pushing. The road would go back uphill, crushing my confidence while I resumed the dragging of my anchor through ankle swallowing, energy sucking powder. Repeat. I reached the half way point, which I rationalized was too late to turn around. I refused to admit that I made a mistake. It was much easier to just keep going. The east side of the peninsula would surely be better. Surely. I slogged my way to the east coast and turned north. Still sand. I figured I would go north 1 more kilometer. If it was still sand, I would tuck my tail and retreat. Two hours later, tail tucked snuggly between my legs, ego bruised, energy gone..I arrived back at the pavement. Time to swim.

If you’re a kite surfer, Ramena is your Xanadu. There are advertisements for it everywhere. The sun is always out. The wind always blows. The water is clear.  The sand is…everywhere. Unfortunately for me, I like bikes so this is lost on me but it is still gorgeous here and better than being in the city of Diego.

The next day, I awoke recharged and set out to hike Montagne des Francais (French Mountain). It is officially a protected area and gets its name from the memorial to the French and Malagasy killed during the allied invasion in 1942. At the top are the dilapidated remains of an old French fort offering amazing panoramic views of the peninsula.

The first kilometer was a grown over double track path. I hate walking. Is this bikeable I wondered? If the first kilometer was any indication, I would say so. I headed back down to the base to fetch my skinnied out Karate Monkey, stripped clean of all the baggage that was left in my bungalow. Now it’s just a mountain bike. I began pedaling and quickly caught several tour groups who looked expectedly shocked to see a bicycle on the trail. My experience in Madagascar has been pretty much that nobody really cares. They may think you’re crazy, but…eh…whatever.  You’ll figure it out.

Admittedly, there were a few sections that required carrying my bike up some rocky areas, but weighing only 35lbs fully stripped, it was almost a pleasure. Thirty minutes later, I reached the base of the fort and would need to climb through a series of 100m long tunnels carved through the rock, in order to reach the summit.

The grown over and weathered fort was barely recognizable as such, but the panoramic views of the emerald sea were nothing short of spectacular. I scampered back through the tunnels to find my bike just where I left it, ready for the descent. With a warm breeze blowing, I rolled joyfully down the flowing trail, past the gate where the guard never even looked up, to the pavement, and straight back to the beach to rinse off the sand…but not my smile.




Dragging an anchor…


Small road leading down to Ramena


Trails and views like this make me smile, especially on a bike


Bikes win



100m long tunnels carved through the rock to reach the fort


Remains of one of the fort walls


Views from the fort



Kiddos are always the best part of the day.  Impossible not to smile

Get the Book

The World Spins By is an intimate journey of loss, curiosity, and love—recounted one pedal stroke at a time along Jerry’s two-year bicycle journey back to himself. 


  1. For the win!

  2. Sand equals a 5″ fat bike. I hope you are carrying some whiskey with you at least…

  3. Glad you made it! Sand makes everything harder.

  4. Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing!!

  5. Beautiful!