Madagascar Notes

I am not a writer, but here are a few notes from my trip to Madagascar:

Madagascar has been an adventure so far, but no Nothing like the movie.
And for the people that keep asking, only seen one Lemur so far, did I mention it's Nothing like the movie.

It has been long days driving through villages and towns and rolling landscape, mostly rice fields. So yes I have shot A Few rice fields, did I mention I have shot A Few rice fields.
Pig markets, traditional markets large and small, hand made brick houses littering the hillsides, cattle (herds of them taking over the road), and more….

The people are wonderful and friendly, and of course when the big white guy stops on the side of the road to shoot rice fields, the whole village comes running asking for candy, food, money, clothing (one girl kept on wanting me to give her t-shirts out of my luggage?) empty water bottles, really they'll take anything.

The food, well it's bread, butter, jam, cheese and more bread, butter, jam and cheese. Seems the French have brainwashed them into only eat bread, butter, jam and cheese. For every meal? yes every meal.

I was originally driving South for 2 more days and had a one way flight back to Antananarivo. Air Madagascar pushed the flight by 9 hours, and I was already driving one day just to make the flight. So my crazy driver, Charlie, and I decided cut 2 days off driving south and I am driving back to Antananarivo with him instead.

Tomorrow flying off to the West Coast of the Island for more real long rough drives to the Rock Forest, and maybe a couple of Lemurs. As long as Air Madagascar does screw with those flights too much?

Excuse my rambling and wording, but lack of sleep and comfort has been a challenge as usual on these trips. And I am constantly trying to remember french, learn weird words in Malagasy and decipher the english from the few that actually do kinda speak english. (like my crazy driver Charlie). I saw an older robust woman with a 15kg Tuna fish on her head, answering her cell phone.

Is a small cart made from salvaged pieces of wood, wire, metal. These carts are used to transport just about anything you can imagine. Young boys/men can be seen pushing them up hills and flying down the other side. They are used in the city and out in the countryside. Brings back memories of our childhoods, bashing together whatever we could to make our carts to fly down the hills.

Avenue of the Baobabs:
Just outside of the sleepy coast town of Morondava is The Avenue of the Baobabs. These beautiful ancient Baobab trees are not actually trees, they are a succulent plant and consist of fiber and water. Many over 800 years old, they tower sparingly over the barren landscape. Their nickname is “Upside-down Tree” as roots seem to sprout out from tops.

Tsingy Bemeraha National Park:
A very rough 200 kilometer drive from the west coast of Madagascar to the Stone Forest of Tsingy Bemeraha National Park, takes us 10 hours and 2 ferry boats. In over 40 degree celsius heat with an old 4x4 truck and no air conditioning.

The evening heat brings a long, loud thunder and lightning show with torrential rains. With little sleep for myself, guide and driver, we leave at 4 am for the forest. An even more treacherous road of only 20 kilometers takes over one hour.

With the help of a local guide, Mr. TaTa, and my guide, we trek into the forest, climb multiple ladders, crawl through caves, up and down sharp, slippery rock. Attaching ourselves to cables along the way for safety, we have climbed over 70 meters for views down into the sharp stone forest.

And yes, I did finally see a few lemurs, from a distance, also a mongoose, forest rat and several other strange and odd creatures...

The sad fact is the forests and landscape is being burned by the locals, so they can plant rice/vegetables to survive. Filling the air with smoke and destroying the environment and the wildlife.

The colonial capital city of Antananarivo is built on rolling hills with narrow streets and alleys in every direction, full of old European romance. Purple-Blue Jacaranda trees line the streets in full blossom. Unfortunately it’s not safe the walk the streets, because of the pickpockets and thieves.

The traffic is another unpredictable adventure, it can happen at any time, there is no schedule. I ask about traffic lights? I am informed that the city put traffic lights up, but the people tore them down and scavenged the parts and pieces. It is amazing that you can actually get anywhere, eventually! And, there is no road rage?

I survived Madagascar, it certainly was a challenge and a very interesting adventure. The people are wonderful, the country colourful, to say the least...

But it is “N O T H I N G” like the movie.


Jane said…
What an incredible, experiential adventure, Albert! You paint an intriguing picture of past and present. My favourite is the robust woman carrying a 15kg tuna atop head, then answering her cell phone. Such a shame they are burning the primordial forest to make way for more rice fields. One would think all that peanut butter and jam would offset the need for rice. I've not seen the "movie" but you can bet those who created "it" didn't see the "country". Be well, my friend, and safe travels.
I wish I knew who Yane is or how to contact, the person who left this wonderful comment. Thank you...