Saturday, March 2, 2019

Madagascar Part II

We woke up in our tent the next morning, and it was time to get the day started. I don't eat much breakfast, but we were served a nice spread anyway. I stuffed what I could into my mouth, I felt bad for not eating more. Luckily the crew would eat what we didn't so I think they ate pretty well.

The town was buzzing this morning, they had gathered to slaughter a cow. I was taking Instax photos of the kids and giving them out, so I was mobbed by a huge group. It was a lot of fun.

Check out better photos from this trip, especially the butchery part, at my husband's blog.

What a sendoff we got! Then we walked down the muddy banks to our boats, which the crew had already prepared, and climbed back in - next to where the locals were having their morning baths. It was quite an experience, one I will not soon forget. 

The boat wasn't uncomfortable to travel in for hours, even though we were a bit squeezed into it. I could sit with my legs in front of me, cross-legged, or with them under me. There was a thin cushion in between me and the bottom of the wood boat, and it actually didn't get too wet in there. I am lucky to be normal size and weight, I'm sure it could pose problems for others. A lady in the French group (who had refused to give up a few bucks for the local who let us camp on his land behind a fence) had hurt her ankle and was hobbling around. That would be something I wouldn't want to happen out here; luckily we were fine throughout. Even the bugs weren't that bad.

We continued down the river on another lovely day. We were passing through the area where our guide Manda was from. This was an area where some people might face the threat of bandits on the river, but he knew the right people - we would be fine. I'm not sure what to make of what he said; in the end, I'm glad we didn't have that kind of excitement on our trip.

The bats in the cave above were one of the wildest things I saw when I was in Madagascar. The above is a crop of the shot I took, shown below, which was the view from the boat. They were amazing. Madagascar doesn't have any large predators, and it's nothing like the treacherous land of Australia. There aren't plants and insects and animals here that can kill people.

There was plenty to see on the river. I wasn't bored at all even though our boatman had to spend hours guiding us. We'd find out later that it would take him nearly three times as long to make it back upriver - we were obviously going with the current. While we saw the other tourist boat that had shadowed us the day before, we didn't see many other people the second day. Just a smattering of other tourists and their boat crews.

We came to the next place where we'd camp. While there were a handful of folks hanging around to check us out, the majority of the town was probably about two miles away. There were more children here, as friendly as ever. My husband ended up turning over his tablet to them for a while; they sat in a group, mesmerized by WALL-E.

A few adults were around to 'welcome' us as well. This guy just had a chameleon on a stick, but it was a nice gesture - we got some good photos. We had dinner around a campfire, there was some singing and dancing, and then we slept in our tent again.

In the morning, it was time to pick up the camp and get going. The villagers had brought in some animal friends to help transport us and our stuff to the village, where there were roads. We would be meeting a 4x4 and a driver there. Until then, we had to get there.

Striking scenes in the camp in the morning. We had our breakfast, again a small affair, as other tourists did their thing and the crews got busy. We helped pick up our stuff, and get it all packed so it could be loaded onto the ox carts.

Meanwhile, in the other direction, a peaceful scene as mist came off the river in the light of sunrise.

Like many other places in Madagascar, there were some cool kids around to survey the scene.

 The view from the road, below, though unfortunately I didn't manage to get any photos of the traffic jam - when two ox carts going in opposite directions met on a narrow stretch of path, nor all the people, seemingly accompanying us for no real reason. In the end, I disembarked fromthe ox cart and just walked. I was happy with my choice, though I did it barefoot due to the Malagasy mud.

We did start to see some baobab trees on this walk though, which was very cool.

We got into the village, and I realized it had been a few days since I'd seen any kind of land-based vehicle, which was pretty incredible. We'd also hardly seen any motorized boats - thought admittedly there were a few. It was time to get back on the road and say goodbye to the river.

After a short stint in the car, it wasn't long before we came upon another river and quickly learned about how vehicles cross rivers here... it's another amazing affair in Madagascar, a place with very few bridges. In the end, we'd find that it was standard to affix a unch of plywood as a platform to some boats. A boatman would stand at the end of one of those boats at the corner of the platform, and use a motor to drive the thing around once vehicles and people were piled on to capacity - or until he'd been paid enough.

Part III coming soon

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