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Pictures of our Madagascar trip –
part 2: Miandrivazo-Morondava (Baobabs)-Antsirabe-Fianarantsoa-Ambalavao (Lemurs)
Madagascar part 1: Tamatave-Andasibe (Lemurs)-Antananarivo-Antsirabe-Miandrivazo
Madagascar part 3: Ambalavao-Isalo N.P.-Tuléar-Ranomafana (Lemurs)-R.N.7-Antananarivo
Madagascar part 4: Antananarivo-Ankadibe (Lemurs)-Andasibe-Manambato-Foulpointe-Tamatave
Madagascar Map
         Map of the Indian Ocean
latest picture: October 17, 2011
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076  We approach Morondava at the
West coast: Cylindrically shaped Baobab
trees, also called bottle trees, (Adansonia grandidieri) loom already on the horizon
077  How insignificant are the almost
30 years of our LandCruiser compared
to the age of this majestic tree. A
Baobab can get as old as 1’200 years
078  A landscape like off the picture
book: Blooming hyacinths and Baobabs.
In Malagasy, the giant tree is called
“Reniala” (Mother of the Forest)
Miandrivazo-Morondava = 160 miles; 6.3 hours
At 8.40am we cleave our way through the already crowded village street back to the main road. For some miles we follow now the Tsiribihina River with fertile banks. But only a few hundred meters away from the river, the hills are bone-dry and we drive now for miles through an arid landscape. It reminds us very much to the African Sahel zone. Herdsmen guide their zebus (Malagasy cows) and goats along the street or dried-up river beds. Often they ask us to fill up their water bottles and thank us with a bright smile. Life is hard on them.
Village life in Morondava
079  Two women are on their way
home with a big fish. There is close to
nothing that is not carried on the head!
080  A woman has rubbed her face
with a paste of the Masonjoany plant.
This mask protects not only against the
sun, but is said to clean also the skin
081  Playing cards is a popular
pastime for young and old
After an 8 miles long road construction site, we reach Morondava on the West coast mid-afternoon and check in for the night at the Hotel Renala lying at a wide sandy beach. Shacks line the sea shore, where people are cooking outside, playing cards or simply gather and chat. Morondava is the starting point to the place Emil is longing the most for: The famous Baobab alley.
082  At the tire works barrack
in Morondava: The tube cannot
be repaired anymore.
We buy a new one for US$15
083  Hand drawn rickshaws are common
in Madagascar (in the capital Antananarivo
all rickshaws are prohibited). We are
amazed at what speed rickshaw men often
maneuver bare feet through the traffic
084  A canoe with set sail glides
soundlessly over the water
as the sun sets
Next morning we are on our way to it. 8½ miles Northeast of Morondava, we take a dusty and sandy track – the RN8 – which leads North to the Tsiribihina River through typical African bush. Creaking antique oxcarts, loaded with people, goods and goats are crossing us unhurriedly. We encounter women with bags, pots and baskets on their heads walking from somewhere to somewhere. A single cyclist and two elderly men with a pushcart wave at us. We are the only vehicle. It is a scene like from another world.
085  Crossing of two “antique”
means of transport on the way to
the baobab alley near Morondava
086  Baobabs near Morondava (about
10 miles North): Every part of the baobab
is useful: Its bark is used for roofs, its
fiber for ropes and its fruit is edible
087  In the region around Morondava
often dozens of these giant baobab
trees pop up on the horizon
All of a sudden the first groups of the cylindrically shaped Baobab come into view. Some are framed by newly planted lush paddies, some by a compact carpet of flowering lilac water hyacinths – it always is a very beautiful sight. But these are only the “forerunners” of the majestic Baobab alley with its trees, which can get as old as 1’200 years.
088  Behind a newly planted rice paddy
a new “forest” of Baobab is looming
089  Looking for fish in the swamps?
090  A giant baobab surrounded by
banana bushes and water hyacinths
When they are appearing in front of us, it’s really a “wow”-experience. In Malagasy language, this giant Baobab is called “Renala” – mother of the forest. “The souls of the ancestors live in this tree and protect us” people tell us. Every part of the Baobab is useful: Its bark is used for building roofs, its fiber for ropes, its pits produce oil and the fruit is edible. There are about 25 65-80 ft. tall trees along an 850 ft. long stretch down the track, with another 25 standing in the surrounding meadows; its circumference is up to 33 ft. respectively 10 ft. wide. Like the lemurs the Baobabs are also marked on the red list as an endangered species – which doesn’t mean much in Madagascar.
091  We are coming closer to the center
of the Baobabs near Morondava: Our
LandCruiser rolls past the first giants
092  The access to the famous
Baobab alley near Morondava
leads through typical African bush
093  These giant trees are so impressive
that again and again we are tempted
to take a picture
People, who are sitting right across in front of their primitive huts cooking a meal on their fireplace, miraculously leave us in peace also here, also when we set up our camping table in the middle of the road – due to the lack of a tripod – to make a picture with the self-timer. Not even children come hurrying along. In this quiet corner it seems to be (still) unspoiled land. However, along the main tourist path in the South it is a different thing. Begging children asking for bonbons, biscuits, T-shirts and money are never far away.
094  There is no car traffic. Our encounters
on the lonely dusty sand track are an oxcart
on its way to the village …..
095  .…. a herdsman with his wife,
his dog and his goats …..
096  ….. and another oxcart
The famous baobab alley near Morondava
The belief of the Malagasy people is that their ancestor’s souls live in this tree and protect them
Richer by a beautiful experience, we leave Morondava next morning at 9am and drive East again – on the same route we came, with the same two tiring transit legs and with the same sticky night in Miandrivazo and the following freezing one in Antsirabe. There is only this East-West-Connection. The direct road via Ambatofinandrahana to Ambositra is interrupted since a long time. It has anyway little traffic, hence our road has to be sufficient for the people. We are blessed with a blue sky and it is a pleasure to roll through the highland with its golden shining grass and scattered mountain villages and browsing through the little markets on the way.
100  On the dry bushes miraculously
bright yellow flowers are blooming
101  The three of us pose for a picture at
the famous Baobab Alley near Morondava
102  Two Madagascar pied crows
(Corvus albus) croak in complete harmony
103  A family is sitting in front of their
bush hut, gathering around a radio
104  The little boy asks us shyly to
buy bananas. Who can say no?
105  Zebu’s are flocking to
a new grazing area
Thereby we always hope just one thing: To reach our next target without any break-down still by daylight. Again and again we are warned by locals not to drive at night. At least, our only spare tire is on standby again. The tube was torn beyond repair, but in Morondava we found new ones for US$ 14 a piece and bought two of them.
106  In Miandrivazo, said to be the
hottest place in Madagascar, the sun
is setting with a beautiful red glow
107  On the RN 34 between Miandrivazo
and Antsirabe we drive through a hilly
highland covered with golden shining grass
108  The moon is rising beautifully
and serene behind a tree where
birds settled down for the night
109  A home from the colonial French
time in Analaivo before Morondava.
Remaining from that era are also the
French language, the fresh baguettes, the
cheese boxes “La Vache Qui Rit”, the ball
game “Pétanque” and the liqueur “Pastis”
110  People in the hot coastal areas
live in simple airy straw huts. The
“kitchen” is always outside. Most of
the life takes place anyway outdoor
111  A Catholic church built in a
modern architecture – here in Mahabo
– is rather seldom in Madagascar. The
old traditional architecture prevails
Antsirabe-Fianarantsoa = 144 miles; 7.4 hours
In Antsirabe it’s pouring down buckets when we arrive. We check into a modest guesthouse and due to the persistent rain leave our room only next morning at 8am. From here we will hit new land again. We take the important North-South route RN7 towards the South through the highland of the Betsileo, the third biggest island tribe with its artfully laid out rice terraces. Their planting skills allow three harvest a year instead of only two.
112  We stop at the village market in
Mahabo besides the parking place of the
oxcarts that carried the goods to the market
113  Trading and bargaining is going
on at the market square. But it
is also a place for socializing
114  Everywhere smiling faces: Waiting
for the market to end in Mahabo
115  A viewpoint between Malaimbandy
and Morondava is just perfect
for our picnic
116  The arid grassland in the West
is dotted with the lush green of the
Bismarckia nobilis palms. They
are endemic to Madagascar
117  The Tsiribihina River with its green
islets near Miandrivazo looks like an
oasis in the arid landscape. Canoe river
trips are offered from Miandrivazo
to Belo before the West coast
Despite that the sun is hiding persistently behind dark skies it does not affect the beauty of the landscape we are passing through with its typical picturesque mountain villages. The clusters of the two storey huts of red bricks blend perfectly with the brown and beige of the soil. Some refreshing green dots are the newly planted rice fields.
118  Solitude as far as our eyes reach:
Between Miandrivazo and Antsirabe the
black ribbon of the asphalt meanders through
the mountains of the Central Highland
119  Scattered trees in the arid Central
Highland near Antsirabe are pleasant green
dots in the landscape. The most pleasant
dot however is our LandCruiser!
120  A work of art in the arid
Central Highlands: A “spider net” of
rice paddies surrounded by grassland
121  Obviously no washing line
is needed to dry the clothes
122  A motif off the picture book
for a painter: A small hamlet in
the Central Highland between
Miandrivazo and Antsirabe
123  Busy life in Betafo, lying 14 miles
East of Antsirabe along the nearly
370 miles long RN 34/35 via
Miandrivazo to Morondava
It is a Sunday and people have gathered everywhere in small groups – herdsmen with their typical hats and woolen “ponchos” and women with long black braids, pleated skirts and straw hats, holding their small children by the hand or tied to their back. Inevitably it recalls memories of the Bolivian highland.
124  A rural scene like on the African
continent: A family steps out of their
thatched hut and admires our
LandCruiser while we take pictures
125  Herdsmen have a hard life
in the highlands. In Southern
winter time it can get pretty
cold and humid
126  The hearty smile of this girl
symbolizes the nation’s spirit.
Despite of great poverty people
show a joy for life
127  Who can probably keep in mind all
those complicated and long village and
city names. Like on this battered “road
sign” on RN7 – the only road to the South
– the majority starts with the letter “A”
128  Potholes in the tarmac are
repaired by hand the old fashioned
way. Often also women do the
roadwork to earn a few cents
129  Crossing villages are always a
challenge as they are exotic and
crowded. People come from far to
sell fruits and vegetables and
buy the necessities of daily life
Further to the South the view is much bleaker: Burnt down forests, smoking brick factories, loads of bags with charcoal waiting to be hauled away at each corner and people pushing piles of wood on self-made carts. How long will it take until the last tree is lost? Apparently five acres of forest are disappearing daily only to heat the brick factories, not to mention the firewood for heating and cooking or the one needed for the luxury furniture for the foreign customers.
130  The long anticipated rain finally
fell. The rice crops are planted, each
single one by hand – it’s hard work
131  Golden glistening cornfields
are framed by rice paddies in
different growing stages
132  We are driving across the
picturesque highland of the “Betsileo”,
the third biggest tribe of the country.
Their planting skills allow three
harvests a year instead of only two
Will Madagascar become a desert island within the 20 years to come? It is a dilemma. How can the poorest of the people survive without this questionable income? Many families cannot even afford to pay the yearly school fee of US$ 27 per child. Their children will never be able to read and write. The illiterate rate is said to be around 23%.
133  It is a Sunday: Families are on
their way home from the church …..
134  ….. many are waking towards us;
others are heading in our direction, often
for long distances. For the majority, feet
are the only “way of transport”
135  A group of people make a little
break at a roadside kiosk where also
big bottles of “Three Horses Beer”
(THB) are sold. After all it is a Sunday!
Fianarantsoa-Ranohira (Isalo NP) = 168 miles, 7.1 hours
In Fianarantsoa, the second biggest city of the island, we stop for a night at the Greek hotel Cotsoyannis and continue next morning towards the West, to the Isalo National Park. But we don’t make it that far. After 30 miles, in Ambalavao, we spontaneously decide to visit the small Anja Lemur Reserve lying eight miles further South – a village project to protect these animals found only in Madagascar and nowhere else in the world. It won’t be a long time until these primates might be also listed on the red endangered list.
Some villages along the RN7 between Ambositra and Fianarantsoa
136  Adapted to the surroundings
137  Sandwiched between
granite rocks and rice paddies
138  Typical two-storey brick
houses of the “Betsileo” tribe
It happens to be October 18th, 2011, our 27th anniversary of our epic journey around the world. Is there a lovelier jubilee gift as our first encounter with these cute ringtail lemurs with their bushy white-black tails that are two third of their body size? My heart is “leapfrogging”! We enjoy dozens – sitting on trees, on rocks and on the ground; adults, youngsters, a baby riding piggyback on her mother, four one month old babies trying their first climbing skills.
139  Ambalavao, situated on the
tableland between Fianarantsoa
and Tuléar (Toliara) is one of the
most attractive highland villages
with neat wooden balconies
decorating their houses
140  In Ambalavao a family pushes its
full yellow jerry cans from the local water
supply through the village street. Their
little daughter sits proudly on the top.
This scene is quite familiar, because there
is no private water system in rural areas
141  The cathedral built of red
bricks is the centerpiece of the
highland village of Ambalavao
and a special sight during the
flowering of the Jacaranda trees
Our guide tells us that this reserve is currently home to around 300 of these primates, divided into 15 families, living in different territories. We also spot a camouflaged young Malagasy giant chameleon, tiny pink butterflies hanging like blossoms on branches and a Persian lilac bush with delicate white-pink blossoms.
142  In the small Anja Reserve, 8 miles
West of Ambalavao, we discover this
lizard, a young Giant Malagasy
Chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti), which
in its camouflage is hard to see …..
143  ….. also this blooming Persian
Lilac bush (or also called Syringa)
(Melia azedarach) is growing there …..
144  ….. and then we see them,
high up in the trees – the ringtail
lemurs (Lemur catta) with their
black and white bushy tails that
are two third of their body size
In the friendly small restaurant nearby with a stunning view over the huge granite boulders we treat ourselves to a delicious local noodle dish and toast to our 27th travel anniversary with a couple of “Three Horses Beer’s”. A few days later we read that since our departure in 1984 the world population has grown by 2.2 billions (!), or 45.8%, with Africa as the leader. Also during our long journey we noticed the population explosion. Nowadays there are also many more people traveling, be it due to the political openings or because they have more money at their disposal.
The small Anja Reserve, 8 miles South of Ambalavao, is a village project
to protect these cute lemurs found only in Madagascar and nowhere else in the world
145  What a fascinating sight!
Determined the first two primates
come around the corner
146  What is so exiting higher up?
A mother with her two cubs
147  The youngster makes it
comfortable on a tree branch and
looks what happens below
The next day we roll through the endless prairie of the Horombe Plateau with its golden shining grass towards the Isalo National Park in the “wild west” of Madagascar. A couple of herdsmen are also today on their way. They guide big flocks of cattle in the middle of the road to the abattoir, sometimes as far as the capital Antananarivo. These “Malagasy cows” are one of the most identifiable symbols of Madagascar. They belong to the “Bara” tribe. The assessment of a Bara man is measured by the number of zebus he possesses. For him the zebu symbolizes beauty, strength, pride, fame, prestige, health, happiness and security. Often they are valued higher than one’s wife.
Divided in 15 lemur families that live in different territories, the Anja Reserve harbors 300 of these primates. By chance,
our visit falls on October 18th, 2011 – the day of our 27th anniversary of our epic journey. Is there a lovelier place to celebrate?
148  “I don’t let me disturb!”
149  “Riding on my mother’s
back is really comfortable”
150  “Oh boy! - two more
tourists are coming”
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