Thursday, July 24, 2014
Woke up early to get to the still broken ferry.
We surprised Claudia with a gift of a ring that we bought from the hotel stone jewelry table. Madagascar has a lot of pretty stones.
We said goodbye to Santrine, our main hostess, and all the student waiters at Le Grande Hotel de Tsingy with – what else? – A photo from Christian! What a nice crew!
We sat for another long car ride that took all day back through the two ferries and ending at Morondava. Despite the rocking and rolling from the crazy road I have a pretty strong stomach it seems and was able to catch up in the trip journal to help pass the time and even snooze a little. Christian on the other hand takes Dramamine in car rides like this for the motion sickness!
There seemed to be many more children beggars today for some reason. Many shout at the car for a “Bon Bon” or candy, or an empty bottle. We did give out some empty bottles to the families way out in the country side. It helps them gather water I understand. Very hard to see all the begging!
Also saw a few groups of ladies carrying baskets and other things on their heads on their way to sell their wares at the market. One group of kids had a really cool looking homemade chicken cage – I have been impressed with what I have seen people here build with no nails or power tools, just notching different materials and lashing them together with dried palm.
At the end of the day we made three stops to view different baobabs at golden hour / sunset. Photographer Christian went into high gear here.
The first was a big twisted baobab and we didn’t stay long. The second was a “twin” baobab rising over a lake. The coolest thing that happened there though was that we got to witness a villager funeral! Thursdays are good days to have funerals in Malagasy culture.
All of a sudden I heard beautiful male accapella singing – like a marching chant with harmony. I thought at first it was a recording. Then on the adjoining road three zebu carts appeared, the first two carrying wood and the third carrying the coffin – looking like a whole tree trunk, de barked and chiseled by hand into a coffin shape. Then, jogging and singing behind them about 25 men!
They turned and went one direction. Claudia said they were going to build the wooden enclosure and then bury the coffin in the center. The women would join them later.
A few minutes later a second group of guys jogged up and turned the other direction down the road. Rivu our driver shouted at them that the first group had gone the other way. The guys continued saying that the first group went the wrong way. But the first group had the coffin and the wood! A few minutes later we heard them whistling and shouting for the first group. No cell phones out here in the bush among the subsistence farmers.
Then to add to the confusion a third group of guys jogged up. They stayed on the first road not knowing which way to turn. What a mess! And in the middle of it, tourist cars kept driving by looking for the twisted baobab. Rivu was like a traffic director for everyone.
Our last stop was the “Avenue of the Baobabs”. This is a super famous tourist site. People come to watch and take pictures at sunset behind a bunch of baobabs that stand over a lake. It was indeed a beautiful sight but I was a bit distracted by the 100 or so other tourists there.
Claudia says that some people, especially from China, fly in just to come here and take pictures. Everyone there indeed was snapping away. Christian got some great shots, especially when some zebu wandered into the lake in front of the trees!
Other tourists were celebrating different life events. One group was drinking some beer they brought and singing the happy birthday song in French. An Italian couple disappeared for a second and came back dressed in their wedding outfits! They had brought their wedding dress and suit to take pictures in this exact spot.
We are lucky because the baobab fruit is actually ripe right now. I bought one from one of the villager vendors. It is a genius fruit because it has both a sweet dried fruit part and a nutty part – no need to make trail mix! It’s not juicy inside at all. You break off a chunk of the inside, and suck on it, getting the fruity flavor. Then once that’s done you bite into it, accessing the nutty part inside. Then you spit out the husk. Pretty cool fruit!!
At the end of a long travel day we checked into Chez Maggie on the beach in Morandava, run by Gary an older American who spent thirty years running a river tour company all over the world including in Madagascar. He settled down, opened the hotel and married a Malagasy lady 8 years ago.
During the night we woke up to yet another funeral happening nearby. The people were singing more beautiful songs all night long! The singing really gives me chills here sometimes. Claudia explained to us in the morning that for this particular types of people (can’t remember which ones) the mourners stay up for three nights in a row singing – they are not allowed to sleep! Their friends and relatives join them to help them stay awake.