Day 18 – Road trip to Ranomafana

Ranomafana National Park

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Today was a long car trip to Ranomafana, followed by relaxing in the afternoon at our hotel the Setame Lodge.

We passed the time by sleeping, listening to Malagasy pop

Radio – a mix of US pop songs, Malagasy ballads and hip hop, and a type of fun Malagasy dance music called kilkely – and conversing with Fan.

The most popular lemur in Madagascar to the Malagasy people is the ring tailed lemur. This is even before the Madgasacar movie made the hilarious ring tailed lemur King Julian a star. The movie was very popular here also. Unfortunately we

won’t be seeing one of these lemurs this trip since we are visiting the wrong area of the country.

We talked a bit more about Fan’s family. When they lived in the country outside of Tana, their small rice paddy supplied them with 6 months of rice a year. He says he would like to live in the country again – there is a relaxed pace there he says. Although from what I observe outside the window the country people seem like they work all the time! He said they did not need much money – just a little to buy what food they didn’t grow themselves.

He also mentioned a taboo that just covers his family: it is Fady in his family to eat lamb because his grandfather died from eating it.

Since it was Saturday we passed many people busy walking their items for sale to the market. Many were carrying big bags on their head.

We discussed the economics of one man with a bag of charcoal on his head. Many people walk as much as 10 km or 6 miles each way to get to the market. For this bag of charcoal the man can expect to be paid 6000 ariary or a little over $2.50. For 12 miles of walking plus all the work it took to make the charcoal! But 90% of people in the country live on $2 a day. A hard life no doubt!

And getting harder. Because of political turmoil over the last 5 years there has been a lot of inflation. The price of one kilo of rice was 500 ariary in 2009 and now it is 3000.

We discussed average salaries for city dwellers. A truck driver is a good paying job at $200 a month. A factory worker for companies like Nike, Columbia and Reebok is a bad paying job at $50 a month. Living prices include $20 a month for rent, $10 a month for electricity, so I can see why the truck driver salary makes more sense. If you want Internet that’s $40 a month – out of reach for most people! Many people are like Fan, living with extended families to save on costs.

Zebu farming can be somewhat lucrative it seems – each zebu can be sold for $150 dollars. We passed a big herd of zebus in the road with some herders. Ran explained that whenever you see a big herd like this they are most likely from the southern zebu farms. The men are walking the zebu across the country for 500 kms (300 miles) until they get to the big zebu market outside of Tana. This takes them a month of walking from dawn until dusk!

And they are not done yet. There have recently been gangs in the South that have guns (private citizens may not have guns in Madagascar so the gangs might be related to the military) that have been stealing zebu and hijacking taxi brusses that are coming from Tana because they know that some of the people on the busses are coming home after selling 30 zebu at $150 a head – huge money in Madagascar.


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