I liked the zoos and animals. I also liked when we were with Serafin. I liked Manompana and coming with Corsair flight, and Wen-Ki. I am not sure but I think I want to come again. I did not like when the tall men stolen our luggage and when mum and Damien were angry with me. (Mira)
Manompana, Vohitsoaka, Betafo, Nosy natto, Ambalavao, … the charm of the Mada usually starts where the asphalt road is ending& then a sandy track guides you to a peacefull village… (Damien)
I like Manompana because we had a lot of friends with which we played. It was nice and fun to do origami and other things in the library. I like the house of Olivier because of the animals, comfortable stays, also it was very fun to prepare the table nicely. (Sashko)
I liked the most the red earth of the paths surrounded by dark-green hills, terraced frog-green rice fields and black and brown zebus. I liked a lot the kids in the small villages – with dirty clothes and muddy barefoot legs, with big, dark, curious eyes, running so fast and laughing so loud. I liked the quiet life of Manompanawhere you forgot the yesterdays and you don’t care about the tomorrows – I liked the kids there, the hills with green palm trees under hot yellow sun, our morning walks, the turquoise beys with white sand, the library, the evening walks back to our bungalow after diner at the sandy dark path under a sky full with stars. I liked a lot the bread with butter and litchi jam at our breakfast on the terrace in front of the ocean and palm trees and the bottle of cold coca-cola drunk after three hours walking in the heat. (Nina)
I liked the feeling of a life completely different from ours – very simple, without difference between the beginning and the end of the week, so close to the natural change of the day with the night. (Nina)
The tears of Rinda, the laughs of Eliane, the face of Alessandro, I already miss a lot the kids of Mada… (Damien)
The poverty of the malgash people, cleaning their clothes in the durty channel of Antananarivo, their generosity, opening their house for you and offering rice and fish for a stranger like you, their optimism, certain that the train will leave before 12am because it has to be like that, their simplicity, squeezed one into the other on the platform of a taxi-brousse and laughing because the driver forgot one of the passenger when we crossed the last river… (Damien)
For me Madagascar is a laughing kid, running on a sandy path, a green rice fields with soft grass moving from the wind, women trying to catch fish in the ocean with a big fish net, a lonely fisherman in a small tiny pirogue so deep in the ocean, a herd of zebus running in the mud of the rice field, a woman with a colourful scarf carrying a small baby on her back and a huge basket on her head, a black man with big nose and lips and strong legs, running down a steep path in the mountain carrying bunch of trees on his shoulder, a car full with people, bags and hens – inside and on the top, a red-brown path crossing a green hilly meadow, a dirty smelly street with market full with people and colours, a palm tree in a lonely beach covered with white sand, kids with pink and blue uniforms going to school – so many like a wild river, a house on 4 wooden sticks with walls knitted from the stalks and a roof made from the leaves of a palm tree. Madagascar is a lot of sun and slow moving time. (Nina)
Last two weeks in Mada On 28th Dec in the evening we cought our next taxi-brousse to the South – we planned to celebrate New Year in a nice village, ex colonial resort, located at the Ocean and to take our last Ocean bath in Mada (after we were going to the mountains). It was a very raining evening which made us so afraid that our last part of the trip in Mada would be a very wet one.
After one night in the car we arrived in Fiana at 7 am, happy that we will cought the picturesque train going to Manakara. We had to wait one full day at the train station as there was some accident on the rails and nobody knew when exactly the train would leave. There were different versions spread amongst the people waiting – versions fabricated only to give hope and to reduce the disappointment… We liked the one that the train would be leaving at 11am but latest at noon. After this time went into the past, we grabbed the version that the train would be leaving at 6pm. At 7pm we went to have dinner in a small gargotte. At 8pm Damien run to the train station to check and came to pick us with the fascinating news that the train would be leaving in 20 minutes. Finally comfortable settled at our seats in the train (Damien next to a family with 4 generation – the grand-grandmother, the grandmother, the mother and the baby and Nina, Mira and Sashko – smashed with a round fat woman with her older daughter and her baby, who she was breastfeeding all the night long), we were able to wait until midnight when the train slowly, slowly got off and disappered in the forest.We missed the first 4 hours of the picturesque trip as the night was fully on but at 5am we discovered the beauty of this mountain rail path. We passed small mountain villages, skattered in green hills –that time of the day was the busiest: the small open shops (just shells on the street) were opening, the first women selling coffee and tea were ready with the hot pots, the first hot fried balls were done, the first piles with bananas were prepared to be sold, the fastest (and perhaps the cleanest) women were already at the phontain doing the laundry of the family…
When we arrived at Manakara, for the first time we experienced travelling with pousse-pousse (a small carriage with a comfortable seat for two, at 2 wheals pooled by a man) – these were the taxis of the city. Manakara is not so impressive town but we had something from there as well: for the first time in Madagascar we saw the local people having fun and promenade at the avenues next to the ocean. We had so good breakfast at the market - sitting on a bench in front of a wooden table with doubtfull cleanliness, in the middle of the market, just in between bananas, mangos, coconuts, bags with rice and flouer, fish, meat completely covered with black flies, bags with beans, bread and coffee shops and having our morning tea, coffee and bread with butter - these were memorable breakfasts.
Exactly on 31st of December Mira broke her front teeth and moved with 45 degrees the other front one, falling from the bike of Damien...; with face covered with blood we visited the local hospital - Nina was terrified from the emptiness of the rooms of this old building and from the blood spots on the floor and on the bed sheets where Mira was putted to sit... - Mira was brave but her Mum almost fainted; we had the New Year in that town! - soup for Mira as she was not able to use her teeth, delicious spagetti and rice for all the rest, Fanta, beer and rhum! – kids went to bed at 9.30pm, we finished our beer, kissed all the people in the restaurant at 12 o'clock and quietly went to bed.
On 2nd of January we reached the mountain village of Ambalavo. There we saw a zebus market - though it was almost the end, it was worth seeing it. The zebus of that region are strong, big and beautiful. They look stubborn with their big horns and it is nice to watch the big herds closed in squares with wooden fence waiting to be sold or to be put back in the trucks.
Next days we went to the Tsaranoro Valley in the mountain of Andringitra. We were camping there - we took a tent, sleeping bags, food (inclusive one alive hen – our 2nd day diner). These were one of our best days in Madagascar: the mountains were beautiful, every day we were making long walks under quite heavy rain, the view of the mountain outlined on the grey cloudy sky with little sun beams hiding somewhere in the darkness was really capturing, the rocks at the top of the hills looked proud and barely accessible - like that making themselves so desirable, the food prepared from Serafine (the woman responsible for us and for the camp) was one of the most delicious we had in Mada and for the first time we had a 3 course dinner with apperitive of rum and peanuts (citron tea for the kids!). For all of us, surprisingly for the kids as well, it was very pleasant to walk under the rain - the mountains were somehow so attracting so we were not noticing the wet clothes sticking on us, the cold wind and the slippery and steep red paths - perhaps it was the view around, or the air, or the hope that the sun will come soon to dry our clothes and to warm our hearts, or the expectation for the good lunch prepared by Serafine, waiting in our backpack, or the desire to conqure the top that made us happy to walk all day. It was equally good pleasure to reach the end of the walk with heavy from the water shoes and the sun to come suddenly so strong and so hot, and to warm and dry us just for minutes.
Last 4 days of our Mada trip we spent in Tana. We had time to say goodbye to Monique and to the colourful region around her house, to Olivier, his beautiful house and his 10 types of different animals living there (dogs, cats, lezard, fishes, lemurians, parrots, goat, hens, ducks, gooses...), to the busy market and the busy streets. We had time to welcome PK and Marianne, and to tell them goodbye - they visited us and Madagascar for 2 full days! We had time to buy few presents from the beautiful craft market. Nina had time to get sick, and we had time to panick and to administrate her antimalaria treatment.
On 14th of Jan, all of us - clean and very happy - took the plane to Paris! We felt happy and rich with the time spent in Madagascar, happy it's finished, happy to go back home to see our family, happy for the days waiting for us in the still undiscovered Asia …
- to have more datas about the whole trip, click on http://atworld.canalblog.com
- to follow our Bicycle Trip in Europe, http://atworld1.canalblog.com
- to read our adventure in Mada, http://atworld2.canalblog.com
- to join us in Asia, http://atworld3.canalblog.com
28th of november - 28th of december 2007
We finally have access to internet so few news from the past weeks. Sorry for the delay...and Happy New Year!
We left Nosy Be the day after the incident, the 28th of Nov. We took the boat to Ankify,a first taxi-brousse to Ambanja and there we quickly jumped in a second one going directly to Tana. After 24 hours and 1000 km of travel we arrived finally in Tana. We were physically tired by the travel and still affected by the incident of Nosy Be.
We spent 8 nice days in Tana – time for us to cure Damien’s foot badly cut and infected (when he was running barefoot after the rubbers...), to make new passport for Damien and to find a way to get Nina and the kids out of Mada without passports. The first 3 days we spent at Olivier’s house, a friend of Nina: after so much travelling the past 10 days it was so pleasant to rest, have a hot shower, sleep in a nice bed, have breakfast in the sun at the terrace.
We left his house on the 2nd of Dec convinced we were going to spend the rest of the week in one Orphanage. We were not really welcomed there but we met Sister Jacqueline, who invited us to Monique’s house. There we stayed 4 days. Nina and Sashko had time to recover from stomach acke (their delicate body did not accept the nice tasty food of the streets of Tana). During these days we spent our time between the French consulate, the doctor for Damien’s foot, Sister Jacqueline and the streets kids she was taking care of. The kids spent a lot of time in the cinema of the French centre and we had different walks through the markets of the popular area of Tana. We enjoyed a lot these days in Tana – the contrast between the huge empty house of Olivier on the top of a residential area and the block of Monique full with people and bags of rice; between the jeeps of non-profit org and a wooden light cart carrying 20 people and hundreds of goods and tracked by 2 horses on the asphalt road; between the clean rice field next to the centre and the dirty channel where people are cleaning themselves and their clothes next to garbage;between the clear and pure sky and the dirty streets in the early morning.
The 7th of Dec we left Tana to Manompana. It was just a crazy day. We woke up at 5am, wrote a little the internet message, went to the craft market to find a present for Monique, had a quick breakfast in the dark room of the hotel, packed and left to the centre. The kids went once again to the cinema, we jumped on Internet to start the message for the blog, had last discussions with the Consul of Bulgaria, were running at the streets of Tana to buy bus tickets to Tamatave, went back to Internet, finished the Christmas post cards and run back to the bus station. It was important for us to close all these issues before leaving to Manompana as there we are cut from the world...
Manompana didn’t change but our stay had different taste. It took us 24 hours to arrive at Manompana (compared to 3 days travelling in October). We were quite impatient to arrive. Getting closer to the place it was more and more difficult to stay on our seats and our hearts were beating faster and faster, and we were talking louder and louder. Mira and Sashko were wondering if the kids would notice them from the 1st meters in the village, if Rinda will scream when he would see them. We were quite tired from the 24 hours trip and were happy to distinguish the bay of Manompana. We found the same bungalow at Wen Ki, we ordered rice with coco and fish at Leonard to rediscover the taste of this good food, it was such a nice feeling to walk in the dark on the sandy road with the rythm of the crickets, under the sky full with stars. We were happy to see again Artur, Alexandro, Rinda, Dafa, John, Delia... We had nice time with them, some of them showed up not so often as it was the busy season – it was the last days before the rainy season and kids were working in the forest to collect wood, in the paddy fields to plant rice (even at the age of 5). We didn’t see Dafa for one week – he was working and sleeping on the fields during all that time. We were swimming in the same bay, the same pleasure to cross Mahella to Wen Ki (more than one kilometer of swimming), we discovered the beautiful colourful fishes of lagoon beach (we didn’t notice that the first time..), we swam in the calm waves. At the library it was quietly nice – it was a good time for us to study French, to write our travel books, read, play and prepare Christmas decorations. We went again to the rice field with Lesan, this time with the kids, to plant rice, to build a dam. We were happy to walk and get lost in the forest but we were sad to discover that the forest is slowly slowly dissappearing – in one month time we could notice few black spots of burned forest. Christmas was a special day for us. (we'll write later about it).
On 26th of Dec, after our last lunch at the gargotte, we left Manompana by foot in the hottest time of the day – 1.30pm. The first kms were long and tiring because of the strong sun but the sun got rappidly hidden by the clouds and the strong wind was refreshing our faces. We did 27km the same afternoon! We finished the walk in the dark with lightenings around us and a tiny rain falling on us. The last part was very exhausting, especially the last 3km – it looked like 10 in fact. It was completely dark and we had difficulty to walk in the sandy path. Mira was so strong, not complaining a single time. It was more difficult for Sashko and we were so exhausted when we achieved the second river and our hotel for the night. It was a hard but very nice walk along the bay of Manompana, in some small villages on the way, crossing rivers by piroque or a motorised platform, walking alone in the steppe, surrounded by palm-trees and swamps... It was also such a nice way to leave Manompana – slowly slowly we said goodbye to the Ocean, to Wen Ki, to the library, to the gargotte, to the kids (Rinda, Dafa and John were walking with us for the first kilometers). By foot we had the whole day to say good bye and it was a joyful departure.
The 27th we were in Tamatave, the 28th – in Tana and continued our way to the South to discover other parts of Mada for our last 2 weeks.
Today we woke up and had breakfast like usually (bread, jam, butter, tea, coffee and sugar). But this time we had the lemon of yesterday! Then we did some Bulgarian and travel book and then we had lunch.
After lunch with one tray (like a box) I cought a tiny little chicken and it was the nicest one. It was from the gargote (Malgash restaurant). It was brownish. All its brothers and sisters were yellow tiny chickens. The people from the gargot wanted to put one yellow tiny chicken in my pocket. I was running away with 2 tiny yellow chickens in my hands. I fast put the chickens down on the ground and kept running. At last they stpped and then I said: ok, vas-y, vas-y – that means ok, go, go, so they put a tiny chicken in my pocket! But before we played with the tiny chickens we were making a river next to the sink outside and some of the kids were putting the water on so water could go through the big long hole.
Then we went to the big wave beach but it did not have big waves… so we went far from it to swim. I swam naked again. I saw a lot of colourful fish. It was nice.
Today in the morning we were in a hurry. We ate 1-2 breads and went to Lezan’s house. After a few minutes Damien also came with a sandwich only with butter for me! It was delicious!
We took two shovels and went to Lezan’s rice fields with Lezan. There, we went to cut some wook sticks, and huge leaves from a kind of a palm tree! When Mira and me were carrying each a leaf, it was very hard, because the wind was pushing the leaf, and it was falling on Mira’s head! In the middle of all Lezan’s fields, there was a small river for water for the fields. But there wasn’t enough water on one side. So we made a very nice dam, so the small river next to the dam to take water to the side without a lot of water! At one time it started to rain, so Mira and me went under a leftover leaf like an umbrella!
We went home, went in the sea, washed our clothes with sand so they are half-washed, had big shower, put on clean, clean clothes, went to Lezan. There we had lunch – rice and fish and coco-tomato souce, also a souce with water and green leaves. It was so delicious. I also had lichis and two biscuits! Mum and Damien went home just after, but gave us a little money, to buy what we want at the gargot! We went there and bought: one tea, but got one more tea present (!), two chewing gums, 3 vanilla biscuits. After we went to the library and drew a picture.
just a few words to wish you a merry christmas and a happy new year.
We are today in Tana, we've just came back this morning from Manompana: we'll tell you more about it in a few days but we want to catch the bus this afternoon to go the the south for our last 2 weeks in Mada.
We are all ok and the past weeks were very nice.
Nina, Damien, Sashko, Mira
Everything happened by accident; we were supposed to discover the lemurians world at Ankify but we chose the wrong guy to do that with. We were wondering to continue to the north to diego suarez or to go to Nosy Komba (in front of NosyBe). At the end, to go to Nosy Komba we had to pass through NosyBe to take a second boat. We arrived at NosyBe at 2 pm, on sunday afternoon; everything was closed, there was small chance to find a boat to Nosy Komba the same dazy and we decided to stay 2 days there to discover what touristic consider as paradisiac island.
When we got out of the boat, we first met the taxi-drivers, very pushy and agressives, arguing between themselves and fighting for customers. It was difficult and unpleasant to get rid of them. We went at the streets of Hell-Ville, the main city of Nosybe; the streets were absolutely empty, most of the buildings were ruined, with some old colonial style houses … Anyway we kept the hope it’s in front of us to discover the beauty of the island. We met a nice man , Lucien. He gave us his phone number. At that time we didn’t imagine we'd call so soon.
We continued up North to find some place to sleep. We found only ugly hotels, made from cement , and with rude and greedy owners, explaining to us that prices are so high because we are in NosyBe! We spent the night in nice bungalow but dirty and located next to the generator for the electricity. Until 2pm, we had the chance to listent o the noise of the engine of the generator. We left early morning the next day and decided to go to Dzamandzar, the village of Lucien, again willing to find the paradisiac places of the island.
Dzamandzar was a big village – very dirty, very muddy streets, not a single toilet in the houses so the people were using the beach as a big toilet. The beach was also the garbage depot of the village. Lucien’s house was another side of life of the island. He welcomed us as if we were old friends, he invited us to sleep at his home which consisted of one room. We stayed there and we slept in his bed together with the kids while he and his boy slept on the sofa.
The first night at his place was funny. He was living together with 2 other families, occupying the 2 other rooms of the house. One of the family was enjoying music very much and good for us there was electricity this night so we had the chance to listen to reggae half of the night. The bed was trembling from the base but it was a joyfull night. The sound was so good and so nicely loud.
Next day was a very unlucky day for us. We didn’t want to give up and decided once more to discover the beauty of Nosy Be. The day before we agreed with one man to go by boat to a nearby small island but as he didn’t show up we decided to go by foot up north and take another boat. We walked along the beach, passed all the garbage, passed in front of the pretentious hotels, crossed a dirty river going to the ocean and then nina discovered she lost her favourite bracelet (given from Damien). She went back to look for it. Damien and kids continued slowly. As Nina was late Damien decided to go and meet her and let the kids with the 2 back packs on the beach. For the first time we had so much luggage with us during a walk : 2 cameras, USB with all recorded pictures, all travel books and papers. 2 min after Damien left the kids he could hear them running and screaming: 2 men arrived and scared them with a knife, and took the back packs together with the shoes of Damien which he left in order to pass faster the small river. Kids tried to stop them but they were told not to move. After the 2 men escaped in the bushes. Damien runned back after the men – barefoot, crossing the swamps, the muddy river, the rice fields, gathering people in the surrounding huts to try to find the men. After 2 hours we gave up… And had only our eyes to cry.
We finished the day very sad and helpless – all our nicest memories from Mada was stolen. Damien had unique photos – part of our life, kids – beautiful drawings and stories.
The bad side of the story is that we lost part of our memories – all the pictures and the travel books. The good thing out of it is that Nina and the kids will be able to see friends and family in January: they have to go back to Sofia to make new passports before flying to Asia.
After the quietness and peacefull atmosphere of the first 3 weeks in Manompana we had the opportunity to discover other sides of Madagascar: tourism and its bad effects, poverty and agressivity but also Malgash hospitality and sincere generousity ...
After waiting almost one day at St Marie, at 6pm we were in front of the boat which was supposed to bring us to the North. We were told not to take small boats but only big once for such a long travel (18-20 hours) as it could be dangerous and risky. Our boat was far from big but we decided to consider it as average and never admit to ourselves that she was more in the range of the small boats… In fact Damien made almost a miracle to find this boat!
We left at 6.30pm, the captaint was silent, serious and dark (for us this was equivalent of concentrated and brave). Anyway he also looked as if he is not from the type of captains keeping the principle 'the captain leaves the boat last'. Therefore I checked all safety jackets and safety boats on board. There were around 6-7 jackets (we were around 20 people on board) + a big safety boat (for 10-15 people). Later on we understood that the boat belonged to one of the passengers – a diver going to find a ship sunk few months ago somewhere at the North. So we were lucky he was with us on board.
In the beginning the ocean was smooth with many stars in the sky, almost full moon, and we were travelling by the land of St Marie – everything looked nice. An hour later this changed quite rappidely and stressfully for us – the waves became bigger and bigger, we were already in the open ocean, the boat was lying on its left side (probably it was better for climbing the waves but it looked really scary) and it started to move so much left and right, up and down. We sent the kids to bed as they were pale and with stomach acke. Their bed was exactly above the boat engine so the steam and the oil smoke was coming at big waves through the open door in the floor. The view from the window was changing: either it was almost see water or almost only sky. It’s good the kids managed to fall asleep.
Me and Damien stayed outside but not for very long. From the swinging I had the feeling we will fall down in the ocean. Exactly like an ostrich I was closing my eyes so not to see what was happening around. I swore I would never argue with the kids again if we survive, I also swore I would never travel by boat again (sorry, Vladko…).
I spent the dark part of the night in the bed of the kids. Damien spent the night outside at the back of the boat, lying on a small part of a mattress together with 3 other people.
Early morning, all of us were half sleeping and waiting so impatiently for the light to come. Finally 4.30am arrived. A small grey light appeared in between the clouds and one hour later the sun slowly slowly started to show its morning light. The ocean stopped looking so scary, the swinging of the boat started to look very normal with its repetativeness.
We arrived in front of our final destination at 10am. The captain made one unsuccessful attempt to dock the boat. There was no port and a lot of coral around the beach. The place looked deserted land with 2-3 houses standing there like remains of an ancient tribe. Obviously for the first time he was trying to stop there. His navigation equipment consisted of 3 members of the equipage – fully concentrated and trying to guess where the rocks are and gesticulating nervously. We didn’t succeed, the water was not transparent enough so we continued almost 2 hours up North, where we found a little bigger village and a small corridor to pass through the waves.
It was such a relief to step on the sand. The next day we were still feeling dizzy as if the land was moving under us but we were happy we tried this way of transportation in Madagascar.
For our last morning in Manompana we planned to get up at 4am, pack, have a nice last breakfast at our terrace with Tchitcho (and bread with litchis jam). In fact we woke up at 4.45am and it was not the rooster but the rain falling on our hut that woke us up. Tchitcho packed in 5min and jumped into the jeep waiting for him outside. On our side we packed and went to our meeting with one hour and a half delay. Good for us the captain was still waiting for us...
We were not yet out of Manompana bay that Mira was already sea sick: it will be 2hours of nightmare for her to join the island of St Marie. There we stayed 5 days on a small piece of land, Nosy Natto. This small island was a paradise few years ago. We were afraid to go there and our first feeling when we arrived in the main city of St Marie was that we went to the wrong place: after 3 weeks in Manompana we were not prepared to face a tourist place – the guys were too pushy, the taxi men too persistent. But in fact we quickly got charmed by the island: the natural swimming pool with deep green-blue water, natural aquarium with rainbow colored fishes, the small tiny quiet villages, the rice fields, the litchis, mangos and other fruit trees. We had nice time on this tiny island and didn’t meet so many vazahas (white people) on the muddy path or on the white sandy beach at the coast.
Leaving Nosy Natto and St Marie was not easy. It was tricky to find a boat to reach the north side of Mada. But after a few days we finally managed to get on board of a small ship for 20 hours cruise (see our message on this topic).
From St Marie we had to travel almost a week to achieve Ankify on the North West coast of Mada. There we were supposed to study the specific animals and plants of the tropical forest. It was not an easy travel; it was quite tiring but very interesting: first we had to navigate on the Indian ocean for 20 hours, and then we had a hard day of walk under the tropical weather – 30km carrying all our luggage and 4 days by taxi brousse; crossing rivers by pirogue or by foot on a devastated bridge or even on a wooden raft with our taxi brousse on it, doing some times by car 40 km in 5 hours and the following day 70km in one hour; being 11 people in a peugeot 205 – 6 at the back and 5 in front: the driver was almost sitting outside the car; 28 people in a Peugeot 404 pick-up (Nina and the kids were in front with 2 other people and Damien was smashed at the back with other 22 people). Don’t worry – we were not going so fast and we were able to enjoy the landscape. The good thing for Damien is that the cyclone of 2006 destroyed several bridges on the way and a couple of time we had to get out of the car to stretch our legs but also to cross the small rivers by foot on plank of wood, by pirogue or on a raft for the larger ones.
There will be no lemurs exploiration. We were supposed to work for a guy in Ankify but when Damien managed to talk with him he informed us he changed his plans. He had a terrible tourist season and decided to go on holiday until mid Dec. So there will be no way for us to work for him. We met him a few days later and it was in fact better like that – it would have not been possible to work with such guy (it is strange that even for the nicest cause you can find disgusting people).
2 days ago, we were exactly at half-time of our Madagascar adventure and we were also back to Ivato airport, as if a new start was beginning for us...
We had not nice adventure last week at Nosy Be. All our documents were stolen together with our most precious things (travel books and pictures).
We are now in Tana trying to find a way to make new documents in order to continue our trip. We were very sad about what had happened but we are all ok and we slowly start to forget about it.
Give us a few days and we will update our travel books from Manompana to Tana.
A day at the paddy field (rice field), by Nina
Lézan took us once to his paddy field to help him in his work. I remember I was watching at the news how they collect the rice in China – small people with big hats cutting the grass, with their backs bended, their legs in the water until their knees. Today we were the same. And now I know what is to work at the rice field! For me it is to walk for at least one hour through small paths, so careful in the beginning, full with hope I will manage to stay clean. The way quickly turned into a muddy path with dark brown-yellow ponds, probably full with insects and deaseases. After my miserable trials to jump from the sides I finally accepted I should walk in the thick mud. I was trembling while crossing a small river, walking on a bamboo stick, trying to stay cool and relaxed when my right foot was stuck in the mud… I was happy and proud when we arrived at the rice field and feeling so enormously brave when entering barefoot in the rice field. After I sunk two times until my knee in the heavy, sticky, slippery, warm, soft and full with insects mud, everything became easy – as if I was working in the rice for years. We had to smash the earth with our feet, to mix it with the water and make smooth mud out of it. You need to use a lot your legs so after 2 hours we were quite tired and hungry. From time to time our feet were blocked from a tree hidden in the mud, from time to time we were going as deep as half of our legs (Tchitcho was lucky with his long legs and looked like a stork in a swamp).
The lunch was delicious – rice and boiled beans with coconut sauce and little chicken, prepared at the field by the wife of Lezan and served on the ground in green palm leaves as a big plate.
After a little nap we went again in the mud. We were still working hard but it was funnier than in the morning as we were throwing mud to each other (just a little)… At the end we planted little rice.
We left the field at the end of the afternoon, passed by the river to try to wash ourselves in the cool water. We went back on the muddy path to reach the village – braver and nicely tired from our first day in the paddy field.
A normal day in Manompana
Manompana is a village made of one main street – a sandy path with palm trees, the ocean on one side and houses on the other, full of hens, ducks, few dogs asleep in the middle, people walking and kids laughing and playing, with a wonderful view every day between 5:30 and 6pm: this is the local Sunset Boulevard. There are three restaurants in the village (but only one of them actually offering food). On the busy days, about five jeeps pass South-North or North-South, disturbing the pedestrians when they don’t take them for a ride in the back of the truck. The liveliest time of the day is in the morning, between 5:30 and 7am: people cleaning in front of their house or going to work, kids going to school, women opening the market with some green herbs, some fruits, two or three eggs, small breads, clothes, fried donuts, fish… After that time, life slowly becomes quiet under the warm sun. The day finishes at 6pm with the sunset. The village is then completely hidden in the night, especially when there is no moon; we can only see a few candles burning in front of a house or in a small shop, and of course the light of our restaurant. There are also lots of stars spread all over the sky and we often can see falling stars, and lightning from a far storm.
We wake up with the sun: Damien, Nina and Tchitcho leave for a two hours morning walk – to the beach, for a swim in big waves, but most of the time in the mountain – while the kids are sleeping quietly at the bungalow. Three times a day we walk from our bungalow to the centre and come back (a twenty minute walk in each direction): in the morning when we go to the library, after the lunch break and then in the evening to go to the restaurant. In the night, we never use electricity, though there is a generator in our hotel (first not to attract mosquitoes, and finally because we like it a lot). We live without a watch: we use the sun or our feelings, but in fact we never really need to know exactly what time it is. In the morning, the rosters start singing at 4 or 4.30, and it’s enough for Damien to stand up in time and wake up Nina and Tchitcho who already refell asleep.
We swim every day in the salty water: either in front of the hotel, on a nice beach at the end of the bay, or in the big waves (where Damien and Tchitcho like to play a lot while Nina is all stressed, expecting the next huge wave to tumble her like in a big sandy washing machine). Our daily shower is only use to wash down the salt from the ocean – with three buckets of cold water, it doesn’t take long.
Health – no problem, and (almost) no mosquitoes
After the paranoia of the first days, the fear of mosquitoes slowly disappears: we see some very rarely. However, we are doing the same ceremonial every evening: after a quick shower (this half bucket of cold water by person), we prepare ourselves fort the night: we put our long clothes impregnated with insect-repellent, and a few spray on our hands, feet and head; we prepare the mosquito-net for the bed and light on a mosquito-repellent incense.
We don't have any problem with health: though our feet, legs and hands start slowly to get covered with scratches, the salty water of the ocean cleans our scars. A great medicine, actually.
Marmaille à la case: the French library of Manompana
The library consists in a unique room, full with nice books for every age and of any kinds, cards and other games, paper and pencils for the next five years. In the mornings, the kids are studying French and doing exercises, and the afternoon is dedicated to games and outsides activities. Lézan, a 40-years-old malgach man, is responsible of the library: morning and afternoon, from Tuesday to Saturday, he’s opening and organizing the library. Apart from this daily activity, he’s fishing during the night and working in his paddy-field early in the morning.
We get there at 10am, happy from our breakfast and refreshed by our bath in front of the hotel after the morning walk. Usually, it’s pretty quiet in the morning: there are not a lot of kids. The younger want someone to read a book to them (with few words and lots of pictures), and make pony tails out of Nina’s hair with high concentration. Older boys (between 11 and 14) come for the daily dictation of Le Petit Nicolas, followed by the rigorous checking of the spelling and grammar done by Tchitcho. The library is a little dark and pleasantly cool – there is shadow everywhere and the sun shyly coming from the three small windows. We are sitting quietly inside, Mira and Sashko doing their travel books, Bulgarian or Mathematics, Damien playing with Eliane or another kid, Tchitcho at the dictation or teaching French or English to someone, and Nina trying to learn French.
At lunch time, we leave the quiet and scientific atmosphere of the library for the lively cuisine atmosphere of our only restaurant. We eat there while Mira and Sashko play with the six kids and nephews of the restaurant owner. From time to time, a kid come to see us and play with the others. Pretty often, we see around hundred kids passing at once on the street, together with their backpacks, and pink uniforms, laughing and talking noisily on their way to school. After one hour and a half, we leave the restaurant with a feeling of completeness and go back to our bungalow for our afternoon nap. Most of the time, the kids don’t come with us and prefer to stay and play with the ducks and the hens.
At 3pm, we are back at the library and play some quiet game with the kids, when we are not playing football or other ball games, which guarantee great action for the afternoon. It’s the most fun: the kids are very fast, full with energy, funny, nearby pushing, and most of all they really enjoy playing. At 5pm, they leave us nicely exhausted and ready to play again the day after.
The library is sometimes very quiet, but sometimes so noisy and crowded after school and during holidays; it’s not always easy to teach French to the kids (some of them can hardly understand us), or to build a long-term activity with them.
We often wondered if they really needed a French centre. Will French be really useful at the paddy field or to work in the forest? People are working hard, and there are some needs in health for example; but do they really miss something? Would our way of living (everything connected, electricity, phones, cars…) bring them a happier life? They guide us in the bush; we take them to the sea: thinking of all this shared moments, we did not expect more, and they didn’t seem to need more than that to live happily.
We spent now three weeks in the village of Manompana. It's already time for all of us to leave, Tchitcho is going back to France, Nina, Damien and the kids are starting another adventure: we have one week of travel to achieve our next destination, in the north of the island.
Here are a few moments and stories about our life in Manompana.
Our favorite meal (and other things we ate there)
The first two days, we got scared about the food we would have to deal with in Mada: kids do not like fish and have difficulties with fish, Tchitcho has never eaten fish in his life, Damien is desperate about the fruits that are not ripe yet, and since the plane Nina is asking with insistence for chocolate, fresh yogurts and walnuts…
In fact, we cannot go without our daily portion of rice with fish and coco: it didn't take long until we start to appreciate it (it is good so, as far as we eat it twice a day). Is it because of the fresh fish caught the same morning in the bay of Manompana? Is it because of the magical coco-sauce prepared by Madame Julienne? Or is it because we are starving after our three hours walk in the bush under the heavy sun?
Apart from our traditional rice-fish-coco, we afford ourselves some extras, made of bananas, and other tropical fruits when we can find some, and some biscuits (especially in the evening, when the kids are asleep but shhhh, don't tell them…)
The laughing kids of Manompana
The kids here are special, you can easily see they play a lot outside – they look free, open, curious, friendly, laughing most of the time; they are nicely aggressive when they fight, and so shy when you invite them or tell them something nice; so wild and independent, the whole day on the street, at school, in the library with us, in the forest, working with their parents at the paddy field or cutting trees in the forest or fishing, climbing high on coconut trees to pick coconuts, going with the cows in the meadows of the mountain… And surprisingly asking their parents for permission to go for a walk with us!
We like to see them on the sandy, dusty street – jumping, running, laughing… They laugh at everything: at a boy who fell down of his bike in the sand; at Damien when he tries to walk with high wooden sticks and breaks one; at Mira when she falls on the floor badly while carrying a boy on his back; at a kid whose toenail was just cut, hurting him badly; at Nina when one of the boys suggests she may be Tchitcho's mother… With such laughs, even the strongest pain or the biggest shame starts to look funny. You can laugh with them anytime: they make fun of everything.
Mira says that they are more nature-related: they are strong, brave, they can run very fast and are very good at games with a ball; they can find all the paths in the forest or between the infinite paddy fields… In Europe, the kids are more city-related: quieter, playing computer, studying a lot, staying at home… All the kids here walk barefoot in the sand, inside the deep mud, on the river, on sharp and sliding stones, in the jungle. When we go for a walk together, they always help Mira and Sashko (and Nina as well sometimes) to cross a river, climb a difficult path or walk on a tiny tree branch in the middle of half meter deep mud. Some of them are perfect guides in the forest.
They dance very well and very sincerely, without being afraid of what the others could think (and, whatever the way they move, everybody is gonna laugh in a nice way); they also try to teach Mira and Sashko how to dance their way and how to move their bottoms.
They are always ready to eat something with such appetite, and always ready to share with you the little food they might have, and they are fighting with the others for banana, litchi or small bread.
The kids like to come to our bungalow in the morning on Saturdays and Sundays, and in the evening after the library. Their favourite activities there are playing Uno, draw, play with balls or just sit on the terrace.
When we walk on the street, we always see someone calling after us; in the evening, you only hear your name coming out of the night…
Nina likes them a lot (although one of them thought Tchitcho may was her son…): what she likes particularly is that they are so many like in an old black and white Bulgarian movie…
Weather: dry or wet season?
According to our guidebook, it is the end of the dry season in Madagascar; according to the people here, it just began... You have as many theories as sources: for one the wet season lasts six months and just began, for the other it's between April and May (or between January and March)… You can easily see that dry or rainy have a relative meaning here: in November, it is raining, but not much, and the wind is blowing all day long, cleaning the sky from heavy clouds (or the opposite). Anyway, don't worry, we find every day a moment to swim in the warm water of the ocean, even after a heavy rain.
We are alive;
sorry for the past month without any news, but we were 3 weeks in Manompana, cut from the world. 3 days ago we arrived in the island of St Marie with the desire to finally give some news to all of you but the power supply was off since 3 days… And it just started again today.
Here some news, perhaps not so fresh but so interesting… For the pictures, we'll try to put some on the blog soon. Here is only the first part of the trip. SuperTchitcho will send the rest of our adventures in Manompana.
From Paris to Manompana
Nina is now back without the plaster; Sashko and Mira curious but not knowing what to expect; Damien – impatient to go back to his life outside after the 6 days of rest between biking in Greece and our plane to Antananarivo; Tchitcho (Damien’s cousin also called Damien) who comes with us for the first month in Mada and became the SuperTchitcho for Mira and Sashko. We arrived in Paris the 16th of October, 24 hours before our departure to the airport. Mira saw the extra back pack and Tchitcho preparing his stuff around us but she was convinced he was joking about coming with us to Mada. It was only when Maite left us at the train station Mira asked with a naïve voice ‘Damien (Tchitcho) are you really coming with us?’. Good for us we have to bare him only for the first month.
Arrival in Tana (Antananarivo).
After the first night in the plane we needed 4 days to achieve the village of Manompana (550 km from Tana!). One day lost in the hills of Tana, 2 days on the East coast, slowly getting to the end of the asphalt road and 1 full day for the last 35 km. At Tana, waiting for the night bus going to Tamatave, we had half day to discover the city. Our first impressions from our short walk in the capital: colourful, peaceful but full with life, full with small streets and narrow stairs going up and down. After the night in the plane we had a long night in the bus – Tchitcho trying to sleep with Mira and Sashko lying on him, Damien sitting next to a window with a nest full with black insects, Nina sleeping peacefully. Like that we arrived in Tamatave at 2 AM but we slept in the bus until 6AM. Directly we took the taxi-brousse to the North and had a quiet breakfast at a palm tree beach. We had our first bath, our first conversation with the kids of Mada, Mira and Sashko had their first sand castle, Tchitcho has his first sun burn – a beautiful pink-purple colour on his gigantic feet. We had a lunch on the beach – our first fish and rise and we continued our trip further to the North, to Mahambo. There finally we had our first night in a bed: in a Malgash bungalow with wooden floor, sand on the floor, walls and roof made from dried leaves, bathroom with cold running water, mosquito nets covering the beds. There we established our way of sleeping for the next month – Tchitcho and Sashko in one bed, Mira, Damien and Nina in another one. Next day we left the city early afternoon. After one hour waiting on the road we took the taxi-brousse to Soanierana Ivongo. We arrived there at 4 PM and we realised we can not be in Manompana the same day (we were told that the trip is another 4 hours).
We had our calm night until 5 AM when very loud and very nice Malgash music, coming from the house next to us, woke us up. The day started – our last and longest day trip to Manompana! We agreed the day before with Olivier, our driver to be ready at 6 AM. At 9 AM the jeep was still missing one wheel and he was still assembling new ball-bearing to the front wheel. Finally, after finishing the repair, we left 10.30 AM. Nina, Mira and Sashko sitting in front of the car next to the driver, Damien and Tchitcho at the back with 12 other people and 10 big packs in between them. The trip consists of 3 rivers to cross by boat and 35 km of sandy path next to the ocean. It took us 11 hours to accomplish the trip! Olivier driving with no more than 10 km/h, managing very skilfully to pass the big holes and the thick sand of the path. We were waiting for 4 hours the 2nd boat (it was stuck in the river due to its heavy load and the strong wind was pushing it to the ocean). While waiting for the boat one pirogue was crossing constantly between the two shores transporting people, bicycles, motorbike and even one herd of zebu – the 1st one attached to the pirogue and all the other swimming behind in the strong current. Two more hours waiting at the 3rd river due to low tide… Finally at 9 PM we arrived in Manompana.
Hello and bye to everyone!
In 4 hours we are leaving our continent, flying to the unknown world of Africa! We are so curious what we will meet there, impatient to reach the warm days and warm people of Madagascar, afraid from the local deseases and especially malaria (nina only), a little tired (nina and damien because of the luggage preparation, damien because of the medicine collection and because of the constant remarks of nina regarding the quality and quantity of the medicine taken, sashko because of the 4 pages of mathematic he is expected to do today before the flight and mira because she is trying so hard to read a comix book in french), happy that the other damien, cousin of our damien, is also coming with us.
ciao and please be patient until your recieve the first message from Madagascar: the place we are going for the next 3-4 weeks will be far away from any internet connection.
Nina, Damien, Sashko and Mira
Click on the link to see where we are (or where we were ...)