Visiting the witch doctor
Antsirabe, Madagascar

Visiting the witch doctor

An early morning today – bags onto the bus at 6.30am.

I had a bit of fruit for breakfast and basically dozed all morning on the bus. Apart from a short stretch when the bus left us at the side of the road, so we could walk along the road for a short while, next to pretty flowers, a river and a waterfall!

We stopped in a busy market village and wandered around the market. Same as most markets – fruits, vegetables, meat, clothes and random plastic crap. I’ve seen jackfruit being sold at the sides of the road and got so excited! Although sadly didn’t see any in the market.

We were driving back the way we came, all the way back to Antananarivo.

We arrived just after 11am and headed back to the same supermarket again!! So I stocked up on mangos, bananas and water. Then we headed a different direction out of the city, now headed South.

We stopped off for lunch under some pinecone trees! I had a couple of mangos for lunch. Then we continued on. And on. Around winding roads. And I fell asleep (again).

We stopped off at the side of the road to look at some tombs (from a distance!). They were square brick rooms, painted white. They go underground too. And all face west – as burials must be after 4pm and that direction will give the most light. When someone dies they are wrapped in shrouds and placed into the family tomb 4 days later. Then every 5-7 years, there is a large party, where all the bodies are removed from the tombs and people dance around with them and drink. They are re-wrapped and placed back in the tomb.

Next up, we stopped off in a small town which has become rich through making aluminium cookware. We were taken into a small dark, steamy room, where 4 guys were running around making the pots. They take scrap bits of aluminium, melt it down and form cooking pots. It was pretty clever – they use a pot and surround it in a fine black soil to form the mould. Then remove the pot from the middle, place the 2 pieces of soil mould together, then pour liquid aluminium through a hole which they leave in the soil. They do it so quickly and within the 3 minutes we were standing there, a pot and lid had been made!

The guys are in a tshirt and shorts, no shoes, no gloves, no eye protection. And running around with pots full of molten liquid, standing on the moulds as they pour.

All around the workshop area were loads of little children running around. Some of the children (about 4 years old) had babies strapped to their backs too! Of course there was a little stall selling small aluminium pots, baobab trees and lemurs (basically looked like cats!).

As we were buying bits, it suddenly began to pour with rain! We were not prepared for this!!! So we ran back to the bus – which was parked quite some distance away. By the time I got there, I was totally drenched. I may as well have just jumped into a pool of water. I could not have been wetter. Then i found out we have another 2 hours to go. Dripping wet. Yay.

So I fell asleep. What is wrong with me?!

We arrived into the city of Antsirabe at 5.30pm. Full of tuk tuks everywhere. And beer trucks. They brew the local ‘three horses beer’ in this town.

Rather than being motorised tuk tuks, many of these are cyclos. But most are powered by someone walking along pulling the cart! Called a pousse-pousse.

We headed out to dinner at 6.30pm. Which has become a bit of a pointless affair. It takes hours and I never eat. And the same happened again today. I ordered vegetables. I got some green beans, loads of potatoes and all covered in garlic. So I didn’t eat. And the whole process took 3 hours.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

We had a leisurely morning today, bags didn’t need to be on the bus until 9am. Then we had the next half hour to have a wander around. We didn’t go too far. Just up the street, being chased by pousse-pousse drivers and women selling paintings and tshirts. The first souvenir type things I’ve seen!

I got some chocolate bread (!) from the bakery for breakfast. It was really good! Bread here is very French – they all have baguettes, croissants and French patisserie cakes. I can’t eat most of them, but the chocolate chip bread was good!

Then we headed off back into the countryside. Miles and miles of flat rice fields. Women bent over adding new plants into the fields. Zebu pulling carts. Ducks waddling in the fields and children running around.

After about half an hour, we stopped off in a village and began to walk. Of course as soon as we stepped off the bus it began to rain. The paths out of the village were muddy and slippery. Passing by small shops at the front of people’s houses and then into the rice fields.

We were headed up a small hill, through narrow winding paths and soon after the rain stopped.

In Madagascar, the shaman (or witch doctor) is the most important person in the village. There is usually one in each village and people visit them to consult on various different things – when they are sick, when they have lost something, when they are having trouble with other people etc. We visited the house of one of them.

We had to head up a wooden ladder into a small room upstairs. I was expecting to be greeted by someone dressed up in a colourful outfit with feathers. But there were just three normal looking men (a dad, his brother and the son). All three are shaman.

They only speak Malagasy, so our guide translated for us. In front of them they had a variety of different things: – Lots of bottles full of water which have been collected from special places all over Madagascar – various branches from different trees. They sand the wood to make a powder, then mix this with water to treat illnesses such as diahorrea and sickness. – leaves from different buses. The only one I recognised was mint. – beads on a necklace, which are used to ‘cure’ illnesses such as cancer – a zebu horn, stuffed with wood and a magnet on top. Which can be used to find missing objects.

Clearly some of these things seem sensible – like putting mint leaves into water to stop feeling sick. But other things which they claim they can do seemed a bit far fetched. Apparently some ‘bad’ shaman can curse people, which can make them act badly and cause a rash to cover their bodies. Then the ‘good’ shaman can use a variety of beads, water and plants to cure the person of the curse. He also explained that if a girl runs off with a boy and the parents want her back, he can call her back using the magnet stuck on the zebu horn. It was all quite interesting.

After we spent about an hour with the shaman, we left this village and headed to the top of the nearby hill. From here there were really nice views all around – to some surrounding hills, but mostly the rice fields and small clusters of houses.

We are staying in a village tonight and arrived at our house at 1pm, after walking for 5km. They already had lunch waiting for us, there was a large semi-outside seating area. They had made me a special no-onion meal, which was really nice of them as absolutely everything had onions in it!! I had rice, tomatoes, raw carrot and some cooked vegetables. Everyone else had similar, with loads of onion and zebu meat. Then we had pineapple for dessert. It was good!

We were shown to our room, a massive room stuffed with beds! I ended up in a room of 7 girls. It was fine.

And then off for an afternoon walk around this village. Down the muddy path, past small groups of small children – they all seem to love white people. They all want to say hello, touch you and follow you around. They must see white people every single day – as there are groups which stay here all the time, but the novelty has clearly not worn off! We stopped off at the primary school. It was just one room. Apparently most children will go to primary school. However very few will go to secondary school. The state-run schools are not very good. Teachers are very rubbish and not paid well. As there are not enough schools, or teachers, they all operate morning classes and then separate afternoon classes. We went into the classroom, it was full of children of all different ages (although all under 10).

They were learning geography and seemed to enjoy the distraction of a load of visitors. We wandered through the rice fields, avoiding the stray zebu who seemed to want to chase us. There were various tombs scattered around here too.

Right at the end of this set of rice fields was another cluster of houses. We were invited into one of them, a woman was sitting on the floor weaving a grass mat. She was so quick you could barely see her fingers moving! Suddenly I started to feel really ill. Massive stomach ache. Oh dear. Luckily we were turning around and heading back to our house. When we got back, after our 3 hour walk, there were afternoon snacks of various different types of fritters. I was not feeling up to eating. And couldn’t have eaten them anyway (so that was lucky).

The family had set up a camp fire and pretty much the whole village had come over to join in the singing and dancing which was happening. I still didn’t feel well, so headed off to bed. Not sure how I managed to sleep through most of the noise which was happening right next to the room! We had dinner at 8pm and I was brought a large platter of vegetables! There was also rice and chips. I wasn’t feeling hungry at all. I ate a few mouthfuls just for the sake of eating. I then headed straight back to bed! 9pm bed time.


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