Bags were on the bus by 6.45am this morning and we made our way out of the village, back into the rocky landscape. This is the last long drive day of the trip! Miles and miles of open grassland. Some patches blackened from being recently deliberately burned to make fresh shoots for zebu food.
Stealing zebu is very common around here. It’s punishable with 5 years in prison. But apparently girls will not marry unless a man has stolen zebu and ‘become a man’.
We drove through a town which has sapphire mining. Many Japanese, Chinese and Sri Lankans come here to mine. It’s the only place in the world where pink sapphires can be found. We crossed over a river, which was full of men panning for stones. And women doing clothes washing!
We stopped off in a shop, I was surprised at how cheap the prices were. Mostly ranging from EUR30 – 200. The most expensive was EUR950. The stones were pretty colours, but ruined by cheap, tacky looking settings.
More exciting outside on the streets, I had a wander around and bought 7 bananas for 20p.
More driving. Then suddenly – a baobab tree!!!! In the distance, but so recognisable with its ‘upside’ down shape. There are 7 different varieties of baobab tree and 5 are only found in Madagascar. They look so cool!
This one had leaves on, so did look a bit more tree-like. Then further down the road, the ground was scattered with them. We got out for a wander down the road. Soon, we had half the village following us!
These trees had fewer leaves and just looked so cool. They are around 300-500 years old.
The tombs here are different again. The Mahafaly tribe. They are elaborate – painted and decorated based on the persons likes. We passed some which has coloured designs, one which was huge and belonged to the head of the village. And one which was completely like a boat – in the shape of a boat and painted like a boat, surrounded with zebu horns!
Several exhumations were happening today. The first we saw lots of people walking to the tomb. The second, was two zebu at the front, pulling 5 coffins of bones, followed by about 100 families and friends (who were already drunk)!
Earlier this morning we had all given a bit of money to the guide and he had gone to a shop and bought a mountain of exercise books, pens and pencils. We stopped off at a small village school to donate these. The school was in the middle of the countryside, a concrete building with two classrooms and a dining room made of branches and leaves. There are 60 children per class and 5 classes. Their classrooms were bare, 4 small children on each wooden bench-desk and a blackboard. Apparently most parents can’t afford to buy an exercise book for their child (they cost 500 ariary – 10p).
Suddenly we turned a corner and the sea came into sight! We were now into sandy, palm tree territory! Just after 1pm we arrived in the city of Tolear. We stopped off at a restaurant for lunch. The most touristy restaurant we have been to all trip! Nothing on the menu that I could eat again. So I ordered off menu. A no cheese, vegetable pizza.
I was ready to give up. But it was amazing!! Curried vegetables on an amazing pizza! Wow.
Next stop – the ATM for millions more monopoly notes! It was taking ages for everyone else to change money. So we went for a wander around the market and found green coconuts for 1,500 (30p) and I bought 40p worth of mangos (ended up with 7 of them!). Awesome! And the supermarket. Which was also really fun! Loads of local jams and coffee. Vanilla was ridiculously expensive – so lucky I bought some from the spicy lady a few days ago!
And then back on the road for the final drive. The last 90 minutes on the bus, to our final stop in Ifaty.
It was a bumpy, unpaved road. Full of dust. But cool scenery – lots of cacti, small aloe, baby baobab and tall trees that look like asparagus!
We arrived at 5pm to our beach huts. Fancy beach huts and a pool!! They were really nice. Right on the beach and actually pleasant to sit in! Makes a change.
The sun was setting, but we went off for a walk down the beach. It’s quite a long beach, dug out canoe boats scattered around on the sand. Women with small stalls selling sarongs, wooden things and shells. Children wandering around selling food. And women trying to sell massages. So typical beach! But surprisingly we really weren’t hassled a lot. And there weren’t that many people around.
We walked all the way down to the next village – Mangily – and back again. Then pool time!
And now, at 6.15pm, it was proper sunset. It was pretty! Just behind the pool, there was a lot of activity on one of the trees. It was full of tiny mouse lemurs!! Too cute!! The size of a large hamster. Running around all the branches!
The restaurant had no choice for dinner. So I ended up with a plate of rice. Exciting.