Madagascar Diaries
By Kelly Barker, Durrell's Head of Marketing

   « Day 1 & 2 Day 3 & 4
Travelling to Festival du Songatana, part 1 & 2
Day 5 & 6  »

 

Wednesday 26th October

5.50pm

Wowsers, 7 hours in a landrover in 35 degrees heat, round the windiest roads I have ever seen in my life. Now ordinarily I get really car sick but thankfully I bought some travel sickness pills with me. What wasn’t so clever was taking it first thing this morning at the same time as my Malaria tablet which sent me a bit doollaly! We have to do it all again tomorrow but this time for 8 hours.

Madagascar is absolutely stunning. Driving east all the way it’s luscious and green (and red) and you drive through village after village. You can see how incredibly poor it is. The houses are little shacks that don’t look all that sturdy. We stopped off for a bite and I had beef & rice. I’m getting far too cocky with the chillies to spruce up the flavour, nice though.

Frankly, our driver, drives like a mad man, not frankly he’s too fast but frankly is his name! Hasina lets me sit in the front which is nice. We listened to the same Malagasy music for 7 hours so I know all the words now, although haven’t a clue what it means!

Hasina wouldn’t let me go to the toilet at the roadside café as he said it would be terrible so I had to go at the side of the road showing off my white bum to a few locals walking up the road. My highlight for today is definitely seeing the beautiful beach we briefly stopped at and watching a man wash his brand new puppy in the ocean, which then proceeded to roll around in the sand.

The room is a shack that reminds me of travelling through Thailand at 21 on a budget. The mossie net is full of holes so I am going to try and put mine over it. Not sure tonight that I will get away without getting bitten. I have a pet gecko who might try and eat them for me.

26th October

8.45pm

Steak & chips, Yippee! That was my dinner with a couple of beers so I feel nice and full and relaxed. Hasina explained tonight how we have been working with the different villages to raise awareness of overfishing and how it affects the environment & subsequently the communities. We have raised awareness by holding festivals with different communities and listening to how the changes in the environment have affected them. They now put their own restrictions on fishing in the part of the river that runs though their village so it’s been really successful. Obviously I will find out more at the festival, the day after tomorrow.

Excitingly Hasina told me that tonight the police were following potential ploughshare tortoise smugglers (for 80 Km’s) and if they caught them they were going to arrest them. Then we got the call to say that it fell through. It’s just constant disappointment, this conservation battle and Hasina looked so disappointed, I really felt for him.

Thursday 27th October

7.10am

OMG it is so humid, the minute I stepped out of the shower, I was dripping again, it’s definitely hotter than yesterday. It rained all night, to the extent some of my roof collapsed in the night and the bed was covered in grit! Getting ready for super long journey now, we are all just praying it won’t rain.

9.24am

We are stuck at a river because the Jetty is being repaired so it’s not looking all that positive to get there tonight. Hasina reckons it will take them at least half a day to fix. Looks like it’s me and Lee Evans again for a while. The update is it’s due at 2pm to be fixed and so we are literally waiting around on a grass bank for 5 hours which means driving through the night and Hasina say’s we will get there about 2am.

11.17am

Looks like the boat now might be at around 5pm. The Jetty is getting fixed anytime soon – gutted & hot & need the loo but there are no toilets and too may people to crouch.

12.00pm

What a day! We got to the room at 11.45pm and it was pitch black. The electric had already been turned off for the evening and my torch was safely tucked away at the very bottom of my backpack.

We drove for 8 hours after the boat/ Jetty saga along the dirt track full of trenches. Frankly really had his work cut out, there were times when a snail pace was required so as not to damage the Landrover or veer off the side of the hills that we were driving through, into the luscious jungle below.

This is one of the problems for Malagasy people. All these hills used to be covered by forests but because they have so little land to grow rice etc they have to burn areas of these hills (slash & burn) so they can create somewhere to grow rice. Last night there were 7 fires along the way (just in a couple of hours).

We stopped off briefly for some rice and the little children from the village kept peeking round the door at me, every time I looked over they were there mesmerised by me and when I kept saying ‘Salama’ (hello in Malagasy) they would laugh and run away! This continued throughout the duration of the meal!

When we arrived at the Sisters, (the accommodation) they showed Hasina and I the shower (which was seriously half a mile away from my room) and the toilet, again, another half a mile away! Hasina said “go now if you like, I will wait for you”, so I attempted to take the lid off the hole in the ground and started to undo my trousers, at which point I screamed. There were 3 huge red angry looking cockroaches crawling up the hole towards me. I bounced out of there with great speed & NO finesse.
 

Day 1 - Travelling to Madagascar
Day 2 - First impressions

Day 3 - Travelling to Festival du Songatana, part 1
Day 4 - Travelling to Festival du Songatana, part 2

Day 5 - The festival
Day 6 - Travelling to Alaotra

Day 7 - Visiting Alaotran communities
Day 8 - Gentle lemurs at the lake

Day 9 - Travelling to the pochard
Day 10 - Madagascar pochard breeding centre

Day 11 - My Ampijoroa and other animals
Day 12 - Ploughshare tortoises

Day 13 - Au revoir   

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