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Day 7 - Homestay on the way to Manakara

MADAGASCAR | Friday, 7 May 2010 | Views [1608] | Comments [4]

The last two days have been picturesque to say the least. After the previous post about scammers we risked it again and signed up for a 2 day train and homestay trip to Andrambovato (Normally 120,000Ar and worth every penny, though not what we paid. The business is run out of an old red train carriage out front of the Fianarantsoa station). This time however, the company had been recommended to Arno by a group of 3 French tourists who’d visit just a week or so before.

 

The train from Fianarantsoa leaves on alternate days to Manakara and returns every other. It is notoriously prone to breakdowns and delay, and currently stops 70km before its destination. The train left promptly at 7am Malagasy time (ie. 7.30am) and our first class carriage (as far as I could tell, the only difference was having a reserved seat) was full of both locals and vasa. Passing through the stations and small towns and villages, it was curiously like being a celebrity. Workers stopped work to watch and wave. Young girls stood waiting at the station and offered all sorts of exotic fruits and snack foods at the window. Children would hang about just to catch a glimpse of the vasa and have their photos taken. Strange. Yet very fun.

 

We arrived at Andrambovato about 10.30am and met our host family and nature guide. The home was beautiful! Traditional, but immaculately kept and more like a Hollywood version of a Malagasy home (in a good way) than the neighbouring examples of reality.

The tiny village is built on either side of the train line and in the shadow of a huge cliff. The top was our first destination of the first day’s 4hour hike. The view was amazing and our guide Tsina was incredibly knowledgeable about the local landscape, history, flora and fauna. We then hiked to a nearby waterfall and had a picnic lunch brought up by our host Andreas. (By the way, the food was great the whole time on the trip. Andreas had a long career in hospitality in the city and he and his wife prepare everything for the homestay.) After a refreshing tropical shower (No running water or electricity here, just hot and cold tubs of water you mix in a pitcher.), we settled down to a slightly westernized version of a traditional Malagasy dinner on the terrace overlooking the landscape below. We were cut short by a sudden downpour but Andreas organised dessert (banana flambé) in our room to candlelight. Honeymooners, eat your heart out.

 

The next morning we had breakfast out over the stunning view again and then headed out on another hike to a traditional village in the valley.

The inhabitants there, though few, still hold their traditional beliefs very strongly. For instance, only the queen is allowed to sit along the south wall of the big house, while guests sit on the north, old and wise men to the east and young men to the west. The decorative baskets on the shelves were explained to have magical properties and are only to be touched by someone who has killed a demon. It was in this village that we were guests of their queen and had sugar cane and pomello in the “big house”, the most important building where all business is attended to. We were also required to leave a monetary gift to the village which was received by the queen.

 

Included in the tour of the village was a visit to their rum distillery. This was real bucket science. Out amongst the rice paddies, we stopped abruptly and were shown three big clay holes in the ground that were filled with various levels of fermenting sugar cane, special leaves and a few beetles that had fallen in for good measure. A few meters further, a makeshift distillation lab was running out of a metal barrel where two men sat nearby stoking the fire and chatting. I secretly wondered how often these set ups exploded but didn’t venture to ask.

The trip ended far too soon. We waited reluctantly for the train to bring us back to civilisation. Honoria (our host mother) braided my hair like hers. We stopped and listened to some men singing to Malagasy music on guitar and watched the children playing with spin tops made from wood and stone. As Arno said to me earlier, our civilisation must be crazy to have given this simple life up.

 

Comments

1

I would like details of the homestay you were in. Researching a trip there for myself and my wife in around 16months time and looking for genuine family run homestays in more remote areas. We want to explore alone locally and a little further with guide. Just want clean, friendly, English speaking and accessible.

thanks if you can help!

Richard

  Richard Jan 4, 2012 10:52 AM

2

Hi there Richard,
I'm trying to find a website for you but at the moment only have names and numbers.
Our host family (a husband and wife duo) are Andreas and Honorine
Ph: 033016394241
And our guide was Tina (full name: DZAKELY Tina Ndriandazaina)
Ph: 0330580790
(though I'm not sure if these are their numbers or the guy in town who dealt with us at the train station as there is no electricity in the town).
Unfortunately I think it might be hard to organise without being there and then unless you go with an expensive tour company that will charge you big bucks for the luxury of not having to seek out the places yourself. Also, do you speak French? It will make things a lot easier if you're going off the beaten track. Barely anyone I met spoke English, I was lucky I was traveling with a French friend.

Let me know if you have any other questions, it's an amazing country and I wish the whole world would go and visit!

  escape Jan 8, 2012 10:20 PM

3

Also, have you seen this?
http://answers.worldnomads.com/questions/madagascar/4014/anyone-been-to-madagascar-would-love-to-hear-anything-about-this-amazing-place-i-want-to-go-but-have-no-idea-where-to-start-
There's an Australian who lived there for 15years, he may be able to help you too.

  escape Jan 8, 2012 10:23 PM

4

Hi Tracy, Hi Richard,

I confirm the phone numbers:
- Andreas and Honorine Ph: 033016394241
- Tina Ph: 0330580790
I did not find any website, but Richard, I can help you if you need to translate something.

Great souvenirs.

Arno.

  Arno Jan 12, 2012 8:47 AM

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