The sights we saw while driving in Madagascar were continually interesting and were one of our top highlights. On the road, you frequently pass through towns and small villages crowded with people. Many of the roads in Madagascar are poor and some are downright atrocious. You also have to stop frequently for zebu or slow down for zebu-drawn wagons or other means of transport. So driving is slow but at the same time interesting and often very scenic.
In the mornings we saw
people walking to market, the women carrying baskets on their heads
and many men carrying heavy loads on their shoulders. Later in the day
we would see men with shovels over their shoulder, returning from working
in the fields. It was time for the rice harvest and we saw people cutting
it in the fields, threshing it, drying it, pounding it to separate the
seed, saving the stalks for roofing thatch. When we would slow to watch
these activities, the threshers would give us a friendly wave and sometimes
put on a bit of a show for us by vigorously returning to their work.
Many villages had their own specialty from honey to wood carvings for
sale along the road. We passed one area where large amounts of illegal
rum are produced. This whole operation took place in plain view.
The most surprising thing
about Madagascar is how un-African it seems. There is little visible
evidence of the tribal cultures that you find throughout much of Africa.
Nor do you have the game that is the essence of Africa. There was one
important similarity, however – the people of Madagascar exhibited
the same sweetness and friendliness that we have found in every other
African country we have visited. Our visit was further enhanced by the
enthusiasm and friendliness of our agency guides/drivers and the national
park guides. They were invariably well-trained, knowledgeable, respectful
of the environment and committed to preserving it. And all of them seemed
to love what they are doing.