Monday, 29 August 2016

Second Day of the Cruise

August 25

I woke up early after the fitful night of listening to the music. There was a fog off the river, just like home!

The people were up in the village. Women and children were collecting water from the river. I took a few photographs of the village and our campsite. Breakfast was served on the boat. We had the standard breakfast of stale bread and a sweet bread. I prefer the sweet one.

After breakfast we visited the village. We first entered the market place. Again we are so amazed at the business of Madagascar. There is so little formal sector activities (especially government) in Madagascar that people have to support themselves in anyway possible.

From spending our many years in Botswana, we are always comparing the two countries. Botswana back in our days had formal stores, general dealers, run often by white settlers or East Indians. Batswana were starting to enter businesses such as dry cleaners and bottle (liquor and beer) stores. There was limited informal market activity, ladies selling fat cakes and mopane worms (that is for another blog). When I returned to Botswana I found that the formal businesses had been replaced by South African chain stores, including the bottle stores.

The market in Sahambano was busy. I saw a butcher, a liquor store, vegetable dealers, and lots of clothing stores. I noted that Michael Jordan still leads in NBA jersey sales. There was a small booth where locals could pay to have their music downloaded.

We were a magnet for the children, especially me. I ended up with a little girl on both sides. Photography was a bit difficult as I had to extract myself each time I wanted to take a photograph. Then as soon as I raised my camera I had other children yelling, “Wazza, photo. Wazza, photo”.  (Wazza are foreigners. It sounds a lot like “Wassup”, so the temptation is to yell it back to them, but that makes no sense.) They wanted their photos taken. Often they wanted to see themselves on the camera afterwards. But other times they were content to just get it taken. I asked a few others for permission to take their photos, a man in a Jordan jersey and some women with their faces caked in mud. They do this for both sun protection and for beauty.

We passed the mayor’s office. Po said I had to meet him. Unfortunately the mayor was out of town. I did get my photograph taken with his assistant.

We saw both primary schools. By far the nicer one was the private Catholic school. Apparently the public schools are underfunded, so the best education is always in the private schools.

We left the village and went on our way down the river. There was virtually constant activity, canoes, goods and people barges, etc. We stopped at a little village for lunch (again served on the boat). We had the crayfish that was purchased from the village woman last evening as a starter. The main course was pork sausages with beans. Both were cooked in a spicy sauce. We are eating quite well, way beyond expectations.

After lunch Johnny took us on a tour of the village. He had been explaining about the size of the river during rainy (cyclone) season. All of the little settlements we have been seeing along the river bank are seasonal only. When the rains come the river will cover them up. All we saw of this little village is seasonal as well. We were high up the bank, but Johnny said the boats would actually go past were we were standing. He pointed out a school in the distance next to a Catholic Church. That is where the year round town is. Once again, there are little stalls selling various goods and several bars and restaurants.

Shortly after taking to river again we saw our first baobab trees. From here on we saw hillsides that were totally covered.

Our pilot spotted another crocodile and turned the boat into the shore for a better look. The river was quite shallow at that point, and the wind was blowing quite hard against us. So, in spite of the furious effort of the crew with their poles, we ran aground. So the two helpers had to jump into the water, near where the crocodile went under, to push the boat off the bottom. Johnny said there was no danger, that the crocodile is afraid of the sound of the boat,  but it seemed that the guy who had to go looking for deeper waters was a bit nervous.

We stopped at another little village to see some baobab trees. There are several within the village. This was a much poorer village which did not have much of the businesses we had seen in the others.

We pulled into the shore shortly thereafter. The guys started setting up our accommodations, but we saw them adding a new little structure. That was our washroom. They put a large bucket of water (not heated) in there for us. It was a total surprise, just like the toilet tent we were given each night.

Before supper I downloaded my photographs. I ended up showing the crew all my photos. Many were of them, but others were not. I was not sure what they thought of my subject matter. Then everyone sat down across from us. The crew started singing some traditional songs for us. I was not prepared to video this, just started taking it with my iPad. Po used my head lamp to try and highlight the singers. After that Johnny explained that the next day we would go straight to our drop off point. We would have lunch before disembarking.

He also explained that it was traditional for the guests to make a speech before leaving the boat. I decided that since I was expected to do that, and since we were very happy with the way we had been treated, that I would make some notes for the speech. I thought the effort of having written things down would be appreciated.

We had our supper. It was zebu again, this time a stew. As all our meals, it was delicious. A little later we were called up to the shore to a camp fire. Our crew, along with a couple of guys from the village, were to do some traditional song and dance. Of everything on the boat, this was the one thing that did not impress us. Johnny had his music machine, but lots of the music was not traditional. The guys ran around the camp fire several times. We decided to go off to bed.

When we got back on the boat to get our things for the tent, I decided to bring my sweatshirt and sweatpants in case it got too cool during the night. As I was shuffling things around next to my suitcase something went over the side. I realized that it was my pair of sweatpants. I looked down and realized they were long gone. The river was flowing far too fast to chase after them. So much for my new sweatpants that I bought for the trip. Luckily they were the cheapest that Walmart had. I was not so much worried about the pants, but I had a cold feeling thinking about the many things that might have snuck over the side. Certainly the sweatpants were about the best thing that could have gone overboard.

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