I woke up at my usual 4:30. It was cold, way cooler than any place we have been. The cabin was quite basic, so it provided little insulation. As it got lighter Po opened a shutter and looked out. There was fog over the rice fields. Cool and foggy, makes us feel like we are home!
We headed into breakfast. Our hostess was there getting things ready. She brought out croissants. The service here was just marvellous. When we left we were given picnic lunches. The walk, which also includes the lunch, is arranged through the hotel.
We headed down the continuation of the bad road to where we are to do the walk. It took about 40 minutes. We met our guide who explained that we were going to hike to the next village and then back again. There were a few guys there welcoming us and asking us to look at their woodcraft when we returned. Manual wanted me to remember his and his friend’s Albert’s names. I did not remember them when we got back, but I do now.
It was cool enough that I was wearing a sweatshirt. There was a brisk wind. I felt right at home. This was Newfoundland hiking weather!
We started our hike. We went down a hill and past the rice fields and then started up, and up and up. When it looked like we were reaching the top, it turned out that we were less than halfway there. We had to remind ourselves that we are using the path that the locals use for their daily transportation. There is no road to this village. Everything comes over this road by people, on their backs.
As we reached the top we stopped at a Zafimaniry memorial. They have little headstones which represent the members of the family. Our guide explained that these are memorials only, that the bodies are not buried here. This is unlike some of the other memorials that we have seen.
Our guide told us that the difference in elevation was over 200 metres, so we had done a 600 foot climb. After initial climb, the walk levelled out. It was quite beautiful. We could see for a long ways in all directions. We went down another hill and then back up. Po slipped on the down hill so the guide made a walking stick for her.
We could finally can see the village. Josy had said, I think, that it is a World heritage site. Most homes are built from wood in the Zafimaniry style, although there are also brick structures. We walked around the village, which is not a big place as about 500 people live there. Our guide explained that the people are nomadic, that they move their villages when they think there is a better place. The houses are not built with nails so they can be taken apart and reassembled. (It sounds like Newfoundland’s resettlement era with houses being moved.) Some people have bamboo houses as they need to save money to acquire the wood for the houses.
We were taken to meet the chief. He explained the rules of building the houses. The bed for the man is always in the northeast corner. The southeast corner is for cooking, the door is on the southwest corner and that area is where any livestock are kept, the northwest corner is for the rest of the family to sleep on mats. There is a post in the centre of the house. On one side the women do the cooking. On the other the father and his male children sit and talk and plan their activities (sounds like a great arrangement). There is no chimney. Windows are opened but the smoke that remains serves the purpose of seasoning the wood, drying the corn and keeping the mosquitos away. It was all very interesting, and you can see that I was paying attention. He was the chief. He must give this talk several times a day during tourist season.
We then had to repeat our walk in reverse. The weather remained cool. We met the other hotel guests on our way back, including our new Belgian friends from last night. We got back to Anoetra and visited a couple of the workshops. We could see their work, but since today was Sunday, nobody was working. That would be considered taboo. This Sunday thing would be a recurring theme for the rest of the day.
We did not buy anything. I do not know if the Malagache are sarcastic but the way they wished us a good trip after us not buying anything did not sound sincere to me.
We left the village. I asked Josy to find a quiet shady spot for us to enjoy our picnic. We had our bite to eat and carried on with our long drive down the windy highway.
We got to Antsirabe, our stop for the evening. Josy stopped at a little paper making factory. They use natural plants to make paper greeting cards and the like. But, since it was Sunday, we could only get an explanation from a man who must be the owner or manager. It was still interesting and Po bought a couple of packages.
We kept going into town and stopped at another little factory. There a guy makes miniature buses, trucks and pousse pousse. He was going to do an explanation which seemed to be a big affair as there were several rows of bleacher type seats. Suddenly a big group of French tourists poured in. It was a bit too much for us. We left, found Josy, and asked to be taken to our hotel.
The hotel, Chambre du Voyageur, must be seen to be believed. The grounds are just amazing, just like a botanical garden. This will be another place that would have been nice to spend a little more time. There are just not enough days.
We went to have our supper which turned out to be a choice of Zebu or nothing. A couple from England were at the next table. He apparently does not eat meat. He also did not want vegetables (go figure that one). So he ate lots of the appetizer.
I have mentioned this before. If I was arranging the trip again, I would not have half board in the larger centres. I am okay with only getting limited choices at the rural lodges where everyone gets the same choices, even if the choice is that of one. I do not know if this place offers a full menu but a choice would be nice. The zebu was good, but we have had more red meat in the last three weeks than we have in a year.