Malagasy Chronicles, Madagascar September 2011

As you’ve probably guessed when I surface again it’s usually in another exotic location. This entry currently finds me travelling in Madagascar.  But first some musings from an aimless wanderer…  Reading novels is usually a luxury for me reserved for when I’m on a break and can no longer hear the clock ticking in the background.  A passage from a travel tale I’m reading at the moment “The Taste of Honey” struck a chord with me:

“Everyday life has a sameness and a predictability wherever one happens to be. The greatest challenge facing us well-fed, highly spoiled individuals is to stave off boredom, a boredom that derives from being part of an affluent, insouciant society and that tortures us with anxiety unless we feel we are being useful. Sadly our usefulness has only one true gauge: money. And the pursuit of money is the most boring of all our activities. I once wrote “Cash flow is the cockroach of human existence.” I’ve never found any evidence to the contrary.”

I guess travelling for me is as much about dropping out as it is checking out…

So I’ve been in Madagascar a little over a week – I first explored some of the west.  It’s a dramatic landscape where thousand year old giant baobabs spread their branches like wizened grandfathers’ fingers over parched red soil and dry forest; a land where pure white lemurs command the treetops.  I spent a couple of days exploring Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park – a world heritage listed terrain of jagged limestone pinnacles undermined by caves and narrow chasms.  An obstacle course of ladders and cables has been built to help scale the razor sharp rocks for those of us less sure-footed than lemurs.  I’m just enchanted by the wildlife here – from the amazing diversity of lemurs to chameleons of every colour from an inch in size to a foot long and magnificent butterflies the size of dinner plates.

I’ve also journeyed briefly to the east of the capital Antananarivo. The scenery is of rolling hills with steep terraces of verdant rice paddies (a legacy of the Indonesian and Malay seafarers who inhabited Madagascar centuries ago) and patches of emerald green forest. Unfortunately there are few areas of pristine Madagascan forest still untouched by logging and slash and burn farming. One of those places is Andasibe Manadia National Park – the last remaining home of Madagascar’s largest lemur, the “indri”. It was an awesome experience hiking through the old forest and coming across a troop of the indri – black and white with a face like a store-bought teddy bear, limbs built like a frog so that they’d stand 6 feet at full stretch and with a piercing eerie cry that sounds like a cross between a strangling cat and a burglar alarm; an experience for which there’s truly no comparison!!

I’m doing my best to crisscross this amazing country in a little under a month – next to the south, so stay tuned to Channel Madagascar!


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