8 thoughts on “Madagascar Updates: Chapter 16

  1. Helen Jackson says:

    Avenue des Baobabs – facilities for loos and drinks are limited, although a new, wooden visitors centre and restaurant was in the process of being constructed at the time of our visit (September 2018).

  2. Helen Jackson says:

    We spent September/October in Madagascar and having read Hilary’s encounter with royalty on page 419, I too wanted to meet royalty. Here is my story:
    Our guide Feno, accepted my request, “I’d like to meet royalty” without question and with relish. During our two-hour wait for the floating raft that would take us and our 4WD across the Tsiribihina river, she eyed up fellow passengers for someone who might have royal connections.
    Edmond fitted the bill, and on arrival in Belo, we drove to the “palace” where we waited in the car whilst Feno was introduced. She told the Prince we were keen to learn about fitamphoa. In reality I didn’t want to be outdone by the highly-respected Hilary Bradt who, in the Bradt Guide to Madagascar, had written an account of meeting a princess in a Belo bar.
    Feno and Edmond reappeared, crossed the road to Bar Vola, and emerged clutching two, quarter bottles of Madagascan rum to “ease” the introductions. The “palace” was a dilapidated single storey building where ceiling tiles flapped dangerously and concrete walls and floors were bare. It was about as far from Buckingham Palace as you could get.
    On meeting Prince Christian, the grandson of Kamamy, the last Menabe King, we didn’t know whether to bow, but settled on a handshake. His purple-clad wife proffered her wrist, which we weren’t sure whether we should shake, touch or kiss. We got ourselves sat at a wooden table, with Edmond and I having to share a chair whilst the previously bare-chested Prince draped his torso in a length of scarlet royal weaving. We presented the rum which cost us the princely sum of 40,000 Ariary/£9 and the prince produced a small plastic bottle of home-distilled rum. He poured a measure from each bottle into a chipped tooth glass and placed it in front of him.
    Formalities over, it was time for photographs and questions. We discovered he’d always lived in Belo, apart from attending school in Morondava and that he had five children aged between five and 25. With Feno translating, he described Fitampoah, the cleansing of the dady or royal relics which consist of his ancestors’ bones, hair, teeth and finger nails. These are kept in a sacred house, or Zomba and washed every 10 years in the river during a week-long ceremony of feasting, singing and dancing.
    A convoluted, confusing speech and translation followed about his former training as a gendarme and how the requirements of the role, meant he was unable to undertake his royal duties: although it was not clear, what these were. Finally, we asked about the significance of the rum, but it simply appeared to be his favourite tipple. He invited to try the rum and he threw what he’d poured out of the open window and we all tasted the second pouring passing the glass between us communion-style. Feno obtained his mobile number for future visitors, and we crossed the dusty yard for photographs of the Prince and Zomba.
    Finally, we bid a royal farewell, tipped Edmond 20,000 Ariary, and left wondering whether we’d really met royalty or been royally ripped off.

  3. Paul Whitehead says:

    In Mahajanga you’ll see one of the strangest sights in Madagascar. If you go up the hill from the Baobob tree, past the Roches Rouges Hotel and the French war memorial, the as-usual poorly maintained road suddenly changes to become a state of the art promenade with a four lane road and 2 dedicated cycle paths (!), a sandy beach and a pier. It looks like it has been magically transported from Margate! It’s called ‘Le Village’ and it’s thronged with bathers, children playing in the sand and young people taking a stroll.

    Then you notice some odd things. After 2 kilometres the road becomes a dirt track, going nowhere. On the other side of the road from the sea, instead of stalls, shops and restaurants there is virtually nothing, apart from a few old houses at a much lower level than the road. So what’s the story behind this expensive white elephant (albeit a white elephant that gives a lot of pleasure to the inhabitants of Mahajanga)? Quite simply, it was a project of former president Marc Ravalomanana. The road was to join the airport, which would transport holidaymakers directly to ‘Le Village ‘, a hotel complex that was never built, in a bid to increase tourism in Madagascar. After he was deposed in a coup d’ėtat the project went nowhere of course.

  4. Paul Whitehead says:

    The most popular place for nightlife is the Taxi B, on the other side of the road from the Hotel Coco Lodge. There is live music nightly, and just next door is the Taxi B nightclub. Nice atmosphere in both places.

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