Today we drove from Antsirabe to Morondava. We watched the countryside change from green rolling hills to brown wintered hills.
Along the drive, Rado stopped at a bridge and showed us an area with many many Malagasy people pounding at the rock of the riverbed with sticks. Rado told us that they were looking for gold. Gold had previously been found there and the people continue to dig and pan for gold. Apparently, they still find some daily.
While we were watching the people dig for gold, a group of kids gathered around us as normally happens when “vazaha” (pronounced “va-za” and meaning foreigner or white-skinned person) go anywhere. The kids here are something else. It was a common occurrence for them to yell at us as we drove by, “Vazaha, bon bon” asking for a sweet treat. They would wave and dance for us if they saw us and would always crowd around cars with vazha inside to see what they could get – candies, pens, hair ties, clothes, and notepads for school were most common. However, they were kids and would often fight for the gifts if there wasn’t enough for all of them. So Rado would organize them into a line and we would hand out candies to all of them one at a time so they wouldn’t fight. Rado warned us to never give out candies if we didn’t have enough for everyone and only to do it when he could organize the kids for us (we didn’t speak Malagasy or French). We found out why when other tourists threw out candies and the children dove on the floor fighting the other kids for the sweets.
Sadly, the children are also very poor here and do odd jobs to try to get money or food. It was another common occurrence to see children filling in the holes in the roads with dirt and then begging for money as cars drove by. We saw children as young as probably 3 years old doing this. We didn’t know whether it was better to give them money and basically promote child labor or to not give them money and see them sad and hungry. Rado would only give money to adults filling in the potholes, so we followed suit.
For lunch, we told Rado that we wanted to find a market and just buy PB&J sandwich supplies to save money instead of going to a restaurant. He turned us loose in the city we were in. It was surprisingly difficult to find bread, but we eventually just bought some Malagasy pancakes and small round doughnuts and said those would do.
But then, we saw a woman selling what looked like rolls, so we tried to buy some. She only spoke French and Malagasy, so we didn’t understand how much she said they cost. So, we handed her small bills to pay for the rolls until she looked satisfied. Our lunch consisted of the breads we had bought and the largest grapefruit we had ever seen which we bought in a different town a couple days back. It was too sour to eat, so at the suggestion of Rado and a friend he was talking to, we gave it to some local kids. They ate it up!
We drove from 8 o’clock that morning until about 5 o’clock that evening and finally arrived in Morondava. We wanted to reach Morondava before 6 o’clock so that we could watch the sunset on Baobab Avenue.
Baobab Avenue is a place that is famous for its baobab lined road out in the country. These trees have impressive trunks that hold many thousands of gallons of water. They look like they are upside down with their roots sticking up in the air – at least now that they don’t have their leaves. We took a million pictures and watched the sunset on the trees. Then we headed back to our hotel for the night.