Monday, September 24, 2012

Stepping ashore in Madagascar

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries we have been in for awhile.  The people have very little, living in shacks with sticks for sides and thatched roofs.  They still use bullocks to pull carts to haul stuff around.  Today we were on a street that was lined with stalls for selling goods and Zebu cattle were driven down the street.  The fisherman go out in small wooden outrigger boats with sails, very few have motors. There are very few personal vehicles and all the taxis are old Renaults, it seems 80’s and 90’s vintage cars.  There are very few stores with fancy goods in them, although most people seem to own cell phones. 
Our first baobab tree, we must be somewhere close to Africa!
The government here is very bad, the last dictator was overthrown in a coup and fled the country taking whatever riches he could get his hands on.  There once was a viable sugar cane industry on the island where we are staying but mismanagement and corruption took it toll and it went bankrupt.  After three years without pay the workers started stealing pieces of the factory to sell and taking the tin off the roof for their own homes.  The land which formerly belonged to the factory owners has been given or taken by the workers and they are planting crops to feel themselves, casava, rice, bananas, potatoes and market gardening. 
Watching the cars stop for the bullocks is interesting
We did not take a trip to the mainland but had a small tour around the island of Nosey B today.  It was supposed to be a day tour but both Barry and I have been ill, I had a sore throat, fever and now a cough and Barry’s has had the runs for 3 or 4 days, so we only went for a couple of hours.  Our string of (I didn’t want to say it before, but will now) bad luck has continued.  We got our anchor stuck on a rock the other day and after half and hour trying to get it loose we called a fisherman over who was able to direct us on how to maneuver to get the anchor free.  We gave him the equivalent of $25 CND and I am sure it made his day.  The anchor windlass continues to give us problems, not having enough juice to pull the chain aboard by itself. We are checking out of the country tomorrow so hopefully we will leave all our misadventures here.   
A very old taxi cab
Okay, sorry about the sideline, but I was looking forward to the tour but we both needed to be close to a toilet (I got the runs this morning) and we have not had to use a public toilet yet so we are not sure what to expect!!!!  Most everyone here speaks French as well as the local language, Malagasy. We found a guide who spoke English so we happy to have him in the car today. His name is Barthelemy and if you want a guide to Nosey Be or the mainland you can get hold of him by e-mail at   He was very knowledgeable about the history of Madagascar and gave us a good political overview. Barthelemy talked about the people being 80 % Christian and 20% Muslim although he says a lot of the people still believe in witchcraft and will go to see the witch doctor.  School is free here but it is not compulsory so there is a huge illiteracy problem. Last year the school teachers went on strike for 4 months to gain better wages and because of it many students were unable to pass their exams at the end of the year.  There is very little industry in the country due to the poverty and gov’t mismanagement, Barry says the work force is poorly educated as well.  
The fishing boats sailing home at the end of the day, notice the interesting rig!
In the smaller ports we have been in we have had fishermen coming up wanting us to give them whatever we can.  We also were able to trade for some delicious lobster and the ever popular bananas.  I went to the second hand market the other day and bought 5 shirts to trade and we have extra sugar, milk powder and salt as well as some fish hooks to barter with as we head further south, that lobster was very good, on of the best ever!
We will probably take a week to 10 days before we cross the Mozambique Channel.  We will drop our anchor in Mozambique waters but will not check into the country, just hopping down the coast and make our landfall in South Africa at Richards Bay, sometime in the middle of October we think.  We have been unable to connect to send mail using our ham radio very often so hopefully things will get better as we head further south. 
Fish stretched and drying in the sun.