Frank was there promptly after breakfast to begin our day-long journey to the Tsiribihina River. With his modest amount of English and our modest grasp of French (the official second language here), we were able to learn bits and pieces about what we saw as we climbed across the spine of the country on one of the few major highways. The road was paved and decent for some stretches, pocked and crumbling for others. Buildings of brick, concrete, and tile quickly gave way to mud and sticks, with large, open spaces of rice paddies, corn fields, and pasture land. We saw very few trees the entire day.
By mid morning columns of smoke surrounded us. It is the dry season, and Zebu herders are setting the grasslands afire to stimulate the growth of the tender green shoots their cattle prefer once the rains return. Meanwhile, they’re creating more pasture and farm land by cutting down the trees and brush and turning the woody debris into charcoal, to sell mainly as cooking fuel in the nearest town. We also saw people laboring in the drying rice paddies, cutting and lifting bricks for building. After drying, the bricks are stacked in house-shaped piles and a fire is lit inside to bake them. By afternoon, the smoke from all these fires was oppressive.
We arrived at our hotel just at nightfall. Dinner was in an open-air pavilion, and our room was a lovely, quiet sanctuary. There, we met our guide, Ludo, for the river trip. We re-packed our belongings for the next four days of camping, and hit the sack. The next day would begin before dawn.This entry was posted in Madagascar, Vacation 2016: East/South Africa