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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Madagascar Life

We didn't really know what to expect coming to Madagascar, we knew it was part of Africa but somehow it was VERY different to the West Africa we had come to know.
At the beginning the crew spends some weeks getting orientated to a new country with a series of talks on various subjects with guest local speakers.  So armed with our very limited Malagasy terms "Salama Tompoko" (greeting), "Veloma" (goodbye) & "Misaotra" (thank you) and making sure we don't use Sharon's "greeting" that is specifically for her day crew friends that she knows well, we venture out.

When we walk out of the port gate we feel like we are being transported into Asia/Africa.  Yes it's still hot but the main thing you immediately hear is the call for you to come ride in the Pousse Pousse or the Tuk Tuk.  This is our main form of transport, it's actually kind of hard to find a taxi, and it is really good fun! There is a feeling of calm with no busy traffic jams.  
(Cost: about $1-2 per journey)

The crew clubbed together to buy 2 "Mercy Ships Tuk-Tuk's" to run people to and from the port gates.  We all buy a monthly "travel" ticket which pays for fuel, a job for a local and the vehicle.   It can be a long walk for a 7 year olds legs!
The Bicycle Pousse Pousse (meaning push push)
(Cost: 80 cents/£0.50 per journey)

We feel guilty riding in these whilst somebody works so hard as we sit lounging in the back because we're too lazy to walk, but on the other hand we want to use them so they can earn a wage for their family.  These guys are tough and are very aware of how "fat" you look.  They will very freely refuse to take two people that are on the larger size!  To be honest we don't blame them especially when you have to push that bike around.  We took one (actually two, due to previous "fat" comment!), one day and didn't have a clue what "long" a distance we had to go to get to our destination.  They really earned their money and the poor guys decided to rest and wait for us to finish our visit and take us all the way back.  We even bought them water because we felt so bad for them.
The market is a pleasant calm experience, you don't need to jostle through the crowds to get that one thing you want to buy only to have to haggle for another half hour.  The stalls are filled with spices galore, vanilla pods are sold by bunches at such a cheap price that vanilla essence is just a waste of time when you can have the "real" thing.  
You can buy branches with fresh lychees in the right season and they are so good, nothing compared to the tinned type you've probably experienced in the local Chinese restaurant. 
 There is even a local chocolatier (http://www.chocolaterierobert.com/en/welcome) selling hand made chocolates, Tim has become quite the romantic, stopping by the shop if he has a meeting ashore, and producing them on arrival in the cabin.

We also had the chance to go to a local lemur park where many lemurs roam around you in the trees.
 little white frog
So that's a little of life here outside the ship.

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