After a couple of days in Hellville enjoying the delights of being back in a bustling town complete with coffe shops, markets and restaurants we headed round to Crater Bay – a small fishing boat harbour about 5nm away. This is where the Nozy Be yacht club is situated and we found a washing machine, book exchange, small chandlers, bar and restaurant here. We were offered a mooring at $30 a week which we thought good value, so we settled in and spent the week exploring. About 1km away was the small town which caters for the mainly ex-pat community and tourists. continue reading…. There are many restaurants lining the beach front with wifi and cold cheap beers. We really enjoyed Crater Bay – watching the fishing boats sailing right up to the shore, where they deposited either their catch of fish or sand they have dredged up from somewhere to unload onto rickety old 1950 style trucks by hand. Once the dhows anchor, young men spend hours carrying the wet sacks of sand on their shoulders from the deck of the boat, up the hill and put them into the waiting trucks. All along the roadside, their wife’s cooked meals for their men, the little kids played in the dirt and the young boys spent hours laughing while swinging from the boat lines into the water. They work all day six days a week – these guys are fit – and they live in shanty huts near the harbour earning a pittance. There was always laughter though – we really admired them.
During our stay in Crater Bay we cleaned up Indian Summer. On passage everything gets really salty, covering every part of the boat. We went out and made water with our de-salinator and scrubbed her till she was salt-free. We always clean the waterline and all the washing gets done.
After an idyllic week in Crater Bay we heard from Sv Tehani Li that they had just arrived in Hellville to check in so we headed round there to catch up with them. Amandla and Wakaya had also arrived so we all went out for dinner and spent the evening catching up on our different experiences crossing the Indian Ocean. The next day we all hired a mini bus and headed off to explore Nosy Be. This turned out to be just a drive around the Island with a stop at a really good lemur park and another stop for lunch at a beach cafe. We were all excited to see Lemurs which are unique to Madagascar. There are many 105 species of lemurs, with many sub-types and they are considered to be the most endangered group of animals on the planet. The biggest is up to 10 kilos and the smallest weighs about 30 grams. This park had a large selection from the famous ring tailed lemur to the white sideways dancing lemur – and they have a great programme of care. They take lemurs from an endangered area, cage them for a couple of months and build up their strength and watch their health and then release them into the park to roam freely. We kept seeing them above us and they would come and sit on your shoulder. They are unbelievably soft and as they hold you hand it feels like a small child. I loved them and we were lucky see so many in one place.
This park also protected the giant tortoises which come from the Seychelles. These again roam freely and can live up to 200 years old! There were various chameleons – some so well camouflaged we couldn’t see them. The park also housed the largest Ylang Ylang perfume factory on the island. Madagascar’s two main exports are Ylang Ylang oil and vanilla. The Ylang Ylang oil is sent to Grasse in France and made into an expensive perfume – they had a range of different oils but the overwhelming scent was of the Ylang Ylang and the thousands of trees in the park.
They also had a small rum factory so we all had the obligatory rum tasting – wherever you go in Madagascar you end up with a shot of rum!
Our guide told us three stories about Madagascar – all pretty amazing.
1 – Babies are not considered part of the community until they cut their first tooth, so if they die before this, they are just left out in the jungle to be eaten be wild animals
2 – There is a small tortoise native to Madagascar that when swallowed whole by a crocodile, uses its very sharp claws to cut its way out of the stomach, through the skin and escapes leaving the crocodile to die
3 – The uncle of a newborn boy, must eat the foreskin after the circumsicion ceremony.
After the visit to the park, we drove to a beach for lunch on the other side of the island and had seafood and chips. The drive around the island was interesting – seeing all the houses and watching the world go by but by far the most exciting bit was when the van screeched to a halt and we all jumped out to watch a chameleon crossing the road. His colours were spectacular – but his camouflage certainly didn’t work this time against the road…
We spent a couple of days in Helleville with the gang, had a rum and cheese night, dined in restaurants, visited the daily markets and got boat jobs finished.
The next Island we visited was a Komba – about 5 miles away. Amandla, Tehani Li and us headed out in the morning and anchored in the tiny little Bay. We took the dinghy in and wandered into the village and found a delightful array of small cottage industry businesses selling their wares to the few tourists that come here. We found the school during their lunch break, so all the kids were outside playing, ignoring us as we walked through their games. We spoke to the teacher who told us that they have up to 60 kids per class!! On the way back we stopped and had a drink at ‘Yolandes’ Bar and then had a late lunch at a pizza restaurant.
That night was rolly – really rolly. So much so that Amandla decided not to stay another night and left for another Bay. We thought we may do one more night as we wanted to visit a village on the island that we had heard had been transformed by an Italian guy who had spent years there. The village was only a short dinghy ride away so the next day we went and found this village. What we found completely exceeded our expectations. Sometimes when we visit these out of the way places, we find that nothing has really changed for the locals after ‘volunteers’ have come through but in this case, having seen quite a bit of typical local village life already, we saw a huge difference. When we arrived, we were greeted by an older man who kept insisting we visit the school. We are always interested in the school, but wanted to get a feel for the place first. He was insistent and the asked us if we would like to meet Stefano. We realised this must be the famous Italian guy we had heard about so we happily followed our guide to Stefano’s house. We were greeted with homemade chocolate and fresh bread and a very keen Stefano who was thrilled we had come out to meet him.
He told us he had been helping the villagers for 25 years, spending 6 months in Madagascar and 4 months in his home in a Reunion and 2 months in his birth place of Rome. He had chosen this village as it was the poorest in the island and when he first arrived the kids did not even have any clothes. He bought the kids underwear and set about putting in the first well. He then put 15 taps around the village so that they all had access to fresh running water. The next project was to build a school. There were only 70 kids in the village but he built for the future – showing the village men how to build breezeblock classrooms, render and paint them and cater for growth. He then built a boarding house for the village children from other villages and got international teachers to volunteer their time. This school now has 450 students, including 100 boarders. They have craft rooms, computers, uniforms and an oval for sport. His dream is now to bring opera to the village and one day hold an opera on the oval. He has also branched out and built new houses, all with running water and toilets. It was incredible to see what one man had achieved in such a short space of time – all without government intervention. In fact, he hated the government policies as he pointed out, the villagers are so proud of their achievements, the kids cry when its holidays as they would rather move in ‘their school’.
We absolutely loved our day – and were thrilled when Stefano invited us back for dinner that night. We were even shown the duck walking around that would be served for us ….. We headed back to the main village, still amazed at what we had just seen. We had lunch at ‘Yolandes’ and then enjoyed a beer before heading back to the village. We had a lovely dinner, interrupted a couple of times by moments of pitch black as the electricity kept going off! We learnt a lot more about Stefano’s work and what he has yet to achieve. He is so passionate and loves the Madagascan people very much. It was a lovely evening and yes – the duck was delicious..
The next day we went over and gave Stefano the mattress we had spare after converting our cabin to a workshop. We had been waiting for a place that we knew would benefit and he is going to put it in boarding house – we also gave him some chalk for the teachers and our old halyard which he had requested – we are not sure why he specifically asked for rope but he was very pleased to receive it.
Our friends on Sukha arrived on the third day and we all decided to go diving off Tanikely – a small island 15 miles away. So we sadly left Komba and headed west…