Independence Day – Malagasy style


A local family sitting on their verandah

We decided to head down to a bay called Munoko Bay as we had heard really good things about it, so on the way we stopped at Tanikely.  The guys had a dive and we walked up to the top of the island to look at the view. Tanikely is a marine reserve which is good as it protects the island but it is so small we only stayed for the morning and the headed off to Munoko. We arrived just on dusk and so decided to explore the next morning. It is a lovely island with a small community of about 60 people and the head ‘chief’ is actually a woman so we gave her our gifts for the
villagers and the kids and she in turn offered us the chance to explore the island. We were surprised to see the tame lemurs running around and the children sitting on top of the giant tortoises. The adults kept shooing the kids off them but as soon as their backs were turned, the kids jumped back on!

Beats walking the dog…
Lemurs everywhere

We spent a lovely morning interacting with the villagers – we were lucky as Karel speaks French, but there was still the Malagasy dialect to decipher which made some of the conversation a bit one-sided.  They were very friendly and we watched the daily life of the village continue much as it had for probably hundreds of years. The island itself was so small we were back on board by mid afternoon and decided to head out the next day.

Fidel on his canoe

As it turned out, we didn’t leave the next day as a young guy called Fidel turned up and offered to take us to his village as it was the main market day and did we want to go?  We jumped at the chance and so Karel, Phil, Ian and myself were taken over to the mainland to see Fidel’s house and meet his family.  Karel and Ian went up the the waterfall but as I had no shoes I declined and stayed in the dinghy.

Local kids on the beach

We then went over to a very small village on the beach which we thought was where the market as but Fidel pointed inland and said it was ‘just over there’ to the market so we set off to find it.  Now ‘just over there’ seemed to have got lost in translation, because an hour later we were still hiking over the hill with no village in sight.  We passed other villagers on their way back but still no market.  Another hour and ‘just over there’ was staring to lose its appeal but still Fidel kept smiling saying ‘wonderful – just over there!’  Without any shoes I was starting to get sore feet but eventually we heard music and sure enough – it was really just over there.  We were amazed – the colour, noise and smells hit us like a tidal wave – it really was a ‘wonderful’ market – with villagers from all over the region converging to sell anything they could. Every stall seemed to have loud music blaring out of huge speakers and everyone had dressed up. Even Fidel had put on his best shirt as I think this is the main way for everyone to get together and meet.  It started to rain which made the mud streets slippery but I loved it – and we were a major spectacle. After a couple of hours we asked Fidel if there was a beer and he took us to a very small hut which sold beer and doubled up as the school on a weekeday. We were welcomed with huge smiles and small faces pressed up against the door and spent a lovely hour drinking warm beer…

Family on their way home from the market


The market place
Seems we were the entertainment in the bar

After our beers, we were invited to go and visit the hospital.  We were surprised that there was a hospital up here so we were intrigued as to what facilities they had.  There was no electricity, no roads or motorised transport, no refrigeration the houses were all built of the local materials. No concrete or brickwork.  We walked back through the village surrounded by the kids and crossed the river to walk up to the hospital.  I bought some flip flops on the way back as I didn’t want to hike barefoot again but there were none in Ian’s size which meant he had to trek down again without shoes –  very annoying.  We eventually came to the ‘hospital’ which had no equipment at all.  The building had three sections, one for maternity, one for pharmacy and the last for admin and the only bed.  We were introduced to the dr and they were very proud of their hospital.  It was the only medical facility for miles around and served hundreds of people.  I couldn’t begin to imagine how they treated patients with so little  – no medicines, no dressings, no linen, but they all looked very healthy and happy and Nosy Be is only a few miles away – albeit a rough journey to take.

Handing out lollies to the kids
The hospital. The dr is the guy in the yellow shirt
The hospital ward – one filthy bed and a desk

Eventually we started the long hike down but surprisingly it took only half the time as it was downhill.  It has been a wonderful day, the memories of which will stay with me for a very long time.

We headed back to Helleville for a few days as it was the Madagascar Independence Day coming up and there was to be a big procession with fireworks.  Helleville is a lovely town – very safe and with everything a cruiser could want.  Us girls spent the early mornings doing yoga including having chickens run through and the local kids joining in,  followed by a coffee at one of the many coffee houses and then we would head off the the market for our veggies.  A couple of the really fit girls had an early morning run of about 10km but I just stuck to yoga.

Girls having our morning coffee

Independence day is a big event in Nosy Be. Everything was being painted in preparation and to our amusement more paint was splashed around than was actually going onto the item being painted.  Their paintbrushes were homemade broom-like brushes and the paint tins were big buckets but it all came together really well and the town looked fantastic by the time the day came.  The night before everybody walked through the town banging drums and clapping etc.  We all seemed to adopt a couple of kids who were riding on our shoulders or holding our hands. It was crazy but great fun and it ended with us all watching fireworks on the football pitch.  On our way back Karel & Phil from Tehani Li  heard some great music coming from a sea container which we discovered was a small bar so we stopped for a few beers, made some new friends and had another brilliant night.  The next morning was the actual parade.  We all arrived at 8am as we had been told but the procession was running on Malagasy time so it didn’t start until about 11am.  It was loud, colourful and fun and lasted for hours.

Waiting for the parade to begin
Waiting for the parade. Note the newly painted kerb
Gorgeous colourful outfits


The cruising gang

We had intended to stay in Madagascar for much longer but I needed to go to the UK so we decided to take Indian Summer to Tanzania as it was a better place to leave her, so very sadly our time in Nozy Be was coming to an end.  We had been cruising with the same friends for over 2 years, through Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka ,Chagos and now Madagascar. We were going to continue right through to the Carribean but things had changed quite suddenly and now we were going to spend a year in East Africa so it was with a very heavy heart that we had a final drinks on board and said our goodbyes.  Cruising is full of ‘hellos and goodbye’s’ but this one was particularly hard.  I’m sure our paths will cross again but for now we head off by ourselves to Tanzania via Mayotte.

Last drinks in Indian Summer. From left:  Gary & Jan (Wakaya) Cherie ( Grasshopper) Ian   Phil (Tehani Li) Lesley In front (Paseafique) Sofia & Dale (Sukha) Phil (Paseafique) Jeff (Grasshopper) Karel in front in black (Tehani Li) and Doris & Rudi (Muck)





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