Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Long, Lost Blogpost Part I: The longest vacation...





Hello World.  Last time I wrote, I had just finished the well project. A lot has happened since then, so I’ll fill you in in part I of "The Long, Lost Blogpost."

First of all, the well is working out great for the community. Everyone uses it everyday. In May, the village had a big party to celebrate the well.  The Prezida and a few villagers put up decorations and added a fence with some trees around it. Park staff came out with a generator and some big speakers and played music.  People gave speeches (including myself, in terrible Malagasy) and then we drank the equivalent of koolaid and beer and danced to the silly music until it was dark.  It was a lot of fun and nice to see how much people appreciated the presence of clean water in their village. Thanks again to all who donated.

After the well party, I had to head off to MSC (Mid Service Conference) for a week of training near the capital. This was pretty uneventful aside from having the opportunity to reunite with my staging group.  Everyone has really chilled out in a year’s time, compared to when we first arrived in country – like a bunch of veterans without anything to prove anymore. 

When MSC finished, I prepped to head back to the US of A for a vacation. Unfortunately, due somewhat to poor planning, I ended up with a week’s worth of time between training and my flight. Rather than head back to site, I decided to make the best of this time by taking a trip with some other volunteers out west to see Morondava, the Baobabs, and the Grand Tsingy de Bemaraha. It was an epic trip (the taxi-brousse is 17 hours, if you take it non stop!). Morondava is a really nice coastal town with a beach and some decent seafood. Meeting up with a couple of French tourists, we shared the cost of a 4x4 to take us on the 12 hour, 120km voyage north to Bekopaka.  Along the way we stopped at the Avenue de Baobabs and saw several of Madagascar’s behemoth trees, which store water in their sponge-like interior during the dry season. The biggest we saw was reportedly 600 years old (not sure if this is true) and would take about six people or so, to “hug” its circumference. While in the area, we also got to try the Baobab fruit, which, it turns out, is terribly salty and has the texture of Styrofoam.  The juice is not bad though, with sugar added.


After a long, dusty ride and two ferry crossings, we arrived in Bekopaka in the evening and crashed in a cheap hotel.  Bekopaka is basically a touristy-camp town with a few hotels running on generators. There is cell reception, surprisingly. In the morning, we headed out on a river tour, explored some caverns, and saw the cliff-side tombs where the local people bury their dead. In the afternoon, we toured the Petit Tsingy, which was pretty cool (and ripe with photo-ops). In Malagasy, Tsingytsingy means to tip-toe (one meaning).  This is because the rocks in the area are jagged and sharp (created a long time ago when the western part of Madagascar was under the ocean, look it up!).  The next day we headed out on a long trek through the Grand Tsingy. This was probably the coolest place I’ve ever been to in my life. For eight hours or so we climbed up and down the rocks, crossed Indiana Jones-style rope bridges, descended into dark caverns, and just generally took in the overall mind-blowing awe of it all.  If you ever get the chance, check this place out!


On our way home, we stopped again at the Avenue to see a beautiful sunset with the silhouettes of the Baobabs against the sky. Back in Morondava, we lounged on the beach, ate some seafood, and rested for the long taxi-brousse ride back to Tana. 

After vacation, I headed out on my second vacation (Peace Corps, the toughest job you’ll ever love), back to America

Now that you’re all on the edge of your seats, you’ll have until next week for part II.

5 comments:

  1. There was a wildfire that almost destroyed the Baobab alley of Morondava last November 24th.
    Ref: http://www.lexpressmada.com/5385/morondava-madagascar/38834-l-allee-des-baobabs-devastee-par-le-feu.html (unfortunately, it's in French)

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    1. Yes. i heard this unfortunate news from my friend who worked out there. :(

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  2. Greetings from Other Places Travel Guides! We’re an independent publisher of a series of travel guides all written and researched by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs). To date, we have published 15 comprehensive travel guides -- all written/researched by teams of RPCVs -- and three additional travel-related books.

    I’m writing to let you know about our most recent publication: Madagascar (Other Places Travel Guide). For more information on the book, please visit www.otherplacespublishing.com/madagascar. We would definitely appreciate assistance in helping us spread the word about this new travel guide for Madagascar (perhaps a blog post or letting family and friends know about the guide). Please feel free to contact me at chris@otherplacespublishing.com. Thank you for your time!

    Chris Beale

    Other Places Publishing
    www.otherplacespublishing.com

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