This morning at 8:00 we had an appointment with our guide to go walking to the local market in Antsirabe. Instead, our guide has arranged for 2 pousse-pousse to bring us to the market while he takes the car. One of the pousse-pousse takes Anne and Maxim, I take the other one. Along the way, local street sales people offer us local merchandise: Vanilla and stones. We do not buy anything. We take a few sight-seeing detours. When we arrive at the market, our drivers tell us we can pay whatever we feel like. After that, our guide gives us a tour of the market. He buys two eggs of wild chicken himself. After the visit of the market, we make another quick pass along the hotel to use the toilets, and then we are really on our way to Fianarantsoa.
Our first stop is a Dutch funded orphanage in Ambositra where we get a tour. The orphans are on a holiday visit to the city of Antsirabe. We get a tour of the girls quarters and the boys quarters, both of which are divided in rooms for older and younger kids. The children playing around the orphanage pay a lot of attention to us. Our guide tells us that it is the first time he visits this place with a family, normally only grown-up tourists visit this area. Most likely, the local children have not often seen a white child before, and they must realize that white people are also born and raised as children. At the orphanage, we leave a bag of toys we brought from home.
A little further we visit a wood-workers studio. We see one of the men carving statues out of precious Madagascar rosewood, and another craftsman making wood mosaics cutting the miniature pieces using a self-made saw. Even the blades for the saw are self made! All of the colors in the mosaic are natural colors of the wood. Some are treated with a special mud, but none of the colors are painted. We buy a few small pieces, including some animals made of rose wood accompanied by an export permit. Our guide tells us this workshop is one of the few successful multi people enterprises. The owner is a very good man, employing a group of people that would otherwise have no chance of earning a decent living, and treating them very well.
On the road further to the south we encounter groups of many hundreds of walking zebu cattle, on their way to the slaughterhouses in Antananarivo. Some of the animals make a 700km trip this way from the south of the country. We continue our trip until we arrive in a small city (Ambohimahasoa) where we park next to a protestant church. A table for 4 is made in the garden, and we have a Malagasy lunch there while the local people perform on a stage. One man plays a valiha, a traditional musical instrument. During the meal, Maxim plays soccer with some children. They are very proud to have a real leather ball, although it is broken. We are also invited to join in a traditional dance. All of the performers get their tips, that is the only income they have.
After the meal and the show are finished, we are invited into the church where the children sing songs for us.
We leave the village around 16:15. When we leave the parking lot the pastor shows that he used some of the tip money to buy cookies for all the kids in the church. During the last part of the trip we see different very beautiful landscapes while the sun sets.
As we check in to the hotel, it is dark. We enjoy an extensive "French" dinner. Our hotel room has a little diffuser for insecticides, but we nevertheless kill 14 mosquitoes when we come back to the room. Well protected by a thick layer of DEET we dive in our beds.