Today we get up early to start our long journey. In an attempt not to discourage us, the guide does not tell us that there are more than 300 km ahead of us today. In the morning we can enjoy the beautiful view from behind the hotel. After having bought some bags of vanilla, we leave the hotel, first to a high viewpoint where we are supposed to be able to see why the alternate name of Fianarantsoa is "the city of 1000 churches". On a church square on our way down we buy some postcards from school kids that are trying to earn money during the holidays to be able to buy school needs. We then continue our trip towards the south.

One of our first stops along the way is a place where a family makes products out of sisal and raffia. We get an explanation of how the sisal rope is made out of the leaves of the plant.

Landscape with red houses

On our way to the south the landscape changes. There are fewer trees here. Some of the trees that are left are beautiful, huge mango trees. The climate also becomes drier. We make several stops to enjoy the views and to take a look at the red soil with a lot of iron minerals.

Zebu's on the market in AmbalavatoView from the zebu market

In Ambalavato we make a walk on the zebu market. This is the largest in Madagascar. Our guide tells us that in the evening, the zebu market turns into a market of women, where the rich zebu sellers are offering money for a good night with a lady. All the zebu that are sold here are moved immediately to special enclosed areas where their vaccinations are checked by government officials and where the new owners are noted in the books. Next to the market we see a few trucks that transport zebu, attached left and right with their horns and tails to the sides of the truck.

Used sport shorts on the marketGirl on the market, looking at the tourists...

Close to the zebu market we make a walk on a huge market of (mainly used) house hold goods and clothes. Market stands here are even more specialized than markets we know in Europe: we come across vendors that only sell fluorescent color sports shorts. In a small shop adjacent to the market we buy two beautiful shawls made of wild silk.

When we arrive at the paper factory, their lunch time has just started. We therefore start with our lunch, and after that make a walk on the daily village market (food and medicine) and along the taxi-brousse that are being charged for their trips. Back at the paper factory we get an explanation and demonstration of the different steps involved in turning the bark of the Ahova tree into traditional paper incorporating real flowers for decoration. We buy some beautiful pieces, and continue on our trip.

Lady at the food market

On our right hand side we pass some big rocks which our guide names the "gates to the south" (porte du sud). When we buy some bottles of water along the road, we take a picture of a lady roasting her own coffee. We had already seen that coffee beans here are always sold green; everybody roasts their own fresh coffee here.

Small houses towards the south of MadagascarTwilight in the highlands

The houses in this region of the country are much smaller than up north, and many are colored red like the soil. When our guide needs a rest we take an extra coffee break outside a village bar. We continue our trip just before sunset, and we reach the highest point of the rest of the voyage just to late to witness the sun going down. We do enjoy the total spectrum of light in the twilight while the last 100km of our trip (at 80-100km/hour!) slide by on this high-quality stretch of road. We arrive at the hotel at 18:58, have dinner and go to sleep. We hear that in this hotel there is no electricity between midnight and 6:00 as well as between 10:00 and 14:00. The dark night is filled with stars.