After four years, here I am, returning again to Madagascar. One-night flight over Africa and then, in the first light of a new day, I see the northern coast of the "red island". The dawn illuminates chains of mountains, valleys with small mirrors of rice fields and even smaller villages, connected one to another with a web of rusty-colored routes. I'm back again and full of expectations. Nothing has changed here, just the sunburnt grass of the dry season, which I saw in 2009, was replaced by lush green vegetation. Now, it is the rainy season down there.
Here comes the national route from Antananarivo to the south, to Ihosy. The taxi-brousses are still just as uncomfortable as they used to be. I however find, not without a pleasure, that I have not lost my old travel habits ... after a few kilometers I do not care anymore about being pushed and twisted on my tiny seat. I just dive into the magical sceneries outside, one after one as they pass ... and to the life on the roadside. Kids running about, steaming and burning piles of bricks, mothers preparing a dinner on fire and young boys rushing through the landscape with a herd of horned zebu cattle. With the window slightly open, I expose myself to the evening breeze, which brings to me plenty of different scents ... the deep smell of smoke from charcoal, on which someone is cooking his dinner by the road, the acrid smell of smoke from piles of bricks ... the coconut oil in the hair of a young Malagasy mother sitting with her little one in front of me ... the smell of sweat, which testifies that the day was hot and we all have come a long way ... the smell of the red earth of Madagascar, which penetrates through the clothing to the skin, and, sometimes, for some people, even through the skin to their hearts.
Nothing, or almost nothing has changed here. I still eat the rice as the morning, noon, and evening dish. This time, however, it is enhanced with a couple of fried locusts. Here, in the south, they destroy crops and so it is fair take revenge on them a bit. Along with the rice water, the toaka gasy turns up occasionally, distillated at home or by a neighbor. Clear or yellowish, in glasses or tin cups, but always very strong. And always before drinking it we sprinkle a bit of it towards the eastern side, and remember the previous generation of the family, the ancestors, who apparently dwell in the east.
I walked through remote villages, around rice paddies, strode through the endless savanna of the Madagascar's south, watched cockfighting ... and to this day I regret that I did not bet, because I would had won. I found out that the best morning coffee is the one that you roast yourself in an old earthen bowl and crush in a wooden mortar ... and I diligently learned how to do it all, although here in Europe one hardly comes to green beans of delicious Malagasy coffee and African rice mortars.
Most importantly, I was there to share the life with the people ... the life often harsh and hard, but budding and vibrant in the same time. Hopefully I will come back again one day, not because of the undoubtedly beautiful mountains and savanna, but because of the people. Veloma finaritra, Madagasikara!