After two gorgeous days at sea, we reached the island nation of Madagascar. I reached 100 countries on my world quest! We are docked at the brand new port near Fort Dauphin, named the same year as the birth of the heir to the French throne and later Louis XIV of France. The Malagasy name for the town is Tolagnaro. A modern road built by the mining company reaches the port. Another highway out of town is also of this modern construction and in excellent condition.
All of the tour vehicles are of different sizes. We rode with a driver, guide, and only one other couple for a very personal tour. Our young 23-year-old guide was excellent and spoke beautiful English. He was taught by a Peace Corp worker from Texas and now teaches English to young students; he is not paid for teaching.
Fort Dauphin is the country’s oldest town and sits on a peninsula bordered on three sides by breathtakingly beautiful beaches. After leaving the port, we made a few stops to take scenic photographs and then drove to the old fort itself, which they refer to as a museum. We parked in front of the courthouse and walked around the fort grounds spotting old canons and installations made of mud, eggs, and honey. The grounds still have a military presence. There is a small museum on the grounds and it was our guide’s descriptions of the use of the articles we saw that made it interesting. None of the signage was in English.
One of the primary occupations here is fishing. Our guide’s father is a fisherman. He showed us the use of the woven lobster traps that only last one to seven days. Before his father might catch 20-40 lobsters a day; now he often only has 1 or 2. Some of the more interesting pictures in the museum were of the women’s hairstyles. The difference was not between tribes but in the station in life of the woman. A young, unmarried woman fixes her hair in a different fashion. (We saw the various styles on dancers later in the day.)
There had been no traffic (most people walk everywhere) until we reached town and passed through the busy city market. People do not have refrigeration, so you make daily purchases. Our guide said it was this busy Monday-Saturday. Most people go to church on Sunday. There islanders that following Christian, Muslim, and tribal faiths.
We are headed to the Lemur Reserve and once off the main highway we hit one of those “hard on your shocks” kind of roads. All the way, are women and children returning to their village from the market carrying their purchases in baskets on their heads. They were others out tending their rice fields. We experienced a slice of life, passing through many villages on our way to the reserve.
I love lemurs, there are 101 varieties unique to Madagascar. The are 4 types at the reserve that come out during the day. It is rare to see the small bamboo lemur, but we saw all of the other three in the trees. Boris got separated from our group and took a mini tour with our guide when we finally caught up to him. I could have watched the lemurs all day.
The first animals we saw were actually chameleons
that changed color in the hand of our guide to match his skin tone. There were also crocodiles and tourtouses at the reserve. At the end of the tour, we had the opportunity to see some of the native dances. Some of the women wore the hair styles we had seen depicted in the photos at the museum.