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Written by DanielaZavala. Posted in Blog

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Published on July 12, 2011 with 5 Comments

Malagasy sailing boat I fell asleep listening to the waves, and I woke up just the same way.

I rushed outside to see the sunrise. Although it was only 7am, the sun was already out and shining.

I returned to my room and got ready to explore Ifaty’s wonders: the Indian Ocean and the famous Spiny Desert.

Knock, knock

“Are you ready Daniela?” it was Mami at the door.

“Yes, I have been ready since 7am. I missed the sunrise though. Too early,” I said.

Mami and I walked to the beach where two young guys were getting ready the Malagasy version of a sailing boat.

“We will go to the spiny desert afterwards in a zebu chart,” Mami informed me, smiling.

“In a Zebu what?” I replied. “Mami, I believe that Malagasy people, especially you Mami, are obsessed with Zebus! Poor Zebus, man! You guys use them for anything and everything,” I joked.

“They are ready. Let’s go,” said Mami.

To explore the coast of Ifaty, we jumped into the “sailing boat”, which was literally a canoe with a mast and a mainsail that had several holes on it. To keep the balance (and hopefully to prevent from sinking!), it has some steady trunks on each side.

The further we went into the ocean, the harder the job seemed to be for our two young “sailors”. The waters were getting a bit rougher and the wind was not helping.

While our crew struggled, Mami and I enjoyed the ride and the views of Ifaty’s beaches.

The water was too cold at this time of the day to jump in and snorkel, and honestly visibility didn’t seem the best for it, so we watched the coral reef from our canoe-sailing boat.

“That’s the coast guard!” Mami laughed.

The coast guard

A man relaxed alone as if he was sun tanning in a boat –much better than ours for sure. His feet up on a side of the boat, while he smoke a cigarette and screamed out loud to our two young sailors.

“He is telling the guys how to move the mast so we can turn back to the shore,” explained Mami.

Those two guys were sweating it. Slowly but surely we returned safe and sound to the beach.

 “Now the Zebu!” laughed Mami as we walked on the beach, going back to our hotel where the Zebu chart waited for us.

Would we survive?

“How exciting,” I responded with irony.

“Look at it,” said Mami with pride when we saw our “local transportation” to the spiny desert.

“Oh Jesus Christ, here I go,” I jumped into the chart.

Zebu chart

Two big and smelly zebus were going to push the chart, carrying two Malagasy men, Mami and I.

As we crossed the town, children and locals looked at the chart, sort of confused. I mean, what a vaza is doing in a chart?

Thinking I was either a crazy vaza or a vaza turned Malagasy, they smiled, waved and screamed “Bonjour!”

I was weaving, saying Bonjour and throwing kisses to the kids from the chart, as if I was the queen of the town. Although beauty contests are NOT my thing, Osmel Sousa –the man who produces and train the Venezuelan beauty queens- would have been surely very proud of my beauty queen like behaviour.     

A “queen” that, from the glamour of the zebu chart, was sweating as an American football player at the end of a long game.

“Oh Mami, it is HOT!” I said.

“You see, the Zebu is not that bad. Imagine if we had come walking!” Mami was right. Walking under this sun and with this heat would have been a killer.

The zebu chart stopped in what it was supposed to be a national park. I didn’t see an entrance or a sign, but we were surrounded by baobabs, an emblematic plant of Madagascar which is a tree of wide trunk with a few branches on the top.

The first images that come to my mind when I thought of Madagascar were not the lemurs actually, but the baobabs. I saw them in a documentary of Discovery channel, and since that moment I always dreamt of visiting the land of this strange tree.

Baobab hug

“This is the spiny desert Daniela. Jean Pierre will show us around. I will translate,” said Mami.

Jean Pierre was about 50-years-old and knew well the area. We walked into the spiny desert which looked like a labyrinth.

Covering a very died area, the spiny desert is strange natural wonder with spiny plants that can only be found here. There are eight species of baobabs and six are endemic to Madagascar.

Filming the spiny desert

This hot and arid desert was decorated with dozens of rare baobabs, which heights reach from 10 to 90 ft. Their trucks were fat with diameters of over 20 meters.

“Some of these baobabs are thousands of years old,” explained Mami. “People use their truck as storage, and the inside is very soft,” said Mami.

Baobabs were everywhere, and so were thousands of flies.

I was told the spiny desert had a wise wildlife; I only saw flies!

Jean Pierre stopped and talked enthusiastic about another plant.

“Oh this is an aphrodisiac!” said Mami.

Not wonder why JP was so enthusiastic about this one.

Then, he showed us another plant. It was supposed to be used for healing, especial for a woman after delivering a child. Another plant was used to help with scars.

It was certainly amazing to find so many medicinal plants in this hostile desert!

Somehow we came back to the dirt road and the zebu chart and its “driver” were right there waiting for us.

We jumped back in and returned to the hotel.

I changed into my swimming suit and went straight into the fresh waters of the Indian Ocean before going to the airport in Toliara to catch my flight to Antananarivo.

Mami and I were at the terminal at 6pm, two hours before the flight as required, but my flight was delayed. The departure time changed every 30 minutes. I wondered for a moment if the plane would ever arrive. It finally landed in Toliara two hours later.

It was time to say bye to Mami.

“Mami I will miss you in Andisabe. You were a great guide. I am definitely not font of Rija, but it was great to travel with you,” I gave him a hug and the Ariary bills I had.

Baobabs “See you again Daniela. Safe travels,” Mami smiled.

The flight to Tana was an hour and a half. We landed at midnight. I was relief that a car was waiting for me to take me to my friend’s house. I always avoid taking taxis at dark in places I don’t know well.

“Hello!” the same boy that welcomed me at my arrival in Madagascar was there waiting for me.

“Hi!” I replied.

“Rija is outside in the car,” said the boy.

Enjoying the Indian Ocean Well, at least Rija had come to meet me!!! I was curious to meet this man. I was still in disbelief that he was recommended at the Lonely Planet forum. Now that I would meet him face to face, I was hoping to get an explanation. Maybe it was a misunderstanding due to language barrier or online communication? Maybe he was indeed a nice man? I was going to get some answers soon.    

Rija was asleep when I got into the car.

He wake up, opened his eyes to only say “You like Madagascar huh?” Then, without even caring about my answer, he returned to his sleep until we arrived in my friend’s neighborhood about 40 minutes later.

“This is the rich people’s area,” said Rija.

Bye Bye Mami!

I couldn’t believe how rude and inappropriate this guy was. Ivandry is indeed a nice area of Antananarivo, where a lot of foreigners live. I didn’t know what the point of Rija was to make that comment. He didn’t say anything during the entire ride, and his last words to me before dropping me off were going to be “this is a rich people’s are”?

I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I was relief I didn’t have to deal with this sloppy, dishonest and impolite man again.

The car stopped.

I went off the car, grabbed my backpack and walked into the house, feeling happy to be at my friend’s home…

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There are currently 5 Comments on CARRIED LIKE A QUEEN… BUT ON A ZEBU CHART TO SPINNY DESERT!. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. It looks an amazing place to be. 🙂

  2. It is indeed Gus 🙂

  3. Dearest Dani,

    Every adventure is more exotic, quirky, scenic and ever-so-slightly risky than the next. I count myself among many who live vicariously through you. Keep those stories and photos coming.

    Your Editor Emeritus,

  4. Thank you Deb for your great support throughout the years and your kind words. It means a lot to me. It is my pleasure to share these experiences with people like you! 🙂

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