Madagascar trip: Cute villagers and cute half monkeys is written by Lene Kohlhoff Rasmussen
A dangerous night on my Madagascar trip
"It is very dangerous tonight. There are the highway robbers, and they are in cahoots with the police, ”says my sideman on the bus. "The police lend their weapons to the robbers to take part in the thefts. There are even policemen among the robbers. " Before my trip to Madagascar, I had not heard the warnings about night driving before sitting in one of the infamous night buses. Inside the bus station, 5-6 minibuses are waiting until they are all ready to run. They will follow each other so they can help each other if in the gloom and darkness of the night we should be stopped by a bunch of highway robbers. My sidekick is a young engineering student. He says he has always dreamed of getting rich. When he saw that cops always had a lot of money, he decided that he would be when he grew up, but his father would not allow him. They make dirty money, the father had said.
"Your father is a wise man, it was good that you listened to him," I reply.
"Yes," said the young man, nodding. "During the day they catch criminals, but at night they are themselves. It makes many of the cops crazy in their heads. They drink, and many of them end up committing suicide. ” Fortunately, we avoid being stopped by police officers and highway robbers that night. The local buses I rode on my Madagascartravel, however, was regularly stopped by the police, and I noticed that the drivers always gave them banknotes before we were allowed to drive on. The infrastructure in Madagascar is miserable to say the least. The roads are potholed and the crowded buses are a nightmare to drive with. They regularly break down, or the drivers forget to refuel. A few times I ended up sitting by the side of the road waiting for the next bus.
What is the penalty for stealing a cow in Madagascar?
I thought it might be more relaxing to continue my Madagascar journey by boat along the Tsiribihina River. I imagined sitting and getting fresh air and wind in my hair while enjoying nature slowly slipping past, but I soon got wiser. The river barge is more crowded than the buses and it is unbearably hot. Diesel stinks and the noise from the engine is deafening. Next to me sits a police officer with a criminal. The offender is handcuffed and has a metal chain around his feet. He has just been arrested for stealing a cow. The penalty for stealing a cow in Madagascar can be up to five years in prison, the officer said. The perpetrator's wife and children are also in the boat. She has a basket with her with pots, pans and pans. For the next five years, she is the sole breadwinner of the family, and at the same time she has to bring food to her husband in prison while he is serving his sentence. Her fate made a big impression on me as she carries an equal punishment as him and I do not know if she has been complicit in the theft or not. The only one in the family who is definitely innocent is their two-year-old son, with whom she is sitting on her lap. Five years in prison for snatching another man's cow sounds like a hefty harsh punishment, but in Madagascar, a cow has a very high value. Cows are also used as dowry, and a beautiful wife costs four cows.
Five years in the throttle for a beautiful wife
The population of Madagascar is divided into 18 ethnic groups or tribes. In one of the tribes of southern Madagascar, thefts of cows are very common, and young men steal them solely to get into jail. The women want a strong man, and one who has survived a prison stay is considered to be strong and enduring. However, the criminal in the boat on the Tsiribihina River is from another tribe. He has exclusively stolen the cow to enrich himself, and he literally does not have enough money to bribe the policeman to avoid imprisonment.
Cute villagers and cute half monkeys on my Madagascar trip
I did not want to sail with the river barge after dark, so I got off the boat at a small village halfway. Here I am accommodated in a miserable hut built of coca boxes and with a roof of palm leaves. But the village is an idyllic and authentic place, so I decide to stay one more day before I travel on. There is only me, as the only stray tourist. The villagers are very welcoming and they treat me like a guest of honor. I see the children playing by the river bank while the women wash clothes in the river. Many of the women had smeared their face into white face masks to soften the skin.
It should make them more beautiful. The men row out to catch fish in their canoes, which are built of hollowed out tree trunks. Everyone has pets, and around the houses, chickens and goats roam freely. The family I live with had found an orphaned lemur cub in the woods, which they had fed a feeding bottle, and now it was the family's much-loved pet. I saw several lemurs of different species when I visited some of the national parks. Here I also saw some of the many other animals that are not found anywhere else in the world either. In fact, 80 percent of the island's plants and animals are unique to Madagascar. But the lemurs were the main attraction and they are some of the cutest creatures imaginable.
They look like a mix of a cat, a dog, a fox and a monkey. Their sounds give a unique atmosphere in the national parks. They grunt, whistle, sing long stanzas or sound like police sirens. When they are down on the ground, they jump sideways, and in the trees they jump from branch to branch. It was precisely to see these amazing lemurs and the special wildlife that I ended my 15 month long journey in 2014 on this beautiful island in the Indian Ocean.
Madagascar is an obvious choice if you really want to experience something unique. Nice trip!
This post contains links to some of our partners. If you want to see how it goes with collaborations, then you can tap here.