September 18, 2015

Madagascar—slow travel speeds up

I think every country I visit becomes my favourite—and Madagascar’s no exception. We arrived and checked in just over a week ago. And already we’ve done so much and seen so much that it’s almost a blur.

Jeremie, our fabulous guide in the jungle found a baby boa for us to check out
Our whirlwind of activity reminds me of how slowly we normally travel. Rather than careening through a destination, hopping from highlight to highlight or ticking off items on a top ten bucket list, we spend a lot of our time engaged in day-to-day life.

notice the rice sack sail
I spend time each day just watching the local boats head out to fish or transport sand and palm fronds
Like the slow food movement, being part of the slow travel movement (which I just invented) means we typically build our understanding of a place mostly by just hanging out.

We tend to spend our time discovering what people are selling in the markets, or by scanning the shelves of supermarkets (thrilling at the familiar and pondering the unknown). We walk up side streets, poking our heads into hardware stores and dusty little shops in search of that one spare part. We eat what locals eat and go where locals go and typically bypass anything that’s designed for tourists—not out of snobbery but because by taking in a country in smaller, less concentrated moments we have time to absorb it.

Tanihely had great coral and lots of turtles--and a diva batfish that photobombed half my pictures
That said this past week with our friend Allison aboard has been pure fun. We trekked through the jungle in Lokobe National Park in search of lemurs, boa constrictors, chameleons and more. We hiked to the lighthouse and swam with turtles at Tanihely National Park. We visited a remote village up a winding mangrove river. And then visited some habituated (and very friendly lemurs) at Nosy Komba.

Manuro was shy about smiling for photos--but quick to laugh when the camera wasn't pointed her way
Through it all we kept the lessons we’ve learned from travelling slowly—and looked for moments to connect with the local people. In the remote village of Ambaliha, after taking the dinghy up the mangrove-lined river, Evan and Maia passed along some of her old puppets by performing a puppet show for the kids then giving the puppets to a few of the mums. Afterward, a village elder named Manuro toured us around—we didn’t share a language but smiles, hand holding and miming were enough. She showed us where they picked coffee, how rice was hulled and where they did laundry and fetched water. Then she invited us into her tiny home for tea.

In Nosy Komba, after the obligatory cuddle with lemurs, we headed out on a hike up to the top of the island. There we met Bernadette—who took a break from pollinating vanilla flowers to walk us from village to village and explain some of her life to us. She showed us the crops they pick; cacao, jackfruit and vanilla and took us to see a dugout being built on the top of the steep island. Then she took us to her favourite view points so we could enjoy the look out to sea.

Bernadette took time away from her work to teach us about village life

 While walking through a village with a local woman may never make the top ten list for a destination—it’s these moments that we end up returning to in our stories and memories. I’m not sure we would have slowed down enough to seek out these small encounters if we weren’t already used to travelling this way. But each time we do—we’re so grateful.

1 comment:

Doug and Carla Scott said...

Our kind of travel for sure - go slow and enjoy the adventure. We would have missed so much of life if we had been on the fast path!