It’s a long time since I wrote in my Blog – partly because of so much coming and going and “crossing of cultures”!
We celebrated our Wedding Anniversary on 15th July in Cardiff, attending the Graduation of Becky (our eldest granddaughter) as a Doctor, along with her fiancé Rob. They have now moved up to Glasgow where they are doing their first jobs in Trauma and Orthopaedics.
We continued westwards from Cardiff to Freshwater East in our campervan where we had some lovely walks along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path before joining Tessa and her family (and dogs) in Fishguard for a week, walking different parts of the Coast Path, playing games on the stunning beaches, swimming and surfing. The coastal views, wild flowers and birds were wonderful.
I had the wonderful privilege of spending three weeks in northern Madagascar in September, most of the time travelling with a small group (from UK, Israel and Australia) and our Malagasy drivers and guides.
The culture is a fascinating fusion of south-east Asian and African, and of Christianity combined with respect for ancestors who still play an impoprtant part in people’s lives. It is not certain exactly when Madagascar, which is larger than France, was populated, but surprisingly, it was probably only about one or two thousand years ago when people mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia came across the Indian Ocean. Africans later migrated across the Mozambique Channel about 600 years ago. This makes for an interesting language and customs. I passed two exhumation ceremonies, when bodies are taken out of the mausoleum-like family graves some years after death and wrapped in fresh white cloth. Unlike the original funeral, which is a time of sadness and mourning, this ceremony is one of feasting and dancing with the wrapped corpses held high. I also visited Ambohimanga, the two hundred year old wooden palace and burial houses for the nineteenth century kings and queens.
However, the main reason for going was to explore some of the remoter national parks and reserves in search of the rarest and unique lemurs and other wildlife, such as chameleons and geckos. Lemurs are primates which descended from the pre-historic ancestors of monkeys and apes found elsewhere in the world.
We had four days of camping and hiking through rainforests up the mountains of Marojejy – I did wonder if I had made a mistake coming as it was tough-going! But it was worth it. In addition to hot humid forests, we also had long walks through dry forests and in lunar-like landscapes. It’s not just “mad dogs and Englishmen who go out in the midday sun”, but Malagasy guides! But just occasionally it was necessary to wear a sweater. We also did night walks most evenings, looking for nocturnal lemurs and geckos.
Madagascar is a beautiful country with vast rivers and very varied landscapes. Sadly, it has been 90% deforested in the last 200 years to provide grazing for Zebu cattle and paddy fields for rice, leaving only small, isolated pockets of primary and secondary forest. Much of it is now barren and even desert-like. Some of the roads, including the main road across the northern part of Madagascar, are said to be amongst the worst in the world – certainly worse than anything I have experienced in Uganda and impassable to any ordinary car!
Some of the lemurs we saw, both diurnal and nocturnal.
Some of the other wildlife we saw. There are no venomous snakes.
These are just a few of my photos. If you would like to scan through more, click on this LINK.
Now I’m off again – to Uganda