Thumper…

December 29, 2014

Cattle, Lemurs and the Market

Ambalavo is known for it’s crafts and markets and we spent the first part of the day looking around at these.
Paper making demonstrations were taking place at the Hotel aux Bougainvillieés where we were staying, so that was the first thing we looked at. It was created from the trees of a plant (possibly the mulberry tree) and the whole process was done by hand. Dried flowers were often placed on the paper during the process to decorate it – depending on whether the paper was going to be cards, writing paper, bags etc. It was an interesting process.
Next up was a silk making factory, where again, the whole process was done by hand, right through from boiling the raw product to spinning the silk.

Silk Factory, Ambalavo

Silk Factory, Ambalavo

The market was an interesting place, it sold different fruit, meat and crafts including plenty of hats, which looked colourful on the people, some of which were made of traditional grasses, some of which, on closer inspection were actually made of plastic bags! We were a bit of a tourist attraction in ourselves as we walked through the market and plenty of people were willing to try and sell us their wares. Prices seemed fairly reasonable, perhaps a little overinflated for us, but not as hugely as in other places.

Colours of Ambalavo market

Colours of Ambalavo market

The cattle market was perched on the highest part of the town, providing a great view of the surrounding area. This was the meeting place for the real men. It was noisy, busy and chaotic. I have no idea how everyone knew which cattle was theirs, how you knew which lot of cattle was for sale now, or coming up or how everyone kept their cattle under control. Occasionally one cow would break loose , attempting to make a run for it, but it was quickly brought under control by the young boys charged with keeping them together.
The atmosphere of the cattle market was really unique and it was a great place for people watching. I enjoyed this far more than any of the other “tourist” things that the area was known for. If you’re in Ambalavo when the cattle market is on, get there! (I was there on 5/6/13, a Wednesday).

Hustle and bustle, Ambalavo cattle market

Hustle and bustle, Ambalavo cattle market

Not far from Ambalavo is the Anja Private Lemur Reserve which is run by the community and provides a protected reserve for the lemurs to live in. Primarily it is the ring tailed lemurs living there, but there’s other wildlife calling the reserve home.

What are you looking at? Ring Tailed Lemur, Anja Park

What are you looking at? Ring Tailed Lemur, Anja Park

The park seemed to come from nowhere, all around were the bare hills, unless it was covered in rice paddies, then up rises a huge mountain, a tiny patch of green at the bottom. The tiny patch of green though was the park, which was surprisingly big when you were in it.

Looking up, View Point Anja Park

Looking up, View Point Anja Park

We had a couple of young guys as guides who did a really good job. We had a couple of language difficulties, but we were used to that. Right next to the park were some crops that other locals were growing. We asked whether the lemurs who were right next to the crop ate the crops. No, the lemurs didn’t leave the park. There was no fence, so we “marvelled” at how clever the lemurs were knowing exactly where the boundary ended. A few minutes later as we rounded another bend right on the edge of the park, there were lemurs in the crops eating their fill. Ah yes, the lemurs love eating the crops said our guide… Like I said, sometimes we had some language difficulties, but overall our experience with the guides at this park was positive.

Tails in the air, Ring Tailed Lemur, Anja Park

Tails in the air, Ring Tailed Lemur, Anja Park

It was great seeing the lemurs up close, they were so cheeky and playful, but also fairly friendly, and even part way up the large rock (called the three sisters) (from view point) got you high enough to get a good view of the surrounding area.

Toward Ambalavo from View Point, Anja Park

Toward Ambalavo from View Point, Anja Park

The remainder of our day was spent driving past some impressive scenery, including the huge Bishops Hat mountain, en route to our hotel – the Isalo Motel in Ranohira, our home for the next few nights. We spent some time relaxing by the pool before a nice meal of crocodile and duck.

Bishops Hat, Road to Isalo NP

Bishops Hat, Road to Isalo NP

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