Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 5 - Observations, the Cart

Being in a third world country, everything around you is, how can I say - different. People have ways to make do. Here is one simple photo that tells a story.

Notice the man on the cart. This primitive cart is an important means of transportation. Throughout the day he makes a living delivering goods throughout the village. It's hell going up the hills, but a cool breeze on the downside.

Notice the cart has a steering wheel. The wheels are made of wood and covered with old rubber from used tires. He does have a break, the vertical wood lever between his legs. This one got me laughing; notice the mud flaps behind the wheels.

Another interesting observation in this photo. Notice the sign Orange recharges. Orange is a large telephone service like ATT. There is essentiality no land line service; the only phones are cell. No one gets a monthly bill they just upload minutes when they need them. I'm not sure of recharges. It is either recharge your phone with minutes or in fact recharge the battery. Perhaps it's both.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 5 - The Buy

Before leaving to Fianarantsoa and the rain forest, we met with Federico, the most connected man in Madagascar for collecting minerals. Federico wrote the feature article detailing Demantoid minerals in the May-June 2010 issue of The Mineralogical Record. This is a fascinating article on everything from the mining operations to detailed information on the minerals.

Doug & I were interested in purchasing a demantoid collection of 13 specimens. Federico was familiar with the collection and suggested he help us with the buy - a wise decision. This transaction was much like a drug buy. We met with the mineral dealer in the lobby of his hotel. He told us they allow him to use the upstairs veranda for his purchases. We gathered and took a look at the minerals. A few of them were exceptional and all were very nice. Federico told us after we made the purchase that the collector started the deal for about 35 million ariary which translates to over $17,000 US. He told the dealer not to insult him and that Doug is a serious dealer that brings groups of people to Madagascar just to buy minerals. We purchased them at a very reasonable price and in the end everyone was happy.

What a memorable experience.

Danny, Giorgio, Federico, Danny's partner, the Madagascar Minister of Mining, and Doug prior to negotiations.
One of the nicest demantoid specimens 

A few of the 13 specimens we purchased

Danny signing my copy of the Mineralogical Record featuring Madagascar. Danny noted the photos of all the demantoids he sold. These are some of the finest specimens known in the world. Danny actually owned the demantoid which is on the cover of the magazine

Doug & Federico holding my copy of the Madagascar issue of The Mineralogical Record.

Danny smiling after selling his demantoid collection to us. It must have been a good sale for him.

Day 5 - Antsirabe to Fianarantsoa Trip

Our adventure continues from Antsirabe to Fianarantsoa for an overnight stay on the way to the rain forest. This is the largest city near the Ranomafana National Park. Our hotel is like walking through Graceland in that it was from another age - the 50's. Apparently, the hotel was built for the communist elite back in the day. I expected to see Frank Sinatra in the lobby signing autographs. Everything throughout was well kept, but dated and has never been renovated.

After a long all day drive, we ate at the hotel where I had the worst alligator I've ever had. All kidding aside, this was the only bad meal I had in Madagascar.

Zebu drives were common while traveling throughout Madagascar. This is one of the reasons why it took all day to drive 250 miles.

A family photo taken at a roadside overlook of a valley.
Zebu on a levee.

Our interesting hotel Soafia in Fianarantsoa

A view of downtown Fianarantsoa from a veranda in our hotel.

Although dated, the hotel decor had very nice woodwork.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 4 - Afternoon in Antisirabe

After the half day trip to Ibity, we returned to Antsirabe to relax. Actually, I really relaxed by getting a massage at a business partially owned by Giorgio. I don't get a massage very often, but this was a real treat. I started with a 1/2 hour and extended it to an hour for a few Ariary more.

I became really interested in the man powered taxis called pousse pousses. I really think these carts could be used in areas like Downtown Memphis to get around. Being so interested we went on an adventure to their local "factory" to see how they are made and what they would cost. Actually, I could buy them for about $100 each and have them custom painted. I thought it would be worth a try to get a dozen shipped here. I'd have to see if the city center commission would allow them. Anyway... it made for an interesting afternoon.

Here are some shots of us at Giorgio's Italian restaurant, pousse pousse cart factory and taking a pousse pousse ride.

Giorgio outside his restaurant. The Malagasy Minister of Security ate there the night before. Giorgio talked about how they came in with an entourage of bodyguards with AK47s.

Tony, our driver was mentioned in an article written by Federico in the June 2010 issue of The Mineralogical Record. This is a photo of him proudly signing my personal copy.

Tony showing the cover of The Mineralogical Record.

Doug, in awe of his Italian sandwich 

Better yet, Doug showing us the beads he just bought from street vendors. No, Doug is not gay.

A pousse pousse cart under construction.

220 volt wires just laying around on the "factory" floor. Accidentally touching the unshielded wire will kill you dead. Didn't see OSHA anywhere in the whole country.
Nice artwork on the back of some pousse pousse carts.

More artwork on the back of a pousse pousse cart.

Another back of a pousse pousse cart.

Under construction...

Inside the "factory"

Girogio relaxing

These cart drivers actually draft each other. This is a shot of me looking out the back of our cart as we are "driving".

I guess my cart "driver" was getting tired pulling my extra weight. Girogio's "driver" pulls ahead.

Girogio pulling away

This is a velo pousse. Nice ride.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 4 - The Ibity Market

We continued to Ibity after bartering for minerals on the road. Visiting this market was one of many highlights of the trip. We really were able to see the daily activities of the Malagasy on market day. Most towns have markets on different days of the week. Ibity has a nice area for people to sell their wares.

Doug examining a mineral at the Ibity Market

Mitchell (left) and his Son Jules with some locals

Mitchell, Doug & Girogio discussing the price of a specimen. 

Folks lining up to show us their best - Tsara Be

Our first glimpse inside the market. We actually bought minerals outside the walls of the market.

Each person had their own speciality to sell. This was the only lady selling brooms.

Selling rice, spices and grains

This reminded me of Waterworld. He is actually selling water. We didn't partake. 

Salt fish. There were a number of people selling these. Also didn't partake

Another fish monger, but smaller ones. Still couldn't bring myself to give a little one a try.

Open air meat market. Most people loved their pictures taken. Especially when you give them some Ariary (money)

Doug explained that they do not have refrigeration, so they slaughter and eat  the meat that day before it can spoil. Much of the world live day to day like this.  You're right, I didn't partake in the pigs feet or snout in this photo.

Intestines aren't my thing either.

Another nice lady in the open air meat area of the market

These Tomatos must have been grown in hot houses. It was early Spring in Madagascar.

A nice shot showing how crowded it was on market day.

More salt fish. My back was hurting, so I couldn't bend down to pick out some. Yea, I didn't have any of these either.

As we leave the market area, I noticed this man making muffins. I wasn't that hungry, so  I didn't partake. Something about the sanitary conditions was not appetizing.
The crowd watching us leave. Back to our home base  - Antsirabe

One the way home, vistas everywhere like this.