Tour from Antsirabe to Ambositra along the road that runs through the central plateau of Madagascar

June 17, 2013 

The Madagascar central plateau is interesting not only for the presence of some national parks, but also because it houses several cities where you can take a trip into the local culture to appreciate what the daily life in Madagascar is like. In Ambositra in Antsirabe I visit small family-run farms devoted to local crafts, while the road connecting the various towns winds through the relaxing rural-agricultural landscape mainly made of rice fields and small farms.

Photos of Antsirabe. Established in the heart of the central plateau of Madagascar, Antsirabe has the appearance of a typical chaotic and dusty African city. Anyway Antsirabe should be visited, as the city offers the opportunity to visit various small family-run business, which give an interesting idea of how you work and live in these parts (craft Madagascar).
Mamy Miniature
Photos of Madagascar handicraft. In Antsirabe, I firstly visit the Miniature Mamy run by Mr. and Mrs. Rajamason, where they build small works of art in miniature using only recycled waste, such as cans, pieces of electric wire, bottle caps and more. The recycling of waste is a very important activity in Madagascar, both for the conditions of poverty and because most of the new materials should be imported at a high price, since the industry in Madagascar is virtually non-existent. The cost of a bike produced in about half an hour of work, is little more than a Euro.

The same company produces embroidery on fabrics, they are particularly made as that they are visible and perfect on both faces of the fabric.
Zebu photos. The zebu is a robust and work cattle meat, essential for the life of the Malagasy people. Zebu we recycle absolutely everything, including the dung, and country wealth is measured largely based on how many zebu you own.
Zebu horn being worked
Zebu horns
And just because from Zebu nothing is thrown away, this family of Antsirabe is specialized in the manufacture of horn zebu to get magnificent works of art. The horn is first heated on flames to separate the soft tissue inside (later used to produce fertilizers, feed, powder for traditional medicine) from the external bone mass, rigid and durable, so perfect to make ornaments or fake jewelry that can last longtime.

The horn of zebu undergoes several processes, which include cutting, modelling and polishing (Madagascar craft).
Objects made using zebu horns

And here is an example of the final result, after a long and patient work carried out by means of very basic, but certainly with great care and skill.
Christmas Star or Poinsietta
On the streets of Antsirabe, as well as in many other places in Madagascar, I find many trees of "Christmas Star" or poinsettia, in June in their winter dress, being the period around the winter solstice.
Fossilized tree trunk
I visit what is called a "factory of precious gems," where, however, it is not allowed to see the people at work; you can but only see the finished objects (while you are “pressed” to buy them ). The site is still relatively interesting, just try not to be overwhelmed by the shop assistants . Due to its geological origin, Madagascar is rich in fossils and precious stones.

After the tour in Antsirabe, the journey along the central plateau of Madagascar continues south along the main artery connecting Antananarivo to Toliara. The road runs through several villages, where locals carry around everything on bikes or makeshift carts.
Rice being dried
This method of drying rice on the hot asphalt, is not really ISO standards, but in the opinion of the local farmers, is very effective and prevents possible trouble during storage in the warehouse. Only a problem: sometimes you can find a bit 'of sand or gravel in the dishes.
Pigs market
Piglets Checking of the pigs' tongue
I meet a weekly market where they sell pigs. The strong voices of farmers who contract the price is mixed with the grunting of pigs that becomes a desperate cry when the customer turns it upside down and the person checks the language in search of some diseases. The price of a baby pig is around 15-20 euros, while for an adult the price is five times higher.
Countryside in Madagascar Madagascar
Agricolture in Madagascar
Rice fields Rice fields  arranged in terraces.
The journey continues through the relaxing rural agricultural landscape-from the plateau of central Madagascar, where there are extensive rice fields often arranged in terraces.
clay bricks Brick factory

From time to time, you can see some brick factory. The clay is first collected and then shaped into bricks on the spot.
Rural landscape in Madagascar
Farm in Madagascar
Malagasy houses Malagasy house
The typical house in this region of Madagascar consists of a rectangular building with two floors plus the attic, usually with thatched roof and brick walls. The facade is made by mixing ground with dung zebu, and the color depends mainly on the used to make the dough.
Ambositra Rickshaw
Photos of Ambositra. I reach Ambositra, another chaotic city with narrow streets crossed by crowds of people on foot, a few cars that zigzag between people and carts, as well as by rickshaw, custom imported from China when engineers and architects to were called build the railway.
Coping saw Wood being worked
Ambositra is the capital of the woodwork and wood carving. The works of art are made with a patience and a unique skill: practically, instead of drawing and painting directly on the plywood sheet what you want to represent, the various forms that you want to produce are cut out of sheets of different color through a coping saw (they are colored leaving them a few days in natural dyes), and then they fit together one inside the other, as a kind of puzzle pieces, up to compose the final design. The amazing result is in the photo below.
Wooden work of art
This is the result you get. Each part of the drawing (also the smallest leaf or the eye of the bird) is not painted on plywood sheet, but it consists in a piece of wood previously impregnated with dye, clipped, and stuck to produce the final work.
Herd of zebu
The journey continues crossing some herds of zebu. The animals are moved on foot, travelling hundreds of miles and lasting for several days to be brought to a market or to reach their farm after they have been purchased.
Carrying things on head

Along the roads we often meet groups of people carrying everything on their head. This usually happens when there is a flea market in some village and all the farmers throughout the area go there to buy and sell products, sometimes walking many, many miles ....
Stalls in Madagascar

Houses along the main street that runs through Madagascar, where locals have done their best to improvise stalls selling local handicrafts to passers-by.
A beautiful view on Madagascar countryside.

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English translation by Lorena Anzani.