Almost everybody knows where is Madagascar. And almost everybody knows the postcard-ish view from the west coast of Madagascar: seriously proud and extremely old giants: the baobabs. How not to say hello to them? We couldn’t resist to spend a night with them.
Madagascar has two main concrete roads: up-down from the capital and the one from the west to the east coast. If you have less than 3 months time of travelling, you simply have to decide which direction are you heading, because you won’t be able to see all. We started with going west.
Travelling by local transport is not the easiest and for sure not the fastest thing in this country (read about taxi brousses in our first post from Madagascar) but after some days we arrive to Morondava, the heart of Menabe region, on the western coast. That’s the place to get to the famous Alley of Baobabs, which we all have in mind, when we hear the word „baobabs“.
Of course there is much more baobabs in this country than that but the Alley is seriously special: few kilometres of giants (even 30 metres high) on the right and left side of the road, standing with pride since even 1000 years.
It’s just one kind of baobab tree (there is 9 species in the world, 6 to be found in Madagascar), with the circumference up to even 50 metres!
And the Alley is… just a random sandy road, leading from one village to another. Not a national park, not a protected area. And the baobabs, for the locals, are… just the trees. The source of wood, food, water and… tourists. And the last one is only troubles, nothing really more.
While preparing those pictures and blog post, I read maybe 30 different pages in the internet reporting about the Alley. One (one!) of them mentioned the… people. Somebody wrote: „And be aware that the local kids will jump around you like flies and might ask for money or present if you make a picture of them“.
Uhhh. During one sunset I have seen five people taking picture of Era (a little girl on the morning picture with Hanna with a hole in her clothes) without any permission, without any question. Just coming in front of her, putting the lens in her face and pstrrrrryk, making a picture.
Do you think that she chosen to be born in the village next to „the baobabs“? Do you think she has chosen to wear clothes with holes? Do you think she has chosen to look very authentic, poor but beautiful in the sunset light?
There is no gate to the baobabs, there is no entry fee. Locals don’t benefit from their existence (ok, there is a parking place, where few guys say: pay this and this, but it’s nothing official or organised, and some ladies sell souvenirs but I didn’t see anybody buying them). We pay some guy to bring us there from Morondava by car in the afternoon and decide to sleep in the tent. – It’s dangerous. Take care well about you belongings! – people tell us.
Yeah yeah. We go to the ladies, sitting in front of their little houses and ask if it’s ok to put the tent around their village. They say yes.
So after the little walk along the road, we decide about the place for the tent. We have maybe 20 kids around us and, honestly, we try to take care about our belongings. The kids are fast, watching us and our stuff very carefully. They try to get our baguette and cookies.
So we put all the backpacks and bags with food shopping in one place and try to put the tent. But wait, everywhere on the ground there are some plants with spikes. This will totally destroy the floor of our tent. What the kids do? Immediately they start to run around and collect long grass, to put it in the place, where we wanted the tent. Helps a bit, but we are afraid of risking (it’s our home!). The kids fastly find a better place for us, on the other side of the road, at their… football field. This kids, we were slightly afraid of.
So here we are: the tent is standing, me and Tom are cooking (with the assist of half of the village) and Hanna, Mila with a group of kids are playing football with our blow-up-beach-ball. In one moment, when the sun gets totally down and mosquitoes (with malaria) start to rule to world, everybody suddenly disappear and we finish the dinner alone. But from morning on we have the company again.
And tourists? Well. 30 minutes of the sunset and 20 minutes of the sunrise – there was a little crowd. In the same unrespectful way making pictures of us, our kids and our tent. Why do people treat other people like a baobab, hmm?
The baobabs are truly impressive. So big, so fat, so majestic. I felt like hugging them and saying thank you for their existence. But it’s also the knowledge: such a baobab grows… 1mm per month. That is 12mm per year. That is 12cm in… 10 years! Just imagine that.
And just try to imagine that in the past, it was not an Alley of Baobabs but it was a forest. Huge, dense forest, full of them! And that every year people do destroy the next and another tree. To be able to make fire, to eat, to live. The area is not a protected park, and the trees are threatened by further deforestation. 90% of original rainforest cover in Madagascar is destroyed. How sad is that?
And how sad is such a Era or other girls living around. Can you imagine growing up as a „nice picture of the tourists“? How must it feel?
Walking between the long, beautiful shadows of the baobabs we were asking ourselves exactly those questions. And sitting at night in front of our tent, with the millions stars view above our heads – too.
Our first book is out!
We have published our first book (for now just in Polish:) about our Central America Trip.
See, read and order here »