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We got to sleep in all the way to 715 today. It did feel good. I think we are finally getting over our jet lag.

We toured Antsirabe city which means we drove through town to get to our requisite tourist traps. We saw a toy shop which makes miniature cars, rickshaws and bicycles out of recycled pop cans and recovered wire.

In the same area there was also embroidery. They wares are made from local cotton but the thread used is imported from France. It’s all so beautiful and the women are so talented, but who needs another table cloth??

In the back of the shop we were treated to the Zebu horn demonstration. The craftsman showed us how they make a spoon. Start to finish was less than 15 minutes. They boil the horn to soften it, cut a very rough shape, put it in a press to make the spoon concave and then grind and polish the rough shape into an actual spoon. The polishing is done with old jeans cut into rounds. Nothing goes to waste here. The guy uses an airline sleep mask as a respirator.

We saw some amazing horn art/items but given Canada’s anti ivory laws we didn’t dare purchase anything. Beautiful dice sets, dominoes and all sorts of other stuff.

After that down the road was the precious stone store. We saw ammonite and other fossils as well as a ton (literally) of semi precious stones.

And for some reason some endemic tortoises. We were allowed to play with them.

Once our touristy shopping was done it was off on a six hour drive. We did a quick drive by of the old French consulate, now a hotel.

And the center square showing the Madagascar totem and all 18 tribes.

About 3 or so hours in we stopped at woodcarving street in Ambositra. Once again we toured the wares and this time did buy a couple things.

This is the wood shop across the street.

And right next door is the mechanic.

Lunch was down the street at a hotel. There was a dancing group demonstrating local dances. Dave had some amazing pineapple pork. Kris’ ‘vegetable’ soup was pretty much just squash, but it was good.

Then back in the SUV for many more hours driving. At one point Kris leaned over and asked if we’d been on a straight road yet. Dave said yes, back in Tana, at the airport when the plane landed. Madagascar is all up and down and full of curves. Beautiful but a lot of work to drive. We got a core muscle workout today as we held ourselves against the various g forces.

Just before we got the park we passed a nice water fall.

Now that we’ve been here for almost a week we have learned how things work a bit. When driving if you’re behind and wish to pass you honk once. If you’re behind and the driver ahead of you says pass, he honks once. If the driver in front honks twice after you’ve requested then don’t pull out, they see something you can’t. Rules of the road are pretty normal. Roundabouts are common and drivers are aggressive but fair. Dave could drive here. The challenge of course is there are no road signs, so it’s navigation being the issue vs the actual driving part.

People like their hats. Any kind will do. Everyone, except the dirt poor, wear a hat. We’ve seen baseball caps, toques, sunhats, fedoras, boaters, and even a few hand-woven knit caps.

Everyone has hats but the majority of rural folk don’t have shoes. And really even urban folks many don’t have shoes either. Clothing for sale seems to be cast off’s as there is ever only one of anything. Shoes for sale tend to be flip flops and new. Some of the clothes are pretty rough looking – we are keeping an eye out for something that we may have donated to Big Brothers!

The current president has apparently given out thousands (?) of bright orange T-shirts with his name and face on them. They are very popular.

As we drive through various villages it is always interesting to see how commerce is done. Mostly the small stall style model. We’ve seen tons of fruit and vegetables, various meats, whole chickens and pigs, crayfish, dried river fish, honey, juices, clothing, hats and shoes, gasoline, tires, spare parts for something.

Here is a butcher shop. No refrigeration and flies are included for free.

We did pass a weekly market out in the rural part. In general, there seem to be a lot of people selling and very few people buying.

Along the way today, Carl, our driver, stopped to let us sample ‘pok pok’ which turned out to be kumquats. And there was a village who harvest young geranium plants to make essential oils (they smell really good – unlike the stinky diesel trucks that are everywhere spewing their nasty black smoke into the air).

Speaking of Carl, he doesn’t talk much. Occasionally he points something out, but we think he is unsure of his English (which is much better than our French and Malagasy put together). He pointed out a new hospital being built just outside of Antsirabe and so we asked him about the measles outbreak in Madagascar. He either didn’t understand or didnt’ want to talk about it, even after I pulled the French word for measles out of my brain. Makes us wonder what the people actually know.

Tomorrow is no driving just hiking for more lemurs.

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