Dear friends,

As we had to travel to the north, then the south and then to the east, the capital city, Antananarivo (usually shortened to Tana for obvious reasons) was a pivotal point on our trip and each time we stayed at the elegant old hotel, The Colbert with lovely views out over a part of the city and a wonderful bakery, courtesy of the French influence.

The first views you are of the city are of the small lakes and rice paddies as you drive in from the airport. 

A man walks through the shallow lake, probably trawling for fish, with houses beyond. 

Brooms for sale, rice paddies, people working the land and a residential area behind.

Small houses line the bank of the small lakes, some with geese, others living from the rice crops and fishing.

Further into the city, there are shops and markets and plenty of traffic.

A small shop selling rice and other cereals.

A typical street scene with one of the hand-drawn carts used to tote goods from A to B. 

An inner city street alongside a canal. Reminds me of Chiang Mai in Thailand where I live.

Right in the centre of the city is a man-made lake which adds to the beauty of the area. 

A view of houses along one of the hilltops. 

After our flight back from Fort Dauphin in the south, we were treated to a delicious lunch at a city restaurant and were serenaded by one of Madagascar’s leading cultural music and dance groups. Their performances were lively and since they were performing just for our small group, they were most entertaining and encouraged us to take photos and even join in.

The leader of the group and father of two of the girls and the bass guitarist is
internationally recognised as a virtuoso on the Lokanga, a traditional string instrument.

The lead dancer and daughter of the Lokanga player shows off her finery.

Another of the dancers with a very ornate hairstyle.

A traditional dance evoking some of the tasks of women since ancient times.

The drummer, very serious as he beats out the rhythm.

The whole group singing and dancing to the music … 

… and in another song, the Lokanga is abandoned and whistle-blowing takes its place for the dance. 

Using a spear as a part of the dance, this song illustrated the men’s hunting prowess.

And the girls watch on.

The final farewell song at the end of their presentation.

Later that same day, we travelled across the city to visit a centre of metalworking established by two community-minded people with financial backing from international supporters. The centre provides employment for local men and women and has also set up a school for the children of the workers.  They also earn money from sales of their sculptures to tourists and it is a much-visited establishment.

The name of the workshop made of metal, of course. 

A work in progress – the main building of the workshop with some of the sculptures out front.

At work, preparing sheets of metal with the first cutouts and patterns, children alongside.

This baby on the woman’s back was not so impressed with the day.

But this little fellow seemed quite content to play with whatever was at hand and watch his mother working.

Never too young to start trying a hand at the work.

Another little girl watches us and holds to her mother for security as the strangers troop past.

Meanwhile, two young boys were intent on their game of marbles on the clay surface next to the worksheds.

A very serious and exacting game ensued.

Such precision and not a glance at the bystanders.

Who is the winner?

A mean looking chameleon on the path.

Some other of the large more fanciful sculptures on display.

Baobab trees and birds in metal and wooden carvings behind at the shop.

And plenty more baobab trees to choose from.

And a couple of chubby rhinos still in the making.

The school buildings and students relaxing on the wall after classes.

Inside one of the junior classrooms, just the basics but an admirable effort on the part of the
workshop owners to establish the school.

Happiness is flying a kite after school is over for the day.


Driving back to the hotel after the school visit, I captured a few more views of the outskirts of Antananarivo – some very smart new houses, different kinds of transport, market stalls and people going home at the end of their day’s work.

A row of colourful new houses looking over the football field.

This restaurant looks a little lonely, needs some trees and tables outside maybe?

A roadside fruit seller and an artisan or some kind – maybe a cobbler – wait for customers.

A snack bar between the railway line and the path into the city, probably a handy place to do business.

A couple of bicycle rickshaws waiting for clients to pedal into the city or homewards, maybe beating the rain, maybe not.

So that was a quick look at the city and surrounding areas with a couple of stories about people we met, the cultural dance group and at the workshop and school.

For the last blog from Madagascar, we travel to the east of the capital and visit another national park, one of the few places where you can see the wonderful indri indri as well as other species of lemur.

Until then, all good wishes to you my readers.