We are on a taxi-brousse from Ranohira, have changed minibus in Ihosy, and have already paid our ticket to Fianarantsoa, when we drive through a region with rocky mountains, rice paddies, and small villages with red-brown houses and people working the fields. At every turn, the countryside looks more beautiful, and I get very restless. Should we really pass by, or get off? When a lady gets off in Ambalavao, we decide to do so as well. The driver doesn't understand, explains that we are not in Fianarantsoa yet, but we get our luggage off the roof, and walk to a friendly and central hotel. We immediately feel at home here, mostly because of the open and curious people: what a difference with the feeling of being a cow that has to be milked we had in Ranohira!
We walk to the market, and notice that there is a constant movement of things in the streets. Push-carts, often heavily loaded, are being pushed uphill by strong men, women are walking with baskets on their heads, tuk-tuks pass by, also loaded with stuff. Then, there are the remarkable colonial houses, with carved wooden balconies, painted in bright colours, often with small shops at street level. Every house is different from the next. We walk the main street, then discover a square where guys are playing basketball, and others petanque, and see more colonial buildings. Then, there is the church, its belltower one of the landmarks of town. The sun is getting low, and we walk another street with views over the countryside. While the sky is turning yellow, orange, and purple, it turns out that there is no good viewpoint to see the sun set over the surrounding mountains - despite an ultimately frustrating search for such a spot.
We are up early the next morning. Standing in the main street, the sun comes up, bringing a warm glow to the people walking through the street. It is such a beautiful sight, we are back the next morning to do exactly the same. Just watching people passing by, tuk-tuks driving by, carts being pushed to their destination, school kids walking by, while the sun sets them ablaze. After our excursion to Anja, and the walk back, we take a seat at a restaurant in the main street, which turns out to be a great place to just watch life go by. Again, as before, we are amazed at the never-ending movement in the streets: there are always people walking through, carrying something, chatting to friends, chatting to us. At times, the bustling vibe gives the feeling that Ambalavao is the trading capital of Madagascar. It apparently does have the biggest zebu market in the country - which we unfortunately miss because we are here on the wrong days. Even without the market, we are very glad we stayed here, and could have stayed more. But - other adventures are waiting to happen!
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Ambalavao (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Ambalavao.
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