Expedition Report – Madagascar 2012
I wanted to write to you and thank you for your donation which greatly helped me to get to Madagascar. Here is my expedition report which hopefully gives you an insight into my trip.
After our long flights to Madagascar via Nairobi we travelled to Andranosoa, the village where we were to finish building the school. Our arrival at the village was an experience in its own right, with the whole village waiting outside, lining the roads to welcome us. As we got off the mini buses we were surrounded by children who were calling us “vazaha” which means foreigner or white person. We quickly took all of our belongings into the primary schooland set up our tents before starting dinner. We then quickly discovered the “toilets”. We knew th at they would be long-drop but we really had no idea how awful they would be! The builders were supposed to build a new toilet block with the secondary school for us to use but it hadn’t been completed, leaving us with the filthy, dirty and smelly toilets! I had to peg my nose every time I used them and I could still smell the stench of the toilet! The next day we worked to set up camp with washing lines, a fire pit and building some showers. The showers had solar bags that were supposed to give us hot water. However the sun didn’t heat the water enough, leaving us cold showers! I resorted to boiling water on the fire, adding cold water and then using a small mug to get clean!
I worked hard in the painting team throughout our time in the village, painting the base coat of the school, the top layer and then working inside the classrooms painting the murals onto the walls. The Malagasy builders told us that “English paint rollers” waste too much paint so we needed to use brooms, but they ended up just dripping paint all over us. Whilst we were painting, the village children stood watching and then starting playing with and pulling our hair. It was very strange to be painting whilst having the children there. Another team worked all week making 20 desks for the classrooms and I helped out by sanding some of the benches. I also went to the private school nearby and taught some English to a few classes. The students already had some basic conversation knowledge but needed to practice and wanted to ask us to teach them some more. We ran out of wall paint very quickly so we got to work painting the mural (we bought the paint from the UK with us). On our penultimate day in the village we set up a table and got all of the village children to come and collect presents from us. We handed out pens, pencils, rubbers, rulers, pads and tennis balls.
It was difficult managing the queue and making sure that the children didn’t get back into the queue for more presents! By the end of our time in the village we had made friends with many of the children and we were sad to leave them. However we couldn’t wait for the use of a flushing toilet and to have a shower to be clean! My time in the village was fantastic and I had a great sense of pride in what I had achieved and how I had helped to change the villager’s lives. It also made me really appreciate and miss home and to see how lucky we are in comparison.
After leaving the village we visited some National Parks and saw wonderful lemurs, chameleons and an array of other wildlife. We went to Lemur Island where lemurs jumped on our heads, which was great fun. We did a 100 mile cano
e trip down the Tsiribihina River over three days and camped along the river banks on beaches. There were loads on insects and spiders crawling all over the sand which worried a few of us, as we were all barefoot whilst eating dinner! We stopped off at a natural waterfall and had the most amazing shower and although we didn’t have any soap, at least we were slightly cleaner! Following our trip down the river we went to the Tsingy de Bemaraha, which is a national park with a forest of limestone pinnacles. I saw lemurs only metres away and according to the guide it is very rare to see them at all! After our two-day rock climbing in the Tsingy we travelled on a canoe through the mangroves to camp overnight at a beach in Mangily. The scenery was stunning and we all enjoyed a cool off in the sea! It was very windy whilst camping there and my tent was almost blown away.
I had to fill bags with sand to put inside the tent to hold it down and then cover the outside with sand to pin the tent down! We then went to Belo Sur Mer for three nights and enjoyed swimming, sunbathing and fishing trips. Next we went to Morondava for a couple of nights and enjoyed more relaxation with a celebratory beach party. On our travels we ate zebu (similar to a cow but with big horns) a lot and when eating chicken in Madagascar it is more fat and bone than actual meat! We ate a lot of rice and I started compiling a list of all of the food I really wanted to eat when I got home!
We flew back to Antananarivo and straight to Andranosoa for the opening ceremony of the school. It was brilliant to be back in the village and to see the school all finished off. Everyone even took one last trip to the toilets for old times’ sake! There was very loud music and lots of dancing before the ceremony took place. All of the village children joined in and seemed to be having lots of fun! We were able to hand the school over officially to the village and I felt so proud to have been a part of such brilliant work. A representative from the Malagasy Ministry of Education met us and a teacher should be paid for by the Government, meaning the project is sustainable with on-going financial support for the village. We joined in the dancing and celebrations before leaving our new friends behind, to head back to the capital city. A few days later and we were back home in the UK. The time just seemed to fly by!
My month in Madagascar taught me so much about my life and the luxuries I have in contrast with the villagers in Madagascar. I will never forget the truly wonderful experiences that I had. Thank you again for your kind donation which helped me to take part in this expedition.