Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Madagascar: Antsirabe

My friends and I left the sleepy village of Belo sur Mer and the towering Baobabs of Morondava behind and boarded a taxi brousse back to the interior of Mada.  Our next location was the pousse pousse capital of Madagascar: Antsirabe.  A pousse pousse is a cart pulled by animal, bike, or a person on foot, and Antsirabe is FULL of them.  While walking down the street, we were harassed every couple of steps by pousse pousse drivers, hoping to get some of our custom.  We met three "drivers" who were incredibly nice.  They offered to give us a tour of the city for 10,000 ariary (about five USD).  The tour turned out to be really incredible.  The drivers took us to the artisanal part of town, where several tourist goods are created.  Our first stop was at a paper making and silk creating place.  The man who runs it (and lives right next to the silk looms), showed us how he made decorative papers and other items.  He then showed us how he took raw silk to create beautiful scarves etc.  His paper products are sold as far away as Ohio and I couldn't help but purchase a photo album made by him to place all my polaroids from the trip in.  Our next stop was to an embroidery factory, where women sit in groups and embroider everything from table runners to napkins.  Their work was incredibly intricate and really beautiful.  We stopped at a place where miniatures are made out of recycled pop cans and other random pieces.  The miniatures created were pousse pousses, bikes, taxi brousses, and the ever popular Mada taxi (old Renaults).  The creativity was incredible, and it was only the thought of trying to bring something that fragile on a plane that stopped me from purchasing.  Our last stop was at a place that created things out of zebu horns.  Zebu horns are incredibly light and sort of fragile, so the process is pretty delicate.  Riding to the touristy things in a pousse pousse really showed me how hard these people work for so little money.  Pousse pousse drivers have to pay to rent their cart, or they have to pay to buy one. They can run the carts on their own, or they can join an association and pay a fee to be in one.  The association pousse pousses can charge a little more for their services, but they still have to have a certain number of customers a day to make ends meet.  It made me realize how easy so many of us have it.  Sure, I work barefoot, but I'm usually sitting in front of a computer when I'm not out taking photographs.  These people work barefoot because they can't afford shoes.

Our evening ended at a restaurant called Pousse Pousse.  The booths were the carts themselves, and it was really fantastic food.  The next day, our pousse pousse drivers from the day before picked us up at our hostel (Chez Billy, a really great place to stay), and took us to the gare routiere where they organized our trip back to Antananarivo without any fuss.  Anne-Marie donated her running shoes to her driver and it was great to see his face light up when she handed them to him.  Most drivers run all day barefoot, and I know the gift was greatly appreciated.  Antsirabe was an eye opener, but the city itself, an old Norwegian spa town, was really beautiful and a joy to be in.
Sorry for the awkward angle, I wanted to photograph this family without offending anyone.  They have their laundry all laid out after washing it in the lake, and they live in the blue-green vehicle in the background.  

Finished miniatures

creating a bike wheel 


A view over the lake in Antsirabe
The old Norwegian Spa
Making Paper
Paper decorating with fresh flowers
raw silk

silk being woven into a scarf
Pousse Pousse ride

View of a Pousse Pousse from Chez Billy

Making a spoon out of a zebu horn 

Zebu horns  

No comments:

Post a Comment