Monday, 17 February 2014

Toliara- D-1

For the past day and a half we’ve been heavily sweating - Toliara is super hot! Apart from being incredibly hot, I find it a strange town, very different from the ones we’ve seen on the high shield. It doesn’t have the colonial architecture (at least we havent seen it) and it’s somewhat of a ghost-town. The streets are much wider than anywhere else, they are long and straight and there are a lot of “pousse-pousse” (bicycle taxis) with insistent drivers looking for new customers.

We are staying in a luxorious hotel (we were quite doubtful about this when we first heard this would be the case, but it’s actually true!). There is even a pool and it’s a constant life-saver. The three additional volunteers who belong to our “expedition” were waiting for us here, and so were the people from the outgoing expedition. We had a delicious lunch and later on a big dinner all together.

It was useful to meet the “outgoing people” and receive some tips from them- for example regarding the need for spices and sauces during the next six weeks. We had already assumed that a month and a half of rice-beans-fish diet could get boring, but now we’ve heard the confirmation. (As a result, we emptied the local supermarket this morning in a last attempt of bringing some civilisation with us to the site in Andavadoaka).

We’ve also been introduced to the first stories about life in Anda- the good, the bad and the ugly... ;-) Sounds like we should all be prepared for early mornings, relatively monotonous meals, hard work, lots of fun, the “Madagascar bug” as they refer to the “tornado” that goes through one’s digestive system at any given moment, the occasional rats in our huts and leaking roofs... We’ve also heard stories about cyclones, inappropriate volunteers and emergency evacuations...

Although some of the stories sounded quite scary, my overall impression remains: Blue Ventures is incredibly well organised, has more than a decade of experience and the worst thing we are likely to experience is a few day long diarrhea.

Between the big meals (including ice-cream in an Italian restaurant!), the frenzic shopping and the pool time, we met the leader of Blue Ventures’ blue forest work. He gave us a presentation about the work of BV in general, how it started, where it’s going, all the different sub-projects that have developed over the years. I found it deeply inspiring and became very excited about having the opportunity to be part of this.

We are 8 volunteers in the end in this expedition, and everyone apart from me will be diving. Everyone is very surprised to find out that I chose to be involved with the community work, instead of discovering the “under-(water)-world”, but this afternoon I was once again reassured that I made the right decision.

Blue Ventures is divided in two parts: the expeditions and the conservation work. The former welcomes the volunteers and teaches them to dive (people have to pass fish and coral identification tests to be able to contribute to the research work). Their (well, our) participation fees are then used for the conservation work, which ranges from the community managed protected area, to aquaculture project (growing sea-cucumbers) through blue forest work (taking care of mangroves up in the north western coast of Madagascar) to the project I’ll participate in on community health.

Tomorrow we are driving through an amazing coast-line to reach our final destination. There are no proper roads, so the 170km ahead of us are expected to take about 8 hours, with 4 wheel drives... Hopefully the view will make up for the shaking and the bumpy road.

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