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Day 1450
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A Brief Update from Madagascar

Nov 28

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11/28/2012 2:52 AM  RssIcon

I can’t find a way to describe this land to you.  It feels very much like I’ve fallen down the proverbial rabbit hole after Alice.  There is a world here that is vibrant and full of life, but also so foreign as to be nearly unrecognizable.

Tulear was built by the French.  Its long wharf and colonial architecture are reminiscent of Reunion, Mauritius, or any land colonized by the French.  They were very good at their work and much of the structures must have once been pleasing to the eye.  Walking along the two main streets I am filled with the sensation that, once this was a city.  When the French left time stopped.  Construction projects stand today exactly as they did when the last workers quit in the 1960s.  Once this was a city.

Despite the surreal “thunder dome” like nature of the place I can’t help but love this area.  Some 80,000 people still live in Tulear, Madagascar.  This is one of the poorest nations anywhere in the world.  Despite the poverty everyone seems kind, caring, healthy, and strong.

For a few dollars a day Gaspar and I hired a private driver who arranged for security guards for the boat, dingy, and took care of our formal port clearance.  Each day he would pick us up on the wharf and take us into his town.  For a couple of sea weary gypsies it was an amazing respite and we took full advantage.  Sitting next to the sea with a cold beer in hand we relaxed, watched the sun set over the roaming sand dunes, and took in the spectacle that is Madagascar.


Waking several days later we knew we’d let too much time pass in Tulear.  We took leave of our new friends to go hunting for a better protected anchorage.  Strong winds are blowing and the barrier reef is a deep one offering only limited protection at high tide.  Where we landed is just off the tiny, remote fishing village of Sarodrano.  This location is every bit as surreal as Tulear.

Back in Reunion we’d heard rumor of a Frenchman being killed and butchered on a beach near Tulear.  That man’s boat is anchored just in front of Jargo.  Rumors are just that, rumor.  This like most has only the faintest truth behind the tale.  Sadly, this one is still tragic in truth. 

Dan was a 30 year old South African sailor and surfer.  He had come to the same place we have because it has good protection for the boats and is only a mile away from a nice surf break.  After four months living among the fisherman of this tiny village Dan had learned to speak Malagasy and was considered one of their own.  After a night in the local ‘tavern” Dan headed back to his catamaran.  There was large storm and sea that night and Dan didn’t reach his boat.  The pirogue he was using for a tender foundered and Dan’s body was found a good distance away the next day.

The locals took care of Dan as one of their own.  He was prepared for burial and given Christian rights in the small church just down the beach.  The village got word to Dan’s family and his father was able to come to the village to look over the arrangements they had made.  Dan rests on here today.  There is a small memorial to him on one wall where he is recognized as the, “Foreign Son of Sarodrano”.

Dan laid the foundation for the experience we are now having with these Malagasy.  There cannot be more than 300 in this village and yet the regard us with only mild curiosity.  Unlike in Tulear no one here approaches our boats asking for handouts.  Instead they smile on at us as we walk down the beach leaving us to our ways unless we stop to connect first with them.  Yesterday we looked on as the village collectively cleaned upwards of a thousand sea urchins for the delicate orange meat inside.  Being one of my favorite sushi dishes everywhere I began to drool.  When asking if it was good to eat I was offered a spoon and invited to dig into the four gallon vat of fresh urchin.

When all the urchin had been cleaned they were loaded into one of the sailing outriggers and ferried to Tulear for sale.  We only wished we had taken some sort of dish so we could have purchased a liter for ourselves.  The price for a liter of the freshest urchin in the world?  About 50 cents American. 

I am smitten with Madagascar.  I don’t yet understand it and I may never.  Still, something here has drawn me in and I want to explore it further.

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5 comment(s) so far...


Re: A Brief Update from Madagascar

Great blog. Congratulations on landing safely at yet another unfamiliar port. I know the feeling somewhat, I just crossed the gulf of Mexico in my southern cross 31 (same designer as your allied which is how I landed on your blog). I left from Sabine pass Texas in October and I have been to 4 ports here in the Yucatan and each one is new and exciting, yet there is a sense of fear just below the surface. Your desire for communication after being at sea so long (at least when you are alone like I have been) is all welled up inside you and you just need to let it out. Good luck with learning the language, it's always a compliment to the locals when they hear you speak to them in their native language. Its great to know that in places so remote from home you are still able to receive a warm welcome and make new friends. Cheers to unseen waters and unpathed shores.

By Dave on   12/10/2012 7:57 PM

Re: A Brief Update from Madagascar


Hope you are still enjoying Madagascar, looking forward to hearing more of that strange land.


By scott shannon on   12/12/2012 1:51 PM

Re: A Brief Update from Madagascar

i have followed your site since you started and have enjoyed it thoroughly....but, one post a month doesn't cut it....your site says sailing for s.o.s....but i think you have lost sight of that....i think you need to post more and party less....just my opinion

By ellis dee on   12/19/2012 12:26 PM

Tulear, Madagascar

Lee, I remember the day you set sail from Waterford Harbor! Do you remember my little white beasty dog? Her breed is a "Coton de Tulear", a bichon breed that co-mingled with the native terriers in Madagascar following a stormy shipwreck. Until recently (1950's?) it was illegal for anyone except royalty to own one, harbor one, or kill one (they were known to steal from the stores). If you see any wild packs of these little white bichon-terriers, please do take a photo!! And, congrats on your accomplishments to date with SOS...

By Tricia on   12/20/2012 1:08 PM

Re: A Brief Update from Madagascar

RE: Elis Dee - "your site says sailing for s.o.s....but i think you have lost sight of that....i think you need to post more and party less".

I disagree. Keep on keeping on! Your doing great!

By Mike on   1/16/2013 9:47 PM

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