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The tribes in Madagascar-the Merina

Tribes in Madagascar-MERINA

The geographical distribution of the Merina

The Ankaratra Massif, visible from Antananarivo in all seasons, forms the central part of the north-south ridge of the island. The main ridge line runs at an altitude of more than 200 m for almost 100 km and culminates in Tsiafajavona ("where the fog never lifts") at 2,643 m above sea level.

At the foot of this mountain, in Ambohitrakolahy (the "Hill of the Rooster"), according to legend, the daughter of the heavenly ruler Andriananahary have come to earth with a rooster and a hen. She sacrificed the rooster and took paddy seeds from her harvest and sowed them, giving birth to rice cultivation.

From the heights of Ankaratra the view leads to the capital in the north, to the Lake Itasy to the west, to the forest of Tsinjoarivo to the east, to the rice-growing basins of Sambaina and Vinaninony to the south, and to the peaks of the Malagasy highlands.

Hiking through the massif

Ankaratra offers diverse landscapes - tree ferns in the humid forests, pine forests, heaths, rare flowers like orchids, bare mountains, huge rocks - and very diverse hiking opportunities.

From Ambatolampy, a flower-filled village 68 km south of Antananarivo on the RN7, a large trail drawn by herds of zebus, now used by 4×4s and mountain bikes, crosses the massif from east to west.

It leads over  Faratsihothe highest city in Madagascar (1,792 m), over the Mahafompona Pass (2.386 m), from there you can reach Antsirabe via RN 43 and Sambaina or via Vinaninony and Ambano (45 km slope through the orchards) reach.

MANJAKATOMPO forestry and fish breeding station

Shortly before Ankeniheny (7 km west of Ambatolampy) a road leads to the right to the forestry and fish breeding station Manjakatompo, which is accessible with the authorization of ANGAP (National Association for the Management of Protected Areas).

This preserved area of 1,000 hectares, in which attempts are being made to Primary forest of Ankaratra restore, offers pleasant opportunities for hiking and bivouacking, especially between March and June, when everything is still green.

Although fishing and hunting are strictly prohibited, its waterfalls and rivers provide a pleasant coolness and one can swim in Lac aux Dames or Lac Froid. A small hiking trail, south of the fish station, leads to the Mimosas Arboretum.

From the parking lot next to the orientation table (at 2,111 m) and the Anosiarivo Arboretum sports enthusiasts can reach the summit of the Tsiafajavona (2,643 m) and its cairn, at the foot of which the locals deposit offerings.

TSINJOARIVO (45 km southeast of Ambatolampy)

In 1840 Ranavalona had a vacation palace built in this splendid place, densely wooded at the time, in a place of prominence dominating the course of the Onive River.

East of the Rova (royal citadel) flows the Onive (150 m) in impetuous waterfalls, the Andriamovoka Waterfalls, down the hill (150 m). Tsinjoarivo, the "thousand points of view", is a sacred place where processions are organized for the Malagasy New Year.

 ANTSIRABE "where it is rich in salt" (167 km south of Antananarivo via RN7)

Antsirabe, the coquette, lies at an altitude of 1,550 m in a basin formed by the volcanic cones of Famoizankova in the north (2,367 m), Vontovorona in the east (2,055 m), Ibity in the south (2,240 m) and Itongafeno in the west (2,202 m). This quiet small town at high altitude has a healthy climate, but also the coolest in Madagascar: in winter the temperature can drop to 0°C.

 History of Antsirabe

Antsirabe was just a small village where locals came to stock up on salt when, in the 1870s, Norwegian missionaries, seduced by the freshness of its climate and the healing virtues of its thermal spring, opened the first spa.

Soon equipped by the French with a bathing establishment, a luxurious hotel, a railroad station and a post office, the "Malagasy Vichy" experienced the splendor of colonial resorts in the first half of the 20th century.

The "City of Wonders".

This small museum in Antsirabe was founded by the dean of mining operators in Madagascar. It presents in particular a beautiful collection of minerals from different regions of the island, as well as specimens of rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

Antsirabe, with a population of nearly 80,000, has become a renowned center for cutting and trading in valuable minerals. It also thrives on its fruit and dairy production and its industries (the Star breweries, producers of Three Horses beer, a cigarette factory and textile industries, including Cotona, the first cotton spinning mill on the Big Island).

Hikes in Antsirabe

It is a green city with wide avenues where you can walk in a rickshaw, by bike or on horseback and admire its merina houses and colonial mansions with old-fashioned charm.

The city center is arranged around Grande Avenue, an artery that connects the train station with the imposing Hôtel des Thermes connects. This recently restored palace is worth a visit for its colonial architecture and pleasant gardens. Behind the hotel, on the shores of Lake Ranomafana, the thermal establishment in its Belle Époque decor welcomes patients who have come for treatment of liver diseases and rheumatism.

You can test the virtues of Ranovisy's bicarbonate and sodium waters by taking a relaxing dip in the hot thermal pool. Southeast of the lake, on Avenue de l'Indépendance, a market is held daily, while west of the lake, on rue Le Myre-de-Vilers, the Grand Marché d'Asabotsy is in full swing on Saturdays.

The surroundings of Antsirabe

If you follow the road to Belazao for 3 km, you reach the Ivohitra Summit, a viewpoint that dominates the entire region. The Antsirabe basin, which extends west to Betafo, is an important agricultural center.

Wheat, rice and corn are grown here, but above all it is the largest producer of fruits and vegetables in a temperate climate and the largest producer of dairy products on the Big Island. Wine production is also important (4,000 hl/year).

ANDRAIKIBA Lake (7 km west of Antsirabe, via a dirt road at KP6 of RN 34)

This vast body of water, a popular Sunday stroll and swimming spot in colonial times, has reverted to a desolate solitude, but plans are underway to reopen the yacht club.

BETAFO (22 km west of Antsirabe, on the RN34)

This town with a large market is an important rice center. Situated around a crater lake, the Tatamarina, it does not lack its charm with its beautiful pink brick houses with wrought iron balconies, typical of the architecture of the highlands.

In the marketplace, six stones carved in granite honor the memory of brave warlords, while the ancient Rowa on the other side of the lake recalls that Betafo was the capital of Vakinakaratra. From the lake you will meet the fishermen, a path leads across the fields to the Antafofo waterfalls (5 km round trip).

TRITRIVA Lake (17 km southwest of Antsirabe)

An aura of disturbing strangeness hovers over this very deep lake, which lies in a caldera. Its level inexplicably drops in the rainy season and rises again in the dry season.

According to legend, Rabeniomby and Ravolahanta, two 19th century lovers who did not want to unite their parents, plunged into its dark waters.

They turned into the two trees with intertwined branches that can be seen hanging on the side of the crater.

Mount Ibity (30 km south of Antsirabe, via Vinaninkarena, on RN 7).

This mountain, which can be climbed during the day (2,255 m), contains fossil stones and crystals, while the Sahatany Valley on its western flank provides the fine stones that can be bought in the city: Tourmalines, beryls, garnets, amethysts, topaz...

Travel memorabilia, 1865-1870

"The Merinas love to have the ceilings of their main dwellings made of black soot, as they say; the webs that the spiders weave there are laden with soot produced by the fireplace, which is constantly maintained and whose smoke can only escape through the roof gap or through the door ... and the older the house, the more soot there is, the more proud they are of their home, because it is proof that it has been in the family for a long time, that it has been inhabited by a long line of generations, and is therefore all the more respectable, respected and venerated. "

Alfred Grandidier

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After 10 months of total inactivity, self-employed people in the tourism industry in Madagascar are completely without income. There is no opening of the borders in sight in Madagascar and we are at the beginning of the rainy season, which is the low season, even in normal times. I have started a fundraiser for the guides and drivers I know well. From this money we will buy rice and other essentials and distribute them regularly, if possible, until the resumption of travel activities in April 2021 at the earliest. My special thanks to those who have already donated. I will start buying rice tomorrow and will begin distributing it this week.
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