Maverick in Madagascar by Mark Eveleigh

This book is part of a Lonely Planet Journeys series that is presented in a travel diary narrative. It is not fiction but rather is a first person account of trekking through the rural communities of Madagascar’s northwest and western regions.

Mark, a photography journalist, sets off on an adventure to retrace the steps of the ancient and legendary Vazimba people who were supposedly displaced by the first migrants to the large island. Starting in the northeastern tip of the island he treks southwest, buys a steer when he finds that the horses on the island died of some disease, and camps along the way with the ever so hospitable locals. Later he treks from somewhere along the Tsiribihina River across the bandit infested Zone Rouge into the western highlands.

Mark’s trek is not your usual turisty tour of the island. He takes great pains to avoid traditional travel, especially flights. But along the way he is able to become intimately acquainted with the local customs. Aside from the quaint characteristics of the Malagasy people such as their hospitality, simplicity of life, and traditional kabary (oratory) at weddings and other ceremonies, Mark begins to tap into the more mystic side of Malagasy culture. He learns of the vast array of superstitious traditions and the plethora of taboos that exist. He finds that many of these traditions date back to very simple and explainable phenomena. However, as they are practiced today, many of the taboos and other practices are taken very seriously. Every village has their own set of taboos. Whether it is hollering to the rest of the village before retiring to inform everyone that you have a visitor for the night (so that they don’t assume your visitors to be bandits) or peeing in the right direction, each is treated with respect. But when he asks why, he is all too often told simply, “It’s always been that way.”

~ by Abraham on 15 April 2011.

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