Blog from MBP Volunteer, Adam
Photos courtesy of Adam
I recently accompanied seven Malagasy guides from the Varecia team on a 20 day expedition to Lakia and Simone forests, outside of Kianjavato commune. Our goal was to survey for Varecia variegata and other lemurs in these forests. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, and I’ll tell the story about one of the forests, Lakia, here. We took off from the town of Andonabe, hearts high and loads heavy, ready for wherever the road might take us. We hiked for three hours westward, along a well-traveled road through rice paddies and small villages. Vazaha were clearly not common on the trail: at one point a woman balancing a basket of chickens on her head and I exchanged equally disbelieving looks. After a while we turned left of the road and hiked up and up over a steep ridge, eventually cresting the top to the sight of Lakia mountain, surrounded by lush valleys of rice-paddies and topped with a massive forest. Essentially a massive series of giant rocks aligned east-west, the first of which looks like a giant forested half-dome, Lakia is one of the biggest forest fragments in the Kianjavato region.
The story of how the mountain got its name is a tale from the days of French colonialism in Madagascar. The story goes that the invading French chased a group of Malagasy into the valley on the north side of Lakia, to the same spot where I first caught sight of the mountain. The strong men of the Malagasy stayed behind, telling the women and children “Malaky!”, which means “Hurry!” in Malagasy, warning them to run into the forests of Lakia. After they were safe, the men shouted “Malaky!” as well to the French, taunting them to go forward. When the French came, the men tricked them into crossing the river that flowed through the valley, where they all died. Thus Lakia Mountain was named after the word “Malaky”.
I was told this story later that night by a man named Wiseman Isam (he showed me his I.D. from Manajary – Wiseman was actually his first name). Wiseman and his family were relatives of our guide to the region, Dawilly, who rented us our home for the next 10 days, a 10 x 15 foot bamboo hut at the base of the mountain. Crammed together with the Malagasy guides, I quickly learned a lot more of the language as well as a lot more about daily life in rural Madagascar. Although I was undeniably and obviously an outsider, the first vazaha to visit the region in living memory, I was always treated with nothing but respect, curiosity, and absolute kindness. Back in Kianjavato now, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to join on this life-changing experience.