Southern Madagascar has been an arid harsh hot landscape of spiny bush, unforgiving in all aspects, no water except the local village well which takes one time to be able to stomach. The landscape is dotted with Tombs decorated with Christian and Pagan symbols. Cactus plants of all shapes and sizes seem to dominate, but there are trees evidence of what one used to grace this landscape in large areas, unfortunately as the area has expanded so have all of the natural resources been decimated leaving only a few trees and these are what you are attracted to in the heat of the day.
Seeing a massive tree in the distant haze and heading to it to escape the heat seems to be the most sensible thing. No sooner has one got there to sit out a few hours of unbearable heat, just relaxing – then out of nowhere a villager appears and chases you away informing you that it is taboo to sit under that tree and you have to move on. Tree after tree this can happen until you end up sliding into the shade of a cactus.
With most of the big trees being chopped down, this poses quite a problem as it seems that ever tree is taboo or owned by someone.
Getting permission to do some thing or film a Tombi (tomb) is also not an easy process. We got permission to film a Tombi, but after we had finished and ready to leave a man comes running out of the bush shouting at us. He had been hiding there watching us and waiting for the moment that we were leaving. He now demanded payment of 100.000 AR before we left and he began to stir up quite a crowd as well as creating scene. I felt that all had been pre-planned.
Quite a heated 15 minutes followed eventually we managed to get out of the situation with a reduced payment, but not a pleasant experience which we felt could of gone down hill quickly.