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The walk in the ricefields, or at least on the dikes that pass through them, is a good way to exercise (you walk and can do that for some hours if you like), to learn about activities related to rice cultivation, clay brick moulding and baking.
As a matter of fact, you'll see the clay brick making and the ovens near the ricefields, esp. if you go further South. Clay brick making requires sand and clay. They are found on some plots that are rather in part of the marshes that are not used for rice cultivation. There are sand, clay, turf (used for the baking).
I use to appreciate this walk since it allows me to reconnect to my world again. I've never been a peasant but after some time living in Western world, in a cosmopolitan city, it's back to basics again. Just you and the sound of your walk in the crispy grass or dry hays in the fields. Same went when after some days commuting to school (as a kid), there should be always one moment to get out of the house and walk this tiny dirty road and head to the plains, just for the fresh air, the silence and serenity. Oh! I've done that by bike as well.
Another activity: wild duck hunting... My step-bro told me about a possibility to hunt wild ducks. One of his friends who lives in another neighbouring village uses to hunt though I've never seen any wild duck (at least, I've never been aware of them being wild). As for me, I will make do with wild duck watching, I do not hunt. [Update Sep. 2007: wild ducks are in our area when ricefields get flooded in Jan-March. Sad time for who losing rice harvests but interesting for bird lovers... and even for the ducks themselves. I'd heard hunting gunshots more than once in the plains last summer.]
While having your walk, do not forget your camera and your field glasses.
Updated Sep 14, 2007
Address: Malaza on Rte d' Ambohimanga (see st General tip)
This activity wouldn't take you a long time since it's about a typical coutryside village mainly living on subsistance farming, without any specific activity other than rice cultivation and zébu breeding (see my local custom tips for more).
However, it gives you sceneries of everyday life in the country. I think if you go to the main place of the village, you'd hear/ see more than in any other corner of the village. This place is surrounded by many homes. From there, you'd see some of interactions between those households, what women do, say, what men do for occupation.
You may have a closer look, for instance, at the houses there. Some narrow multi-storey white-chalked with thatched roof. Others with red-brick wall, a terrace where to hang and dry corn cobbs or the laundry, and tiled roof. The poorest homes are the ones on the picture: simple huts, thatched roof with only the basement, where to live beak to cheek.
Living in Malaza, I can really consider this as an ideal location to browse the Norther Tana area. Either to climb some mountains, to visit the royal & sacred hills around, to browse through countryside villages... 30min by car from my home and one can indulge in bonding with lemurs in the Ambohimanga area (not in Tsimbazaza urban zoo). Read further...
Updated Sep 14, 2007
The Avaradrano (Northern Tana) area counts many royal villages & sacred hills. Each hill used to be ruled by its king before getting gradually merged, in the 18th cent., into the Imerina kingdom (in the area of what nowadays Greater Tana).
Most presitigious, Ambohimanga, for being the cradle of the reign of the greatest of kings and queens, Andrianampoinimerina (Nampoina). Check my Ambohimanga page to know more. It's just 5km from Malaza, the latter being part of Ambohimanga-Rova municipality, btw.
Not far from Ambohimanga, Ambohidrabiby sacred hill, from which came Nampoina's family. 17th cent., it used to play an important role. Decades later, it got annexed by its powerful neighbour, Ambohimanga. Check my page for more... [Update on March 2006: I read in newspapers that the village of Ambohidrabiby re-introduced silk worm breeding and silk weaving again as lucrative activity. I suspect this could be an opportunity to visit the workshops in the future, for who interested. ;-)]
They all have their stories. I guess one has to be guided while visiting those.
In the contrary, another noblemen area that is not on a hill and easily accessable is Anosy-Avaratra. Many of todays noblemen families come from there. They have their tombs there. You can visit the area (at least I could do it without any problem) to see the architecture of those tombs. I think you can ask a guide in Tana to bring you there. It's on Route d' Ambohimanga anyway.
Lazaina village is also worh the glance for its architecture gems & historical sites: tomb of one of most-famous early Christian martyrs ; the carmin house of an ancient Royal army high-rank officer Rabeony (under refurbishment). Check the still-under-construction Lazaina page
Updated Sep 14, 2007