The Vezo of Madagascar

 

There are two ways to reach the Vezo of Madagascar: Land and Sea. Sometimes their paths are not far apart.

 

Amazing beauty but difficult access.

 

Access to the Vezo is affected by the tide and the rain season. We drove a on a clear, dry day not during the rain season. This is a coastal flood-plane. During high tide this road will be impassable.

 

There are also sections of the road made of deep sand ruts that nearly stopped our vehicle in 4-Low. We burned nearly a quarter of our fuel in this section only going 15-20 Km total. After lowering our tire pressure to 12 PSI we drove back through this section in 2-wheel drive with no problem.

 

After driving for seven hours we had only gone 200 Km arriving at Morombe, a coastal town that had signs of civilization, but still felt like a ghost town. There  were no people out on the streets when we first arrived. They came out of their houses later, but it was odd to arrive in a “developed” town and not see people flooding the streets like most Malagasy cities.

 

We found a hole-in-the-wall hotely (restaurant) and decided to try the fish. It was good but riddled with sharp bones.

 

While waiting for fish I walked to the beach to meet a few Vezo fishermen.

 

These guys left out early in the morning and had just returned  when I walked out to the beach. They only caught a few fish, only enough to provide them each about $2.50 for their day of work. That amount is higher than the daily wage in the forest among the Tanala so even on a poor day of fishing these guys are still doing better financially than a Tanala man who spends 6-8 hours in the rice field. Better still, if they cannot sell the fish at market that day, they will eat well for dinner.

 

Here a father is teaching his son how store the net after returning from a day of fishing.

 

During the 7 hour drive the plastic 20 Liter fuel container full of diesel busted and soaked all our gear in the back of the truck. We were in between a 1/4 and half a tank of fuel left. We no longer had enough fuel to get back to Toliara. There is only one gas station in Morombe and this is the pump. It is broken so they use a screwdriver to start the motor. The meter is broken so they measure your fuel in a 10 Liter bucket, then funnel it into your truck. Welcome to Madagascar!

 

With our camping gear drenched in diesel, we checked into a hotel. I found this little guy there.

 

After a falling asleep to sound of a thousand mosquitoes begging to get in my net, we woke early the next morning to start our journey home, visiting a few villages along the way. This road deviated off the deep, sandy ruts to take us to the coast. The rocky sections reminded us a lot of Andremba. We did not bust any diffs or axles.

 

We sat down with a group in the first village we visited to ask a few worldview questions. I noticed the guy had a battery powered radio that can read a SD card. He sources batteries from a village further inland that gets them from another village about 15-20Km away. I didn’t expect to see any technology this far 0ut. Unfortunately, I did not have any SD cards with the Malagasy Bible to leave with them; however, it may be good when doing survey work to not give out stuff like Bibles and SD cards.

 

The elder man we spoke explained the this child was sick and one of the charms was for his cough. Even in the explanation about his charm their worldview is revealed showing that physical sickness is tied to a spiritual matter. The elder also told us that they still practice the slaughtering of bulls and use the blood for intercession and ancestor worship.

 

This is a typical Vezo woman. They paint their face with this paste and wear it around the village, in town at the market, anywhere, anytime…

 

They act so normal around you as if they are not ready to go trick-or-treating…

 

This is the coastline in front of the second village we visited. It was overcast that day and the view was hard to describe. “Other” is the term I’ve heard the SW team use lately. The view was certainly other…

 

Another coastline picture from the second village.

 

These canoes are really far off-shore, but still within the barrier reef.

 

The trip along the SW coast really was “other.” It is nothing like the SE coast from Manakara to Ft. Dauphine. The off-road driving is more difficult because of the diverse terrain, tidal flood-planes and the rain season. The original plan was to go out by boat but the timing did not work out. The cost to take a boat was also higher than we expected. One outfit asked us for $1500 to go up to a village about 75Km north of Toliara. I still laugh about that one.

One of the questions that played on repeat in my head during the trip is, “How can someone consistently engage the Vezo with the gospel or consistently disciple a new believer in light the logistical challenges?” While the view from the shore is a center-fold for a travel magazine, it will take intentionality, determination and endurance on the part of the person who wants to engage them. It may take a blend of access approaches using a quad, a truck and a boat depending on the village, tide and season. Using a boat looks very promising to reach the people because of the barrier reef that runs from Toliara to Morombe. Yet the cost for fuel may be 2-3 times that of the truck if the wrong combination of boat hull and motor are used.

Currently, there is no sustained evangelical engagement of the Vezo with the gospel, particularly not the villages we visited.

Ask God to call someone to work with the Vezo of Madagascar!