Author Topic: Hello from Madagascar - Errr...Ethiopia...Canada...56k, no f'in way  (Read 15321 times)

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D-cal

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Re: Hello from Madagascar
« Reply #25 on: June 20, 2010, 08:32:49 AM »
Stay safe!

Offline mudferret

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Re: Hello from Madagascar
« Reply #26 on: June 25, 2010, 12:19:39 AM »
My final report; an ill wife and a small child who has been without me for half her life have made my decision to park my assay in the office from here on out very easy.

It's been a hell of a year.  My first time to Madagascar was in April of 2009, shortly after a military coup.  Over the past year I've spent 9 months working here spanning 3 tours of duty.  There was violence in the capital, Antananarivo (easier to say 'Tana), which saw ~150 people killed.  As far as military coups go, especially in/around Africa, that's an essentially death free transition.  My first week in country was spent at a villa that we used to rent in the capital as a staging area, and a pass through point.  It was an amazing multi-building house that was at one point an alternate presidential residence.  There are amazing oasis's of luxury tucked in between the destitution.  Tana is a semi modern city, and very class driven.  If you're poor, you'll likely always be poor, if you're wealthy, you can do no wrong (anyone and everyone can be bought in this country, it's the way the rest of the world works).  Like many large cities in the 3rd World, there are pockets of the 1st World lifestyle. 

Things were a bit tense when we arrived and we'd often have to cut our supply shopping trips short when truckloads of troops with Kalishnikovs showed up.  Needless to say tourism took a nose dive, and most outside companies ceased work in the country.  As of this year the World Bank has cut off all assistance, and Madagascar was removed from the African Union last year.  Elections are said to be happening in October.

Madagascar was originally settled by people from SE Asia who migrated to the north of Madagascar.  Next came people from continental Africa, some having migrated, and many having been brought over as slaves by the Brits and French, the southern part of the country is predominantly more African.  The north is lush rain forest (what's left of it), with mind blowing topography.  The south where I have worked for 9 months now is more savanna like, and barren.  It is, without question the poorest and most primitive part of the country, and one of the poorest locations in the World.  Before we came along in 2007 many had never seen a white person before, only heard legends, rumours, and horror stories.  The entire village next to our camp hit the deck when the first helicopter came in to fly geophysics.

A typical home is made of mud bricks, parged (sp?) with busted up termite mound dirt mixed with water (as strong as concrete) with thatched roofs.  Inside these homes there's typically one room, a couple of hundred square feet at MOST with up to a dozen people living in it.  Wealthy villagers (i.e. a handful) are able to tap into the village's generator, which runs from 6-10pm every day. Transportation for the most part around where I was consists of a cart, pulled by cattle.  There are however "taxi-buses" that drive between all the villages and cities.  A taxi bus ride from where I was to the nearest city is a 2 day journey which covers only 250 km, gives you an idea of road conditions.

Despite the fact that many people merely survive day to day, everyone has a cell phone.  Such a contrast to the 1700's type lifestyle that they lead.  Wealth for villagers in the south is measured in how many zebu (cattle) you own, there's no banking system.  We employed several hundred local villagers over the past couple of years, and they're a great, hard working people; very unlike many parts of continental Africa.  They live short lives (50 is old) because of lack of adequate/affordable medical care, and many hardships.   Tis the season for locust invasions.  Massive clouds of black undulating locusts would pass by on occasion; locals would catch them in nets to fry them up and eat them.  I tried a few one night at the local hangout, taste a lot like a french fry with crunchy pieces of exoskeleton on them.

Because they need to live in the now, animals, women, children, etc... are beaten if they don't do what they're required to do at that instant.  Hard to see at first, but I have no right to view their lives out of context, or by imprinting MY ideals.  There was regular violence in/around the village, the majority fights between drunks, or thieves getting hacked with machetes.  Zebu bandits are typically executed on the spot.  The same military that lived with us and became friends were often the judge, jury and executioner.  Despite the violence, the vast majority of the people are hard working, and generally good, just like anywhere else.

Too much to say, I've rambled too much.  Will upload some more pictures at some point.  I'm presently sitting in a swanky hotel in 'Tana waiting for a 1 am flight to Paris (ugh).





 

Offline Wronks

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Re: Hello from Madagascar
« Reply #27 on: June 25, 2010, 08:06:53 PM »
Wow! What an adventure your trip seems to have been. Safe travels to you, and thanks for sharing your world away from home with us!
Wronks - Have fun out there.

Offline YvanF

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Re: Hello from Madagascar
« Reply #28 on: June 25, 2010, 08:59:21 PM »
Thanks for sharing this. Really interesting stuff!

Offline pistachoo

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Re: Hello from Madagascar
« Reply #29 on: June 25, 2010, 10:48:00 PM »
I've enjoyed reading these posts for the photos, but even more for the rich way that you have described your impressions and experiences.

Safe journey home!
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Offline mudferret

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Re: Hello from Madagascar
« Reply #30 on: June 28, 2010, 03:22:14 PM »
Thanks guys.  It's a part of the World that most people will never see in person, or in film.  Despite the popularity of the animated features, real documentaries are rare.

My last couple of hours in the country were spent realizing that my visa had expired a few days earlier.  Long story short my work visa was said to have been ready last year, we all rentered the country on 30 day visas, with work visas to follow.  Surprise, surprise they didn't.  Against any/all common sense we sent our passports to the capital to get things taken care of.  I lucked out with a 3 day extension, with expiration 2 days before my flight and no time to get it all straightened out.

Like I said, money talks.  Two customs agents and 40 Euro in "gifts" or "coffee money" later, I was given the all clear to leave without having to spend time in jail. 

Felt good to go for a rip in the car today.

Offline pistachoo

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Re: Hello from Madagascar
« Reply #31 on: June 28, 2010, 04:19:13 PM »
Like I said, money talks.  Two customs agents and 40 Euro in "gifts" or "coffee money" later, I was given the all clear to leave without having to spend time in jail. 

Yikes!

Welcome back :)
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Offline YvanF

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Re: Hello from Madagascar
« Reply #32 on: June 28, 2010, 10:27:15 PM »
Welcome home.

Offline canehdianJ

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Re: Hello from Madagascar
« Reply #33 on: August 05, 2010, 11:26:52 AM »
Funny how we both return from opposite ends of the globe at the same time. 

Welcome back to civilization. 

Offline mudferret

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Re: Hello from Madagascar
« Reply #34 on: August 05, 2010, 11:38:55 AM »
Thanks, I'm sure you're glad to be back to a more tropical Alberta climate  ;)

It's like the saying goes 6 degrees of separation, except you have to replace the 6 with a 98.

Offline jsn

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Re: Hello from Madagascar
« Reply #35 on: August 05, 2010, 01:02:50 PM »
What a trip this must have been.  I'm really jealous.  I'm actually graduating with a geology degree next year and hopefully I'll be able to experience something like this.

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Re: Hello from Madagascar - In Frankfurt en route to Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
« Reply #36 on: October 09, 2010, 12:32:59 AM »
I'm in Frankfurt, completely confused by what time zone and/or dimension I'm currently a part of.  Only a 3 hour layover so I won't be able to rent a GT2 RS and hit the Nurb...bunch of uckfaying letters...ring.  Hit Addis Abebba in 12 hours or so, spend the night, and then fly to Dallol.  Looking forward to mid 40 C temps.  Will be triangulated by several borders, Somalia, Djibouti, and Eritrea so I hope we have some firepower in camp considering the border tensions. 

Hope to have intarweb access in camp so I can post some pics, likely no cell towers so we'll have to rely on stupidly slow and expensive sat connections.  Gotta say, I now officially hate flying, 120k km in the past year.

Offline pistachoo

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Re: Hello from Madagascar - In Frankfurt en route to Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
« Reply #37 on: October 09, 2010, 01:20:11 AM »
How long will this jaunt be? Seems like you were just out... and hoping for some quiet time at a desk/ office?
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Re: Hello from Madagascar - In Frankfurt en route to Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
« Reply #38 on: October 09, 2010, 12:08:56 PM »
Holy smokes. On to another adventure!
Keep us updated. I enjoyed your pictures and writing last time!!
Wronks - Have fun out there.

Offline mudferret

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Re: Hello from Madagascar - In Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
« Reply #39 on: October 10, 2010, 07:55:24 AM »
Pistachoo, Did my time at the office, ~3 months, and then this came up.  This will likely be 2 or 3 weeks, getting more and more difficult to do this type of thing however with a family waiting for me back home. 

Thanks Wronks, hopefully I can live up to that.

I just arrived last night.  Immediately after stepping off the plane I was impressed with the modernness of Addis, the airport was clean, relatively new, and people weren't as taken aback by us white folk.  It was a pleasure not to be mobbed for money outside the airport as well.  As always my tattoos generate some interest though.

My X-ray gun is currently being held by customs so I'll be spending a few days in the city until we get that sorted out.  In my short stay here so far, it seems there's a lot of wealth in the city, and there's definitely a ton of Western influence.  Sadly no Subaru sightings.

Apprently I can expect temps of 45C by noon at the project site; 60 ft below sea level, wish I had my car  :'(

Just some pics from my balcony, too dark to take pics last night, but we went to a German beer garden for beer and pizza.










Offline mudferret

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Re: Hello from Madagascar - In Frankfurt en route to Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
« Reply #40 on: October 12, 2010, 02:54:06 AM »
Ack...still waiting for my equipment to clear customs.  We have a couple of locals who specialize in this type of thing doing the legwork, but we often have to tag along to make sure things are tackled more urgently.  Just one of the cultural differences, things aren't rushed here, nothing wrong with that but it can be frustrating at times when viewed from time crunched western eyes. 

I'm still in Addis, was hoping to be at the project site last Saturday, hopefully tomorrow if all goes well.

Security is an obvious concern here, every hotel has either metal detectors, or guards/door people with wands.  Many restaurants as well. 

Typically I have an iron gut when I'm in Africa, but not so much today, hopefully this clears before any potential flight.

Offline mudferret

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Re: Hello from Madagascar - In Frankfurt en route to Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
« Reply #41 on: October 15, 2010, 03:15:07 AM »
I've arrived in hell, Camp Hell, located adjacent to the salt flats of the Afar Region, south of Mt Dallol.  It IS the hottest place on earth; luckily it's cool right now, a mere 45C.  Temps can reach 55C however.  I flew in from Makale on a Bell Longranger yesterday, flying down through the mountains at 7400' to minus 250' in about an hour.  Parts of the flats are ~600' below ASL. 

The mountains are sectacular, I took pics, but have yet to download them.  The people in Ethiopia are great, and we have people from a nearby nomadic village working here.  There are people from the UK, Zimbabwe, Kenya, USA, Canada, Romania and South Africa in camp.  This is the first project I've worked on where Canucks aren't the majority.  It's a busy spot with driller, seismic workers, drivers, camp staff, etc...  A room mate found a camel spider in his bed the other day, but uckfay me I'll scream like a child if I even see one from a distance.  Ethiopians worship Canucks for the most part and look to us as hero's for being so friendly, helping during the famine, but most of all treating them as people.

The city I flew from, Makale, was the site of the refugee camps where 100's of thousands of people died in the 80's. 

Camp is located 30km south of the border with Eritrea, tensions are still high despite a peace agreement in 2000.

Offline mudferret

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Re: Hello from Madagascar - Now with Afar Region, Ethiopia content
« Reply #42 on: October 15, 2010, 11:01:30 AM »
Camels, seen a few, apparently a camel train coming through in the next day or two.  Hyena's, hanging out around the perimeter of our camp, active volcano, likely headed there by helicopter in a few days to see some lava, camel spiders, still haven't seen one, don't want to. 

Pics, coming soon, too tired to download/upload, etc...  The heat saps any/all energy, I drink minimum 5L of water per day, obviously not enough since I'm pissing once a day, and only because I know I should at least try. 

There is no reason for anyone to come to this area ever, unless it's for work, scenery out of this world, but an entirely much too harsh environment to sustain life, other than the nomads who somehow manage to survive.

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Re: Hello from Madagascar - Now with Afar Region, Ethiopia content
« Reply #43 on: October 15, 2010, 11:45:07 AM »
Wow, sounds like it's going to be another adventure.

I was working in Houston for 4 months a while back, and I thought 45C was hot! I can't even imagine the toll that higher temperatures takes on you.

I googled what a camel spider is, and looks like. I would freak out too if I saw one. Not cool.



Wronks - Have fun out there.

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Re: Hello from Madagascar - Now with Afar Region, Ethiopia content
« Reply #44 on: October 15, 2010, 01:10:34 PM »
Wow... I'm loving reading all your adventures.

If it makes you feel any better (cooler)... it's snowing in Calgary today.
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Offline mudferret

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Re: Hello from Madagascar - Now with Afar Region, Ethiopia content
« Reply #45 on: October 16, 2010, 03:23:43 AM »
Wow... I'm loving reading all your adventures.

If it makes you feel any better (cooler)... it's snowing in Calgary today.

Surprise, surprise, snow.  Maybe Calgary will get summer next year.

Update on the hyena sighting:  someone somehow managed to mis ID a jackal or something as a hyena, not sure how that happens...was hoping I'd see one.

Offline mudferret

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Re: Hello from Madagascar - Now with Afar Region, Ethiopia content
« Reply #46 on: October 17, 2010, 11:56:32 AM »
Flying into Makale



Getting ready to leave Makale



Flying out of Makale





Flying to Afar



Relics from the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia



The mudflats



Getting saltier



Yeah, it's salty



German tourists pay big bucks to stay at this little hotel in a nomadic village near camp, seriously big bucks




Offline mudferret

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Re: Hello from Madagascar - Now with Afar Region, Ethiopia content
« Reply #47 on: October 18, 2010, 03:24:44 AM »
Looks like I'll be here an extra week or two.  One of the famous one liner descriptors of this place going around camp is from one of the drillers, a dude from Ghana so he's familiar with heat.

If the devil doesn't live here, I'd be surprised if he didn't come here for vacation.

A camel train came through the other day, that's how the people that live in the village get their supplies from Makale.  There is absolutely nothing to sustain life here otherwise, they do however have a good water supply.  I'll post pics when I have them uploaded.

Offline Zaider

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Re: Hello from Madagascar - Now with Afar Region, Ethiopia content
« Reply #48 on: October 18, 2010, 01:59:00 PM »
Wow. That looks insane. I thought 47C was hot in the desert in Israel... but 55C! That's ridiculous.

Who do you work for again? and what're you looking for?
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Offline Perfect Dark

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Re: Hello from Madagascar - Now with Afar Region, Ethiopia content
« Reply #49 on: October 18, 2010, 02:19:40 PM »
Wow. That looks insane. I thought 47C was hot in the desert in Israel... but 55C! That's ridiculous.

Who do you work for again? and what're you looking for?

I have worked in both ends of the spectrum...-65ish at the North Slope, and +58 at Shearness Power Plant; I would waaaay rather work in the cold.  The heat becomes so unbearable that it drives you nuts.