Well, this is it, our last blog entry from our trip!
On the way back to Centre ValBio (CVB), we visited a silk shop in Ambalavao. Originally started by a woman in the U.S. Peace Corps, Soalanda is now a thriving business collective run entirely by local women. Our guide showed us the difference between silkworm cocoons collected in the wild and those that have been farmed. The worms are native to Madagascar’s open tapia forests, meaning the industry can be conducted in a highly sustainable manner.
Once the cocoons are collected, they are left in hot water for three days before they can be dried and pulled into silk thread. The entire process is very labor intensive.
Threads are then dyed using natural pigments from various plants and even soil. It takes two kilometers of thread to weave a small scarf, which is done on a large loom. The end products were beautiful.
A few hours on the bus later, we finally arrived at CVB, where none other than CVB’s founder greeted us, Dr. Patricia Wright! She was kind enough to talk to us about her latest research, though we were sworn to secrecy, as both projects are ongoing. In a nutshell, we still have a lot to learn about Madagascar’s first human arrivals and how they shaped the island’s current biodiversity. Despite current threats to the island, there’s still so much to discover and protect!
Dr. Wright joined us for dinner, where she regaled us with stories of her work in Madagascar. She then welcomed us into one of the labs to help to lay out some of the sub-fossils for her ongoing work. Sorting through 10,000-year-old remains of extinct pygmy hippos, giant lemurs and tortoises, elephant birds, and crocodiles with Dr. Wright was definitely a highlight of the trip. What a great source of knowledge to be able to tap into!
With that last memorable experience behind us, we are currently on the last leg of our trip. The next few days we will be driving back to Tana, spend time shopping for a few last minute souvenirs, and saying goodbye to all of our new friends. It’s sad leaving behind all of the smiling faces of the children in the villages where we painted our world map murals; saying goodbye to all of the staff and researchers at CVB who helped us along the way and taught us new things about the Malagasy people, animals, and conservation efforts at the center; the tranquil streams and misty rainforest of Ranomafana; and the beautiful plains and rock formations of Isalo. But we’re all looking forward to being reunited with family and friends at home—and of course, a good home cooked meal! We’ve all had a great few weeks in Madagascar and cannot wait to share more stories and memories with you upon our return.
Misaotra betsaka namaky blog-izahay nareo! Veloma! Thanks so much for reading our blog! Bye for now!
– Brandon & Maya