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Christophe took us for a brief sightseeing tour of Antsirabe, the third largest city in Madagascar and seemingly the capital of ‘pousse pousse’, the French term for rickshaws that here come in three forms: the motorised luxury version, built around a scooter, the one-man power version, built around a bicycle and the version pulled by a young lad, often barefoot, that particularly in heavy traffic seem to be the most manoeuvrable. Our tour took us past the old station dating back to the old colonial days. It is the capital of the cooler central region and was founded by Norwegian missionaries.

We then headed into the country, past a non-active volcanic crater where a quarry provides Christophe’s pumice for his plant collection back home. Lots of agriculture going on here with rice paddies being prepared for the coming rainy seasons. We arrived at another non-active volcanic crater and were immediately surrounded by kids offering to sell us local gem stones and fossils. The crater was filled with water (Lac Tritriva) and we had to pay a small entrance fee and pay a local guide who told us that the lake was 300 m x 100 m with a depth of 140 m. It is connected to lakes in other calderas of near-by volcanoes. The guide offered to take us on a guided walk through the (imported) pine forest around the lake, but we were interested in the geophyte plants that grow here, Euphorbia primulifolia. These plants are very difficult to find when not in leaf or flower, but our luck was in as Christophe pointed at the flowers all around us.

Euphorbia primulafolia,

Euphorbia primulifolia, in cultivation, growing with their tuberous root exposed.

Euphorbia primulifolia

Euphorbia primulifolia in habitat, with the tuber buried.

Our journey continued and as the low sun was beginning to colour the scenery a reddish colour we arrived at Mount Mandato, home of Aloe mambotoensis but also an opportunity to take a closer look at Pachypodium densiflorum that we had seen yesterday from a distance. Christophe was sad to notice a decline in the plants since his last visit.

Pachypodium densiflorum

Pachypodium densiflorum

Aloe mambotensis

Aloe mambotensis

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