|Fort Dauphin, thunderstorm - Giles Crosse|
Today we are in the middle of a Madagascan rainstorm, strong winds, cold rain and very, very dark by 6PM.
Thus far Madagascar seems an intriguing mix of polarities and divisions. People here are among the friendliest I have ever met, faces beam in greeting, children dance and play whilst laughter and smiles permeate the cobbled, dusty streets.
Yet falling tourist numbers since 2002 and 2009's coup have led to deserted roads after nightfall and murmurings of security risks and muggings. I've yet to see any violence or disturbances of any kind, so the reality as ever likely remains somewhere between warnings and truth.
Poverty remains highly visible here, yet nowhere is an offensive or caustic attitude apparent. Indeed, a sense of welcoming, enjoyment and celebration of life seem far more prevalent amid these streets.
Shops open at 6AM, with many Malagasy beginning their working day at 4AM, to cook for their families before heading off to their respective workplaces. Shops then close for lunch between 12/2, reopening until 6PM in the evening.
Street vendors offer vegetables, bread and eggs, taxis bump and shudder emitting noise and smoke, indeed the street lighting system has only recently been established.